Let’s just take a moment to appreciate some horror video games that have been out for a while and made huge impacts on this genre… Specifically, Resident Evil 4. I might be biased in this review… Since Resident Evil 4 is my absolute favorite horror game ever (well, next to Fatal Frame 2), however, I am not alone in my love for this particularly version of the Resident Evil series. If you haven’t played Resident Evil 4 and your a horror fan… What have you been doing? Go play it, now!? Resident Evil 4… Just saying that makes me want to quote it like the opening start screen… It sent shivers down my spine every time I loaded the game even.
About: Resident Evil 4 first came out on GameCube in 2005. It has since been released on PS2, Ps3, Wii, IOS, Xbox 360… And PC. Like its predecessors, Resident Evil 4 is all about zombies. Well, sort of. This time the game puts Leon S. Kennedy from Resident Evil 2 and places him in a Spanish speaking village somewhere in Europe searching for Ashley Graham, the President’s daughter, who was recently kidnapped by a cult. His mission is to rescue her and bring her home safely. However, there is something strange going on in the village. All the citizens have been affected by a parasite that has caused them to behave erratically. As Leon’s search intensifies he uncovers more about the mystery cult and their links to the parasite. The game has been well received and has won many awards over time. It has also been praised heavily for its graphics.
Hey there, Stranger! What are you buyin’? Hopefully not, spoilers!
I’ll buy those at a high price…
The Plot/Characters: The plot… Wow, this one sucked me in so much. No matter how utterly horrified I was and scared out of my mind whilst having a chainsaw wielding maniac after my neck… I still was so intrigued by the plot and the build up to the mystery that I kept pressing on no matter how many times I reached a Game Over screen. Leon S. Kennedy’s rescue mission leads him towards a mysterious cult named Los Illuminados that has plans to invade the US Government by means of a parasite called Las Plagas that slowly takes over and controls the hosts brain. Yes, that’s right… These zombies you are fighting? Technically they are metaphorical zombies. However, by the time the parasite settles in completely to a hosts brain… Well, it’s too late. Leon travels further into a village and then into more locations attempting to track down the kidnapped Ashley Graham. Once united, the two work together to attempt to escape. However, at each turn the Las Plagas work to cut them off. Worse yet, Leon has become infected himself by the cult’s chief, Bitores Mendez. The leader, Osmund Saddler, also reveals that Ashley was infected in order to wreak havoc back home.
There is a lot of depth to the plot besides everything else that I just mentioned and many layers to it that slowly reveal themselves as you explore, obtain notes and hit cutscenes in the game. You can tell that a lot of thought went into the game’s story but it also doesn’t rub it in your face. It slowly unfolds, like a good novel, rather than rushing to tell you all its juicy secrets right away.
In fact, you won’t even get the full picture on your first playthrough. You’ll at least have to play through the side-story where you play as Ada Wong to get more details. That’s the other thing… There are really two stories going on at the same time. When you start the game as Ada, you realize that your mission is going on at the same time as when Leon first enters the village and is pursued by the Las Plagas and that you actually cause an event to happen to assist him. Before, all you thought was that you caught a lucky break!
But the thing that really kept me glued to the screen? That award really goes to Leon S. Kennedy. He’s a tough as nails Secret Agent in Resident Evil 4 and that comes as no shock after his first day as a police officer in Raccoon City (during the zombie outbreak… What a way to jump start your career!?). He’s intelligent, a little bit sarcastic and witty and he genuinely is a good person. He goes out of his way to rescue Ashley even when all odds are stacked immensely against him. Besides that though, Leon is a well-rounded character. He’s got his flaws… And the major one is Ada Wong. He’s so infatuated with her that often times he overlooks things or lets his guard down. Ashley Graham is my second favorite character… And typically, I don’t say this about characters that you are meant to rescue. Typically damsels in distress are just that… And often times, annoying. While you will get tired of Ashley constantly crying out “LEON!”, her actual personality is interesting. She’s sarcastic, snarky and helpful. She does her best to assist Leon in anyway that she could. In fact, you need her for many of the puzzles throughout the game. And of course, there are interesting side characters in the game such as Ada Wong and even a friend you meet named Luis that helps you fight the Las Plagas at some points. The fact that they have their own motivations for being in the village though adds a lot to the stories depth. Even the “zombies” are have some intelligence as well and actually PLOT against you.
And then there is the Merchant… What is even up with this guy? Why is he stalking you and selling you stuff? What’s his deal!? His eyes look like he has been infected but… Why then is he helping you? (Also, little known fact that if you accidentally shoot him and kill him, he stays dead… So you’d be pretty screwed.)
I could go on and on. Basically, Resident Evil 4 is one of those games that I can recall the plot and characters in such vivid detail. More than a game, its an experience. It even would have translated incredibly well to the big screen (though Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2 still were good movies to me… I know, I’m in the minority probably!)
The Scares: Resident Evil 4 is not afraid to give you scares but the scares are more varied than any other horror game that I’ve played aside from Fatal Frame 2. This is probably another reason why it still stands to this day as my favorite horror game. From the very beginning, the game throws scares at you. Your first encounter with a civilian you are questioning turns into a fight for your life when he comes at you with a weapon, making you shoot him dead. Before you can even get a breath, your buddies you road in with are attacked outside and you hear the crashing sounds. Leon rushes to the window only to be surrounded by more attackers outside hammering on doors, windows and breaking in. That’s what makes Resident Evil 4 so utterly terrifying. The attackers, the Las Plagas, are coordinated. They are able to communicate with each other even though they are being controlled. They will call out to each other, signal when one has spotted you and cause an entire swarm to come rushing at you. Las Plagas use all sorts of weaponry to try to kill Leon as well. Everything from chainsaws to dynamite to even sending a giant ogre-like monster after you.
But its not just all Las Plagas. Like the Ogre, there are other monsters that Leon encounters, including a Lake Monster that the cult has something to do with… And that Lake Monster is freakin’ horrifying.
But by far, the worst monsters in the game and the ones that gave me nightmares were these guys…
Able to shoot spikes out toward you and only able to be killed by shooting off the parasites using infrared, these creatures were the pinnacle of terrifying to me. I could go on and on about the scares in this game but it certainly did a great job. Probably the best part about the scares was the fact that sometimes you couldn’t see what was coming for you and only hear…
Gameplay: Resident Evil 4 has an over the shoulder gameplay to it. For some reason to me this makes the game experience so much better. Instead of seeing through the eyes of the character or having the entire character visible from awkward angles, the game gets you close to the character but not too close. It makes lining up shots easier and also at the same time makes it harder to see exactly what is behind you, leaving you open for random scares from attacking Las Plagas from the side. You are actually able to defend yourself in this survival horror which sometimes does take away the fright factor? However, this is not the case for Resident Evil 4. You will often find yourself having to use your wits to escape being ganged up on or brutally murdered easily by a monster. Ammo is also scarce but not too scarce that it is frustrating. You always have a knife, but the knife makes it so you have to be close up to an enemy to use it making gameplay strategic if you want to conserve ammunition. You do receive different guns throughout the game such as Shotguns, Rifles and even a Rocket Launcher. However, most of the time you have to use the right ammo for the right thing or you’ll find yourself in a sticky situation later down the road.
There are also plenty of times when you are not just shooting monsters. In fact, some monsters can’t be taken out by your gun, including the Lake Monster. Another great thing about the gameplay in RE4 is that you have variety in the action sequences. In one battle you get to use harpoons and in another you have to set up explosives in order to take the creature out because your weapon won’t kill it. There are quick time events, keeping you on your toes and your blood pumping as well as segments where you are on a timer. You even get boulders sent your way and have to run by button mashing as fast as you can. You’ll also have times you have to rescue Ashley from being kidnapped and you have to protect her constantly when she joins your party (the only… Annoying side of the gameplay, really.) That and puzzles interspersed break up the gameplay to really piece together a very diversified game.
The gameplay IS action packed… However, at no point does it forget that it’s trying to scare you unlike SOME games (yeah, you… I’m looking at you Resident Evil 6. Why. Why…?). It takes the time to build suspense and give you action while at the same time making you think. You can’t just blindly shoot at enemies and expect to get through the game with Leon’s head still on his shoulders.
The Score: Ambiance. Atmosphere. These are all things that turn a pretty ok game into a great game. Well, Resident Evil 4 is already a great game but it certainly becomes fantastic when you add the great OST to it. The Resident Evil 4 OST is often times creepy, layered and varied. Different areas will have their own sinister feel and your level of panic will flare up when the music kicks up a notch when enemies appear. I often felt relieved and comfortable only when at a Save point next to a typewriter but even then you were sometimes only inches away from the music turning back to being freaky… Yes, freaky. Resident Evil 4 is one of those games that when I hear the OST, I immediately get shivers down my spine.
Overall: Typically in my reviews, I let you decide how to rank it after and just give my overall thoughts and opinions. However, if I had to actually give Resident Evil 4 a rating I would instantly give it 6/5 stars. To me, it will always stand up as one of the best video games I have ever played and certainly the best horror game (though Fatal Frame 2 either ties or is a close second). It was my stress relief for a long time. I would turn on my PS2 and just play the first part in the village for a few hours, taking out Las Plagas for the fun of it and getting extremely good at flipping onto rooftops as Ada Wong. There are plenty of reasons why I like certain games but often times they get one or two things right and other aspects are a tad lacking and I overlook them. Resident Evil 4 is one of the few I’ve played that I can confidently say nailed it 110%.
Have you played Resident Evil 4? If so, what did you think?