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15 October 2016 @ 07:34 pm
Game Review: Biohazard IV  
I'm sorry, ever since I heard what Resident Evil was called in Asia I've thought it was a much better name. The Western name makes sense for the first game, and from what we've seen up the upcoming game it works for that one too, but Biohazard is obviously more fitting for the others.

This is one of the many games I played through in uriany's basement, along with twenty runs of Chrono Trigger, parts of Resident Evil III, parts of Final Fantasy VIII, and others more numerous to count. I handled most of the action and he handled most of the planning, because I was better at the quick-time events and he was better about remembering where to go and where all the treasures were hidden--and he enjoys watching other people play video games more than I do. After we beat the game and unlocked Mercenaries, for hours at a time we'd trade off and try to get a higher score, spotting each other for chainsaw-wielding murder machines, suggesting routes, and just having a blast. I don't often miss the days before I moved to Japan, but those days just playing games together are one of the things I miss the most.

Ridiculous fishing.

One of the debates that occasionally flares up on the internet is whether Resident Evil IV is a survival horror game or if it's something like "action horror" or some other game that lets the people who play Fatal Frame scorn fans of the new Resident Evil games. And I think this is ridiculous and anyone who's played Resident Evil IV can tell you that of course it's a survival horror game. Sure, it doesn't have fixed camera angles or limited saves like the earlier Resident Evil games, and it doesn't have zombies, but it definitely has scarce resources, a constant threat, horror ambiance, jump scares, and plenty of other survival horror characteristics.

That picture there is me knifing fish in the well so I could eat them to get health, since I didn't have enough bullets to waste on shooting the fish. For the majority of the game until I bought the final upgrade for the Striker, I was still shooting enemies in the legs to stagger then and running in to kick them in the face or knife them to save ammunition. I was constantly switching weapons as one weapon ran low and my ammo count on the others rose high enough that I felt comfortable using them instead, then switching back when the reserve happened. Charging into groups of enemies where one was staggered because getting off a kick would damage all of them, giving me more time to knife them as they rose back to their feet.  photo stab.gif

I wrote in my review of Silent Hill II that I found the game very easy because I spent the majority of it beating monsters to death with a board with a nail in it and then had hundreds of shotgun bullets by the end. Well, I learned those combat habits from playing Resident Evil IV.

Have to go where the customers are.  photo capitalism.001.gif

The game has an amazing sense of pacing. Assuming you do engage in the conspicuous knifing that I did, the total level of resources will slowly increase until you're throwing away TMP ammo instead of grabbing it to sell. When I didn't have any space left in my inventory at all from the bits of ammo and green herbs with no other herbs to pair them to, I knew that I was coming up on a boss fight or a huge setpiece battle which would drain the majority of my resources. Then there would be a lull afterward that would allow me to slowly build up resources again, though never to a level where I actually felt secure.

One example that's fresh in my memory is the battle against It. I had bought a rocket launcher to deal with the actual boss battle--I bought multiple rocket launchers over the course of the game, and it meant that I had to wait a long time to upgrade some of my weapons because I didn't have the money--but I expended a lot of ammo and health restoring items getting across the boxcars suspended by endless chains over a bottomless bit (#vidjagames), so even though I didn't need to use most of my grenades or ammo on it, my inventory was still damaged. Then when it died, I picked up a few items, climbed a couple ladders, and ended up overlooking a camp of ganados all standing around a barrel of explosive fuel. Normally I would have fought them all, but after that boss battle I just shot the barrel, it exploded, they all died, and I picked up a bunch of loot. If it had been a part of a larger battle or just set among the flow of wandering through the game I wouldn't even have noticed, but coming immediately after one of the most annoying boss battles in the game, it was incredibly satisfying.


And speaking of boss battles and setpieces, I'm not sure I can think of a game that does it better overall than this game does. The game's setting is ridiculous, with a Spanish village that's apparently still stuck in the 19th century, a castle that has more square footage than the land area of the village, and an island with hyper-advanced biomedical research equipment that I can only assume the villains made themselves because there's no way they managed to set up the supply chains for all that equipment without someone noticing, but most of the time I didn't care because Resident Evil has always been ridiculous. The point is to provide a wide variety of locations for great battles, and Resident Evil IV does that in spades.

Is there any opening level of a game that's as good as the village sequence? Leon shows up at the outskirts of El Pueblo de Antigüedad with two cops, get separated, gets attacked by the villagers--and the first three Resident Evil games all featured zombies, so it actually was a surprise to see seemingly ordinary people--follows the paths to the village square and sees that they've murdered one of the cops, and then gets into an enormous battle. Running from house to house, kicking ladders down, diving through windows, and leaping over fences, grabbing a shotgun off the wall, facing a man with a chainsaw...and then it ends. The bell rings, everyone walks away, Leon lets off a one-liner at the now-empty village, and the camera pulls back to BiohazardResident Evil.  photo emot-kamina.gif

And then only a couple hours after that is the house defense section, which is nearly as good. Endless ganados coming through the windows, fighting with Luis, having to run upstairs... A lesser game would have made you worry about Luis's health or ammo, and maybe it's against the survival horror ethos that he's basically invincible and actually more like scenery that occasionally distracts a ganado rather than a real companion. But you know what? I don't care. I've had enough of infuriating escort missions where I have to babysit incompetents in other games and Resident Evil IV is a better game for not going down that route.

This isn't even the most ridiculous thing in that castle.

Which brings me to Ashley. I know the first time I played, when Ashley showed up I was incredibly skeptical. I mean, anyone who plays video games knows all about escort quests and how terrible they are. I expected it to ruin Resident Evil IV completely, but to my surprise, Ashley turns out to be probably the most congenial video game escort I've ever encountered.  photo emot-glomp.gif

She avoids almost all of the usual problem with escort targets. She moves the same speed Leon does and usually follows close, so she almost never gets lost on geometry or killed because she's trailing behind. She has her own health bar, but the enemy is trying to capture her, not kill her, and she's very good about getting out of the way of Leon's line of fire, so she rarely dies and when she does, it's either because an enemy carried her to an exit or because of explosive weapons. She doesn't say much except in cutscenes or unless she's grabbed, in which case she makes it obvious she's being carried away. And healing items work on her, including health-bar-increasing items. If every escort mission was this good, no one would care about having to do them.

I love his expression. He's just like, "Why me?"

Let's talk about quicktime events.

I get it. After the late 90s and early 00s, after the Final Fantasies and Xenogears and Metal Gears Solid, people thought that adding interactivity to cutscenes would be a great idea. No longer would players be able to just put their controller down and walk away, or pick up a book, when a cutscenes started. They'd stay engaged the whole time! But of course, we all know where that went. No one watches the cutscenes because they're waiting for the button prompts so that they don't die and have to rewatch everything all over again. As much as I disliked Mass Effect II, its interrupts are the only good way to do that kind of interactivity.

Resident Evil has quicktime in cutscenes and it's just as annoying as it is in every other game--the Krauser knife fights especially infamous--but one part I do like is the way that cutscenes prompts are extended to enhance regular play. Leon is not super maneuverable as a design choice, because Mikami wanted shooting to make him vulnerable and running vs. attacking to be a trade-off. This makes dodging in regular play basically impossible, but it's implemented as quicktime events in boss fights, and I really like this. It's a good way to make Leon feel agile and provides a way to mitigate boss damage without requiring a lot of blind running away, turning to shoot, and repeating. It was Resident Evil IV that showed me quicktime events have a place in gaming.

Incidentally, I learned that you can just mash all four quicktime buttons and it doesn't matter which combo comes up because the input is inclusive. If I cared, I could have macroed all four buttons to, say, F and just spammed F to win every cutscenes.

"Got some rare things on sale, stranger!"

I remember how confused I was when I first saw the merchant and how I tried to fit him into the story. He has red eyes, so he's a carrier of a Plaga, right? Why is he helping Leon? Is this all part of Saddler's game?

No, you're just not supposed to think about it too hard. The merchant is in the game to provide a resource for enemies to drop that's not weapons or healing items and a reason for players to spend that money. Weapon upgrades offer a choice of playstyle. This time, I gave up some inventory space to use the Red 9, since its fully-upgraded maximum damage is higher than the starting damage on the base shotgun. I usually use the Striker even though it has terrible range because it has so much ammo storage. And I spent a lot of time checking nooks and crannies for treasures to get extra money to buy all those upgrades.

I mean, the merchant's distinctive style of speaking is a permanent part of the gaming lexicon now. Even people who have never played Resident Evil IV know them. All I have to say is WHADDAYA BUYIN' and it provides its own context. Kawaii heart emoji photo heart_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51re77.gif

Taking my rightful place

I was a bit worried about playing the PC version, and I originally figured I would play it with a controller. But none of the control schemes available--there's no keybindings for controllers, just three hard-coded mappings--matched what I remembered from playing it originally, so I played with keyboard and mouse. And actually, I think that was the superior choice. The mouse provided much more accurate aiming, to the point where I got higher than 80% accuracy, and the HD graphics meant that the game looked like it did in my memory rather than how a Gamecube game released in 2005 actually looked. It does mean there's a Professional mode game on my PS2 memory card stuck at It that will probably never be finished, but maybe I can try again now that I know I can do it..

Last year I picked Silent Hill II as the spooky game for October and I ended up playing it like Resident Evil IV, draining it of pretty much all the tension to the point where other people talk about how scary they found the game and I can't relate at all. So I figured this year, I'd just go back to the source, and it was definitely the superior choice. Resident Evil IV is one of my favorite games of all time and I think probably the best example of action-oriented survival horror there is. I had it on my wishlist for over two years before finally pulling the trigger, and I waited too long. But now the waiting is over.  photo 58-2nsylaw.gif

Though I admit, this really isn't that spooky either.  photo emot-sweatdrop.gif
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: David L. Puga, Mak Eightman - (Progeny) Of a Frail Humanity (Albert Wesker - Resident Evil series)