This Dumb Industry: Why I Hated Resident Evil 4

By Shamus
on Jul 4, 2017
Filed under:
Column

Yes, I know the title of this post is a bit clickbait-ish. It promises a provocative and inflammatory article. But this is fitting, because this a provocative position that will unavoidably inflame some people. Resident Evil is an unbelievably popular franchise and Resident Evil 4 is considered the best of the series. It is regularly celebrated as one of the Best Games ever made and is regarded as being incredibly influential. So if this title seems like clickbait then it has more to do with the game itself and less to do with the content of the article. Sometimes people make controversial claims for attention, but sometimes people are simply expressing genuinely-held controversial opinions.

And besides, today is fireworks day, so it seems like an appropriate time to light some fuses.

To soothe the egos of fans: No, I’m not saying the game is worthless or that you’re stupid / wrong / clueless to like it. It’s fine. Like it all you want. I’m not trying to alter the legacy of this game by complaining about it. I just think it’s interesting how this celebrated game seems to have been engineered specifically to nail all of my pet peeves.

Since we’re already in clickbait territory, let’s resort to the crude savagery of a numbered list…

5. Incoherent Tone

I don`t know WHAT I`m supposed to be feeling during this scene, but I`m pretty sure I`m not feeling it.

I don`t know WHAT I`m supposed to be feeling during this scene, but I`m pretty sure I`m not feeling it.

If you’ve followed my writing and story deconstructions for any length of time, you know that tone is really important to me. Some people are fans of the Bollywood sampler approach to storytelling where you get a little of everything. They don’t mind if a story goes from slapstick comedy, to gut-wrenching drama, to earnest sappy romance, to bombastic action. But I don’t like mixing my Shaun of the Dead with my Shawshank or finding bits of Bridget Jones in my Terminator. That’s all good stuff, but that’s not the point. I love both Ice Cream and Pizza, but not together.

Tone is important because it establishes the rules and limits of the fictional world you’re trying to take in. I can accept that the world around Scott Pilgrim can drop into slow motion in the middle of a huge fight so he can trade dialog with someone, but I’d never stand for those sorts of reality-bending shenanigans in Star TrekI mean, without some technical explanation for why time slowed down.. I can accept Vin Diesel performing car stunts that mock the realities of physics and automotive engineering in a Fast & Furious movie, while the exact same stunt would be offensive if performed in something like Poirot. In your typical underdog sports movie I can believe (and even expect) the coach to rouse his team to overpowering levels of competence at the finale with a impassioned speech and well-timed musical swells, but that same trick would be implausible if it happened in something like Moneyball or Any Given Sunday.

Tone tells us how much this movie is going to adhere to the rules of the world we live in, and how much it plans to bend them in pursuit of spectacle or drama. For me it’s a key ingredient of suspension of disbelief, and if a story can’t nail down its tone then I can’t immerse myself in its world.

If a movie is going to have an incoherent mess of a story with a bunch of screwball characters, then it had better be a comedy. Some people claim RE4 is a comedy, and I suppose it’s sort of amusing in a “can you believe how stupid this is?” kind of way, like a movie that Mystery Science Theater might tackle. But it’s certainly not a comedy in the sense of being a witty send-up like Shaun of the Dead, Galaxy Quest, or other self-aware genre deconstructions. There isn’t any lampshading, winking at the audience, trope subversions, or even any jokes. It takes a preposterously stupid story and presents it completely straight. You could attempt to argue that the whole thing is just extremely deadpan comedy, but we’ve seen Capcom make twenty-five of these games by this point, and there doesn’t seem to be a big difference in their style between the times when they’re being deadly serious and when they’re supposedly “kidding”. This isn’t a deconstruction of bombastic B-movie action schlock, it is bombastic B-movie action schlock.

In any case, I can’t seem to switch gears the way the game expects. Sometimes the game is trying to scare you and sometimes you’re in these farcical conversations with a undersized ren faire rejectWas Salazar supposed to be short, or a kid? I can’t remember. where characters spout inane dialog that serves as exposition by having the bad guys tell you all their plans.

I have no idea what we’re supposed to feel during the story beats of Resident Evil 4. I get conflicting answers from fans. But for me I feel irritation, boredom, and bewilderment.

To make matters worse, the story doesn’t even explain itself properly. It sort of assumes you’re already a Resident Evil fan and you’re all caught up on the lore and backstory of this world, which means lots of scenes end up feeling like bizarre non-sequiturs if you’re new. This was my introduction to the series, which meant the cutscenes were doubly frustrating. Not only were they overly verbose, awkwardly translated, and laden with brute-force exposition, they were also failing to provide basic context about who all these people were or how they related to each other.

4. Quicktime Events

This cutscene is aggressively inane, and I had to watch it over and over as I struggled to figure out how to beat these prompts.

This cutscene is aggressively inane, and I had to watch it over and over as I struggled to figure out how to beat these prompts.

Of course, nobody’s really a fan of quicktime events. The best thing you can say about them is that if you do them just right, some people will find them inoffensive.

It turns out I am not one of those people.

It was actually worse for me than for most players, because Resident Evil 4 was one of my first console games since the days of the NES and Atari 2600. Dual-stick controllers were still pretty new to meI’d recently played Final Fantasy X and Silent Hill 2 on the Playstation 2, so modern controllers weren’t COMPLETELY new to me, but I was still lacking the second-nature muscle-memory required to pass a QTE on the first try.. Worse, I was playing on the Gamecube, which was totally new to me and which had a goofball mutant controller that was cheaply made and felt wrong in my hands. I still remember the awful hollow clacking when I needed to rapidly press the left and right triggers. It was unresponsive, uncomfortable, and noisy.

So out of nowhere the game would present me with one of those awful prompts where any failure would mean instant death. They tended to surprise you in the middle of cutscenes. Not only did I hate doing them, but this setup also meant the cutscenes couldn’t be skipped and I was obliged to watch their insufferable stupidity all the way through instead of walking away until the gameplay resumed.

Loose shoulder buttons, a strange layout for face buttons, a right stick that felt awful and a D-pad positioned so your thumb would rest on it at a 45° angle. This thing was an abomination.

Loose shoulder buttons, a strange layout for face buttons, a right stick that felt awful and a D-pad positioned so your thumb would rest on it at a 45° angle. This thing was an abomination.

The QTEs in Resident Evil 4 were usually two-button jobs, and it would take me a second to recognize the symbols and understand what I was supposed to be doing. Sometimes I’d have to look down to the controller to remember where everything was. Worse, I wasn’t familiar with the conventions of QTEs so I wasn’t even sure what was expected of me. Am I supposed to hold down these two buttons? No, the prompts are flashing, so I’m probably supposed to press them. Am I supposed to press them in unison or alternate them? How fast? Did I die because I wasn’t pressing fast enough, hard enough, or because I was pressing one button too fast or slow relative to the other? Or maybe I am supposed to hold them and the flashing is just there to grab my attention? Or maybe I died because I was supposed to be pressing X and Y and I accidentally nipped the edge of that great big A button hugging both of them?

Damnit game, tell me what I did wrong so I don’t have to keep watching this tortuously idiotic cutscene!

If you made any mistake at all it usually meant instant, gruesome death, a trip to the game over screen, and then sitting through a bit of cutscene. Since the two parts of the game I hated most were the cutscenes and the QTEs, this meant these sections were doubly miserable.

I wouldn’t even tolerate that sort of frustration today. I’d walk away from the game and never come back. But it was 2005 and my peer group had been trying to tell me about all the awesome console stuff I’d been missing on. So I stuck with it, figuring there had to be something worthwhile under this pile of stupidity and frustration.

3. Mouse vs. Thumbstick

Oops. Too far to the left. Oops. I over-corrected. Grr. He`s too close and now I have to back up. Now there`s more of them and I`ve wasted all my bullets shooting him in his invulnerable shoulders.

Oops. Too far to the left. Oops. I over-corrected. Grr. He`s too close and now I have to back up. Now there`s more of them and I`ve wasted all my bullets shooting him in his invulnerable shoulders.

By this point in my life I had over a decade of muscle memory using the mouse to aim. It was very fun and very natural for me. It’s one thing if you’re entirely new to gaming and all inputs feel alien. You don’t have any expectations of being proficient at a task. But when you change control schemes you suddenly find yourself struggling to perform tasks that would be trivial if you were using a different tool, and it becomes endlessly frustrating.

Sure, you can’t really blame Resident Evil 4 for this. It’s not a shortcoming of the design or anything. But it was something I had to cope with. The usual defense against the rest of my complaints is that, “Bah, the story doesn’t matter and the QTEs aren’t a big deal once you get used to them. Resident Evil 4 is all about the gameplay!” But the gameplay wasn’t working for me either because I was constantly irritated with my inability to perform simple tasks.

On top of this was the design decision to make it so that Leon couldn’t move and shoot at the same time, and then pit him against waves of constantly-advancing bullet sponges. Yes, that helps create tension. But I was already feeling plenty of tension because of my sudden inability to shoot accurately. The inability to move just felt like an arbitrary and needless frustration on top of what I was already experiencing. Again, it wasn’t a wrong design decision given their goals, but it was one that made the game miserable for me.

2. Horrible Horror

FREE HUGS

FREE HUGS

I’d just played through Silent Hill 2, and I’d become enamored of it. I had the misfortune of playing one of the greatest games in the entire genre before any of the others, which set the bar ridiculously high and created a lot of unrealistic expectations for what other titles might be like. Even the other Silent Hill games can’t really hold a candle to the brilliance of Silent Hill 2.

I like my horror to be slow, thoughtful, and mysterious. I’m not looking for panic and terror, I’m here for dread and apprehension. Less Friday the 13th and more “the last fifteen minutes of Se7en”.

The horror presentation of Resident Evil 4 kept creating these expectations of frightening scenarios. The darkness. The spooky laugh. The bloody title screen. The gruesome and gory elements of the enemy designs. The spooky subject matter of fighting against an infection that threatens to turn you into a monster. The surface seemed to promise it was exactly what I wanted, but beneath the surface it was a story about a gormless boy-band reject trying to rescue the president’s daughter from Squeaky the Midget King and his army of farmers and Python-esque cultist monks. It’s like a movie trailer that promised The Shining, but when the film comes out it’s an episode of The Munsters with all the jokes taken out.

1. Too Much Hype

Oh, you said Resident Evil 4 is a HORRIBLE game. I thought you said HORROR game. Makes much more sense now.

Oh, you said Resident Evil 4 is a HORRIBLE game. I thought you said HORROR game. Makes much more sense now.


As is too often the case, the fans of a game are often its worst enemies. My friends kept promising me that this was an incredible game. They set my expectations sky high, so that when the frustration and stupidity set in I felt like I’d been pranked. This thing wasn’t scary, fun, or clever. Instead it was actively repulsive, constantly annoying and frustrating me on multiple levels.

Wrapping Up

So that’s why I hate one of the celebrated classics of gaming. It was a game that ran against my personal tastes, played at an inopportune moment in my gaming life, experienced right after a beloved horror classic, after the game had been over-hyped by friends. Poor Resident Evil 4 was doomed from the start. I would have disliked it regardless of how I experienced it, but the particular timing of our encounter represents pretty much a worst-case scenario. If I’d played it a bit later in life (or was more familiar with the series and genre before playing) then I might think of Resident Evil 4 as “Not my thing” and not “One of my worst gaming memories”.

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Footnotes:

[1] I mean, without some technical explanation for why time slowed down.

[2] Was Salazar supposed to be short, or a kid? I can’t remember.

[3] I’d recently played Final Fantasy X and Silent Hill 2 on the Playstation 2, so modern controllers weren’t COMPLETELY new to me, but I was still lacking the second-nature muscle-memory required to pass a QTE on the first try.


2020202013There are now 93 comments. Almost a hundred!

From the Archives:

  1. MichaelG says:

    I can’t help proofreading — it’s a curse.

    “Was Salazar supposed to be sort, or a kid?” short, I assume.

    “It takes a pretosterly stupid story” Preposterously?

  2. Ziusudra says:

    I also disliked RE4. I’d guess for pretty much the same reasons – though at this point all I really remember of it was at one point not being able to see what I was shooting at because my own character’s head was in the way.

    • kdansky says:

      The joy of shoulder-cam shooters, where your own avatar blocks your view constantly. It’s an abomination.

      Either make games first person and (if you want to) about aiming guns, or make third person games but leave the guns at home. There’s a reason so many third person action games come with a lock-on system: Judging depth and angles is hard enough in first person, and adding extra problems does not improve it. Metroid Prime even went so far as to say: Fuck this shit, aiming with a controller is always garbage, let’s do lock-on in first person.

  3. Amstrad says:

    I enjoyed playing this at the time, it was one of the few Gamecube games I actually bought and played (I’ve always preferred the PC, but I got a Gamecube for Wind Waker, so why not play RE4?) That said there’s no way I could go back and play it again. I 100% agree that the various b-movie grade characters/acting/voicing/cutscenes really detracted from the experience and again 100% agree that the quicktime events were the worst bits of the game.
    I think the only reason I powered through the entire game is that I really did enjoy the action segments and was really impressed with the enemy behaviors at the time.

    • Geebs says:

      The schlock – and I’m certain that it’s full of deliberate and rather Metal Gear-esque deadpan humour – at least makes RE4 memorable.

      I mean, can you remember any of the scenes from Gears of War apart from the one with all of the bird thingies?

      • CJGeringer says:

        Thai´’s death?

        • Geebs says:

          Who?*

          (*this genuinely isn’t a joke. I did play Gears of War on the 360 when it came out so it’s been a while but I can’t remember anybody except that guy who went “Whooo” and referred to himself in the third person a lot)

          Edit: I looked at his wiki page, and it was remarkable how my mind slid off every word of it. I did notice that it contains a completely sincere reference to possibly the most hilarious and yet simultaneously the most appropriate marketing tie-in I have ever seen:

          Jungle Tai can be unlocked through a promo code from specially marked Oberto Beef Jerky packages.

          Sheer poetry.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I love both Ice Cream and Pizza, but not together.

    What about tragicomedies?Stuff like Shakespeares plays,mash,little shop of horrors,doctor horrible,order of the stick,etc.

    • MichaelGC says:

      I’d say that those are of a single type, rather than a M*A*S*H*up of two different things. Not exactly news to anyone, but ‘gallows humour’ has a long and distinguished history – making jokes in difficult situations as a coping mechanism or to relieve tension, and the sorts of things you’re listing there come from a similar place, I’d say. (I once had an admin. job working for … well, it’ll have different names in different places, but let’s call it Child Services. The folks on the frontline, as it were, who would have to deal directly with families, police, medical professionals, etc. all had absolutely wicked senses of humour, frequently expressed.)

      So food analogywise this sort of thing could perhaps be that extremely bitter, very-high-cocoa-content chocolate. It’s not at all like the more-usual sweet chocolate, but it is a thing-in-itself rather than a combo.

    • Echo Tango says:

      For the most part, those titles were mostly one thing, with a little bit of another thing to provide a change of pace. e.g. Little Shop Of Horrors[1] is mostly comedy with a bit of tragedy. Same for Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.[2] I’m totally cool with that[3], because the pacing of a straight one-emotion movie would leave me tired / burned out. I know, because it’s what happens in many horror games – 100% horror all the time means I just get tired, and start thinking about real life instead of the game.

      [1] The musical from the…80s?

      [2] See also the mostly-drudgery, with highlights of comedy, of I Sell The Dead.

      [3] I’m also cool with the Bollywood Sampler, as Shamus put it. Specifically, the film Endhiran which he linked, is a movie I’ve wanted to sit down and watch for quite some time. :)

      • Blackbird71 says:

        The Little Shop of Horrors musical was from 1986, yes. But there is also the lesser-known black-and-white movie from 1960 (with a young Jack Nicholson) upon which the musical was based. The original was so bad, that it got the Rifftrax treatment (and frankly, it should not be watched in any other form).

    • Noah Gibbs says:

      Tragicomedies aren’t bad, and can definitely be fun. But they have to be done carefully.

      I find myself imagining a horrible stereotype Hollywood producer… “What’s so hard about this? We just take that Adam Sandler flick that didn’t sell well, cut in scenes from that thing with the lady losing her baby to cancer. Boom! Tragicomedy.”

      Just straight-up alternating still fails horribly.

    • Viktor says:

      The thing is, mixing genres is fine if you know what you’re doing and are good at it. Baby Driver is a musical/action film, and it works. Star Wars is classic fantasy in a sci-if setting. Saint’s Row took the drama out of GTA and replaced it with comedy. Blending styles and doing the unexpected is often how people create new genres. But all of that requires a clear vision and a goal. RE4 was a mishmash, which is the opposite of how you make that work.

    • Nimas says:

      I always thought that the only real difference between Shakespeare’s dramas and comedies was that in the comedy, the entire cast didn’t die at the end.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    but we’ve seen Capcom make twenty-five of these games by this point,

    Twenty five?That cant be right,you must be exaggerating.

    *counting*

    Holy shit,there have been twenty five of them!In 21 years!Thats more than one a year!

    • Dreadjaws says:

      There are technically 24. Not counting the remakes of 1 and 2 (in development), there’d be 22, but we should count them because they’re pretty much entirely new games. Gaiden was not actually made by Capcom, so it doesn’t fit Shamus’ claim.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Typo thread starting:

    Was Salazar supposed to be sort, or a kid? I can’t remember.

    Sort of a kid?Maybe?

  7. TheAngryMongoose says:

    I’m not trying to alter the legacy of this game by complaining about it. I just think it’s interesting how this celebrated game seems to have been engineered specifically to nail all of my pet peeves.

    That’s fair enough. There are lots of people in the world and everyone comes in with difference expectations and experiences; one can’t expect everyone to like the same things and there’s no sense in which these complaints are invalid.

    [The Gamecube controller] was an abomination

    Now listen here, you!

    • Will says:

      Yeah, I have to categorically disagree about the Gamecube controller. It’s the only controller that’s even slightly tolerable, for exactly one simple reason: every button is a different shape and size so you can tell what button your finger is over without either looking away from the screen at your hands or playing ten million hours of [stupid pointless shooter I hate] to train up your muscle memory. Since I’m using a bottom-tier input method to begin with, I’m sure not going to make my life more difficult by picking an instance that’s difficult or unintuitive to use.

      • Matt Downie says:

        Yeah, it was a lot easier for me to learn quick time events that were “the horizontal banana shaped button” than “the button with a square drawn on it”. One I could feel for, the other I had to look for.

    • Cybron says:

      He’s not wrong about the C-stick (the right analog stick, which is functional-at-best) and the dpad placement (it’s not as bad as the 64 controller but it is not very useful), but yeah, I have to disagree with the rest. It remains my favorite controller.

    • Cinebeast says:

      Yep, throwing my hat in the ring here too. Maybe it’s just that Shamus prefers mouse and keyboard overall, but I remember the Gamecube controller being totally fine.

    • Retsam says:

      I’ll throw myself in on “Team Gamecube Controller Was An Abomination”. Mostly for all the reason Shamus lists, though I think having 3 shoulder buttons was awkward (and probably made certain games hard to port), too.

      Maybe the button-shapes made it more beginner friendly (though heck if I could ever keep X and Y straight), but overall using it was just a frustratingly inferior experience, even compared to the PS1’s controllers, from the previous console generation.

  8. Dreadjaws says:

    “This isn’t a deconstruction of bombastic B-movie action schlock, it is bombastic B-movie action schlock.”

    Well… yeah. That’s what the series has been all along. It never pretended to be anything else. That’s precisely part of its charm. I never got the idea that it was supposed to be horror like, say, Silent Hill. I mean, I don’t understand your claim of not getting the tone when you’re describing it perfectly right there. Granted, if you don’t like B-movie schlock you’re obviously not going to like this, but that’s definitely what the games are going for.

    To be fair, you do get your share of fans claiming it’s supposed to be scary, which is ridiculous. Frankly that’s something only the remake of the first game has ever managed to accomplish here and there. And to this day this is the first instance where I get even a third person account of someone claiming the game is supposed to be comedy.

    Plus, Resident Evil is not like, say, Final Fantasy, where the sequels are not related. If you go in at the fourth game, expect to be completely confused. Of course, no one tells you that, which is an entirely different problem.

    This is the problem of hyping videogames versus hyping movies. You can usually tell by looking at a genre if you’re going to like a movie that everyone keeps recommending, but with games it’s far harder, because there are many things to consider besides the genre: gameplay, control scheme, platform, muscle memory, etc.

    I mean, I had pretty much the same experience as you when it came to Team Fortress 2. With the obvious difference that if there even is a story in this game I don’t know it, I went in super hyped and I hated it with a passion. I don’t think I would have liked it even if they hadn’t hyped it, but at least besides annoyed I wouldn’t be also dissapointed.

    • Christopher says:

      I think some of this depends on how cowardly you are. Playing RE4, I had a ton of fun and thought the dialogue and action was funny. Didn’t stop me from being tense when surrounded, startled by enemies where I didn’t expect them, or freaked out by the bag and the regenerators.

      • Matt Downie says:

        There were frightening moments, but it didn’t take long for me to start thinking, “Why should I be scared of these guys? I’ve killed seventy of them this morning. They should be scared of me.”

      • Dreadjaws says:

        Yeah, well, there’s a difference between being “freaked out” and “scared”. There are two different things.

        I mean, many people claimed the first Resident Evil was scary because the dogs suddenly jumping through the windows scared them. That’s not real fear, it’s a jump scare. It’s surprise, an entirely different thing.

    • BlueHorus says:

      I think the tone changes halfway through the game, to its detriment. RE4 was different from the other games in the series in that they were schlock too – but for some reason wanted you to take it seriously.

      RE4 at first seems to realise how dumb it it is and just embraces that, going for balls-out-and-swinging silliness.
      -Zombie monks with medievil catapaults? Sure!
      -Killer dwarf statues? Why not?
      -Suplexing people so their heads explode? Of course!
      Austrailan pirate merchant? Hells yes!
      -Girl in miniskirt accuses you of trying to look up her skirt while a zombie monk is hitting her with a flail? Glorious.
      Anything goes, and it’s great.

      This is added to by a lot of varied bosses and challenges – throw harpoons at a lake monster one minute, fight a crab-man in a burning barn the next, watch Leon and Tiny Napoleon bicker like schoolchildren after that.

      Then there’s a distinct switch, about halfway through. It turns into just another Resident Evil game, plodding through another grey laboratory to do a thing, find the keycard for the door, read the notes, and possibly some other stuff.

      I’ve started this game three times, and never beaten it once. I just put down the controller and say ‘What the hell happened to the fun? This feels like a different game altogether.’

      • Mousazz says:

        The game is actually divided into three parts, with three different tones throughout it.

        The first part is almost straight up horror. Leon seemes cocky and arrogant, but if you’re new to the series, he may just appear to be young and over-confident. He certainly quiets down once the action starts rolling. Otherwise, the scenery is drab and moody, the dark stifling and dangerous, the ganados shuffling towards you menacingly, you’re underequipped, underpowered, and that chainsaw man is outright scary. The lake monster feels somewhat Lovecraftian. The village chief is also a dangerous abomination, and though the characters try to lighten up the mood somewhat, even the second encounter with Luis is a desperate struggle to survive a constant ganado zombie onslaught.

        Then it shifts gears completely for the second third of the game, and delves deeply into comedy. Suddenly, Leon is chatty and cheeky, Salazar is melodramatic and constantly stealing the scenes, you’ve got zombies with crossbows and latin chanting, a castle with catapults, humongous statues and other sillyness. You’ve got a bunch of puzzles. You’ve got a lava room. Heck, the savepoints have a SHOOTING gallery.

        Then the tone shifts again for the last third, to what appears to be a mix between the two last tones, while also mixing in a sort of mystery. From the silly side you’ve got Krauser and the helicopter pilot, from the serious side you’ve got the helicopter pilot’s death and the regenerators. You’re walking around labs, trying to figure out how to get rid of the plague, what’s Ada doing there, how to finally get at Saddler, etc.

        It’s ultimately different strokes for different folks. I absolutely loved the tone shifts, and generally consider the first third to be the weakest (although it might be me going through the last third on inertia from the glorious middle alone, I dunno). I can definitely understand why other people couldn’t stomach it though.

  9. The game cube controllers were great! They didn’t have loose shoulder buttons, they had two stage analog shoulder buttons with a click at the end. Very useful for lots of games and I’m sad the Switch went back to straight buttons.

    Also the face button layout made it easy to press any combo of a+button, which was pretty useful for a lot of games too.

    The c stick wasn’t great though.

  10. kunedog says:

    Entire post is on front page.

    • Echo Tango says:

      I’m surprised there’s not a known solution / WordPress plugin / algorithm[1] / etc for this. Seems like it would be pretty straightforward to detect a paragraph / line-break, and to stick in the correct stop-front-page-here thing. Detect paragraphs between X characters (or words, whatever) and Y characters, and hard-cutoff with an elipses if there’s no paragraph to cut on. In fact, this seems like it could be solved with a one regex to detect paragraphs, then another to detect words to count on, then just pick the break based on your thresholds, and hard cutoff if nothing suitable exists.

      [1] Actually, this seems so simple I don’t want to use the word “algorithm”, although I think academics would be more forgiving than me in what would qualify.

  11. Rack says:

    I had a somewhat similar reaction when playing the Gamecube version, but fell in love with the Wii one. I tuned out the cutscenes and had way less trouble with qtes but the aiming was so good on the Wii Imfound the gameplay to be really compelling.

  12. Kathryn says:

    Interesting – some overlap with why I didn’t like Skyrim (e.g., controls – I’d never played mouselook before, and not only was it very hard to adjust, it made me nauseated (granted, it was the first trimester with Son #2, but watching my husband play still leaves me nauseated even now)). I am definitely not saying Skyrim was bad at all, just that it wasn’t for me (and I put 20 hr into it before giving up). Sometimes that happens.

  13. Christopher says:

    Capcom as a company has a sort of swagger to most of their properties, owing to many developers working on tons of games within the company. There’s always exceptions, of course. But whether it’s Phoenix Wright, Ghost Trick, Resident Evil, Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara/Tower of Doom, God Hand, Okami, Street Fighter, Final Fight, Devil May Cry, Darkstalkers or Mega Man, they always have a sort of Capcom feel where all the principal characters are larger than life and while things might be serious for the characters, it’s always sort of silly. The crossovers with Marvel in the Marvel VS Capcom franchise always feel natural because every Capcom character feels like a superhero, or perhaps a shonen hero(they would have to, the way they’ve ripped off Astro Boy and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure for Mega Man and Street Fighter respectively).

    To put it another way, Resident Evil 4’s tone might seem all over the place for you, but it felt distinctly Capcom to me when I was playing it, in the same way a MCU movie or a Disney movie is often gonna feel like one of those companies’ movies. I played God Hand, a beat ’em up by the same director and with the same engine and general look as RE4, before I played RE4. It’s more colorful, it’s got more direct jokes and it’s overall much more silly, but I got the same feel from RE4.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP1tMxeVdcY

    Maybe it’s actually only marginally more silly than Leon and Salazar.

    • Sannom says:

      Having not played RE4, I wonder if one of the problems is to have had a very silly villain (Salazar) follow one that was apparently terrifying (the village’s mayor). It’s a bit of a whiplash when the heroes goes from running and shooting for dear life to trolling and mocking with no repercussion.

      • Christopher says:

        Could be! The tone does change a little depending on the setting and circumstances and characters involved, and it’s probably at its silliest in Salazar’s castle full of Bowser’s castle-style lava levels and giant robots of himself. But it’s not like chapter 1 is laden with misery just because fake Rasputin is a bit more intimidating than fake Napoleon. It introduces a rogueish comic relief companion as well as that pirate merchant who looks like he’s gonna flash himself whenever he rips open his coat, for instance.

        I would have liked to have seen a poll at some point, asking how many people enjoy RE4’s story/tone that also enjoy, say, shonen anime or superhero comics. I feel like there would be some overlap. Shamus talked about a certain bending of the world that has to happen for Batman stories to make sense, and I think there is a similar bent to RE4 that him and other people aren’t seeing or willing to go along with. It’s a difficult point to argue, I feel. Like if I was watching The Jungle Book Disney movie with someone who couldn’t accept that the animals were like humans, and could talk, and thought that was stupid. How can you convince someone like that that it’s just how the movie’s universe is? They won’t understand, and they don’t like it anyway.

  14. Durican says:

    Instant death quicktime events have become an instant turn-off with my wisened old age of past-thirty. I adored RE4, but when I picked up the HD port I found myself unable to keep playing it once the QTEs set in.

    Still, like others above I loved RE4 precisely because of it’s heavy schlock B-movie aesthetics.

  15. Arstan says:

    Teenage goofball mutant controller
    Teenage goofball mutant controller
    Teenage goofball mutant controller
    Mouse is much better, console power!))))

  16. James Schend says:

    I tried this game also, similarly I had tons of friends telling me how great it is.

    The quick time events KILL the game. Utterly destroy it. They are the WORST QTEs I’ve ever seen, and we’re talking about a game mechanic that’s already the WORST mechanic I’ve ever seen.

    QTEs. Ugh. It’s like you have to literally just spend an hour or two staring at your controller and memorizing which color goes with which button. Like elementary school math quizzes. I’ve played Xbox games since release date Halo and to this day I don’t have that memorized. Why would I? QTEs seem to be designed for someone with a brain vastly different than mine.

    (Hey video game developers, ever wonder why we don’t make Dragon’s Lair-type games anymore? Could it be because it kind of sucked? Stop putting its game play mechanics in your “masterpiece!”)

    End rant.

    • Eudyptes says:

      Oddly enough, the various ports of RE4 toned down the quicktime events. Apparently, the 7-stage quicktime “boss fight” was cut down to only 3 events in the PS2 version.

  17. Bloodsquirrel says:

    On top of this was the design decision to make it so that Leon couldn’t move and shoot at the same time, and then pit him against waves of constantly-advancing bullet sponges. Yes, that helps create tension.

    I disagree. Having Leon control is such an awkward, artificial manner never created tension for me, it created frustration, which took me out of the game and actively hindered the creation of tension. It also didn’t help that you can only see the point you’re aiming at when the red laser appears on someone, rather than having a constant reticle, and the aiming point wasn’t even consistently at the center of the screen.

    Dead Space showed that you can slow down your main character while still having controls that feel fluid. RE4 was published well after the point where controlling a character with dual thumbsticks had been figured out by the industry at large. I don’t buy the excuse that RE4’s control scheme was deliberate; I’m pretty sure it’s just bad.

    • Geoff says:

      I agree wholeheartedly with this. I’ve played a lot of console shooters with a controller and the RE4 controls were heinous. I didn’t even make it through the first shootout in the first level before I put the controller down and never came back.

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The best thing you can say about them is that if you do them just right, some people will find them inoffensive.

    Ah,but sometimes they are also a laugh riot.

    And sometimes,they can carry the whole game.Well,half a game,seeing how its still not finished.

  19. Nessus says:

    I loved the hell out of this game back in the PS2 days (that’s the system I had it on). Mostly because of the environmental design, I think. I loved the textural detail of the locations, from the “Texas Chainsaw”-ish rotting village, to the Hammer Horror on steroids baroque castle, to the disused bunker of the island. It was grand inspiration for tabletop gaming terrain modelling.

    The awkward goofy humor and the tone being all over the place didn’t bother me, as I’d already been inoculated to that sort of thing by being a fan of the Metal Gear Solid series. It did keep it from being as horror as the settings and monsters promised, but it didn’t derail my enjoyment.

    The gameplay was very cool and innovative at the time, but it didn’t take long at all for other games to pick up and refine the same template ’till RE4 felt kind of clunky in comparison. I remember picking up games less than a year later that were doing the over-the-shoulder shooter thing way better. Not necessarily better [i]games[/i], mind, but games that did those same mechanics better (look up a game called “Cold Fear” sometime, if you want to laugh/cringe in an awkwardly conflicted way).

    I replayed it on PC last year, and it felt way clunkier than I remember. Part of that may have been the controls, which were not very smoothly ported for M&KB. Yeah: turns out you wouldn’t actually have had any better a time with a mouse in this game. Mouse aiming in the PC port somehow manages to be just as jerky and wobbly as the thumbstick aiming was in the console version.

    One thing I agree with you 100% about is the QTEs. This game was my first real exposure to that sort of thing (I remember Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace from back in the 80’s arcade days, but never actually played them), and GOD DAMN did I think it was bullshit. Still do. I have no idea why this nakedly lazy and insulting excuse for a gameplay mechanic has kept getting used in the years since. Nobody likes it, nobody respects it, but for some reason devs still seem to think it’s a great and poplar idea.

    • Supah Ewok says:

      Actually I can’t recall the last time I heard about QTE’s. I think they’ve been dead for 3 years or more.

    • Christopher says:

      As far as I recall from Hideki Kamiya’s Bayonetta Developer Let’s Play, they loved doing these elaborate action cutscenes all the way back to Resident Evil 2, but they heard gamers were frustrated with the lack of interactivity in them, that they wanted to play those scenes. But the reason those action scenes were cutscenes were that they were unique actions that couldn’t be done within regular gameplay. The QTEs were their solution to that problem, a way of making a (simple) game out of otherwise unplayable, but cool, content.

      I’m not a big fan, exactly, but I do think they’re more fun in some games than in others. In God Hand, they’re special moves you initiate on your own that are available when an enemy is stunned, and I think those are the best. RE4’s QTEs didn’t bother me. Not Metal Gear Rising’s, either. In Asura’s Wrath, they’re all over the place and the best part of that game. But they did annoy me in Bayonetta, Tomb Raider 2011 and God of War. Dunno why, besides God of War’s being more dumb, involving some controller-wiggling and unclear button prompts. Tomb Raider’s are the worst because they use a lot of the semi-QTEs, where anything except walking or jumping a specific way quickly will get you killed, even though there’s no actual on-screen QTE.

  20. Again, it wasn’t a wrong design decision given their goals, but it was one that made the game miserable for me.

    Never understood why RE4 gets a pass for this. Even you aren’t willing to call it a straight up flaw.

    • Shamus says:

      Basically, because I’ve read the “No, you just don’t get what a brilliant design decision this was!” argument SO many times over the years and I don’t feel a need to have it again. I didn’t NEED to poke that beehive, so I didn’t. This is particularly true since I’ve only played a couple entries in the series and I don’t have a full picture of how the combat evolved in the series. I’ll leave tough (annoying) debates to people that actually care about Resident Evil enough to critique it in detail.

      And really, some people do seem to think it made the game more fun for them. I can’t prove that it didn’t.

      • Christopher says:

        I’m not sure the developers disagreed with you. I think 5 was the same as 4, but I’m pretty sure you could run and gun in 6.

        I will say it never bothered me. RE4 is a shooter where almost 0 of the enemies move quickly or have guns, and you’re able to shoot the few projectiles they have(dynamite, hatchets) in the air. Part of what made it approachable to me as a guy who plays few shooters is that slow pace and lack of enemy fire. But then, I had the wiimote, and could aim precisely and quickly.

        • MarsLineman says:

          I also played it on the Wii. I think the wii-mote control scheme makes the game much more fun/ playable since it basically becomes a light-gun game with a (somewhat) movable character. I also think they toned down the QTEs for the Wii version

          I tried to play the Steam version this year, and even mouse-control felt like a downgrade. As far as I’m concerned, the Wii version is the definitive version

          • Dreadjaws says:

            I agree with this. The Wii version is practically an entirely different game because of the controls. I don’t remember them toning down the QTEs, though, but they do seem to have made them a bit easier to do, and most certainly easier to get.

            I mean, if the game wants you to press buttons in a certain way, they show you an animation of the buttons being pressed that exact way. There’s no place for misunderstanding. Also, wiggling the remote is another requirement in certain QTEs, and it’s much easier to do.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      It gets a pass because the game was designed around it. In Dead Space and later Resident Evils where you can move and shoot, enemy behavior was changed to match. In 4, enemies move slowly and the gameplay is designed around stopping to attack or moving to avoid damage. “I don’t like having to do that” is not a reason it is bad.

      • Designing around a bad movement scheme does not stop it from being a bad movement scheme.

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          You’re just SAYING it’s bad though. I can’t prove the negative that it’s not bad, and saying “it doesn’t allow you to do these things” isn’t a reason it’s bad. That’s like saying “it’s bad that I can’t shoot in any direction in Mega Man because… I would like to do that.”

          • The reason was already given:

            arbitrary and needless

            Limiting the 360 degrees of movement allowed in a 3d space to four directions in a game that requires full navigation of that 3d space is. bad. design. Honestly, I don’t even have that much of a beef with the fact ya gotta stay still for the shooting if “moving to avoid damage” didn’t involve awkwardly turning Leon around for three full seconds before running forward.

            This game came out during on the 2nd era of 3d consoles, where every system had two analogues on their controller default. It was already understood well before this game came out the best way to navigate 3d space in a game…especially for something as bog-standard as a third person shooter, which is irrefutable what this game was. Anyone who claims it’s a survival horror game I will kindly refer to the screenshots Shamus posted, while simultaneous failing to stifle my laughter. Failing to utilize these practices was not the game ‘following its own path’ or ‘increasing tension’ or the myriad of other excuses that have been alluded to. Tank controls were a well known control scheme…and they were well known as being bad. So bad in fact, that we added a second analogue stick to our controllers. Think about that. A movement system so untenable, all subsequent game consoles were physically designed to remove it.

            • Shoeboxjeddy says:

              “Needless” is not a real complaint. You say they didn’t need to do it, the creators of one of the most successful games of its generation thought they did NEED to do it. It’s not arbitrary either. It allows enemy attacks that travel in a straight path to be a persistent threat to players. Which is meaningful, since you can then deflect those attacks with marksmanship. Villager throws an axe with the confidence you can’t simply take one step to the left or right and dodge it. But you know the trajectory and can skeet shoot it out of the air. Again, a dynamic rather unique to this game, provided by the deliberate use of the mechanics. There’s even an achievement for knifing a crossbow bolt out of the air! Once they changed off tank controls, they had all the enemies change to attempt flanking routes and not always engage you straight on. Which is good too, but one is not automatically superior to the other.

              • You already pointed how they designed the game around a bad controls and I am already aware that they designed this game around a bad controls, so I’ll consider this issue closed.

                • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                  Next time on game talk with Neil:
                  “Why do health potions take so long to use in Monster Hunter?? This is clearly bad and wrong. The fact that it is an important part of the game and fight design doesn’t matter to me, it’s just bad because I say so.”

  21. jawlz says:

    In your typical underdog sports movie I can believe (and even expect) the coach to rouse his team to overpowering levels of competence at the finale with a impassioned speech and well-timed musical swells, but that same trick would be implausible if it happened in something like Moneyball or Any Given Sunday.

    And yet… near the end of Any Given Sunday, Pacino does give an impassioned speech with well-timed musical swells that inspires his team to play better than they had been expected to.

    • Shamus says:

      I should probably have left AGS off the list. I haven’t seen it in 17 years and the only thing I remember about it is that Al Pacino was in it. I thought it was this gritty look at the league with a downer ending, but I’m probably confusing it with something else.

      • jawlz says:

        It’s kind of all that too (albeit in an overly-exaggerated way), but it also follows many of the standard conventions of the underdog sports movie. From what I remember, North Dallas Forty was closer to a gritty look at pro football with a downer ending, but it’s been even longer since I’ve seen that than it has been since you saw AGS. More recently, Friday Night Lights (both the movie and show) was relatively realistic, though it tackled (no pun intended) high school football and not pro football, and it still ended up working in several of those traditional sports-movies conventions.

  22. Preciousgollum says:

    As a fan of the series at the time, I instantly dismissed Resident Evil 4 for moving away from zombies and puzzles (I.e TRUE SURVIVAL HORROR) into some weird Texas Chainsaw knockoff (and because the older prototypes had ‘ghosts’ in them).

    Then I read the reviews and about a year later got the PS2 version, and quickly realised how wrong I was – The game was GREAT; long length and highly replayable.

    There is something very Dreamcast-esque about how fun Resident Evil 4 is; Survival Horror by way of SEGA Bass Fishing.

    The reason why Resident Evil 5 was bad by comparison, is because everything that made Resi 4 so good (Metal Gear-esque gameplay abstractions for fun)
    was removed, or misunderstood, in favour of making a more ‘serious’ game for co-op:
    Inventory, strung-together or rehashed sections, and upgrade pacing suffered(…STRANGER!!) as a result.

    Resident Evil 4 did 3rd person shooting action properly, in an era where most games were not that good at 3rd person in general (or indeed storytelling).

  23. Joshua says:

    I played one Resident Evil game -RE3 Nemesis, and discovered it wasn’t my cup of tea. I guess that Nemesis was supposed to be a constant scare, but oh boy did he get annoying.

  24. Philadelphus says:

    Yes, I know the title of this post is a bit clickbait-ish.

    I think to be really clickbait-ish you need to present subjective opinion as objective fact, like “Here are five reasons Resident Evil 4 sucks and you’re a terrible person for having enjoyed it!”

    “Here’s why I didn’t like this one popular thing”…well, gustorem non est disputandem. :)

  25. I never managed to get to like thumbsticks. I always find the arc they make to be too short. You press the thumb barely in a direction and you bounce out of the deadzone and into a brisk jog. It’s even worse in racing games.

    I’m spoiled with the ability of the mouse to change direction at any moment, unlike thumbsticks that must return to center before you can change direction.

    Now keyboard an mouse has other issues with say driving games. But I got a quick fix for that but it must be done by the developer. Namely using the time domain. When say the “W” key is pressed the accelerator is increased over time. And if the player let go then the accelerator sticks at that speed (cruise control). To slow down (let go) the player can tap the “W” or press the “S” key for example.
    Now make cruise control and and W and S and A and D sensitivity/speed configurable and driving with a keyboard should be pretty comfortable.

    • Mousazz says:

      OMSI, the double-decker Berlin bus simulator, definitely had a similar system. I can’t remember if it was applied to acceleration the same way, but braking worked exactly like that – the more you hold down the brake button, the more the brake pedal is pressed, and if you let go of the brake button, the brake pedal stays at its position until you tap the gas button, in which case the brake is let go of. It allows you to smoothly brake, which is important, since I think the game penalized you for sharply braking with passengers on-board, and the earlier buses don’t have an ABS system installed for snowy, icy roads.

  26. Stu Hacking says:

    I’ve only played RE4 on the Wii and I enjoyed the way it used the Wiimote Point-and-shoot aiming. I suppose that might have been what made the combat palatable. The button-mashy QTEs were replaced with arm-flaily QTEs though, which still sucked. I thought it was pretty fun and campy at the time, but not scary or horror in the least.

  27. Leviathan902 says:

    I’ll meet Shamus half way on this one. I thought RE4 was OK.

    I didn’t have the same issues with the controller/QTEs because I had done an extensive amount of console gaming at that point (and had learned the “joys” of the QTE in Shenmue).

    Where the game lost me was in the tonal shift. The first quarter of that game takes place in a spooky village with creepy villagers and the legendary chainsaw dude. It really created an unsettling atmosphere for some reasonably effective scares. Then you get to the castle with Salazar and the whole thing just takes a nosedive into inanity. That character and the associated tonal shift killed that game for me. Stopped there an never looked back.

  28. Gawain The Blind says:

    I liked the first resident evil. I played most of the rest.

    … That’s all i have to say about that.

  29. Cinebeast says:

    Resident Evil 4 was my favorite in the series, up until 7, but it wasn’t like that was a very high bar for me. The others just aren’t very good in my opinion. I’ve played the fourth game twice, both times on the Wii, and I certainly enjoyed it.

    I wouldn’t put it anywhere near my top 10 games of all time, though.

  30. Labinsky says:

    All of the reasons you give for not enjoying the game make sense, but somehow I managed to have the exact opposite experience in nearly every case. It’s funny because I played this game recently for the first time and found that it somehow lived up to the sky-high reputation it’s gathered. Far from being outdated, it quickly became one of my favorite games and I’d go so far as to say that I’m going to have a hard time playing a third-person console shooter that doesn’t play like RE4. Your reasons for not enjoying the game are as “legitimate” as any, but I thought it would be interesting to compare why we had such different experiences.

    1. Tone: actually, the story is my biggest complaint with the game, so I don’t fully disagree with you here. It just wasn’t that big a deal to me–it’s safe to say I place far less importance on a game’s story than you do. I did enjoy bits of the schlocky dialogue and goofy one-liners, but the gameplay and setting did such a wonderful job of creating a tense atmosphere that it was pretty disappointing that the story was so doofy. It didn’t end up bothering me that much mostly because I was able to tune out the ridiculous and cliched narrative whenever I wasn’t in a cutscene. When I did that, I found the ever-present danger and incredibly bleak environments worked pretty well with the concept of being cut off from civilization in a zombie village to create a tense, if not actually scary, atmosphere.

    2. QTEs: okay, I didn’t really like these easier, but as someone better acquainted with the controller I was using (GC), I didn’t have much of a problem with them usually. I like the idea of making you be wary even in cutscenes, but the reflex-based challenge and the artificial nature of seeing button prompts on-screen seems like a lousy way to do it.

    3. Controls: this one’s weird. I HATE aiming with an analog stick. I’m terrible at console shooters. I don’t even play PC shooters that much and I far prefer the mouse to a stick for aiming. The fastest way to lose my interest in a game is to tell me it’s a console shooter. And yet, I decided to try the game with the ol’ GC controller despite having the option of using my personal favorite aiming method–the Wii Remote. And the result? I don’t think I can go back to any console shooter that doesn’t play like RE4.

    I can’t entirely explain why, but I can think of a couple reasons. First, aiming while moving is hard with a controller and RE4 builds its mechanics on the assumption that you won’t be doing that (because you can’t). Second, enemies are easy to hit. YMMV, but as someone who is rather rubbish at aiming with a stick, I found it pretty easy to get headshots regularly–partly because of the above, and partly because enemies move really slowly and the challenge is less of twitch-based aiming and more choosing priorities, positioning yourself, being aware of your surroundings, and choosing the right weapons. Instead of trying to dodge enemies while popping off headshots and succeeding at neither, I found myself able to focus on one activity at a time and actually be somewhat competent at both. Third, having a tradeoff between mobility and offense makes the game a lot more strategic rather than reflex-based, which is great in my book.

    4. Horror: I’m not a fan of horror in general. I doubt I could handle any game that’s actually scary. I’m interested in Silent Hill but I doubt I would last more than an hour. I find that kind of fear too unpleasant to seek out willingly. I do, however, really enjoy mechanics-based fear, the kind of tension that comes when you feel like the game world wants you dead and has the power to make it happen. I love it in Dark Souls, I love it in Momodora IV, and I love it in this game. Being low on supplies and exploring a potentially dangerous area, or watching a tough enemy inch toward you and knowing there might be another one in any of your blind spots, are both the kind of experiences I really enjoy. While the kind of horror built by RE4’s cutscenes and story is a bit rubbish, I think it does a wonderful job selling this sense of malice and danger with its overall concept, gameplay, and environments.

    5. Hype: you played RE4 when it was at the peak of its hype, but even now when I just played it people are still talking about it as one of the best games ever. These days I try to go into games without making particular demands of them, knowing full well that despite near-universal acclaim, I just won’t enjoy some things that are popular. The mindset I usually have is, “we’ll see what this game has to offer,” rather than expecting every highly-praised game to blow me away. It lets me be thrilled when I do enjoy a game that everyone else loves (BotW, Super Metroid), and reduces the disappointment when my experience is just okay (Castlevania SotN, DMC1). I wasn’t expecting RE4 to live up to its reputation, so I was surprised and delighted when it largely did.

  31. Dork Angel says:

    I found RE4 (and 5) enjoyable enough (6 was a disaster and remains unplayed bar the first 30 minutes or so) but I think I remember my fondest memory being of RE3: Code Veronica…

  32. Iunnrais says:

    I think I’m the first replier to this post that not only enjoyed this game, but also actively and enthusiastically enjoyed the story. Not “gave the story a pass”, not “wasn’t put off by the story”, but where the story was an actual draw for me. I can fully recognize that this is, of course a matter of taste, and the things I highly enjoy can be offputting to others. Call it a guilty pleasure if you like… but… no. I’d rather defend my opinion… not because yours is wrong, but because mine isn’t wrong either.

    I think in a lot of cases, in order to be able to ENJOY a story (as opposed to merely tolerating it) you need to have a framework for that story in your mind. A rubric by which you judge it. There are standard frameworks that everyone is familiar with… consistency, logic, ability to create willing-suspension-of-disbelief, that sort of thing. And within various genres, parts of these rubrics can be tugged or bent in different directions.

    Some genres don’t just tug and bend these expectations. They go entirely orthogonal to them. Two examples would be the classic fairy tale, and the more modern concept of “magical realism” (ala, Kafka’s Metamorphosis and all its cockroachy strangeness). I would argue that RE4, along with the Metal Gear Solid series (at least 1 and 2… haven’t really played 3+) are all examples of magical realism.

    You can’t go into magical realism expecting consistent… anything. The world is absurd. Nothing makes sense, and for the purposes of the genre, it SHOULDN’T make sense. Tone, far from being a consistent backdrop the colors the entire story, becomes one of the tools that can communicate the message, and thus, much as you can’t tell a story with only one word repeated over again (the Buffalo sentence not withstanding), tone needn’t be consistent either. The only consistent, absolutely necessary thing in magical realism, is that the people inside the world must take everything that happens deadly seriously. The characters cannot wink at the camera, they must treat it as the world they live in, and move on from there.

    And I find this absolutely fascinating. We have an insane gobbledygook mess of a setting with incredibly wacky hijinks that belong on a cheap 80s Saturday morning cartoon show, and yet it is treated by the characters and the framing as being utterly deadly serious. That re-contextualizes the silliness, approaches it from a different angle. The brilliance of RE4 is how it eases you into the madness slowly, little by little. The first section of the game almost makes some kind of logical sense, although there’s little hints of the deeper silliness here and there. And then it starts dropping in more craziness little by little, until BAM! It hits you in the face with midget zombie Napoleon and a goofy castle filled with wacky secret passages… and yet the framing doesn’t laugh! The characters all treat it with dignity and gravitas, despite insanity!

    It revels in its weirdness, and does not apologize. It doesn’t admit there’s a joke, and that’s part of the joke!

    It’s okay not to like this, of course. I personally cannot stand when authors deliberately alter their writing style to something less readable, like Michael Crichton’s “Eaters of the Dead” or Steven Brust’s “Khaavren Romances”, both of which tried to imitate writers of several hundred years ago and all their rambling repetitive “I get paid by the word” bullshit… but I can appreciate what they are trying to do with this sort of thing.

    But I think my point is, that, in the end, there is something to appreciate. It’s not just empty. It’s silly, it’s nonsense, it’s clashing and conflicting… but there is a beauty to it that I think resonates with a large number of people, which is why it’s considered so loved. Some merely tolerate it for the gameplay, but some… maybe more than you think, actually find the story compelling– possibly even for the very reasons other people (like Shamus) hate it.

    And that’s okay!

  33. Mousazz says:

    To make matters worse, the story doesn’t even explain itself properly. It sort of assumes you’re already a Resident Evil fan and you’re all caught up on the lore and backstory of this world, which means lots of scenes end up feeling like bizarre non-sequiturs if you’re new.

    This is the only sentence I have to completely disagree with. The story, at least to me, seemed to be really easy to follow – at worst, almost every character was simple and stereotypical, which made their roles and motivations very clear-cut. The only people who might have any past connection with each-other would be Leon, Ada, Krauser, and Wesker – and even then their prior relationships are explained quickly and clearly. Although I can’t think of any other work right now which would introduce a past love-interest femme fatale (damn my memory!), I’m pretty sure there must have been quite a lot of those.

    Heck, Krauser doesn’t actually appear in any past Resident Evil – he’s a completely new character, yet he’s treated like an old buddy of Leon who has turned evil. It’s not really necessary to know (for me at least) what level of buddyness those two were at – the gist of it is enough to establish the motive for their interaction.

    Every other character, then – Luis, Saddler, Salazar, Ashley, Hunnigan – they’re new and tied to the setting and the story, and in hindsight are even LESS related to the previous games than you’d think the first time you played through. In other words – if the story is indeed confusing, it’s wrong to blame the past games for it.

  34. RCN says:

    You may complain about the Gamecube controller, but you should count yourself lucky you skipped the living ergonomic nightmare that was the trident of the the N64.

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