I never played Resident Evil 4 before October of this year, 2012, but when I discovered it was on sale at a discounted price on Xbox Live Arcade, I decided to relinquish $10 and take the plunge into dark, murky, nostalgia-laced pool that is one of gaming’s most beloved products.
First impressions were not good. I didn’t play Resident Evil 4 for the first few minutes; I wrestled with its controls. I had heard gamers describe RE 4’s “tank controls” but never understood what it meant. Now, I realize the logic behind the nickname. Leon Kennedy, the protagonist, controls like a bulky, unwieldy monstrosity. You don’t turn smoothly and Leon can’t move while shooting. What makes this highly-trained secret agent so adverse to moving while shooting like a normal person?
To prevent him from utilizing his full capabilities. Some people would call this a genius mechanic, but I call it a stroke of luck. It’s lucky that it isn’t a burden most of the game because of how the game is shitty in various other fashions. For example, while enemies react dynamically to the locations on their bodies that have suffered damage, they will slowly walk up to Leon in a straight line and allow him to shoot them in the face. This was my experience for the first hour, and amidst the rundown village, gray skies, I found myself enjoying the game.
Early on, Resident Evil 4 balances some of its faults with its other faults: shitty controls are balanced by shitty AI patterns and the game’s genuine strengths were beginning to shine though. When enemies started using dynamite and projectiles, shooting them down wasn’t such a chore because the aiming was rock-solid. I still had to turn around to fire in the slowest, most cumbersome way possible, but I suppose that’s the age of RE 4 poking through.
This is only a “first-impressions” glance at the game because I got to a boss fight that I just can’t beat. No ammo, no exit, no hope. Straight bullshit.
I don’t know what to think of RE 4. I firmly believe that I have been spoiled by better games of this type, like Gears of War, that have made the third-person shooter as intuitive as it can be. Gears controls so much better, but it’s clearly used RE 4 as a jumping off point. The fact that I think RE 4 holds up at all in this day is a testament to how good it might have felt to people who played it in 2004, but the rosy feelings and misty eyes that this game inspires is unwarranted.
More later. I’m busy.