Sunday, February 12, 2017

Resident Evil 4 review

    You may ask what the point of reviewing Resident Evil 4 may be. It's a game which generally stands up there with Super Marrio Brothers, The Legend of Zelda, Streetfighter II, Halo, and a handful of others for "you know, that was really-really good." It's actually almost unheard of for people to have much in the way of criticisms about it. While hardcore survival horror fans may hate on the game for 'ruining' the series, generally people tend to think of it as the best of the RE series. So why should I bother making a review? Well, it's my blog so I can review whatever the hell I want.
Angry villagers are not dissuaded by guns.
    Resident Evil 4 is a great game even twelve years later and while the controls could stand to be improved, if you downloaded it for Xbox One or Playstation 4 then you'd probably still have a great time. About the only complaint I have is the combat is difficult but that's kind of the point, ya know? I can't hit anything with my pistol but that's as much on me as it is on the game. Likewise, I can run away from almost everything the game throws at me so there's no real point in staying to fight most creatures.

    Actually, that last bit is mostly me. When I discussed my playstyle with other gamers, they were stunned since the vast majority of them had elaborate strategies for eliminating every single enemy they encountered. They talked about shooting the legs to slow down opponents, making use of environmental weapons like exploding barrels, and maximizing the use of your knife after kicking. Indeed, I have it on good authority I made it one third of the game playing the game completely wrong. I didn't even pick up the shotgun in the village, which makes me a complete idiot and made later levels staggeringly difficult.

Kicks in the face will work, though.
    This is one of the games, though, I may be willing to play again, though because it's such a staggeringly fun game. It's a visual treat with the graphics holding up well today. The Count Dracula-esque villages, castles, and decaying empty houses are perfect B-movie horror with enough difference from "photo realism" to not become dated.

    Every level in the game is memorable and there's nothing boring so you're always looking at something interesting. It all hangs together too so even when you're facing giants in an arena, monsters in a lake, or a giant mechanical stone statue--you're feeling like this could plausibly all have been done by the same cult. Well, sort of. The rest, however, you can chalk up to Rule of CoolTM.

    The premise, for those few unfamiliar with the game, is the President's daughter has been kidnapped and Leon Kennedy is the only dude bad enough to get her back. Actually, it's because there's a traitor in the Secret Service with Leon the only trustworthy one the President can rely on. Sending him with some local backup to a Spanish village for reconnaissance, they soon find themselves with a reception reflecting the locals at Lovecraft's Innsmouth. In fact, the game is a decent adaptation of The Shadow over Innsmouth as it's about how a cult of alien parasite worshipers have taken over the area as well as converted everyone to their evil religion.

The quiet moments in the game are some of the scariest.
    It's difficult to say what makes Resident Evil 4 so much fun but I think it's one of those rare combinations of gameplay, scenery, storytelling, and characterization that works so well. Resident Evil's story never entirely takes itself seriously as it makes a lot of homages to things like Metal Gear Solid and Hammer horror while Leon badly quips every other sentence. Yet, that just makes things even more entertaining. Too many games try to make themselves grimdark without appreciating that's a genre founded on black humor.

    The characters' likability is a major draw for the game with Leon, Hunnigan, Ashley, Luis, and Ada all being characters you enjoy spending time with. Even the villains all have an amusing quality about them with Mendez, Salazar, and Saddler being scary as well as funny in different ways. Okay, Salazar is just annoying as hell but he's a character you enjoy stabbing versus one you just want gone. It's the difference between a villain you love to hate and a villain you just hate period

Ada is the Master of Showing Upping.
    There's a staggering variety of ways to fight enemies that encourages you to come up with new strategies to do battle with them. As mentioned, the game is very intelligent about the way creatures and the environment reacts to your battle. Ammo is still scarce in the game so you have to be intelligent about how you use it or, at least, make sure you always hit your targets. Despite this, it's actually a fairly forgiving game as it gets easier the more you die or harder only when you're doing really well.

     Gameplay wise, what was revolutionary a decade ago isn't quite the same as it is today. Moving Leon's perception around and his targeting laser is harder than it appears, at least for a beginner and his movement can take awhile to get used to. The game introduced the principles of "quick time events for action sequences" which is both a blessing as well as a curse. Likewise, you are forced to stand still during combat as Leon cannot shoot or stab while moving. Finally, your partner, Ashley, is less than useless for much of the game.

The fact much of the game is an escort mission is a drag.
    None of this matters, though, because the good drastically outweighs the bad. You can play this game as a shoot-em-up bang bang game or play more cautiously with Leon running away from fights as often as engaging in them. The fact Leon is a likable character with personality to burn and a flirtatious easy-going manner makes him probably the best Resident Evil protagonist, even if he's kind of a goofball.  Even Ashley is enjoyable despite the fact her, "Leoooooon!" gets annoying fast.

    There's some neat little additions to the game itself if you do manage to complete it. Ada Wong has her own set of stories, showing what she was doing the entire time you were fumbling about. There's also additional costumes, characters, and items that can allow you to tear through the game after a frustrating survival horror experience. Honestly, this strikes me as a game which would benefit from adding DLC to it even a decade later.

    In conclusion, Resident Evil 4 is a game which is well worth picking up the re-mastering for. It's funny, challenging, and enjoyable all the way through. The camera angles and movement can be somewhat challenging but is something it's still possible to master. Just, whatever you do, remember it is a combat game since you'll get spanked hard if you play it like I did until you can't run away anymore.


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