As the post title implies, anime isn’t the only thing I’m great at not finishing. Before getting heavily into anime, I was heavily into video games for about a year, and in that year, despite doing lots of reading and research on video games, I didn’t get around to playing them quite as much. For a while, I would buy all of the big-name releases and obsessively poured over gamespot.com, Game Informer magazines, and watched a lot of G4 (back when they talked about video games.) After a while I settled into a niche of JRPGs as my genre of preference – however, my attention span was rarely so great as to complete one. There are a lot of great games that I played for about 7 hours (i.e. 1 or 2 afternoons) and just never continued, and others like Shadow Hearts Covenant that I reached the final boss on and gave up when I couldn’t beat him.
A very large percentage of the games I’ve actually beaten were action games, such as Devil May Cry or God of War, which I could slam down in one night. It’s also not as though I don’t still play video games, but I usually play the more mindless stuff like shooters and fighting games which are more fun to play with a group of friends. The games I’ve probably logged the most time on were Halo 2 and Gears of War, both of which inspired many weekends of heavy metal and massive Mountain Dew consumption. Anyhow, the point is I have a lot of games I have to beat. Doing so will excite my friends, too, because they and my brother are all huge-time gamers. I’ve actually made a list of the games that I want to beat, similar to my anime finish or fail list, which you can see here.
So, on to Resident Evil 4. I bought the GameSpot special edition version of Resident Evil 4 back when it first came out on Gamecube in 2005 and every reviewer was calling it the best Cube game ever, etc. However, back then I hated any dark game, couldn’t handle horror, and had never really played a 3rd-person shooter. I kind of knew I wasn’t going to like the game at first, though – I partially bought it on the prospect that I would eventually have the experience to handle it. Over the years, my brother and I both tried to play it once or twice, but we never got very far (chapter 2-1 was the record for both of us.) However, we have finally reached a point where there aren’t any game types that we collectively suck too hard at, so both of us were eyeballing the game for another try. I finally picked it up after Baka-Raptor’s unbiased review the other day. I’ll be writing this post sort of as a response to that one.
5 Things That Rocked
1. The Feel – The overall impression that I got from Resident Evil 4 was that the developers went into it fully intending to create what at that point would have been the greatest third-person 3D shooter to date. I will further delve into the individual aspects that they perfected below, but the point is that they were focused on making a highly enjoyable video game. So what I love is that the tone and feel of the story, the designs, everything seems to have been put together with the idea of “let’s make a great video game.” As a result, the game’s story does not take itself very seriously at all. The plot is minimal with few cut-scenes, and while I’ll get into my problems with quick time events later, I at least support the concept of making cut-scenes interactive in the name of making them an actual part of the video game experience.
I generally don’t like it when a game like this takes itself too seriously, because they usually can’t pull it off. No matter how intricate you try to make your plot or how dramatic your characters act, the fact is that an action game will rarely having a compelling story or characters (there are exceptions, like God of War, but they are rare.) Because Resident Evil 4 was so unabashedly silly, throwing in things like a random lava-filled room with fire-breathing dragon statues and baby fucking Napoleon, I could just sit back and enjoy the ride, and what’s more, a lot of that silly stuff made for great game design. I don’t think your average survival horror game would include a crazy mine cart ride, but RE4 was better off for doing so.
2. The Characters - RE4 characters are pretty damn 1-dimensional, but that’s also what makes them a blast. In my opinion, there are two kinds of good characters – characters that are honestly and truly deep, and characters that are simply memorable. In today’s games and movies, we loose out on memorable characters because the stories take themselves too seriously and try (and fail) to force some kind of realism on the characters. I’d prefer the RE4 approach – you have such greats as a snickering old overpowered psycho cult leader; a giant Rasputin wannabe with a tendency to strangle people; a sexy and suave Spaniard with impeccable style; a sexy and suave female spy AKA ‘the bitch in the red dress’ with the only ‘strong woman’ personality type that isn’t annoying as fuck (best example of such since half the cast of Canaan); a helpless blond with a knack for getting kidnapped that mostly exists for fanservice (she always was a refreshing reminder that Capcom is from Japan); an insane and badass army dude fresh out of Apocalypse Now and crazy with a bowie knife (and who, in spite of looking and acting like a stereotypical video game German, having a German name, and wearing one of those hats for Europeans was apparently ‘an American’); and of course, your protagonist with his hilariously bad one-liners but wholly likable charms and mad weapons proficiency.
My not mentioning their names is a testament to their memorability, as I’m sure anyone will know exactly whom I’m talking about each time. (For the record, though, I do know most of their names, which is a testament to their memorability in itself, since I never remember names.) The boss fights were pretty memorable, too, to where I could say ‘the lake monster’ or ‘the giant’ or ‘the fucking hellspawned superbeast’ and you probably know what I mean. Even grunt characters solidify in your memory with their actions – I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation about Resident Evil 4 without someone hollering out the Spanish phrases that the villagers call when they attack you (BALELELO! UN FORACENO!) But of course, I can’t forget my favorite character in the game, the fucking merchant. That guy was just win. I could talk to him just to hear his awesome voice , and that creepy cackle when he thanks you. It was always exciting when he wanted to tell you a little more about one of the guns, too, or when he ‘will buy it at a high price!’ That guy deserves to be in every game.
3. The Level Design - The level design was the real meat of Resident Evil 4’s amazing game design. I loved that even though the game was very linear, it always gave a feeling that you weren’t just walking down endless passageways. By building the pockets of village or castle and filling them with fun little minigames, or allowing for just that extra bit of exploration, it kept a feeling that the world was alive. The action was perfectly broken up so that it never got boring. After a major shootout, you might have a puzzle or a boss fight or some kind of strange little game that keeps you on your toes. And none of it is half-assed, either – it’s not like the diversions are pointless and frivolous, but they have actual meat. There were plenty of times that I died during those diversions, so they were not just flighty and easy, but every bit the challenge that anything else in the game was.
4. The Weapons Balance - As Baka-Raptor touched on in his unbiased review, one of the cool things about RE4 is that none of the weapons are completely useless. The four basic weapons types in the game are handguns, shotguns, TMPs, and rifles. There are a number of guns in each category, and the player can choose based on their proficiency with them. What’s more, there are situations for every weapon. At times, you will have to use the rifle (which doesn’t work well in regular battle) to easier kill special enemies and you’ll need to be proficient with all of the guns because there is only so much ammunition at any given time, and you will be forced to rely on what isn’t your first choice. For instance, I found the TMP totally worthless and never wanted to use it, but I was forced to be proficient with it because I was going to have to use it at some points.
Because there is no truly useless gun, the game is always quite fair. No matter how low on ammo you are or how few guns are at your disposal, you CAN win. There were times where I was fighting incredibly difficult bosses with something like 10 bullets in each gun, and I thought there was no way I could win as I died again and again – but eventuality, I would always figure out a way to use that ammo correctly and prevail against the enemy. I never once had to reload a save because I was improperly equipped. That all said, my favorite guns were, of course, the shotgun (my favorite gun in every game that has it) and the badass revolver (likewise.)
5. The Hellspawned Superbeast Boss Fight – All of the boss fights in RE4 are awesome, from El Lago to Krauser and beyond, but my favorite was easily the fight with a certain big black bastard I’ve come to know as the Hellspawned Superbeast. The fight begins in an underground factory-type setting wherein you become aware that some kind of monster is following you. As you walk through the hallways, you are randomly attacked by the creature’s tail, which you have to dodge. As you move through the halls, you find yourself having to reactivate the power in the area in order to activate an elevator to get you the fuck out of there, resulting in an almost exact duplication of the similar scene from Jurassic Park.
By the time the beast showed up in front of me, I was already tense as shit from all of his random attacks, and then I was outright fear-stricken when I found that no amount of guns and ammo would do shit to him. As it turns out, I had to tip over a container of liquid nitrogen on him to freeze him while I unleashed attacks, and when the first one didn’t kill him, all of the other ones I’d seen on the way came rushing back, and running around trying to freeze this bitch and unload ammo on him was the most balls-tighteningly intense boss fight I can remember playing in years.