A New Year’s Resolution of mine is to write more. To help this along, I’m going to write some stuff about any game that grabs me enough to finish in 2013 - the only rule is that I won’t bother if I’m reviewing it elsewhere, because that would be wholly pointless.
So, my first of these: Resident Evil 4. Actually, that’s a slight lie - I completed it in December 2012, but it gives me a running start in any case. There are some games that everyone raves about and looks pityingly at you if you admit to never having tried them. While I still have that dishonour for any Zelda game, I can now get rid of the Resident Evil 4 zombie-monkey from my back.
And I must say, as is often the way when you pick up a game which is actually almost pushing retro now, first impressions were painful. Resident Evil 4 is 7 years old, and at times it really shows. Leon - the rugged protagonist with the suspiciously unmoving side parting and the charm-ectomy - moves with all the stilted grace of a zebra trying to moonwalk, and aiming a gun in front of you sees the targeting reticule darting round the screen, meaning you constantly need to twitch the analogue stick to shoot on target. And there’s more: the awkward menus, the weird handling, the fact that unlike every other modern game that puts a gun in your hand, it inexplicably puts the trigger on the face buttons rather than, y'know, the handily placed trigger at the top of the pad - they all add up to an inaccessible experience in 2013. And forget about multi-tasking: Leon will resolutely only do one thing at a time - moving and shooting simultaneously are completely beyond him (which is fair enough, I suppose - put an M16 in my hand, and I doubt I’d be doing pirouettes while shooting cans off a wall 100 feet away).
Which may sound like a meandering way of saying ‘this game is of its time, and shouldn’t be played fresh in 2013’, but I persevered based on the glowing praise of friends, and discovered a lot to like. Surprisingly, it’s the awkward feel which often leads to truly great moments: if the aiming reticule worked like every other game, taking out a bunch of slow-moving, shambling zombies would be child’s play. As it is, the inability to move and shoot causes you to waste a whole bunch of bullets over the 14 or so hours the game takes to complete, and they’re often hard to come by, forcing you to get up close and personal with a knife (which, true to form, Leon also handles with all the precision of a surgeon having checked out on his last day taking voluntary redundancy because of a crippling squeamishness to blood). It’s a tense games at times, as you get increasingly frantic with your shots as a group of zombies moves in, and all the more satisfying when your shots come off - through luck or skill. Memorable moments, aplenty.
The plot is so ludicrous it’s barely worth even mentioning - not so much a B movie as a D or E film. Something about rescuing the president’s daughter who has been captured by things which… well, they’re not quite zombies, but they may as well be, except sometimes their heads pop open with weird tentacle things. It’s full of cameo appearances from equally ridiculous characters, who I assume I would know all about if I’d played the previous games. They all talk in the kind of Hollywood film chatter you’d expect from someone who had only read about films in a magazine a couple of years ago and was trying to imitate the style from memory. After a heavy bout of amnesia.
But I could list all the games I’ve played with good plot and writing without even reaching double figures, so that's forgivable. Overall, it should be obvious that I quite enjoyed it, and it’s the first game to grab me until I finished it in quite a while. But I will end on this note:
When you spend half the game battling to make Leon move with any urgency at all, how on Earth does he pull this off in a cut-scene late on?
Bastard kept those moves quiet.