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Game Review

I knew from the game guide book what was coming.

Still, it was startling to hear the roar of a chainsaw and glimpse the hooded man lurching toward me, a Texas Chainsaw Massacre look-alike intent upon sealing my character's doom.

I thought a full clip—13 bullets in all—would take him down.

It didn't.

I reloaded my weapon, frantically watching the crazed lumberjack close the distance and raise the saw. My fingers weren't moving fast enough. Before I could finish, my controller began vibrating and the bloodied power tool plunged into my neck. As the vibrations subsided, my head thunked onto the ground and a geyser of blood erupted from my lifeless body.

Welcome to Resident Evil 4.

Still Evil After All These Years
Since its arrival in 1996, Resident Evil and the three sequels it spawned have exerted genre-shaping influence on survival horror games, a spooky kind of zombie shoot-'em-up. In the franchise's fourth installment, protagonist Leon Kennedy travels to rural Spain in search of the president's daughter, who has been kidnapped. To find her, he has to fight villagers who aren't zombies but aren't quite right in the head, either. Something has turned them into violent pawns bent on hindering Leon's search.

He soon learns that an evil cult known as Los Illuminadoes has begun work on a horrifying biological agent called Las Plagas. When the a leech-like organism is injected into its unfortunate hosts, it gradually takes over their bodies. So not only must our hero rescue the president's daughter, he must also combat the cult's plot to infect the world with Las Plagas.

Gore ... and More
Resident Evil 4 drips with gore. When Leon missteps, his assailants make him pay. Villagers hack him with axes and pitchforks. A cult leader breaks his neck and throws him flopping to the ground. A brute beast thrusts yard-long claws through his skull, then waves his lifeless body around in the air. But as violent as those scenes are, they pale in comparison to Las Plagas. When the plague-like organisms mature, insectoid monsters emerge from the necks of decapitated villagers and attack with fierce, flailing tentacles that can lop off Leon's head in a heartbeat.

Don't think, though, that Leon can't give as good as he gets. He begins with just a pistol, but a mysterious weapons dealer soon gives him the opportunity to purchase much-needed firepower: a shotgun, a rifle, a sub-machine gun, a rocket launcher and various grenades. Shotgun shells mow down hordes of plague-possessed villagers. Rifle fire "cleanly" removes their heads. Incendiary grenades set them ablaze. And the rocket launcher? BOOM!

Sexual content and profanity (which both go unmentioned in the game's rating box) complete the game's collection of foul content. While the game doesn't include overt sex or nudity, it does offer a lot of titillation. An example is the president's daughter, Ashley, who wears a short skirt that frequently exposes her underwear when she falls. Leon can also instruct her to wait on a high point while he looks up her skirt, to which she responds, "Hey, you pervert!" Add to this occasional uses of "s---," "h---" and "d--n," and RE4 has as many content problems as your average horror movie.

The Allure of Evil
Resident Evil 4 thrives on bloodlust, something that has tempted humankind since the dawn of creation. After God rejected Cain's sacrifice in favor of his brother Abel's, murderous rage took root in Cain's heart. But the Lord instructed him, "Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it" (Gen. 4:7).

We're a long ways from Genesis, of course, but sin still crouches at the door of our hearts. And its allure is slippery. I was squeamish at first about using Leon to cap marauding villagers in the head. Two hours later the chance to pop off their noggins like so many dandelions had become disturbingly enjoyable. With each new screen, adrenaline increased as I pumped round after round of buckshot into my adversaries. Resident Evil 4 makes it easy to forget you're cutting down human beings. The game's addictive battles virtually guarantee you'll be sucked ever deeper into this soul-numbingly destructive world.

I can't say for sure how hours playing such a game really affects a person. But I'm convinced that the anesthetizing effect of so much virtual bloodshed can't be good for the soul—or one's perspective on reality.

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PlayStation 2, GameCube, PC




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Adam R. Holz Taylor Holmes

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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