Great Games: Resident Evil 4


The previous 'great game' articles were about games with complex themes and characters. Games with philosophical musings on objectivism and existentialism wrapped around a gripping plot. So for a change of pace here's Resident Evil 4, a game with a plot that can be summed up in a sentence: "The president's daughter has been kidnapped by zombies. Go fetch her." 


Okay, they're technically not zombies.

 Plot

Okay, I may have sold the plot a little short. You play as Leon S. Kennedy of Resident Evil 2 fame. After having had his first day on the job as a police officer ruined by a pesky zombie outbreak Leon decides to take a more relaxing, zombie free job as bodyguard for the President of the United States and his family. Unfortunately, the day before he starts the president's daughter is kidnapped...by zombies. Of course at this point no one knows Zombies are involved. All signs point to a small Spanish cult...from an isolated village...surrounded by impenetrable forests...shrouded in a dense fog....


In the Resident Evil universe outbreaks of Zombi-ism are more common than outbreaks of chlamydia, someone really should have seen this one coming.  Anyway, for some reason not suspecting zombies the government send Leon in to find the the president's daughter and bring her back alive. A simple premise that sets up a great game. 



Leon's dropped off on the outskirts of Zombieville with little equipment save for a hand gun (and a shotgun if you're playing on the easy difficulty like the girl you presumably are). You ask a friendly looking yokel if he's seen Ashley - the president's daughter, and in lieu of a response he rather rudely attempts to slice off your face. After giving him a good shooting Leon rather obviously remarks "He's not a zombie", and stupidly stumbles upon one of the things that made RE4 so different from it's predecessors: The Zombies. 




They may not look as scary as proper zombies...but they have pitchforks.


 Gameplay


In RE4 the zombies aren't reanimated corpses, instead they're ordinary folk infected with a  parasite capable of controlling it's host. At first the 'zombies' look and act like normal humans. A fact that makes the games first set piece all the more unnerving.



The villagers have Leon cornered in a tiny house. He pushes a book case in front of the door, seemingly keeping them at bay. Then a chainsaw starts. Then the upstairs windows are smashed by a ladder. Then you begin to soil yourself. 


The thing that makes the gameplay so great is that these Zombies are not the mindless undead. They still shamble about - slowly outnumbering you from every angle - but when they get close they'll make sudden sprints and dashes, they use ladders and chainsaws, and it only gets worse.



Under the cover of darkness their eyes glow demonic red, and the longer you play the creepier they get, sprouting parasites out of the limbs you just blew off and so on. Whilst Leon's there to look cool and act heroic it's the zombies that steal the show in RE4, and I can't even begin to describe the boss fights.

Lets just say they're awesome and leave it at that. 

RE4 takes the old Resident Evil formula and kicks it up a notch, much more fast paced and action orientated than it's predecessors. The game tries to offer the best of both worlds by using a third person perspective when exploring the world or running from zombies, but zooming over Leon's shoulder when you take aim offering a first person like view. This allows Leon to shoot with great precision, the downside being when you're in this perspective your movement slows to a crawl, meaning the zombies can get to you faster than you can get away from them.  This adds an interesting dynamic to the combat, forcing players to choose weather to shoot or run in any given situation, helping the series stay true to it's survival horror roots.

Tone

Speaking of horror the game does well to maintain it's creepy atmosphere throughout. The graphics on the PS2 version were about the best I'd ever seen on that console and help sell the disturbing tone along with the soundtrack, pacing, and level design all of which are equally superb.

While I love the isolated town seemingly from the 16th century, don't think that's the only horror setting RE4 has up it's sleeve. I'd share them, but written down they read like a list of horror clich├ęs stolen from every B-movie you've ever seen. Rest assured the game somehow pulls them off, and each one is as chilling as the last. 

Also worth noting is how the game manages to swing from adrenalin fueled action set pieces to claustrophobic terrifying ones. While it's no Amnesia  this game certainly bring the scares, weather it's caused by a mob of zombies completely overwhelming you, or one lone 'regenerador'. 

 I can't even think of a caption, these things are just scary. 

Conclusion

This game is without a doubt one of the best of the 6th generation of consoles. It's fun, scary, exciting, challenging and has one of the best collections of boss fights on a game ever. The sheer creative variety of levels and enemies is in itself enough to make this game worth recommending, but if you're a fan of horror games this one's mandatory. 


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