New Game +
I have a confession to make. A secret that has been gnawing at me for quite some time, one that needs to be out in the open. For a considerably long time, I didn’t like Resident Evil 4. It’s true. I could talk the talk and make it seem like I was hip and cool, but it was all a facade. I saw the value and potential in the title and acknowledged that it had done great things for not only the series, but the gaming industry as a whole, but all the while, I absolutely hated it.
This makes me sound like a hack, doesn’t it? Not to mention a total liar. How could I call myself a Resident Evil fan, nay, a survival horror fan at all if the greatest game of last gen, praised by hundreds, millions of fans made me want to vomit? Various media outlets called it the best and fans everywhere eagerly anticipate Leon’s return in Resident Evil 6. All of that fanfare probably didn’t help matters for me in the slightest.
Earlier this year, I wrote an article about New Year’s resolutions for gamers. One of the resolutions was to give games you didn’t like a second chance. In the spirit of trying to be a better person (and the bragging rights to say that I held onto my New Year’s Resolutions until August), I decided that Resident Evil 4 would be this game. Who knows, perhaps I’d been wrong about it the entire time? Maybe I could indeed find a new favourite?
Regardless of what happened, I knew I’d have to be honest with myself about why I didn’t like it. The fact was, I’d never really given the title much of a chance. I’d played it a grand total of three times and I’d never finished it. Each time I went to play it, I found a reason for me to hate it and quit without finishing.
For instance, I’d picked up Resident Evil 4 HD a few months ago through PSN with the hope that the option to reconfigure controls would be present, perhaps to reflect the play-style found in RE5. They weren’t. I also felt that the upscale job they’d done on the title didn’t exactly warrant the HD Edition moniker either, so I shelved it again. It seemed silly now, but at the time it was enough to make me hate it again.
Not this time.
I sat down last week and decided that this was it. I was going to go into the game with an open mind. Forget all the less-than-fun I’d had before, this was going to be good! I was going to give Resident Evil 4 the chance it deserved, the chance I should have given it a long time ago.
Yes, I did finish it. Yes, it took me a week. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found that my tolerance for bullshit has gone down considerably.When one of your favourite past times rests purely in fantasy, you need to find a happy medium. However there’s a fine line between the things that you’ll accept for the sake of an escapist video game, and the things that you’ll look at and immediately call bullshit on. I found that some of what Resident Evil 4 was putting out was a difficult for me to swallow (…..).
Part of what made Leon so appealing in Resident Evil 2, was that he was just your ordinary average guy. Despite what you might otherwise believe about police officers, they’re not super soldiers and a very large part of their training is on-the-job, which he had none of. He was a guy, stuck in a city that was overrun with zombies. He was Joe Six Pack. This contrasted greatly with the Leon we saw here. The man was ready for anything, including gymnastics and high-beam competitions. My bullshit meter went through the roof when he began jumping to heights and performing in-air maneuvers previously only reserved for Final Fantasy characters. And how exactly does Ada perform those same jumps, or just jump off and disappear into thin air without twisting her ankles in those high heels, too?
However I found that my biggest issue with RE4 wasn’t with the mechanics of the game or the graphics, or even the subtle racism or highly dubious acrobatics. Nor was it the idea that a monster parasite 5 times your size can be furled up inside your body, waiting to burst forth from your head should you stub your toe. No, some of the most cringe-worthy aspects were just the dialogue. It was full of the kind of stuff I expected to find in a Saturday morning cartoon. And while I concede that Resident Evil has never had all that moving of dialogue, this stuff was just…ugh. By extension, some of the story got lost in the bullshit.
To put it bluntly, Leon sounded as if he were a rebellious high school kid from the 90s who wasn’t about to take flak from some overzealous killjoy of a principal.
As much as all of these things irritated me, there were plenty of things present in RE4 that I rather enjoyed. These were things that in my staunch hate for the game, I’d never even noticed in previous playthroughs. Do I think it’s a solid 10? Not by a long shot, but my opinion of the game’s overall enjoyability has changed a considerable degree.
For instance, I found that Resident Evil 4 has a particularly disturbing soundtrack. There were several points during the game that were far more unsettling than anything I’d ever heard in any other game, before or after RE4‘s release. It helped to paint a deeply disturbing scene and set the atmosphere for the entire game. Something so minute in scale, but it had a profound impact on the overall experience.
I never expected the panic of being surrounded by Ganados with my back against the wall, bleeding through bullets and cursing myself every time I didn’t line up a headshot. I never would have imagined the eerie mantra of the Los Illuminados cult members grating on my nerves as I narrowly avoided RPG hellfire, and I never would have expected to get freaked out by something that sounded like an asthma attack. It’s an experience that you can’t get watching videos on YouTube or looking at trailers – it’s one that you can only fully realize by playing it yourself.
Playing through Resident Evil 4 again opened my eyes. It’s experiences like this, right when I’m on the edge of losing faith in the continuation of survival horror and horror genre, that gives me renewed hope. When we focus so much attention on the things that we see that we don’t like, we close our minds to the things that we could see, the things that we could like, if we would give it a chance.
Be honest with yourselves. How many of you are actually going to play Silent Hill: Book of Memories? How many of you have your minds made up already about it? Barring the terrible glitches in Downpour, how many of you were looking for the negative before Murphy made it onto the prison bus? How many of you are dead set against Dead Space 3 because of co-op and a snowy landscape and enemies with weapons? I felt the same way about Resident Evil 4. I was looking for a reason to hate it without giving it much of a chance to prove itself otherwise.
When you purposely look for the negative, wherever you look, you’ll find it.