Emmett Watkins Jr. – PlayStation All-Star and Range Brother

Resident Evil 4 (2005)

Credit: Capcom

I’ve likely talked about this fact on The Player’s Club Podcast in the past, but I really, really don’t like horror media. I’ve never seen any movie in the Saw, Scream, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, or Halloween franchises, and I have no plans on changing that. Massively popular horror shows like Midnight Mass and The Haunting of Hill House are shows I’ve steered clear from as the dread associated with them just doesn’t sound fun to experience. There are of course exceptions to this. I love Get Out and Raw, for example. But the joys I hold dear in film and TV are even more apparent in games. So many of my games are about obtaining, maintaining, and improving a power fantasy, so the vulnerability associated with horror classics like Silent Hill 2 and Fatal Frame never appealed to me.

Well, that was until Resident Evil 4. Now, before I even got around to that game, I first played Resident Evil 5 back in 2012. As someone who stuck to a strict diet of actions games, it was exactly what I wanted. And I enjoyed it so much that, once I hand enough money to pick it up on sale, I picked up the HD remaster of Resident Evil 4. It was definitely terrifying, but I found myself more willing to tackle its challenges. Thanks to RE5 catering so heavily to my trigger-happy nature, I felt that my methods of play would adapt to the earlier title. So, despite the famously tense intro, and my dozens of deaths thanks to it, I felt firm in my belief that if I just placed more shots, or dodged enough hits, I would finally progress. Turns out, I was only half right.

Sure, I was able to dodge the opening chainsaw villain at the start by remembering a path, and dodging every zombie while sticking to it. But as the game continued, every roadblock I came across was minimized by the dynamic difficulty. I wasn’t aware of this system until I was nearly done with the game, but its presence made me feel powerful and made the game feel more in line with the action-packed adventure I was first introduced to in the sequel. However, the scarcity of ammo and resources made every improvement to Leon’s kit all the more impactful.

That dynamic difficulty system, paired with the gradual tonal shift throughout the game to an outright shooter, helped keep me powerful enough to feel confident I could overcome my troubles if I pressed on. But the ammo scarcity and creatively horrifying new enemies I faced throughout, kept me intimidated enough to fear that I might not be able to make it. But I did. It took 3 restarts on each the PS3, PC, and finally PS4, but I finally completed it after several years, and I’m glad I did. It was the most positive experience I had with a horror title, and I’ve not only gained interest in going back to the likes of Silent Hill 2 and Siren: Blood Curse, but I’ve now played and enjoyed its much more terrifying sequel in Resident Evil Village. I’ve forever thankful for the accessible frights of RE4, and I can’t wait to continue to experience the horror genre in new ways over the years.

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