I remember the day I first heard about Resident Evil 4.
I was working in a local game store, which was not yet owned by evil tyrants or operated by mindless drones, and Resident Evil 4 was revealed in a video game magazine that is no longer in publication. I remember thinking that this was going to be the greatest Resident Evil game ever. To top it all off, it was going to have one of my favorite RE characters in it. That's right, Leon S. Kennedy, Mr. Take-No-Crap-Unless-It's-From-A-Woman-In-A-Long-Dress/Potential-Girlfriend/Badass. I was beyond excited. I was even excited that it was a GameCube exclusive. After all, any self-respecting fan of the RE series thus far would have already picked up the GameCube for the Resident Evil remake and Resident Evil Zero anyway.
Resident Evil 4 even went on to win award after award after award once it was released: Best Graphics, Best Horror Game, and even the coveted Game of the Year in several publications. But just like Gandalf trying to have a heart-to-heart with his old buddy Saruman, those publications were deceived.
Loading up my little mini-disc of awesomeness, I was stoked to hear the corny way that "Resident Evil 4" was said after pressing the start button. The lame acting was exactly as expected. I had, after all, spent hours upon hours playing the previous Resident Evil titles. The graphics completely floored me; to this day I still proclaim the graphical power on the GameCube surpassed the PS2 and the original Xbox. The environment and everything was astounding, and I was ready to go save the President's daughter.
But this is what I got:
The forest. Stop. Loud walking noise. Stop. Oh my God, those birds jostled me! Stop. I should go check out that cabin over there. Stop. Creepy cinematic. Stop. Oh look, a humble person is in front of the fire. Stop. Let's see if he knows anything about the President's daughter. Stop. He tells me basically to screw off. Stop. Then he tries to kill me with an axe. Stop.
If reading that paragraph was painful, then you share a small portion of the anxiety brought on by trying to shoot or attack enemies in Resident Evil 4. While this was nothing new for the series, the gameplay this time around should have been something fresher than just the standard over-the-shoulder third-person approach. I mean, I have known people who refused to play the RE games because they couldn't walk in them. After I showed them RE4, they refused to play because not only could they still not walk properly, but every time they had to throw down with the "zombies," it was "Run. Stop. Shoot. Run. Stop. Pick up item. Stop. Crap, you're dead!"
Maybe I just expected the formula to be a little more refined. But in later years, we would discover that refinement was never intended for the control mechanics of Resident Evil. As 'roided-out Chris Redfield showed us in Resident Evil 5, when faced with an apocalypse, it's best to take defending the world one step-stop-at a time-stop.
Speaking of the enemies, I was completely fine with angry villagers attacking Leon. After all, I assumed it was because Leon's lovely haircut pissed them off, since I think even the woman were bald or had giant patches of hair missing. But then I found out that they weren't just villagers. No, they were villagers infested with eggplants! The first time I saw this not only did I stop eating my fried eggplant sandwich, but I literally screamed at my TV, "Why is an eggplant decapitating people and trying to kill me?!"
To only further piss me off about vegetables attacking me, Leatherface apparently left Texas to vacation at this exact village just at the same time Leon was sent to rescue the President's daughter. I mean, sure this guy was sort of intimidating at first, but really, he was just another person with a burlap sack on his head chasing people with a chainsaw. I mean, come on. Last time I checked, Resident Evil was about zombies, not hobo villagers who ate too much meth-infected eggplants.
Zombies in the truest sense shuffle around clumsily, but in RE4, it's the blonde bimbo following you that's doing all the clumsy shuffling. Yes, Resident Evil 4 quickly became one long escort mission. The only difference is that unlike most games, you could take this annoying person and stick her in a trash can. Literally, Ashley Graham was completely useless.
And you know who else was completely useless? That little Napoleon villain. I mean, seriously, who didn't play this game thinking they could kick that guy across this mansion and just end the game right away? The only scary things he did were sending a statue after you in a scene I'm pretty sure was blatantly lifted from Ducktales and becoming a giant eggplant at the end of the game.
Resident Evil 4 tried in so many ways to advance the series, and in several it succeeded. However, the "great parts" of the game are what have ultimately transformed Resident Evil from a great horror survival game to a mediocre shooter. It took something away from a beloved franchise that thrived on cheap horror thrills, bad voice acting, survival, and zombies. So for all of the excitement I had for the game before release and excitement for recent titles and even titles forthcoming, I will never forgive Resident Evil 4 for destroying both a great horror game franchise and my love for eggplants.
CCC Site Director
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*