Resident Evil 4 – Welcome to the Neighborhood
Who doesn’t remember the first time you stepped into the damp, dingy wilderness of Resident Evil 4‘s Spanish countryside? Things start out slow for former Raccoon City Police Officer Leon Kennedy. After he kills his first few Ganados and is left stranded on the outskirts of a remote hamlet during his search for the President’s daughter, he’s forced to make his way down a dreary wooded path. Crows caw. A wounded dog howls. And eerie trinkets hang from the branches of trees that twist like stiff tendons jutting from the leaf-strewn ground. This somber stroll through the decaying forest and a rotting bridge that spans a gurgling creek sets the unwelcoming tone that permeates Resident Evil 4‘s entire experience, and serves as an unnerving prelude to what lies ahead.
Eventually the winding path leads to a small rural village. Taking out his binoculars, Leon spies the townsfolk going through the measures as they push carts and tend to their chores. Hell, if one of the local police who escorted (then stranded) you in this town weren’t suspended over a bonfire with a massive meat hook shoved through his chest, you might think this backwoods town would be a good fit for the pages of National Geographic.
Then the shit hits the fan.
It doesn’t take long before the locals get restless, and eventually you end up with the entire population of that hellish hamlet hot on your tracks. They chuck axes, kitchen knives, and try to claw your face off with their ragged fingernails. Ducking into a nearby two-story cottage for respite initially seems like a good idea. That is until you hear the sound of a chainsaw roaring to life as a bulky man, head draped in a burlap sack like some dollar store version of Leatherface, begins his hunt. Upstairs a window shatters. The door begins to temble and buckle off its hinges, the bulky dresser you shoved in front of it doing little to stem the flow of the village’s infected denizens. Eventually you run upstairs to find out what caused that crash you heard moments ago, only to discover it was the sound of a ladder smashing through the window pane, and now the entire upstairs is teeming with the living dead.
It’s during this grueling battle with the infected Ganados in the heart of that dusty village that players learn that Resident Evil 4 is a major departure from the previous three entries in the series. While PlayStation trilogy thrived on methodical gameplay, jump scares, and careful pacing, Resident Evil 4 is a visceral horror tour de force that ratchets up the tension by throwing the player into chaotic situations, forcing them to make split-second decisions in order to survive. Series stalwarts who cut their teeth on the original games may fret at first when hearing this, but after playing through this sadistic trial by fire it’s easy to see that Resident Evil 4 is just as scary as the games that came before it, even with its added emphasis on action. And now over a decade since the game’s release, we’re still floored by how well this brutal introduction sequence holds up.
Resident Evil 3 – The Ultimate Adversary
As bad as things got in the first two Resident Evil games, you always knew that safety was just a door away. You’d think that the Umbrella Corporation’s genetically modified super soldiers would at least be equipped with the mental capacity to turn a doorknob or scale some stairs, but for the first few forays into the ruined American town or Raccoon City, these obstacles proved too much for even the most fearsome bio-organic weapons.
That is, until Resident Evil 3: Nemesis violently ripped the security blanket off of players when it released back in 1999.
The first time you encounter the game’s titular tyrant is in front of the Raccoon City Police Department that served as the setting for Resident Evil 2. STARS Bravo Team pilot and 1996 winner of the Coward of the Year award recipient Brad Vickers stumbles through the gate of the precinct to warn Jill Valentine about what awaits ahead. Second later, the towering Nemesis crashes down from above, his massive trench coat clad figure looming like a fleshy fence between Jill and the badly wounded pilot. He runs, as Brads often do. However, he isn’t quick enough to escape the meaty paw of his pursuer, who promptly scoops him from the ground like a meaty rag doll and penetrates his esophagus with 12 throbbing inches of undulating tentacle.
Seriously. Just look at this shit – it’s been 18 years since Nemesis first released and this scene is still pure nightmare fuel.
Still not satisfied after turning your former comrade into a coward kebab, Nemesis turns his gaze to the player and the hunt is on.
Nemesis isn’t your run of the mill Umbrella flunky. This meat-seeking missile of a monster is hell-bent on pursuing every last member of the STARS Team. In his dogged pursuit he’ll do such advanced things as open doors (wow!), climb stairs (oh my!), and fire his big honkin’ missile launcher straight at your noggin as you run for your life.
Nemesis is goddamn terrifying, and just thinking of those opening hours spent hiding from this hulking menace is enough to make our hair stand on end.