"There’s nothing more satisfying than the realistic feel of physically aiming at and bursting the decrepit watermelon of a zombie’s skull with the morbid Gallagher's hammer of your shotgun blast. There’s nothing more invigorating than feeling that sigh of relief twist into a horrified grimace as you realize there are ten more behind you - and instinctively, almost mechanically turning 180 degrees and balancing firing, dodging and reloading with the dexterity of an octopus until hordes of our corr..."
There’s nothing more satisfying than the realistic feel of physically aiming at and bursting the decrepit watermelon of a zombie’s skull with the morbid Gallagher's hammer of your shotgun blast. There’s nothing more invigorating than feeling that sigh of relief twist into a horrified grimace as you realize there are ten more behind you - and instinctively, almost mechanically turning 180 degrees and balancing firing, dodging and reloading with the dexterity of an octopus until hordes of our corrupted foes lay to rest - or else.
This adrenaline rush, counterbalanced by periods of overly quiet, yet dreadfully tense in anticipation, whilst beautiful in their stark depiction of rural Spanish villages and eventually mysterious caverns and grim fortresses, has a name - Resident Evil 4.
What brings you to such gruesome circumstances? You are Leon Scott Kennedy, a police officer with the comparatively benign zombie outbreak in Raccoon City (which comprised the events of Resident Evil 2) under his belt. The president’s daughter’s been kidnapped by a strange cult-like organization, and it’s up to you to venture into the progressively more disturbing countryside of Spain to rescue her. We are introduced to the game in the back seat of a shabby pick-up truck, being driven on a dirt road through the barren dawn woods by two Spanish police officers. They are assigned to drop you off, and seem blissfully ignorant of the severity of your predicament. They let you out of the car, and armed only with a small handgun, you follow the only visible path. After a short while, an opening in the woods becomes apparent. A small village is visible, with a few beige-toned houses, and a church with a strange insignia that becomes ubiquitous later on in the game.
Things have been relatively calm so far, and any sense of calm should send up a red flag to players of previous Resident Evil titles. When you look to the center of the village, the game wakes you up with a disquieting sight - one of the earlier police officers burning at the stake. The game keeps the pressure on with disturbing surprises like this lurking around every corner. Trucks will come careening down hills, forcing you to react at a knee-jerk pace or face death. During cut scenes, you’ll have to hit certain buttons at sporadic moments to dodge attacks and avoid an early grave, so that resting and placing the controller down is out of the question. The game is designed to be an endless, unrelenting barrage of terror that will punish laziness and inadequacy.
The incorporation of the Wii remote enhances the game in this respect. Being able to hold and physically aim, fire, and decapitate your undead foes adds a dimension of realism to the game, and feeling a part of an atmosphere as hostile as this one will certainly keep the fear coursing through your veins. A swing of the Wii Remote swings your knife, which can be used to slash open crates and barrels, or for melee combat with enemies.
The salvos get progressively larger and more intimidating the longer you endure this barrage of challenge. Being able to burst zombies’ heads like melons - once your saving grace - turns against you when disgusting, red tentacles begin to protrude from the holes where their heads once were. These tentacles spin like lassos, whip at you with harsh ferocity and take roughly the same amount of bullets to eradicate as it did to get them out. However, they do not appear 100% of the time, so you are presented with a lose-lose situation: blow their brains out and risk facing this beast, or shoot their torso and expend the same amount of bullets as if the creature did emerge.
As if to cement your doom, the once reliable clarity of daylight falls into the uncertainty of night around the same time in the game these foul beasts show up. You’ll have to navigate henceforth in the dark, with occasional bouts of rain and thunder adding insult to injury. You’ll face new foes, such as mutant wolves that feast upon your face like a hot bowl of mince meat, saliva and all, which you’ll have to manually shake off using the Wii remote. You’ll face gargantuan bosses, definitely the game’s pinnacle in terms of abhorrence as well as challenge, and healing items such as herbs will become scarce and must be used strategically.
Chainsaw-wielding maniacs will rend your head clean off, ending your life prematurely, even if your health is at full. Once Ashley is rescued, you’ll have to defend her as she tags along, for if in her extreme vulnerability she is killed or carried away by zombies, it means game over. Bear traps and tripwires will ornament your path. The red tentacles that emerged from zombies’ heads upon explosion eventually become full-fledged spider-like creatures that crawl out of the host and will have to be shot down as separate entities.
If all of this seems like too much, just remind yourself that the larger an obstacle is, the more satisfying it feels to overcome it, and Resident Evil 4 is celestial as far as obstacles go. A sparse, minimalist soundtrack consisting of primarily dissonant ambience serves to heighten the tension and eerie noises that resemble the cries and moans of the haunted lead you along with unease. The graphics are ironically gorgeous in their depiction of such monstrous beasts and desolate landscapes. When you look at it from a comparative standpoint, Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition doesn’t change much, other than the added level of immersive play achieved by manually aiming, slashing, and shaking. When you look at it by itself, it’s a magnificently horrific journey rich in atmosphere and richer in action that is not to be missed by anyone who hasn’t yet experienced it.
Community review by meeptroid (January 12, 2008)
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