Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Surviving The Evil Within, Chapter "Resident Evil" 4

at 6:00 PM
In the words of Shakespeare's MacBeth himself: Exeunt stealth. Here in Chapter 4 of The Evil Within we complete the transition from pure stealth to pure action, confronted with arena combat scenarios conquerable only by chopping down all foes and seeing that "GO-->" arrow appear. The particular combat scenarios on hand are almost impossibly reminiscent of Resident Evil 4 and my skills have made the transition surprisingly well.

So we pick up on our way out of Death Village, Population: 0. Dr. Nonsequitur keeps up his run by pointing to the building ahead and assuring me it's his long-lost brother's clinic, so we pop inside for a chat and hopefully a couple dogs grilled up real nice. I'd barely tied the strings on my Paul Stanley "KISS: The Cook" apron when the doc started insisting we find his brother. I said okay we save the dogs for later let's go. The brother, it turns out, is the kind of nerd that pulls out a dweeby Zombie Teddy Roosevelt every Halloween. He was also elbow-deep in some kinda hellish surgery even The Great Compromiser couldn't have approved. Something about itching. The guy had a nasty skin condition, to tell the truth. 

Upon discovering a Junior Mint in the surgical cavity, the bad doctor came at me with arms outstretched, sure I was the culprit. Fat Mama Joes like him take a lot of ammo to put down, so that little scripted encounter fully drained my handgun reserves (moral of the story - I need to be quicker to draw my shotgun when appropriate, otherwise I'm gonna end up relying on shells for easy encounters after wasting handgun rounds on tough ones). What really gets my goat is that after absorbing all those bullets, Teddy didn't even have the courtesy to stay down! Like a bad VCR, he glitched out and skipped back 30 seconds to his peaceful evil surgery observance. You know, this isn't the first time Evil Within's used video tracking as a scary effect. I'm starting to wonder if the whole game doesn't take place inside a VHS - a Video Haunted System. 

After TDR vanished into blue smoke, I noticed an x-ray on the table next to the surgery showing that his cadaver, perhaps a former star of the Saw film series, had partially digested a set of keys. So I let my puppet Sebastian plunge his hands into the corpse (which of course did a scary thing) to find them. I'll talk about keys next chapter.

Moving on through the poor man's halfway house I bumped into another creeper and took 'im out, but it was quickly time to move on. That's when I came to the clearing outside, where a zombie was carrying what looked like a kicking screaming woman toward a bonfire. In my ammo conservation panic, I didn't manage to get off a shot until the woman had been torched - to be honest, I do feel kinda bad. But I'm not gonna waste two bullets to save a stranger's life, come on. That'd be insane!

Anyway, I escorted the regular doctor, still in search of Leslie Nielsen, into another old-fashioned home. As soon as we found lil' baby Les (whose annoying ass needs to die already), things got surreal. Stuck at a dead end, the lights went out and were replaced by a red glow. That's when cordyceps-face phased in two inches from my face and grabbed hold. As soon as I struggled free, my attacker inviso'd out again, and a shotgun blast at the air where he should've been hit nothing. I stumbled around the room for a bit, fending off grabs and trying to counter-shoot, but to no avail. I grabbed a bottle and threw it across the room, hoping to draw him out with a decoy, but that didn't work either. 

That's when I glimpsed a porcelain bowl unnaturally spin across the floor and keyed in on the trick - he's invisible, not immaterial. Keeping tabs on environmental clues, I finished my unsightly pursuer with a couple shells and an explosive bolt. As far as I can tell, these guys warp as soon as they vanish, so they're only vulnerable on the approach. I'm not sure how I could've won this fight without shooting - the door didn't unlock until my attacker was down.

After looking it up, I guess these guys don't look that much like Last of Us zomgis, but they did call it to mind
Now's as good a time as any to talk about the crossbow. The crossbow feels almost like it was meant to be the sole weapon of the game, with at least four types of ammo, its own upgrade menu, and bolts craftable on the fly. If I haven't mentioned yet, disarming traps nets Sebastian the creatively named "trap parts". Trap parts can be converted into crossbow bolts from the regular inventory menu. A spear-like harpoon bolt or a blinding flash bolt will require 2 parts a piece, explosive "proximity mine" bolts cost 3, and wide-radius electric trap bolts demand a whopping 4. The only way to have a new bolt type added to the selection is to encounter it in the wild. Sebastian can only carry a couple of each - only 2 to start - so it isn't realistic to stockpile on a single favorite type (crafting on the fly is prohibited by a non-pause inventory). The main catch to the crossbow in the fray is that it has a very short (5m?) arcing range - it's more like aiming a grenade than a gun*.

*Sure it's a valid gameplay mechanic, but boy is this a face-palming portrayal of crossbows. If my history / Age of Empires education serves me, even medieval crossbows could shoot hundreds of feet away. In fact I just looked it up: modern hunting crossbows are accurate up to about 60m. That means it should be equally, if not more effective at range than Sebastian's revolver (which could rate 25-200m depending on many factors).

Moving on with Lessy in tow, Sebastian tripped down a hallway across space and time and fell face-first into another Bloodpool. Maybe this game's about wormholes, just like Event Horizon. I hope Sam Neill bursts out of someone's chest. Until then, I was left exploring a big garbage-disposal-y room with catwalks, ladders, a pool of blood, a sub-room, some tripwire traps, a couple switches that seemed to do nothing, a puddle of oil, and some explosive canisters. Maybe it's just me and RE4 (that's what I call my subconscious), but the obvious placement of the traps around a complex but empty room told me "enemies are on the way". When I made my way to the one and only exit, I could only pretend to be surprised that the villain materialized to summon a swarm of blood-nanites to summon more zombie men from the bloody depths. Blood, zombies, blood, zombies. Yeah. Oh, and he locked the door. With blood.

There were a LOT of creatures emerging from the blood lagoon, so I hop-skip-jumped my way through the traps I'd picked out, incinerating swaths of them with the oil patch (ignitable with matches) and the fuel cans (ignitable with bullets). After pulling a few of the standard RE4 tricks (funnel 'em with ladders, corral and grenade 'em), I was through the swarm and the door re-opened. Important new trick in The Evil Within that draws from the same well but balances things out quite nicely: any downed enemy can be torched and will alight nearby foes. It's possible to convert a knee-shot and matches into a lot of kills this way, essentially taking the place of RE4's headshot-then-roundhouse group-clearing combo. It's also more dangerous to pull off (no invincibility frames and the context-sensitive match toss is super-short range) and is doubly resource-intensive (matches are equally as rare as bullets), so it feels appropriate to the increased tension of Within.

After the door unbloodlocks we head down another hallway and hey there's a locked door on my right so let's keep going to that brightly lit room oh neat some handgun ammo what's that in the corner BALAGAGHAGFEHRERHG BLOOD MONSTER! Yes, with no cutscene to relieve the tension, a horrible six-armed girl-hair thing spewed forth from a puddle of blood and started phasing toward me. Zig-zag phasing. But she's still shootable and hey, this is a Resident Evil game, so as long as I run by quickly, it doesn't matter how close I am - she won't grab me! So I dragged her for a few loops around the room until I eventually fouled up and got my head smashed down to a one-hit KO.

While mentally prepping for round 2, the loading screen told me the kind of thing that a loading screen should never, ever tell. I am pretty dumbfounded that the loading screen had the audacity to say what it did. More on that in a second.

I died again, but I took away an important observation: the door out of blood girl's surgical boudoir was still open even after the fight started. So for round three I set up a string of traps in the corridor before allowing her to spawn. I kited her straight through two explosive bolts (which didn't even phase her) and into a shock trap, whereupon I let the grenades fly. This is where I made another shocking observation: the door that had initially led me into the hallway (from the blood pool) was gone and the previously locked side door was swinging open. I ducked through and, just about completely out of ammo, I speared her with a harpoon bolt for the big kill. Back down to a paltry 8 handgun rounds, I picked up the 8000 upgrade goos and headed on toward the end of the stage.

As I made my way through the remaining corridors, I couldn't help but notice the ready-made traps on hand. A door to slam here, an explosive tank there, and at the very end, an elevator to take me away. That's when it occurred to me that I was meant to discover the open door sooner, conserve ammo, and play this one like a Verdugo - draw the boss into delaying traps and make a run for the elevator.

Or, that's when it would've occurred to me, had the loading screen after losing to the boss not explicitly told me: "It's unwise to fight blood girl head to head. You can kill her, but maybe you should just run for it." DON'T TELL ME THAT ON A LOADING SCREEN! You've ruined the entire tension of the fight, spoiling both the risk of spending ammo on a perhaps-invincible foe and the urge to find a secondary means to victory. I ignored the tip and played how I would've anyway because 1.) I was being honorable and 2.) I always fought Verdugo to the death anyway. In fact, I think I didn't know he could be waited out until a friend pointed it out to me. That's just too scary for me. I'd rather fight.

The monetary (here goo) reward for defeating the boss makes it worth it anyway - I may have spent 3x as many bullets as I needed, but I was able to upgrade my guns til they were 3x (or something) more effective, thus conserving ammo in the long run. That's another RE4 trick for ya. Even ignoring that, it gives me a payoff for being smart with ammo earlier and resets my position so I'll need to be again, so it's good game design all around. That loading screen is just ass though. I can only hope that was put in by some dumbass publisher/localization goons.

So before things came to a close I bumped into Ruvik on a staircase. When I tried to run by he insta-killed me (this game likes insta-kills - it's encouraging the player to play safe with the unknown), so the second time I turned and ran as soon as he appeared. Cutscene, end chap.

I gotta be honest, I think Ruvik is the dumbest looking element in a game with otherwise great art design. Even if they didn't mean for him to look like Assassin's Creed, the resemblance is too hard to ignore. At a certain point you just have to be honest with yourself and admit your design is too close to an existent (and extremely popular) one and give it up.
Here's a plot theory. Leslie is an albino. The main villain, Ruvik, is hard to make out under his Assassin's Creed hood, but I'm pretty sure he's an albino too. Leslie is only around in the forest stages and Ruvy seems to be more a mental hospital guy. Are the hospital and the forest parallel worlds cohabitated by parallel versions of Ruvik (which, unsurprisingly, is an anagram of "Leslie")? Or is Lessy some kind of gate? Because as soon as he showed up we were back in the hospital. This merely reinforces my gut feeling that Sebastian needs to kill this annoying babbling weirdo. I mean, if the world was falling down would you really waste your time dragging around an mindless loon? Unless the world was his mind!!!!

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