Horror Games: Resident Evil 4

residentevil4.jpg

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.

leon.png

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.

residentevil4characters.jpg

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.)

merchant.jpg

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.

chainsaw.jpg

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.

ogre.jpg

But by far, the worst monsters in the game and the ones that gave me nightmares were these guys…

horrid.jpg

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.

gameplay.png

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.

gameplay2.jpg

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?

 

Goosebumps: The Game Cover

Horror Game Review: Goosebumps The Game

 

goosebumpsposter.png

While Goosebumps has positive reviews on Steam, is this particular horror point and click game worth the price of admission?

About: Yes, that’s right, there is a Goosebumps game. It’s a point and click horror based loosely on the idea from the recent movie release of Goosebumps, where the monsters from the books escape from R.L. Stine’s popular Goosebumps books. You play as a character that you name, who leaves school and returns home only to discover that everything around you is now bizarre. Strange creatures lurk in the forest blocking your normal pathway home and your house has transformed itself completely. Can you get to the bottom of what’s going on and put a stop to it before it’s too late for you?

Player beware, you’re in for a scare! And possible spoilers!

slappy.png

The Plot/Characters: The game is said to be a prequel to the movie of the same name released in 2015 starring Jack Black. The plot centers around your character returning home from school nearly dying on the way to a plant-based monster and having to fight them with weed killer. Pretty great so far. Things get even stranger when you discover that the creepy, dark, disturbing house in your neighborhood that suddenly appeared has replaced your own. Your Mom seems unhelpful when you call her and your brother is not picking up at first, leaving you on your own for most of the time… Unless you count all the Goosebumps villains attempting to kill you and even the benign ghosts.

It turns out that all of the released creatures are from R.L. Stine’s books. After exploring, you come to find out that it was all perpetrated by their leader, Slappy, who is attempting to lure someone to the Town Center Galleria. Together with your totally rad bro, Chad, who finally decides to actually show up, you race there to put an end to this.

goosebumpschoose.jpg

Depending on your choices, the main character is a boy or a girl. They are fairly slow to release anything is majorly wrong and react much like any protagonist in a choose-your-own adventure style written by R.L. Stine. Of course, you have to use your wits and vast array of items in order to move past or defeat any villains that appear so the main character is at least slightly intelligent. Chad, your bro, is a classic surfer dude persona and pretty flat as a character but humorous. At least your character adds their own banter and clever remarks to the situation to make the player laugh. The character Slappy is probably the most developed character in this entire game… He’s got a tragic backstory since he feels rejected by his Father (R.L. Stine). He uses this as fuel to set up a trap for R.L. all to finally get the attention he feels he deserves. And R.L. Stine’s character seems to be similar to the one in the movie. Overall, you’ll find lots of Easter Eggs and references to the Goosebumps books while the story and characters unfold in a rather similar manner to an R.L. Stine book!

Will you be able to survive?

Gameplay: Like most point and click adventure style games, Goosebumps is set up for you to move around using the arrow keys, interact with objects and people by using “look” or “talk”  (the dialogue is all in text format) and collect items using “take” to add to your inventory. Most items are then used to solve situations to advance the game, such as using a photo lab to develop a picture, hang the photo and unlock a secret compartment.

Often times, however, you will release that you have many different items that you will never once use. In fact, I spent a ton of time attempting to run the washer and dryer in The Dead House as I was given laundry soup, dryer sheets and dirty clothes only none of it worked. Also, that blue rose in the picture below? Still no clue what that’s for… By the end of the game I had 8 pages. 8 pages of inventory. Most of it unused!? You’ll feel like the ultimate shoplifter running around taking nearly EVERYTHING from the mall. Apparently there are lots of achievements in the game all of which probably involve these items but heck if I knew how to get those. Most of the puzzle solving is cryptic as well. If you’ve read the books you might have some clues but if you are just a casual fan, you’re probably going to need a walkthrough. A lot. At first I thought it was just me, but after watching Harshly Critical struggle to figure out a lot of different areas, including a time when you have to WEIGH CANDY in order to open a door to the last area (all of which is differently priced and the game gives you no clue you need it to open the door)… I was pretty convinced it was just the game’s fault.

goosebumpsgameplay.jpg

Creatures within the game will jump out and surprise you in this game, leaving to many heart attack inducing situations. This is great. The scares in the game are actually pretty decent. Often times you’re lured into a false sense of security and then BAM your face is eaten by a giant green blob monster earning you a “Game Over” screen. Don’t worry though, as you can retry, placing you back almost where you were before. I screamed the first time I was attacked by something often times but then by the fifth, sixth or seventh attempt at getting past it and meeting the same end I typically became complacent and the jumpscare became ineffective. That’s not to say that there aren’t intense scenes. For instance, running from the security guard or the gnomes was definitely nail biting.

beastfromtheeastjumpscare.jpg

Graphics: The graphics are pretty much awesome in this game. You can tell a lot of effort went into making them look very similar to the illustrated covers of any of the Goosebumps books. The colors are vivid, the style very much the same and the different rooms all have distinctly individual backgrounds. A lot of details have been placed into the game as well.

livingroom.jpg

The Score/Atmosphere: Typically there are only a few background songs playing throughout the game. They set a great spooky atmosphere but aren’t especially though provoking. The thing that this game certainly has down is the background noises. Grandfather clocks tick, footsteps are heard, ghostly moaning comes from locked doors. Sometimes there is even an absence of noise which also feels threatening.

Overall: While the scares, atmosphere and nostalgia certainly make this game interesting it struggles to reach its full potential due to the overwhelming number of cryptic puzzles and need for many re-dos. What could have been a fantastic game was instead washed out by the need to follow walkthroughs or struggle to progress an area leading to a lot of frustration. Perhaps the game would be easier solved by R.L. Stine himself. There are a lot of scares and you will probably almost fall out of your chair at several points and have chills sent down your spine navigating scary hallways and running from gnomes. However, once you’ve died from Slappy eating your face off about five times its easy for the scares to become mundane. You’ll probably get 4-5 hours of gameplay out of it though if that’s what you really care about but wait for the game to go on sale first.

slappyjumpscare.jpg

Have you played Goosebumps: The Game yet? If so, what did you think?