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THEY HAIL FROM EASTERN EUROPE

05 February 2005

I'm of a mind to tell a bit about Resident Evil 4. It's not out in the Netherlands yet, but a friend imported the game from America and I was able to play it for a few hours. It was a stunning experience.

Mind you, I was severely hyped about the year-long Gamecube-exclusive survival-horror (in about a year it will appear on the Playstation 2 as well. This is funny because one of Capcom's execs had stated that he would cut off his head if the game wouldn't stay exclusive to the Nintendo console. I expect him to make good on his promise shortly, or I'll be sorely disappointed. Where has trustworthiness gone in this age? But in all honesty, I'm glad that more people will be able to experience the game now, it's highly deserving of it). And I mean hyped with a capital H. It wasn't something I chose. It just happened to me, regardless of my own will. Once a while, there will come a game which you simply can not resist, whether you want to or not. Resident Evil 4 was that game. The first time I saw an in-game gameplay movie was the point where I was irrevocably hooked & hyped.

The game does a lot of things very well. First of all, there are zombies. And you can't go wrong with zombies. No way. And these zombies are scary. Because you see, they aren't really zombies at all, they're Eastern Europeans, and that's even scarier. You haven't known true terror until you see a horde of Eastern Europeans lurching at you with sickles and pitchforks and torches and chainsaws. Rural people. Scary bunch. Smell like cabbage.

Secondly, the game does away with the clumsy and archaic way of its ancestors, where you struggled through prerendered backdrops with a control-scheme that turned out to be your worst enemy. Instead, RE4 has a fluent and dynamic environment and control-system, which interprets what you are doing and adapts to your surroundings. Might not be as sophisticated as I make it sound now, but the main thing is that it really works and it makes playing a pleasure. I don't know if RE4's particular addictiveness stems from the fetishized all-out gun-toting slasherfest that has taken the place of the scarce zombie-encounters from previous games, or the smooth gameplay -but hotdamn it's addicting!

Lastly, RE4 shows such care taken to make every single minute of play worthwhile. Chased and outnumbered by spasmic Eastern Europeans you flee from one cinematic setpiece to the other, and these constantly bring forth relevant and awesome variations to the base game. One minute you find yourself charging into an ominous village; next you're defending a wooden shack as a fortress from relentless waves of attackers; then you're swinging on a cablecart sniping vicious aggressors; and before you know it you're in a boat on a lake with some giant mutant crocodile racing you into debris, making Ben Hur look laughable.

You'll never look at Eastern Europeans the same way after this...

Roderick.