I finished Resident Evil 4 on Sunday. It was a pretty flat, unmemorable experience for me, for the most part, just because it went so easy on me. The Mercenaries subgame shows just how versatile and developed the mechanics are for skill-based play, but those in charge of the game generally chose not to exercise the mechanics for the bulk of the game. I didn’t start to get a real visceral thrill from the game until the second disc, where enemies’ running speeds pick up and crowd-management tactics become very important.
I generally hated the QTE sequences that interrupted cutscenes, because they feel like a cheap way to add arbitrary difficulty when the player generally doesn’t expect it. They combine the worst of pure trial-and-error play and randomized structure and generally aren’t much fun, I think. The first Krauser battle was the worst example of this. I’m not sure why the creators decided to introduce this kind of difficulty when they could have just made things more interesting by making the existing gameplay more difficult.
The QTEs worked best when used during the more traditional boss battles, like in the bits where you have to jump on a Gigante’s back to slash at its Plaga. Speaking of boss battles, the second Krauser battle brough to mind The End battle from MGS3, except it was so scripted that I didn’t get quite the same thrill from it.
Now, I hate to be so unfair as to have only negative things to say, so: Mercenaries is excellent. It’s basically PN03 2, only with a timer to manage, no acrobatics, and inventory management. Sure, the mechanics are those of RE4 proper, but the kill combo system is the same and the scoring system is similar. Actually, Mercenaries is even more of a proper arcade-style game than PN03. There’s a clock that must be kept filled via powerups; levels are contiguous instead of broken into bites, allowing longer combos and many more ways to attack a level; levels must be learned and layouts must be taken advantage of for high scoring; finally, there are no continues. It’s great fun, and I plan to play a lot more of it. (I do kind of wish Ada could flip around like Vanessa Z. Schneider, though…)