Were you scared by Resident Evil when it came out on the PlayStation? Did that mean old boxy polygon Doberman jumping through the window make you scream like a 10-year-old girl? Perhaps it was the gripping opening (in full-motion video no less!), the stellar dialog (should I even quote the “master of unlocking” scene?), or the shuffling zombies that finally made you drop to your knees and scream, “You won‘t take me alive you slow-moving zombie men, dogs, and assorted birds! I have a green herb, six inventory slots, an eagle-shaped crescent thingy that I guess I‘ll need later and a can of whoop-ass just begging to be opened!“?
Look, Resident Evil was fine for 1996. It was even cool when it was remade for the GameCube in 2001. But make no mistake about it: Resident Evil 4 kicks that smirk off your face faster than you can say “I don’t play Resident Evil because it suks l@@t lol Final Fantasy 4ever!!!!”
This is not a scary game. I’m sure Ring 2/Boogeyman/Grudge/Darkness/Cursed and whatever else PG-13 horror crap that’s out or coming out is probably scarier than this game. But let me tell you something, my friends: RE4 is fucking AWESOME. Let’s look at what’s gone: Steering your character like Captain Ahab driving Moby Dick? Gone. Six to eight slots for the seven billion things you need to survive said game (a special “fuck you” goes out to Resident Evil 0 for the oh-so-innovative just-drop-your-shit-wherever technique for items and ammo)? Gone. Preset camera angles? Gone. Having to use inventory slots for save ribbons? Gone.
This game stars Leon Kennedy from RE2, and if you need a history of the convoluted storyline, go here. Then type in “nerdy Resident Evil hero worship GeoCities Fan Site.” I guess Umbrella’s not involved anymore, and Leon is protecting the President’s daughter and Ada shows up from—look, here’s the bottom-line: the plot’s not really important.
But the graphics. The atmosphere. The gameplay. These, RE4 nails more completely than any action game I’ve ever played. I mean, the opening alone is worth the price of admission. You arrive in some berg in Spain, looking for the missing girl. Immediately, you’re thrown out on your own, down a sinister path that leads to a dilapidated farm house. You creep inside cautiously and see there’s a pot on the stove. You move to it, and your context-sensitive A button says “check”. So, screw it, you check. It’s some disgusting old mess that’s long since gone rotten. You continue around the corner and encounter your first enemy. After your initial jolt, you recover and blow him away only to go to a cutscene that shows other enemies gathering outside the farmhouse you’re standing in. Do you shove a chest in front of the door? Go out the front guns blazing? Or maybe just slip out the kitchen window and try and sneak around the side? The choice, my friends, is yours. But no matter what you choose, it sets the tone for the hell to follow. You truly feel isolated from the rest of the planet while these sick assholes try to pitchfork you in the face.
I usually cheat when I play. I use FAQs because I just don’t have the time to find the 816th apple in Banjo-Kazooie Twooey. But I played through this mother all the way to end on my own, and damn if I don’t feel like I’m back in 1989 playing and mastering the shit out of Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on my Genesis. This game is great fun. I understand that each console has its graphical strengths (see: God of War on PS2 and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory on Xbox), but this game shouldn’t be running on my GameCube. It just seems—well, wrong. And wait until the boss encounters, which happen relatively early in the game. When you head down to that creaking dock and board your little dingy to set out over a mist-covered lake and you see ripples in the water that indicate something huge is down there, tell me you’re not enthralled. Tell me RE4 isn’t one of the best-looking, best-playing action/horror games ever. Tell me Capcom has lost their touch. Tell me this franchise is toast. Tell me you’re some PS2 or Xbox fanboy who won’t play the game because it’s on a kiddy system. Tell me. I dare you.