I never got on the Resident Evil 4 hype train when I was a kid, and in hindsight, I’m not entirely sure why. I had a Gamecube, PS2, and Wii growing up, had no problems with violence or anything, and played a large variety of games (despite being a child and, therefore, terrible at all video games ever). I’d assume it’s because I was (and still am) a scaredy cat, and wouldn’t go near anything remotely resembling a horror game. I’ve since learned that Resident Evil 4 is most definitely NOT a scary game, thanks to watching Let’s Plays, and during a recent Steam sale, I decided it was time to pick it up and see what all the hubbub was about.
All I can say is, holy crap, have I been missing out.
Resident Evil 4, for the maybe two of you who don’t know, follows Agent Leon S Kennedy, a survivor of the Raccoon City Outbreak (in other words, Resident Evil 2), on a mission to some unidentified Spanish-speaking village in… a place to find the president’s kidnapped daughter. It’s just as corny as it sounds, and I love it. Leon is such an unshakable protagonist, and the way he acts like he’s the coolest thing since sliced bread never fails to put a smile on my face. As for Ashley Graham, the aforementioned president’s daughter, I’d heard a lot about how grating she was, and while her constant cries of “LEON!” do get kind of annoying sometimes, as far as escort characters go, she’s actually not terrible. She’ll gladly hide in a dumpster for as long as you tell her to, and if you have to be in a combat situation, she at least has the good sense to stay out of my way while I’m trying to shoot people. There were only maybe two times in the entire game I got a game over because she died. Even the monsters are surprisingly memorable. From the cat-like screeching of the villagers to the menacing rev of Dr. Salvador’s chainsaw; from the weird chittering of the Novistadors to the bumbling fury of the Garradors, every evil parasite-infested Spaniard and monster has their own flavor of menace, made more amusing when you effortlessly blow their heads off (shortly followed by blowing their heads off again when the big parasite things pop out).
Leon’s got an entire arsenal in his pants for just about any occasion; pistols, shotguns, rifles, and magnums (the Broken Butterfly’s reload is SO COOL), each one adapt at shooting evil Spaniards in the face. You’d think the way Leon stops and aims his gun would be annoying, but the game is built around the system in a way that lets you pop off a couple of rounds and then quickly run out of the way of oncoming attacks. Even quick time events, which are ungodly levels of irritating in most games, are integrated smoothly and cleverly, rewarding the quick-fingered. The only time I ever failed a QTE was when I needed to mash to pull Leon up a ledge, and from what I’ve read, that’s just a glitch on the PC version due to weird framerate stuff.
In a way, Resident Evil 4 is kind of a miracle. It uses elements that would be obstructive and annoying in other games, like cheesy writing, escorting, stationary aiming, and QTEs, and still manages to be an unbelievably high quality game. It’s like a really good B-horror movie, like Evil Dead; it’s so weird and shlocky that it inverts on itself and ends up being amazing. I gotta say, shame on me for not getting on that hype train, because I can totally imagine myself loving this game as a kid (if not being particularly good at it).
Man, now I want more. I’m gonna go play Resident Evil 5, see if that’s any good…