Listing Life Dangerously – Seven Things I’d Forgotten About Resident Evil 4

Marking the shift in the series’ focus from tension built from plodding reveals and effective body-horror to tension built from having six Spanish people trying to insert farmyard tools into your skull at any given moment, Resident Evil 4 is lauded by some as one of the greatest games of all time. My experience of the game was buying it on release for the PS2, completing it over a weekend and then never playing it again. A HD remastering has been available for download for Xbox 360 for quite some time now, so I recently decided to stump up the £14.99, or 1564.542 Microsoft Points, and plunge back into it. I partly did it to see if the intervening six years or so since its original release have weathered or galvanised Resident Evil 4‘s appeal, and partly because I’m bored to hell with every other game there is in the world, and I’m especially damned if I’m going to dip into Shephard’s Dull Grey Metal Corridor Escapade 3 any time soon.

Also, I guess that Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City thing just came out, so if you like you can think of this as a timely topical retrospective, rather than the irrelevant nonsense it oh so clearly is not. Anyway, here are the things I’d forgotten about Resident Evil 4.

7. Ashley


For half of Resident Evil 4, you have to escort Ashley. Ashley is some sort of female character, and not in the good way like Pamela Anderson’s character in Baywatch. Ok, maybe she is a bit like Pamela Anderson’s character in Baywatch ‒ her breasts have jiggle physics. Capcom aren’t stupid ‒ they know to take an opportunity when they see one ‒ and you’d better believe that there is no more golden an opportunity at Capcom than the opportunity to fully implement breast jiggle physics.

Now, Ashley’s AI isn’t actually that bad. She will wait where you tell her to wait, and if she’s following you she’ll do so reliably. She’s a bit annoying, yes, but what can you do? Leon inexplicably has to save the president’s daughter on his own (we’ll come to that), and because she’s a lady that means you’re going to have to listen to her constantly asking you to do stuff (I knew a lady, once, and that’s how it is). The problem is that Ashley and her jiggly boobies accompany you in countless fierce battles with all sorts of enemies, where she can take damage and eventually die, or get carried off, all while offering absolutely no combat effectiveness. The game simply doesn’t care that Ashley is with you ‒ you’ll seemingly face every type of foe with her in tow that you’d face on your own.

The first few times she dies, it’s amusing. Leon will stop what he’s doing, raise his hand to his brow and say “Oh…….no….” in the resigned yet disgusted manner of a man who has perhaps just found out that he got a goat pregnant. Once that hilarity ebbs away though, one grows tired of Ashley’s fragility.

This is fine in something like Ico, but having Ashley and her brittle funbags tag along to half the encounters in Resident Evil 4 is like having to wheel Stephen Hawking through the hellish imp-laden corridors of Doom. With two watermelons sellotaped to his chest. Which leads me to my next point……

6. Game is HARD


Resident Evil 4 doesn’t mess around. Either you’re good enough, or you’re not. Leon can be insta-killed in at least 3,643 different ways I’ve counted. He can be decapitated by a chainsaw (extra funny when it happens when Ashley is standing right there next to him), he can have his face melted off by the acid spew of a giant insect, he can be crushed by rolling boulders, he can be stabbed right in his heart, he can be minced by lasers and one time I swear that I once picked up a green herb from the floor and he got it stuck in his eye and it killed him right there on the spot.

That’s just on “Normal”. There’s a “Professional” mode too, for idiots.

5. You can’t see things that are stood right next to you

The default camera position. Good thing nothing evil sneaks up behind you. Constantly.

The camera in Resident Evil 4 hates you and everything you stand for. Half the screen is taken up by Leon’s fat back, and the other half is like peering down a tunnel you have to walk through on your way to receive surgical treatment for your chronic cataracts. Your blindspot is 90% of Leon’s surrounding area. You can move the right stick to get Leon to look in a certain direction, but he will focus so intently on this next direction that you’re far better off quick-turning, running off in the opposite direction, turning back and moving Leon so that whatever object it is you wanted to look at is now positioned in the gap between his fat shoulder and the corner of the screen.

I’ll mention at this point that Resident Evil 4 is definitely not the sort of game that cheaply delights in incessantly having enemies sneak up behind you in the middle of battles, which is good to know.

Oh, hi there!

4. The Merchant

Ashley, Leon and The Merchant. Chillin'. Ashley tenderly cupping her own boob like how girls do.

In Resident Evil 4 there is a bloke called “The Merchant”. He turns up about an hour in and tries to sell Leon stuff, re-appearing regularly after that point. He has several outposts throughout the various enemy strongholds in the game and, frankly, is highly suspicious. He is never explained, and has a creepy accent, but then thinking about it, nobody is explained in Resident Evil 4, and almost everyone has a questionable accent. It’s a lot like Leeds.

I’d forgotten he was in the game, but his presence makes me happy. He’s an endlessly entertaining chap, and the banter sparkles from the get-go. You end up looking forward to selling him valuable items, which he greets with the statement “Oooh, I’ll buy it at a high price”. He dresses in black and sounds like Gollum crossed with Antonio Banderas and he’s alright.

Also note that if you kill him he stays dead forever and you can't buy or sell stuff for the rest of the game, which is pretty funny if you think about it, but not when you inevitably end up actually doing it and instead find your actions saddening.

3. All of the barrels

Sentient barrel attack.

There are two things that rooms in Resident Evil 4 are filled with: 1) evil monsters intent on killing you, and 2) all of the barrels.

The barrels are wooden, and can smashed with a single swipe of your knife, as long as the game’s collision detection doesn’t get distracted by a butterfly or something, which I think definitely happens quite often. There are sometimes precious treats inside, like ammo, health or treasure (which can be sold to The Merchant for money and the opportunity to talk to The Merchant). Sometimes there is nothing inside. You’ll never know the delights concealed within the barrel unless you swipe it with your knife. This is key to the appeal of all of the barrels.

Soon, the game becomes an excuse to swipe barrels and feast on their sumptuous innards. Nothing else matters. This eventually begs the question: is the entire game just a subtle treatise on the importance of wood in modern day society, more specifically the wood used to create barrels? Or are the barrels in fact a metaphor for the conflict in Afghanistan?

I guess we’ll never know for sure. Despite that, though, we will still undeniably have all of the barrels to keep us company whilst we ponder all of the barrels, which is comforting.

Swipe me! Go on, swipe me with your big, strong knife! I know you want it! I know you want what's inside of me! SWIPE ME!

2. Even for Resident Evil, the bad guys are morons

in coming image.

The US president’s daughter (Ashley) has been kidnapped somewhere in Europe (happens). The president isn’t Liam Neeson, so he has to rely on other people to go and retrieve Ashley. They apparently have some fairly solid intel that Ashley is being held in some unspecified country where they speak Spanish that looks very much like it is probably Spain, but is never called “Spain” because presumably Capcom were worried about being sued by……the nation of Spain? Anyway, the player takes control of Leon as he rocks up in a rural village in this unspecified country, and is told to find and retrieve the president’s daughter on his own, because, well, the president isn’t made of secret agents you know, and shut up, and why don’t you try doing his job for a day if you think it’s so easy?

It’s hard to be sure on most of the plot points because they fly past so quick like drunk pigeons, and I was heavily distracted thinking about all of the barrels. Best I can tell, the big idea is that, beneath the village, there is a mine where the bad guys have unearthed Las Plagas. Las Plagas is a parasite that controls human hosts and links them to a central consciousness, submitting their will and making them a tool of whoever is in control. The bad guys want to use this to take over the world, which is totally fair and what most of us would do in that situation. They infect Ashley with the parasite, the idea being that she will return to her father’s side under their control, and then kill him. It’s a solid plan at a high level, but they struggle with implementation.

Leon is captured early on, and they infect him with the parasite, rather than just killing him. Well played, you think. There’s a certain macabre artistry to that decision, which almost makes it forgivable until it is revealed that the parasite takes several hours to take control of the host. Even worse, they don’t even throw Leon’s guns, equipment and radio in the lake. Unsurprisingly, Leon wakes up and proceeds to rescue Ashley and methodically kill the entire Las Plagas-controlled village, and all of the bad guys one by one, stopping only to spout non-sequitous poorly-translated puns, and also talk to The Merchant.

Ha ha ha yeah, good one Leon. Wait… is he serious?

1. Leon in Resident Evil 4 has the exact same face as Jill in Resident Evil 5

It's messed up.

You can follow Simon (@MrCuddleswick) on Twitter here and also slowly by car if you want.

Last time on Star Trek: Listing Life Dangerously we learned all about the five best people to shoot in the crotch in Skyrim







One response to “Listing Life Dangerously – Seven Things I’d Forgotten About Resident Evil 4”

  1. HRaven avatar

    Hehe, I lol’d a lot reading this article 🙂

    I too always thought the Merchant was suspicious. At the point in the game where Luis is killed by Saddler (this occurs in the castle), I noticed that the only way Saddler could have entered the room was to walk past the Merchant in the previous corridor. So here’s the thing: if the Merchant sells RPGs (at a hiiiigh price, of course) couldn’t he have helped his best customer (Leon) and shot Saddler in the back?

    My theory is that the Merchant is in fact behind everything. He purposefully instigates a war between America and the Spanish(?) because he KNOWS that poorly equipped American agents would have to come to him to procure weaponry. I think I’m onto something…

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