I tend to play a lot of RPGs, I find them comforting. I can take things at my own pace, and I usually have a whole team to back me up when things get real. I’m used to being led by the hand in these sort of games though, “Go here and get this,” a NPC will tell me, “then go there and do that” they will say. Resident Evil 4 was like “Hey! Here’s a gun, the enemy’s that way. Good luck!” And so I spent most of the game alone and bewildered, my only ally a crazy guy in a trench coat with a butt-load of guns – oh, how I rejoiced when I turned a corner to see a blue lamp and that creepy guy stood by it, even the gruff “Hello, Stranger” was somehow soothing to me.
I find games of this genre – survival horror, third person shooter, call it what you will – very daunting, and with Resident Evil 4 I jumped in at the deep end. In an RPG, if you can’t beat a boss you grind and get your level up until you can – with games like this you can’t do that. Nor can you rely on the whole deus ex machina theme that runs through most RPGs whereby someone will come and save you if things get a little hairy. Sure you have Ada who is sort of there, but her motives are far from clear, and Luis…well we all know how long that lasted. What I am trying to convey to you is the intense feeling of being alone at all times that I felt during this game, knowing that no-one was coming to help me and that I had to do all the hard work myself. It was a feeling that I was not used to in video games. To say that I enjoyed feeling like it would not be very accurate, however I did very much enjoy this game. In fact, Resident Evil 4 is probably one of the best games I have ever played.
The level designs are great, and all very distinct from each other. Each comes with its own terrain and set of baddies that cause you to rethink your strategy. They are also incredibly atmospheric, building upon the feeling of abandonment. I remember the first time that I got my head cut off by one of those chainsaw weilding guys with a bag over their head, I turned off the console and reassessed my life just a little bit. Each level has it’s own Boss who torments you throughout most of the level. All of them are straight out of a Hammer Horror film: their over-the-top creepiness emphasised by their broad Eastern European accents. But then, I don’t think I was ever actually scared during this game. Yes it’s very atmospheric, and it gets pretty tense at points, but it never actually reaches the level of straight-out scary, everything retains a faint air of the ridiculous. So that tiny guy just turned into a giant monster? Sure. And now I have to fight a cave-troll? Sure. So if I shoot all these wooden cut-outs, I win some bottle caps? Okay.
I wouldn’t have had it any other way though. If this game had tried to take itself too seriously, I would not have enjoyed it a fraction of the amount that I did, and at those times – and there were quite a few of them – when I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to carry on, the tension is killing me’ if it hadn’t been for the charm of the game, its storyline and the characters, I probably would have given up.
But I didn’t give up, I actually mustered enough courage to beat the game (albeit on easy mode). Shooters are not my strong point, and even though the controls for Resident Evil 4 are wonderful, I’m still not that good. The simplicity and ease of the controls is another strong point of this game. Gone is the laser pointer from previous incarnations of this game, to be replaced by a recticle that is controlled by your Wii Remote. Actually holding your Wii Remote like a gun only adds to the immersive quality of this game. Running, shooting and menu controls are all intuitive and easy to learn, in fact I don’t think I would be exaggerating at all if I were to say that this game utilises the Wii controls better than any other game I have played on the system. ‘Paddle waggling’ or whatever it is called is limited to tense near death experiences – for example the knife fight with Krauser – where complex controls would feel false. The frantic waggling of the Wii remote captures perfectly the exact spasmodic reaction I would have if someone tried to stab me: more and more immersive.
For those that don’t know, I should probably explain this game a little bit. I don’t know exactly how – if at all – it fits in with the other Resident Evil games, as I haven’t played them, but in Resident Evil 4 you play as Leon S. Kennedy, an American agent, who has been sent to the Middle of Nowhere, Eastern Europe to rescue the president’s daughter from some kind of cult. You don’t work for Umbrella, however, you seem to know Ada, who does. And so you shoot your way through hordes of creepy creepers trying to find and then rescue Ashley (the president’s daughter) whilst trying not to get yourself or her killed in the process.
Once you complete the main storyline you unlock additional weapons to use on your next playthrough, a shortened version of the game where you play as Ada instead of Leon, and a cool mini-game called the Mercenaries which I find immensely difficult and cannot unlock any of the additional characters – although I have seen them on playthroughs on Youtube and they look pretty cool. I will hang on to this game, and will definitely play through it again, just maybe in a few years when I am a little bit braver perhaps.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with this games, so leave a reply if you feel like it.