resident evil 4

How Resident Evil 4 Quickly Establishes its Horror/Action Atmosphere

Resident Evil 4 wastes almost no time before it shows you what it’s all about. The 2005 horror classic pits you against a handful of foes before it goes all out with the Village fight. Barely ten minutes into the game, it throws dozens of enemies at you all at once. Makes you scramble to take aim while constantly watching your back. Gets you hiding in houses for safety. Punishes you with harder foes for your cowardice. While the current remake does a good job of nailing the feel of this relentless battle, it’s the original that is still burned into my memory. I’ll never forget how quickly the game established its atmosphere, clever foes, and frighteningly high stakes.

I cannot stress enough that this happens right at the start of the game. You do get a tiny bit of introduction, though. You meet Leon and learn about his mission. Then, you run into a hostile (but human-looking) enemy and have to fight him. You deal with a few of his pals outside. These fights take place in fairly-open environments. You still feel a bit of pressure as the enemies continually advance. It’s pretty tense, but there’s only a few foes to fight. It feels like they’re always getting closer, but not that you’re about to be overwhelmed. It feels like a good introduction to how the movement and shooting will work in the game.

This is the only bit of introduction you get in Resident Evil 4. After this area, the game gets serious (and never really lets up much). After this area, you enter the Village. This place is crawling with people. They seem like they’re just going about their day taking care of animals and piling hay. Well, some of them are burning a guy, but the rest of them are just up to everyday stuff. The moment one of them spots you, though, the mayhem begins.

During the previous area, the game threw a handful of enemies at you. You’d deal with two to three foes at a time, and that was it. It was a bit stressful, but manageable. Here, you’ll be facing down eight or nine enemies at a time. Possibly more, but I tend to lose count at this point. That’s because, while you often have a massive mob of enemies right in front of you, more of them tend to be circling around from somewhere behind you. You’re in a constant scramble to watch your front and back.

Resident Evil 4 doesn’t pit you against stupid zombies, either. The Ganados (fancy name for the enemies in this game) will use all kinds of tricks against you. Like the example above, they like to distract you with a group in the front while others circle around behind you. If you stand your ground in one spot for too long, they start throwing their weapons at you instead of waiting to get in melee range. If you run into one of the nearby buildings, they’ll grab ladders to get to the upper floors or break in through the windows. Climb a massive tower to get a high vantage point and they just start throwing more stuff at you. They are constantly trying to surround and overwhelm you.

The Village is also filled with all kinds of places for the enemies to come from. There are multiple routes to get around the area. These are handy for when you want to skirt around danger, but the Ganados also use them to get behind you. They’ll also take to the rooftops using ladders so they can drop down from above. Every time I felt like I had a good spot to defend myself from, they’d come from some unexpected angle or hit me with a weapon. You have no choice but to keep moving, and all while their seemingly-endless numbers keep closing in.

resident evil 4

On top of all this, you can trigger several extremely dangerous enemies. Yes, this is only the second area of Resident Evil 4, but why not pit the player against two Chainsaw Men at the same time? If you try to run up one of the side roads, this causes one of these killers to spawn in. Head into the big house with the shotgun and you’ll make another one appear. You CAN try to avoid these spots if you know what you’re doing. First timers, though? It’s so easy to bring a lot of extra trouble your way.

The Chainsaw Men make things so much harder during this segment. They have a ton of life, so you’ll have a hard time taking them down with your limited ammo. They can also kill you in a single hit if you’re unlucky, lopping your head clean off. So, simply seeing them rushing toward you is cause for alarm because you’ll die quickly if they get too close. Regular enemies don’t stop coming after you while these guys are around, either, so it’s very easy to get distracted by a Chainsaw Man or a group of Ganados, get hit, and die. Things get so much more challenging when the Chainsaw Men are around.

Resident Evil 4 isn’t exactly generous with the ammo, too. You might want to avoid the house and road that spawn the Chainsaw Men. However, getting the shotgun is a godsend in this area, even if you have to use most of the shells on the Chainsaw Man who spawns. The need for ammo often pushes me to add the additional danger just so I can survive the area. It’s almost riskier to solely use the handgun. Still, making that call while enemies are all over you requires you spend some panicked moments in deep consideration. It’s so hard to think clearly while the Ganados are all around you, which only adds to the tension and excitement as you scramble to plan. And often fail, simply reacting instead.

The result is this panicked rush through the Village. You have to keep moving to live, but sometimes this pushes you into dead ends or into ambushes. If you stand your ground instead, the enemies will sneak up on you. You’ll run out of bullets and have to move. Someone will clobber you and let the enemies close in. Maybe, you make a break for the shotgun and end up causing your own death at the hands of the Chainsaw Man. I’ve done that plenty of times. You constantly have to adjust and re-evaluate. The enemies just keep coming. Which, honestly, make it one of the most exciting moments in all of horror gaming.

It’s this endless rush of danger and changing plans that makes for an incredible introduction to the unique feel and dangers of Resident Evil 4. While the action slant can make the game feel like it’s moving away from horror, the tension, panic, and exhilaration of the Village fight make for a pretty scary experience very early in the game. It sets a high standard and creates a frightening atmosphere by doing it right at the beginning, as you’re always wondering when the next monstrous challenge will come.