You know when your health is in the yellow and Leon is limping. Exhausted and fatigued from fighting an endless amount of nightmare fueled monsters? That’s kind of how I felt while playing Resident Evil 4, but I mean that in a good way. It has been a while since I played a game where I was constantly thinking “I can’t do this. No way can I beat this boss” only to overcome the odds and achieve that satisfying feeling you can only get when playing a video game.
After seeing all they hype for RE Village and how it’s somewhat of a spiritual successor to 4 I took it as a sign that I should finally check it out. Plus the upcoming Netflix show will take place two years after the events of this game so I had another reason to play. I’m well aware of its legacy, how it transitioned the formulae to third person, how it toned down the horror in favor for more action, and how it influenced dozens upon dozens of future action games. So I was excited to finally play it.
The gameplay is still holds up even if you can’t move while aiming. That just adds more tension. You see at least five enemies slowly lurking their way towards you. Do you stand your ground and hold them off or do you retreat so you won’t risk taking damage? It makes up for the lack of horror. Now that isn’t a complaint because like I said I wouldn’t call this a horror game, but it does have moments that tenses me up. Like when you hear the chainsaw in the background or hear creepy monster moans. You’re instantly on your toes and checking your inventory to see if you have enough bullets to handle the situation. Which brings me to inventory management. In the opening chapters I learned the hard way that I had to conserve my ammo because I would never have enough on me. Then at the halfway point I had to many items in stock so I would have to be more selective in what I wanted to pick up. This feeling of progressions helps you feel powerful. I needed that feeling because I could’t help, but feel the odds were always stacked against me. After I got use to fighting the villagers, boom, here are some crazy cultist, the cultist getting a little to easy? Well here are some bug monsters. Fighting the cultist again? Guess what they have armored plating and a berserker version Edward Scissorhands. To top it all off in the final act now you are fighting infected soldiers each with their own style of weapons and means of attacking. Even the bosses feel like a Herculean task like fighting two El Gigantes, The Loch Ness monster from hell, and whatever the hell Salazar transformed into. I didn’t let that stop me as one by one they were all vanquished, but boy did I need a breather after their defeats. I guess that’s why it’s so much fun because you can take pride in overcoming whatever challenge gets thrown at you.
Do you want to level the playing field and become stronger, then upgrade your weapons. How do you upgrade you ask? By visiting the best damn character in the game, my homie the Merchant. He doesn’t have a backstory nor does he have a lick of character development, but I can’t help, but smile whenever I hear his signature greetings like “what are you buying stranger?” or “got some rare things on sale, stranger!” Even when I don’t have anything to buy he’ll hook me up with some upgrades and the shooting gallery for some prizes. It helps take the nerve out and relaxes me after many tense situations. He might have a shady profession, but I consider him a real friend. Hope he made it off the island.
While we are on the subject of characters I don’t think I’ve seen such a drastic change in-between games like I have with Leon. No longer the rookie cop who stumbled into a zombie apocalypse. He is now a special agent working for the U.S. Government who clearly took a dose of Super Solider serum because wow does he pull off some impossible feats. Plus you have to appreciate his cheesy one liners. Hence why I refer to RE4 as the ultimate action movie with its bosses, set pieces, and the cheesiness in the dialogue. Even the plot of rescuing the Presidents daughter sounds like some Summer blockbuster in the 90’s. Now onto Ashley. I’ve been told that she was the worst part of the game due to constantly escorting her, but in my experience she is in roughly about 30-40% in the game because she gets kidnap… like a lot. When I was stuck with her I always instructed her to hide and told her to wait behind me so she would never get in the way and I could always keep enemies away from her. There are a few annoying sequences where you have to give her cover while she activates some switches and levers. Plus she is playable for one sequences, but these moments are short and don’t feel like they are being dragged out.
Now that I have gushed about the positives it is time to talk about some negatives. One is being Krauser, he’s a challenging boss, but for a guy who use to be Leon’s partner this is the first time we’ve ever seen or heard of him. Maybe we could have gotten at least one flashback to show their relationship to make their battle feel more impactful. The other is a glaring plot hole. Sadler our main antagonist will reveal to Leon and Ashley that he’s infected you with a parasite and once Ashley is reunited with her father he to will succumb to the infection in a plan to destabilize to US. One problem with that plan: WHY DID HE TELL THEM THEY HAD THE PARASITE!? Sadler’s plan would have worked if he just let them escape. Now the rest of the game is them trying to find a way to get the parasite out. Now that I think about it nobody talks about this game for its story. They only really talk about the gameplay and now I know why. My final gripe is the length. Not that it is overly long or anything, but there are segments I wish they would have cut like the mine cart section where I had to fight TWO chainsaw wielding psychopaths in a very limited space. Yeah that was “fun”. I think by the time I had to navigate the shipping container maze and fighting the U-3 I just wanted to skip to the end. In fact I said “fuck it” and equipped a rocket launcher in my final confrontation with Sadler because my patience was treading on thin ice… then I had to escape the island in under three minutes on a Jet-ski. What I’m saying is that less is more.
Now back to the positives. Beating the game for the first time will unlock a new costume, the Mercenaries mode, and two campaigns for Ada Wong. Ada plays differently from Leon with her own melee attacks and a grappling hook to traverse certain areas. Tired of playing of those two? Then try out Mercenaries where you can also play as Wesker, Krauser, and HUNK. Mercenaries alone is worth finishing the story as it gives us another reason to play, but this time as our favorite villains.
Personally RE7 will always be my favorite Resident Evil game, but RE4 is a close second with it’s fantastic gameplay and extra modes that keep me coming back for more.
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