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Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil

Traveling around the world bites. Sure, you’re getting a chance to take a break from your boring daily life, to see a place so different from your own. Of course, you’ll probably have to deal with confusing directions, seasickness, jet lag, and whatever phenomena associated with conventional transportation. Airport security can prove to be quite an adventure. Baggage claim is its own horror show. The food is a hit or miss, either making you crave more or puke it up in a smelly puddle of filth. The language barrier can be tough to overcome, especially if you haven’t had time to familiarize yourself with the basic conversational aspects. Those damned souvenir peddlers won’t leave you alone, assuming that you’ve got some cash to spend. Can’t forget to keep those valuables close at hand, lest you look away for five seconds to discover that they’ve mysteriously vanished. Indeed, exploring a foreign place can prove to be a truly “memorable” experience.

“Coming through!”

Take Leon Kennedy. This guy is one of Raccoon City’s finest, currently serving the American government and its interests. His latest assignment places him deep in the heart of the European backcountry, a desolate place where few outsiders ever witness. Unfortunately, Leon’s not there to sign diplomatic treaties, participate in international negotiations or any of that utterly boring crap. He’s been handpicked to go on one of the most important rescue missions in decades. Ashley Graham, the president’s daughter has been kidnapped by a mysterious cult and is presumably being held for ransom. Oooh, how original. It’s up to our hero to infiltrate the isolated town, save the girl from probable death, and bring her back to the country and father she loves so much. Needless to say, Leon’s trip to Europe isn’t going to be the typical vacation.

Okay. There’s a damsel in distress, and a hero who is more than capable enough to rescue her. Sounds like the usual clichéd game, doesn’t it? Luckily, Leon’s quest will prove far stranger and more dangerous than the core plot implies. Within minutes of arriving in that decrepit farming town, you’ll soon realize that something’s very wrong with the locals. Seeing farmers with pitchforks and axes may seem normal. At least, until they scream at you in butchered Spanish, stagger in your general direction and try to impale you with their equipment. Yeah, that’s a great way to welcome the turista to your humble villa. However, these Ganados aren’t being homicidal just because Leon is from the States. They’ve been infected with Las Plagas, symbiotic parasites that live inside the people’s bodies and turn them into zombie-like slaves. Pale skin aside, these people look like normal people…until they bleed green slime and sprout some nasty-looking tentacles. Considering that Leon will have to take on small armies of these people nearly every area he explores, he’ll have his work cut out for him.

“Are you talking to me?”

However, Leon’s not just going to stand there and take that kind of sickening abuse. After years of combat training in Raccoon City and the American government, he’s been blessed with some truly badass fighting abilities. He’ll start the game with a basic handgun and knife, but he’ll eventually get to wield shotguns, rifles, semi-automatics, magnums, explosives, and plenty of other weapons of minor destruction. When Leon is faced against group after group of mindless villagers, he’ll be able to choose among his varied arsenal, aim it with stunning accuracy, and annihilate anything that gets in his way. Busting a 9mm cap into a Ganado may do a little damage, but it’s nothing compared to a powered-up shotgun blast or a well-placed Incendiary Grenade. Given the sheer amount of enemies attacking you at once, you’ll have to make sure that every shot counts. Should a foe manage to get close enough to our hero, it’ll grab, stab, choke, crush, and do plenty of other nasty things to him. Luckily, Leon is also trained in close quarter combat, complete with suplexes, punches, and a few other attacks. Also, there’s nothing more gratifying than beheading a foe with one of Leon’s manly roundhouse kicks. Naked Snake, eat your heart out.

There is one problem with this one-man army’s attack plan, however. While Leon Kennedy is nigh unstoppable with enough firepower, he’s severely limited with the amount of items he can carry at once. All of his mission possessions are confined to a small case that can barely hold everything needed. If your weapon of choice happens to be the Rocket Launcher, you’d better pray that you have enough space to accommodate it. You’ll have to carry your own ammunition, with each box taking up some space. Can’t forget about Leon’s health restoration items, either. You’ll have to be creative as to how you manage your storage space, carefully choosing which items seem the most useful and tossing the rest. Even if you can afford to buy some size upgrades for your box, you still might find yourself throwing away the least important stuff. Considering the amount of money and items that the enemies drop, it’s a fair bet that you’ll run out of space in no time. Such an underlying strategy of rationing your supplies may prove challenging at first, but it’ll become second nature in no time.

Leon aims his shot very carefully.

However, Resident Evil 4 isn’t just about senselessly gunning down everything in your path, even if it is the most fun aspect of the game. Leon is still on a mission to find and save the president’s daughter. Once he meets up with Little-Miss-Jailbait, he’ll have to protect her from the onslaught of Ganados and other evil stuff. You’ll get to beckon or dismiss Ashley with the press of the button. Unfortunately, you can’t leave her behind for very long; given enough time, one of your foes will pick her up and carry her away to some unspeakable doom. Also, Ashley will prove fundamental in solving certain puzzles and accessing some areas. That’s right, I said puzzles. Normally, you’ll just have to maneuver tiles, press a certain button, or step on a few switches. Leon must not only scour a small Spanish town, but dungeons, churches, sewers, military installations, and a few other strange places. While most of the game goes along a fairly straight path, you’ll often have to explore a series of areas in search of a key, emblem, and whatever other item that will allow you to progress further in the game. Thankfully, most of the special items take little effort to find, and nearly all of the puzzles are too simplistic to cause any real problems. They’re just there to serve as a break from the usual killing sprees you’ll get to enjoy.

While this epic rescue mission will take up the bulk of your experience with Resident Evil 4, there are a few things worth looking into once Leon completes his mission. You’ll get to try out the Mercenaries mode, which basically operates as a mini-game that gauges your proficiency as a killer. Getting high scores in this mode not only gets you a few boasting rights, but it also unlocks some weapons for use in the main game. Also, you’ll be able to replay the game from the beginning with all of your high-powered endgame weapons, which can always be further upgraded for even more baddie-blasting awesomeness. All of the hidden items and treasures will return to their usual spot, allowing you to nab some much-needed cash to fund your potentially expensive arsenal. If all else fails, you get to see Leon clad in his classic Raccoon City police officer uniform. Who says that nostalgia is a bad thing?

Leon versus a ton of people trying to kill him. Will it never end?

The success of Resident Evil 4 can’t be attributed solely to the excellent gameplay. Annihilating the armies of Las Plagas and the wide variety of their hosts may be fun and strangely addictive, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. This game makes killing not only entertaining to do, but to watch as well. Sure, it may be a gory, putrid nightmare of sickening proportions, but there are few games that can boast the kind of visual and audio quality that Resident Evil 4 wields so well. The background noises and music add so much tension and fear to an already captivating game. Everything in this game, from the rusty walkways to the Ganado’s blood-red eyes, is presented with the finest detail. You’ll get to explore the festering walls of the Spanish town, see the castle filled with fancy paintings and intricate artwork, and get lost in some godforsaken laboratories where some of the truly fearsome foes reside. You can see the faded bloodstains covering the walls, the shadows playing off the flickering lights, the horribly scarred and mutated skin of your foes, and plenty of other nice details. The villagers will even scream things like “MATALO!” or “Aqui esta!” and a few other badly formed Spanish phrases at you.

Also, there’s nothing quite like seeing an enemy grow a mess of slimy tentacles out of their neck after you’ve beheaded them. The bosses are both beautiful and ugly at the same time, offering a tremendous amount of detail for something so horrible to look at. I’m not talking about evil goatees, either. You’ll get to see parasitic fish, giant mutants, and a guy that sprouts massive spider legs from his face. Leon looks better than most of his contemporaries, sporting a sleek physique and some corny dialogue to boot. There are few heroes who can say, “Rain or shine, you’re going down!” and still look like a total badass. Should you happen to be overwhelmed by the constant danger, the game offers a wide variety of special death animations for Leon. Ever see a hero get his face melted off by acid? Ever see one getting impaled on a huge spike, with his blood and guts slowly dripping out of him? How about seeing him get his head cut off with a chainsaw, with absolutely no censoring whatsoever? Yeah, it’s all in there, just waiting to amaze and horrify at the same time. While many of the things in this game are disgusting, it still looks better than all the rest.

You can get a nasty cut of those traps, so it’s best just to shoot them.

You know what the funny thing is? I hate survival horror games. I’ve found them to be tedious and unnerving. However, there’s something about Resident Evil 4 that draws me back again and again. Maybe it’s the action-packed gameplay, the execution of the story, or even the wonderfully vivid presentation. Whatever it is, this game is something special. It places you in the shoes of a capable hero, drops you off in the middle of nowhere, and expects you to learn how to survive against impossible odds. It provides a simple but intriguing storyline, complete with a cast of great characters and memorable dialogue. While it does have a few unimaginative puzzles, the game pits you against some of the most fearsome and ugly sins against creation that the gaming world has ever seen. But above all else, Resident Evil 4 is just plain fun. You can’t go wrong with that.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

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