How much do I love this game? SO MUCH.
Growing up, I wasn’t interested in shooters. Goldeneye left me cold. I played Halo’s campaign on co-op and enjoyed it, but never felt a burning desire to pick it up again. I didn’t start playing Resident Evil 4 until 2006, but as soon as I began, I fell madly in love.
I played the first part of the game on a teeny-tiny TV in a dorm room, while I was working as a counselor at an arts-intensive for teenagers. They were a pretty well-behaved bunch, but there was still nothing better to let off steam at the end of the day than having the shit scared out of me by Plagas-infected Spanish villagers, and fighting them off with my ever-growing arsenal. It was truly terrifying on that tiny TV, though, since I couldn’t see what was coming for me half the time.
Resident Evil 4 engaged me with its potent combination of fright and firepower. Shooters that didn’t offer visceral scares had previously bored me, but there was no way in hell I’d touch a survival horror game in which I had to run and hide from the baddies instead of blowing them away. RE4 offered just enough ammo that the gameplay was challenging, but doable. If I did run out of ammunition, I always had my trusty knife and a kick combo that knocked off enemies’ heads. The weapons got better and better as the enemies got harder and harder, and I gained confidence in my ability to kick mutated-parasite ass. Suplexing creepy, zombie-esque monks was an unparalleled experience.
And the button prompts! Never before had I played a game in which I wasn’t safe during the cutscenes. It was heartbreaking to mistakenly press RT/LT instead of A/B and see Leon get crushed by a boulder or fall off of a cliff, but oddly satisfying when I succeeded and realized, heart pounding, how narrowly I’d escaped a gruesome death. The art direction and sound design of RE4 were absorbing, and the button-pushing cutscene action made the whole experience more immersive. My eyes were glued to the screen, fingers ready on my Gamecube controller, throughout the entire game.
Normally I’m a sucker for a good story. Most of my favorite games feature a complex, engaging plot, well-written and voice acted dialogue, and serious character development with a focus on character relationships. Not RE4. This game’s plot, to be quite frank, was one of the stupidest, most nonsensical things I’ve ever played through. The power of this game, however, is such that I did. not. give. a. damn. Honestly, the cheesy dialogue probably improved the game for me by giving me a break from the intensity of the gameplay. “Krauser, go get the girl.” “Where’s everyone going? Bingo?” It never gets old.
I loved the merchant, despite his persistent refusal to sell ammunition. His absence was high on the list of my many problems with Resident Evil 5. The shooting galleries in RE4 were a blast, and considerably improved my shooting skills for engagement with “real” enemies.
And Leon. Oh, Leon, my longest-lasting video game crush. The leather jacket, the ill-conceived snarky one-liners, the vaguely emo-esque haircut that somehow stays in place through everything: I’ll never forget you, Leon Scott Kennedy.
When Saddler is finally done away with, the jet ski successfully jumped into the Atlantic, and the main game finished, Assignment: Ada is good times and the Mercenaries minigame—in addition to being fun—is absolutely necessary to master in order to have a hope of surviving the main game on its “Professional” setting.
I love this game so much the sound of a chainsaw revving still makes me jump. It’s time to grab my riot gun and annihilate an El Gigante or two.