Friday, May 4, 2012

Resident Evil 4 Review (GCN)

Resident Evil 4 Review
By Bargain Brogan

When people frequently cite something as a positive example, pay attention. You will either discover something fantastic or that someone has an unwarranted obsession. The latter becomes less likely as a more diverse list of people recommend it. Blah blah blah, writer’s block, lazy transition, Resident Evil 4. I went original and picked up the Gamecube version, by the way.

Note how Resident Evil 4 is the only game in the series complimented and recommended in such a manner. As undeniably fantastic and wonderful this game is, it has made me decide to avoid the rest of the series like the plague.

Oh yes, Resident Evil 4 is one of the best games of all time, no doubt. Upon dissection I realize this is because for a survival horror game, it handles survival really well. On the other hand, to be classified as a horror game it must be scary and this epic classic masterpiece is more likely to make you roll your eyes and laugh than fear anything. I admit, the first few levels are indeed actually scary. This didn’t stick around for long. So I shall review this as survival action with ugly grotesque monsters.


The controls are not for everyone and take some getting used to. An unconventional shooter not graced with Halo or Call of Duty camera controls, one analog stick controls both camera and movement. Up and down move forward and backward and right and left alter the direction you’re moving forward and backward. Also unlike most shooters, you can’t run and gun; holding R switches to shooting mode where you stop moving and the analog controls how you aim. Aiming includes a thin laser sight which is your only hope of hitting anything. Shooting is so pinpoint precise that about half your bullets miss targets completely, and it’s even harder with headshots. And just a reminder: one analog controls everything and the c stick pretends it does something to the camera. This entire system will annoy and produce headaches at first, but I got used to it and even grew to like it. Towards the end I managed to pull off headshots with some consistency.

The limitations of these controls actually make the game a lot better. If I were running through this village as, let’s say, Master Chief the game would be too easy and there would be no sense of drama or tension. It’s better when I can barely aim the handgun or hit anything half the time. I know that doesn’t sound right, but I thought it worked with Skyward Sword too so … I must be weird or something.

The real highlight of this game is the inventory. The survival aspect comes from a limited amount of ammo and a suitcase with limited storage space for items. A bullet missed is a bullet wasted, and you never know when or where you’ll get more. This creates tension in combat as you attempt to shoot both accurately and conservatively, sometimes failing both. The knife has unlimited ammo but its range is so short it’s almost worthless in combat unless they’re already too close.

There’s also the Merchant, the only cooperative helpful person in the game for reasons never explained. He appears in the most random places to sell you stuff for absolutely no reason other than profit. He sells new weapons, first aid spray and upgrades, but will never sell ammo. Crates can be broken up to provide ammo, money, treasure and herbs.


Monster and boss designs are incredibly creative and there’s a wide variety of enemies with many surprises. And since this is not a horror game, by surprises I do not mean a lot of shock jumps (though there are some). For example, when shooting a villager’s head off, they will sometimes sprout a new disturbing monster head and continue to attack. This adds further tension when you shoot off one of their heads and they continue walking forward and you’re uncertain whether they’ll grow a new head or take a few seconds to drop dead.

One particular boss that stuck out is the Garrador, or the blind versions of X-men’s Wolverine. Upon first encountering such a deadly foe in a small room, panic ensues and most players freak out. But upon realizing they’re blind and respond to sound, the fight takes a whole new direction and a different flavor of tension. Another favorite is the near-invincible Verdugo who can only be damaged by freezing its body and blasting it. It took a long time to beat and it gobbled up my health.

Level design is also good with a similar degree of variety. There’s lots of interaction, switches, and puzzles. It’s also very straightforward and easy to navigate, as I didn’t have to look at my map a single time. The levels were so good that the way the game ends with the escape was disappointing for me. I wanted to go into the heart of….wherever in Spain this game took place, get Ashley, then battle my way back to the road where the game began while still fighting off enemies until the final boss is all that stands in my way. And they could’ve made it so that the infections in Leon start to distort his vision so that when he revisits earlier levels everything is getting surreal and trippy.

The game hates you, and the feeling is mutual.

Finally, the worst and most loathsome part of the game: quick time events. There is an absolutely infuriating, inexcusable amount of quick time events in Resident Evil 4. Every boss has them too, which sucks all the joy out of those fights. Around every corner you have to press “L+R” or “B then A” and it induces rage when they keep mixing it up with the latter. It’s so rapid and nitpicky too and almost every single time one of them appeared  I missed it the first time it showed, which lead to many avoidable injuries and instant deaths. I have actually never suffered the agony of any game including quick time events before this one but I have heard of their treachery. They are seriously the worst idea ever.

I even hated the awesome badass knife fight against Krauser. I admit it was inventive and creative to have random violence break out in the middle of dialogue. I admit it made an otherwise boring villainous cutscene exciting and tense. But it was still a quick time event and I thought the annoyance was tripled, no matter how cool it was.  


The story of Resident Evil 4 is reportedly the best in the franchise because it was minimalist and had few connections with other entries. If this is the best story, now you know why it’s the only entry I will ever play.

First of all, the zombies aren’t really zombies. They’re terminally ill people mind controlled by brainless infectious parasites. It’s practically the same as zombies. Number one fictional zombie rule: never ever explain the zombies. Left 4 Dead, High School of the Dead, and Zombieland all figured this out. Resident Evil 4 explains everything about the Las Plagas. It doesn’t make the story look smart. It makes the villains look like Dr. Insano if he were part of a cult.

All right, so secret agent Leon has to save Ashley, the president’s kidnapped daughter, from a cult in rural Spain. The villains want to mind control her with parasites so she can suggest anarchistic ideas to the president. Completely and utterly stupid.

A lot of people hate Ashley and how she’s an annoying escort mission. I say only a quarter of the game actually has her tagging along and she isn’t nearly as annoying as she could’ve been. She shuts her mouth most of the time, doesn’t point out the obvious, doesn’t tell me stupid “Omochao” noob tips, and doesn’t try to be cute or funny. That is way more than anyone could’ve expected or asked for.

It’s the fact that she’s completely defenseless that makes her annoying. Leon didn’t take five minutes out of their precious time to teach her how to use a gun or fight anything. When zombies approach her she doesn’t try to run away or back up against a wall, she stands completely still and screams. She tricks me into giving her yellow herbs even though she barely ever gets hurt. Finally, say what you will about Princess Peach and how she kidnapped constantly, but at least she only gets kidnapped one single time per game. 

The other story problem is the occasional pointless connection with other Resident Evil games. Raccoon City references, Ada Wong, Krauser, and Wesker. They are all obviously carryovers of a continuous story that new players know nothing about and make no sense without knowledge of previous games. The one original side character they have, Luis Sera, has a depressingly small amount of screen time and stops appearing too early on.

Oh, and Salazar the midget Napoleon. Why does this game have a midget Napoleon? That’s stupid and wrong. I thought Leon’s mind was getting warped by Las Plagas when I first saw him. And we’re in Spain, not France. Get your history right! It’s because of crap like Salazar that I can’t take the story seriously. When I see him all horror and scariness in the game vanishes instantly. And this is another reason I’m avoiding other Resident Evil games from now on, because I know it only gets worse.


Resident Evil 4 is a long, fun, awesome game. I was actually surprised how long the campaign was. I’ll probably be playing and replaying that part alone for years. There are also a few extra modes, but I didn’t really see the point and felt the game was strong enough to stand on the campaign alone.

Sure, the story is stupid and the horror is nonexistent after a few hours. And sure it has an almost criminal use of quick time events. But it was a lot of fun and it lasted a very long time and it never got old. Absolutely fresh and glorious start to finish. I was always entertained and there was always something new and unexpected around the corner.

I recommend Resident Evil 4 to anyone who likes video games and doesn’t get queasy around blood, gore, and grotesque, parasitic monsters. Even if you don’t really like “horror” games, as a survival action game this is a must-play on many levels.

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