Developed and Published by Capcom
Available on Every System Ever Created (Xbox One Review)
Rated M for Mature
You know, I was kind of unsure when Resident Evil started doing this reverse Star Wars thing. They announced Resident Evil 7, then released 1, 0, 6, 5, 4? Pretty crazy! Hopefully, by the time 7 comes out, we’ll have Resident Evil 3 and 2 and know the full story. They hint that Leon was in some kind of crazy “Racoon City” incident, so I hope to get a chance to see what that was all about! I also respect their dedication to the “going retro” vibe, with the visuals actually degrading in each prequel release. It reminds me a lot of Mega Man 9 going back in time to bring the series into the future.
Alright, enough of that. I’m so fucking tired of trying to analyze remakes/releases/cuts/masterings/deathinitive editions. I thought it would be a good time trying to review Resident Evil 4 as though it had just come out. Hell, the game has been getting a pass for a long time as “one of the best in history.” So why not take the piss out of it? It’s not like I need to make my Capcom overlords happy. If I was going to get blacklisted for trashing re-releases, it would have happened back when I verbally shit on Resident Evil HD REMASTER for three straight pages.
I decided to drop the act because this release of Resident Evil 4 gives me the interesting chance to review the game in a modern context. Often the question is asked, “Does game ‘X’ hold up so many years later?” It’s an inherently unfair question, because all games are a product of their age. It would be silly to ask Alone in the Dark to compete against The Evil Within. Luckily, Capcom asked that question for me when they released RE4 on the Xbox One and PS4. Hurray! Now I don’t have to pull out my PS3 to play the PS2 version that was a remake of the GameCube original!
Booting up the game for the first time in over half a decade, there was definitely an adjustment period. I’ve been spoiled by years of being able to move and shoot at the same time. For about an hour I was struggling to position myself and land shots. My girlfriend was watching me play during this awkward phase, and after the third wildly missed headshot she turned to me and said, “Wow, this game sucks.” So after disposing of the body, I took a moment to consider the validity of her statement. From the standpoint of a noob, it must seem very poorly designed. As a God damned professional, I bit the bullet, got used to it, and was lining up sick frags until the credits rolled.
There’s a whole other article I can (and will) write on the legacy of Resident Evil 4, but my point is that it feels like a relic of another age. There was a period where every horror game coming out was basically just Resident Evil 4, including Resident Evil 5 and 6. 11 years might not be that long in the grand scheme of things, but in video game years that’s two console cycles. From the tank controls to the rough voice acting, it’s clear that this game wasn’t made recently. What’s crazy is how little that ultimately matters.
For all that the series has morphed into cover hopping, machine gun firing, run-and-gun zombie action, it’s amazing how well the archaic tank controls of Resident Evil 4 stand up. Standing still to fire your gun sounds bullshit, but it works when the whole game is built around it. There’s plenty of action, but the game kind of cheats to give you some space. Enemies sprint up to you, stop a few yards short, and move into range at a slow walk. It doesn’t make a whole lot of logical sense, but it gives you a chance to take aim. Enemies that break this rule are that much more threatening, and the slowly approaching hordes make every engagement feel menacing.
And shit, I forgot how menacing these enemies feel. RE4 gets a bad rap for being “not really horror,” which is a pretty ludicrous statement in retrospect. Blasting a villager in the head only to have him keep walking towards me as a squirming Plagas parasite bursts forth from his stump has actually showed up in my nightmares. Enemies are durable, taking upwards of seven pistol shots to down, and there are often dozens of them. It only gets worse as the game goes on, with your expanding arsenal met with an equally growing roster of monstrous horrors. 11 years later, I still remember where every last Garrador is. And yes, I did save my magnum ammo for them.
For a game this old, you would expect the graphics to be a big issue. Quite the contrary, the relative datedness of RE4’s visuals remind me of a time where games actually wanted me to know what I was looking at. There isn’t a ton of detail in the various shacks and castle halls, but I was never confused as to what was important. See a shiny object? It’s worth something. Looking at Resident Evil 6, there’s just so much shit on screen that I wouldn’t even know where to begin hunting for treasures. We’ve gotten so obsessed with “realism” that we’ve forgotten how to make a game fun and accessible.
That design split is what fundamentally makes Resident Evil 4 more enjoyable than most modern titles. The entire game is designed with a fun first approach, making realism take a seat several rows back. Why is the key for this door at the end of a broken mine cart ride? I don’t know, but it was a sick mine cart ride. Why is there a magma room with fire-breathing dragon sculptures in the middle of a castle? Sorry, too busy fighting fire-breathing dragon sculptures to care. Why do enemies drop random bullets and herbs? So I can keep killing them, duh.
Resident Evil 4 never forgets to make every encounter both A) memorable, and B) rewarding. Beat a boss, and get a reward. Kill a special enemy before he runs away, get another reward. Explore the environment carefully, figure out how the treasure all fits together, and get an even bigger reward. Every single thing you do rewards you with something, big or small. Even upgrading the guns all the way rewards you with a special secret unlock. It makes playing the game an immensely satisfying experience. When you willingly decide to fight multiple bosses just for the reward of beating both, the game is doing something right.
One thing that has not held up so well is the plot. Resident Evil has never been known for its intelligent narratives, but holy shit is this game dumb. You play as Leon Kennedy, protagonist of Resident Evil 2 and part of a special unit dedicated to protecting the president’s family that conspicuously is not the Secret Service. After getting a tip that the president’s daughter Ashley has been spotted in an unnamed European country that speaks Spanish, you head out to see if you can find her. You are immediately attacked by the locals—who are 100% not zombies—and from there the game spirals into madness.
I have played through Resident Evil 4 over a dozen times, and I cannot tell you more than vague generalizations just what the fuck is going on. Lord Saddler, why with an army of cultists and monsters do you decide that kidnapping the president’s daughter is the best way to further your nefarious goals? Sure, the ransom money might be nice, but your army is mostly equipped with pitchforks and crossbows. A single helicopter blew up a base full of about a hundred dudes, and I guarantee you that the United States armed forces has more than one helicopter. Also, why don’t you just kill Leon during one of the half dozen times when he is totally incapacitated? You seem to think the best course of action is to infect Leon with the parasite and just wait for it to hatch. Meanwhile, Leon roundhouse kicks his way through all your dudes while taking all your pesetas. It’s typical Bond villain logic, sacrificing countless men for the sake of some insidious plot when a tentacle spike through the chest would solve the problem just fine. Like I said before, when you stop questioning why there’s a lava room in the castle, you kind of just go with it.
I had also forgotten how bad the dialogue is. I remember the one-liners being better than “hasta luego” and “bring a knife to a gunfight.” When disposable character #725 Luis Sera comments on Ashley’s “ballistics,” I actually cringed. With the curse of age and experience comes the ability to see all the horrible writing.
It all boils down to super minor criticisms, since it’s all in service of more fun. None of the plot makes sense when you really think about it, but it constantly serves up new entertaining villains and situations for you to blast your way through. See a giant statue resembling the bad guy? Hell yeah it’s gonna chase you. Tired of the same old cultists? Don’t worry, there’s invisible vomiting bug monsters in the next room. And of course they have murderous pendulum traps. That too easy for you? Well, get ready for the parasitic medieval knight monsters a few rooms later.
Right after killing Chief Mendez in Chapter 2 and leaving the village, you’re introduced to Ramon “Zombie Napoleon” Salazar. The two characters are totally different, which normally might make a game feel inconsistent. Since we’ve already established that cranial explosions are no longer fatal, it just doesn’t feel so strange. Besides, it’s all in service of a sick jet ski escape finale.
When I first played through Resident Evil 4 over a decade ago, I immediately started a New Game+ run. Given all the games I had, there just wasn’t another I wanted to play more. A couple years later I spent a summer studying in England, and bought a GameCube for £30 just so that I could play through it again. I did it again on the Wii a few years later. I’m sure my nostalgia is blinding me a bit, but I will argue that I’m nostalgic for a reason. This is an incredibly well designed game. There’s a purity to its commitment to fun that modern game devs should learn from. As I said before, Resident Evil 4 spawned an army of imitators, but they all focused on the wrong thing. Just copying the control scheme doesn’t make you on the same level as Resident Evil 4. Because Resident Evil 4 isn’t about the transition from survival horror to action horror. It’s about making a great game.
Us and Them Review – Fantastic Acting Bolsters a Tense Standoff
Starring Jack Roth, Andrew Tiernan, Tim Bentinck, Sophie Colquhoun
Written by Joe Martin
Directed by Joe Martin
The age old debate of “Is this movie actually horror?” has been around for decades and will probably carry on for the rest of eternity. As Kristy Puchko recently tweeted, “Just because you think it’s also art doesn’t mean it’s not horror. It just means your definition of “horror” is too damn narrow.” Horror should be able to cast a wide net, just as films in the comedy and drama genres are able to. Where that goes awry is when a film simply doesn’t know its own identity, as is the case with Joe Martin’s feature-length directorial debut Us and Them.
The film follows Danny (Roth), a young man struggling in his lower class status and bristling with untapped rage at the 1% who use the downtrodden as footstools for their enterprises. Hatching a plan with his pals Tommy and Sean to break into the home of a wealthy banker, that scheme quickly becomes unraveled as thread after thread beings unraveling from the original tapestry. Determined but without a Plan B, Danny attempts to use the opportunity to drive home a message to the masses via social media to show that the 99% need to rise up against the 1% and create, as he says, some consistency. But as tensions arise within Danny, Tommy, and Sean, it’s questionable whether or not the night will end in triumphant rebellion or sadistic revenge.
Clocking in at a lean 83 minutes, Us and Them doesn’t waste any time getting straight to the point. Within the first few minutes, we’re already deep mix and ready to watch Danny take on the “man”, to see him wage war against the establishment. But as the film goes on, his mission begins to feel empty as his lack of a plan is mirrored by the misdirection of his anger towards a family that, for all intents and purposes, might be snobbish but haven’t been shown to hurt anyone personally.
This resulting conflict then raises questions about the greater fight that Danny has decided to undertake and champion. Who is the real villain of this story? Who is the hero? Who are we even supposed to care one bit about? While Danny spouts on and on about the injustices of the world, his tortuous methods are cruel and manipulative, undermining his own self-righteousness.
Us and Them practically screams its Ritchie, Tarantino, and de Palma influences. From split screen scenes to “hip” and “cool” licensed background music, Martin clearly wants to be seen in the same realm. The problem is that his script leaps around with reckless abandon in an attempt to overly explain the simple story instead of finding ways to break it into new and exciting territory.
Despite these issues, it must be said that the performances are fantastic across the board. Roth shines as Danny, torn by his own personal griefs that can easily draw sympathy, while Bentinck’s almost frothing, slobbering disdain splashes across the screen. Even with only a few lines each, both Colquhoun as Phillipa and Carolyn Backhouse, who plays her mother, Margaret, revel in their terror. And while I have my critiques about the violence Danny inflicts, I cannot deny that it is brutal and makes for a squeamish experience. Martin milks every drop of the family’s fear to great effect.
While Us and Them comes at a time when financial inequality is undeniably an issue, the film loses its purpose just as it fails to cement itself as a heist thriller, a horror home invasion, or even a black comedy. Its unwillingness to embrace any, or even all, of these genres makes it a lacking film experience.
Us and Them is anchored by stellar performances, Roth especially, but it can’t decide what it wants to be or whom it wants to champion.
SockMonster Short Film Review – The Day The Laundry Fought Back
Starring Briana Evigan, Derek Mears, Soso Bianchi
Directed by Wesley Alley
While some might detest the prospect of doing laundry, I personally find it quite therapeutic – the act of separating the whites from the colors, the perfect amount of detergent to spruce up that awkwardly funky favorite shirt of yours, and then there’s the dryer…a beast all its own. Too long a cycle will have your garments shrunken down to the point where they could become a fashion accessory for a chihuahua – too short will have them wet, wrinkled and limp to the touch, kind of like grandma tucked away in the basement – okay, forget that last part. But what if one day, your laundry had just enough of your shit and decided to strike back in blinding semblance?
Enter Wesley Alley’s short film, SockMonster – produced by Darren Lynn Bousman, this 4 minute front-row seat to “laundrycide” if you will stars Briana Evigan as a grieving woman who looks longingly into the tumbling cylinder of her cellar dryer, almost as if something of hers has gone missing. Crouched on a cold-slab cement floor, she awaits for the door to open as soon as the appliance has run its course…and the results are less than spring-fresh. Alley’s direction coupled with the horror know-how of Bousman all add up to a seriously fun few minutes, and toss in the towering, menacing form of one Derek Mears, and you’ve got yourself an insanely concocted quickie that only has one glaring negative – it’s too damn short! Overall, I can’t recommend this one enough to those wanting a little blood with their bleach…just make sure to use the appropriate amount of stain-lifter, or that shit will NEVER come out.
Hate doing the wash? Well, maybe for one hot minute did you think about how much your wash hates you right back?
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep159 – Demons at the Door
For the last year, Producer Shane has been bugging the shit out of us to give him a “Producer Shane Pick”. After doing everything in our power to get him to forget about “his pick” Shane got his wish. This week we’re discussing 2004’s Demons at the Door, a movie who’s entire soundtrack is provided by none other than the Insane Clown Posse. Yup, it’s gonna be one of those shows!
You think you’ve got what it takes? I’ve been guarding my gate for a long time, bitch. It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 159!
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- Tarman_85 I really like it! It looks like the '78 Shatner mask that has been aged to look more like an old man mask instead of an old rotted mask.
- King 4_$$hole "A great man is made up of qualities that meet, or make, great occasions." James Russell Lowell RIP Bruno
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- Eatit Loved Resolution. I have their follow up "Spring" and "The Endless" on my radar. I can't believe it was listed here! I didn't like the Tall Man. I didn't find it memorable, and thought it very...
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