For a long time I thought video games were a big waste of time. Why sit in front of the TV set and spend hour upon hour developing game skills and strategies to attempt to play my way from one level to another, when I could be doing something constructive like writing or mowing the yard or trimming my toenails? I never thought I'd get sucked into the video game craze. Never.
Then along came Resident Evil 4.
A couple of months ago my family recieved a Wii game system from a good friend who happens to be in the video game store business. The Wii is quite an innovative invention, incorporating virtual-reality technology into the customary video game. You control movements and functions on the screen with the use of a controller (which resembles a regular remote control) and, with some games, a connecting "nunchuck" which adds a toggle motion switch and two additional function buttons to the controller. For games requiring a gun (such as combat or hunting games) a zapper can be used which combines the controller and nunchuck on a central frame, much like the frame of a crossbow.
While my wife and kids love games like Mariokart and Lego Batman, I found my video game obsession in Resident Evil 4, a game based on the popular series of that name and, in the opinion of most, the best of the lot. Resident Evil 4 combines intrigue and secret-agent type elements with horror. The storyline involves Leon Kennedy, a special agent for the US government, and his search for Ashley Graham, the teenaged daughter of the President. A mysterious cult in Europe has kidnapped Ashley and it is Leon's job to locate her and bring her back safely. The location of the game is simply described as "somewhere in Europe", but due to the fact that a Spanish theme and language is incorporated throughout, I would say that it is a safe bet that it takes place in Spain.
During his quest to rescue Ashley, Leon encounters all sorts of menaces and terrors, mostly the various villagers of the countryside. These villagers are known as Ganados (Spanish for "the herd") who were infected by a parasite known as "Las Plagas" which control the behavior of the host and turn them into a homicidal zombie. The Ganados usually go about their farm chores until Leon shows up and then they attack him brandishing knives, hatchets, sickles, and even dynamite. At one point. Leon comes upon a chainsaw-weilding maniac wearing suspenders and a potato sack over his head. The Ganados are relatively easy to kill with head and heart shots, but the chainsaw-slinger is nearly impossible to bring down. You must make multiple head shots and, if you don't dispatch him quickly, he will promptly dispatch you by beheading you in the most gruesome manner with a fatal swipe of his chainsaw.
Other creatures that you encounter along the way are Del Lago, a slug-like lake monster who snags the anchor of Leon's boat in one scene and must be destroyed by multiple throws of a wicked-looking harpoon, and El Gigante, a hulking giant that holds a strong resemblance to the cave trolls in Lord of the Rings. El Gigante is a tough cookie to bring down and you're usually trapped inside a fenced or rock-walled compound with him, dodging boulders he rolls or uprooted trees he swings. You can wear him down , however, with grenades and shots from a shotgun or rifle, until an ugly tentacled parasite emerges from his upper back and Leon can jump upon him and slash at the parasite until El Gigante falls dead. This takes alot of hard work and persistance, though, and El Gigante can kill you several times before you learn what it takes to get past this obstacle of the game. Also, when you defeat the zombies and monsters, they usually leave a glow eminating from their "death spot" that contains treasures like gold or ammunition for various weapons. When you kill El Gigante you are rewarded with a fortune in gold bars.
There are some intriguing characters in the game who show up from time to time. One is Mendez, a towering bald village chief in a long overcoat, sporting a fake eye with a blood-red pupil. At one point, Leon must defeat Mendez when he changes into a horrifying mutant that is part scorpion/praying mantis and part human, which reminded me very much like something out of John Carpenter's The Thing. There is also the Merchant, a shady arms dealer who showes up to sell you pistols, rifles, shotguns, and rocket launchers. You can buy these items with gold you have accumilated during the game, or precious gems and jewelry you have come across. There are other characters I haven't encountered yet, like the beretted mercenary Jack Krauser and a mysterious operative in a slinky red dress named Ada Wong, both former acquaintances of Leon.