When I eventually came to Resident Evil 4 on GameCube over the Christmas of 2020 – and particularly when I was fighting its dodgy controls in those opening couple of hours – I didn’t quite appreciate the profound impact it (and its ultimately perfect controls!) was going to have on me! Despite my history with its predecessors and its successors, albeit more with the idea of them more than actually playing them in most cases, initially at least, with this one I’d just ignored it for fifteen years. Wasn’t a proper Resident Evil, didn’t have proper zombies, it looked all brown, I was fed up with having it shoved down my throat, and money was a bit tighter in 2005, so buying stuff day one then not playing it like I had with all of its predecessors (and I mean all, sometimes on more than one machine!) wasn’t happening this time.
Then, as we approached the end of the next decade, the whole lot clicked until that was the only one in the mainline series, up to Resident Evil 7, that I hadn’t finished – originals, variants, remakes and all – so in we went and about 25 hours and a couple more days later, I realised it was one of my favourite games of all time. Top three. And I wrote loads about it elsewhere here, so that will do on my history with it up to that point! Now, eighteen months and more on, and I can be quite the born-again bore on Resi 4, though I’ll do my best not to be for the next few minutes. I’m not some kind of gaming CrossFit-vegan! Since I last wrote about it though, there’s a few new morsels to cover before we get to the main course here…
Not long before my Plaga epiphany, I had a similar revelation with Silent Hill 2 on PlayStation 2, and between the pair of them, I’ve had one or the other or both on the go ever since. Bizarrely, they’ve joined stuff like Road Rash II on Mega Drive and Dragon Spirit on PC-Engine as my idea of gaming comfort food; places I go to unwind! Actually, I’ve already virtually retired to the foggy embrace of Silent Hill, I play it so much… And while I’m there, I’ll sometimes fire up my special Silent Hill 3 save point for my part-time job at my beloved rollercoaster control hut in its nightmare amusement park! Even though I’ve got my average game time down by about ten hours, Resident Evil 4 is still a bit more of an undertaking though, so nowadays I like to spread the love between the GameCube, Wii and PlayStation 4 versions. And that Switch version keeps staring down my soul every time there’s a sale on the Nintendo eShop!
There’s an interesting shift in dynamics the more you play Resident Evil 4. In your first and even second play-throughs, you are clearly the prey, but the more you get to know the lie of the land, particularly in the initial village areas, the more you start to recognise choke points. These could be as simple as the top of a ladder where you can pick of a massive group of enemies one at a time as they mindlessly parade up it and into your combat knife blade. But you can also funnel them into tight spots or behind gates, for example, initially focussing on the leader and then using a kick to take them all down; even better if the one at the front has something on fire or explosive in his hand when he or she goes down!
As the initial paranoia about using ammo reduces to a realistic level through extended play, coupled with the patience that comes with its overall reduced tension, you’ll also be more confident about your scoped-rifle, using gaps in fences and the like to clear out entire areas before you even open the door to it. There’s other situations where you’re now clearly leading the dance too, confidently directing whole groups towards explosive trip wires from different directions. And even in boss fights, for example with Jack Krauser, you’ll soon work out that you can use the now-familiar terrain to your advantage, although in his case, using his weakness to knives is going to save a load of time on top! Even more so, what about a certain other boss and his weakness to a single rocket launcher shot… There’s a reason you find it when you do! Anyway, the more you play, the less you’re the prey and the more you are the predator, and together with the adaptive difficulty, you’ll end up playing a whole new game, and it’s all the better for it!
One thing that doesn’t seem to change with repeated play-throughs is forgetting the snakes in boxes! Busting open every box willy-nilly with your knife is fine for the first few stages, but as soon as you reach that comfort zone, the game starts putting coiled-up snakes around the place, waiting to drop its venom on you. And they get me every time! And from that time, you’re anxiously tip-toeing around every one… You might have learnt the lie of the land, but there’s no way you’re learning the lie of every box!
Speaking of jump-scares, zombie dogs through the window in the first Resident Evil rightly gets its plaudits, but the guy on fire jumping out of the oven in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre kitchen in this game is way underrated (including in my previous War and Peace on the subject)! Oven Man appears well into the game, at the start of Chapter 5, as you’re walking through this kitchen full of rot, and your focus in on sifting your way through that rot to find shotgun shells hidden in sinks and so on. Suddenly, as you approach this huge oven, a burning guy jumps out, screaming and charging at you from out of nowhere, and unless you get a very quick shot away, you’re in for some double-damage when he latches onto you. There’s absolutely no rhyme or reason for him being in there, and, in fact, if you examine the oven when he’s dead, Leon will ask why he was in the oven in the first place. It’s potentially a nod to the zombie in the fridge in Resident Evil 0, but regardless, it’s a fantastic moment because up until then, it’s not really been a jump scare kind of horror show.
Back in May 2021, I did return to my day one Resident Evil buying habit one more time for Resident Evil Village. I’d been super-hyped up about this one since the first gameplay trailers dropped at the start of the year, particularly that breathtakingly decadent next-gen gothic castle! And given its well-documented nods to Resident Evil 4, both before and since release, I did wonder if I’d found myself another new top three game of all time! Without doubt, it’s still my game of the year at the time of writing, and I can’t see that changing unless Windjammers 2 does something really special or Hollow Knight: Silksong makes a miracle appearance! But for everything its done right in my four play-throughs so far, and for what is without doubt my favourite sight in any game ever in the shimmering golden opulence of that chandeliered staircase, despite its best efforts it’s still no Resident Evil 4! Unhelpfully, I still haven’t quite put my finger on why though – lots of small things I guess, from a bit less tension to less inspired boss fights to less cinematic cinematic set-pieces. It’s great, but not as great, by a long shot; then again, in my eyes, only Kick Off on Atari ST and Feud on ZX Spectrum can compete in greatness on these terms!
Right, I promised not to be boring, and I’m not convinced I’ve succeeded yet, so now we’re up to date, here’s a quick bonus cool thing I also found out about Resident Evil 4 since I first played it… Ashley, the slightly less annoying than you expected President’s daughter who you’ve rescued, is voiced by an actress called Carolyn Lawrence, who is also the voice of the deep-diving squirrel, Sandy Cheeks, in SpongeBob SquarePants! Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Absorbent and tell and porous is he! And with that, let’s move on to our Resident Evil 4 mystery person main course…
I love a gaming mystery. Some time ago now, we delved deep into the secrets of the heavily advertised but ultimately unreleased Scooby Doo in the Castle Mystery for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad, which might have disappeared in 1985, but I still refuse to accept won’t emerge again one day because it still looks incredible! Then when we covered Silent Hill 3, there was the mystery of the completely missable voice in a confessional backstage in the final church area – it was female but wasn’t instantly familiar, so who did it belong to? I’ve got some theories, but as much as I’m fascinated in finding out more about that one, I need at least one more play-through to try and get my head around the bonkers plot and where it might fit, so instead we’re going to quench our mystery thirst now with this strange, very, very distant hidden onlooker in Resident Evil 4. And after all this preamble, I really hope we get somewhere with it, because as I write this, all I’ve done is track them down; I still have no idea who he or she is or why they are there, but we’ll try and find out together!
Okay, to set the scene, we’re now at the back end of the story, with Ashley off being kidnapped somewhere as usual, and Leon finding himself on the shore of the mysterious island that you might have caught a glimpse of earlier in Salazar’s castle. This was once home to cave-dwellers that were eventually driven out by Salazar, but now there’s only ruins left as evidence of his conquest, amongst which latest big bad bioweapon guy Saddler has built his lair, comprising of research facilities (with kitchens with jumpy things in ovens), medical facilities, radio towers, foundries and furnace rooms, kennels (of course!), power plants and a big military compound.
This is Chapter 5-4, and the military compound is where you’re going to go all Rambo, with a little help from your mate Mike, who’s arrived in his helicopter gunship and is going to provide a bit of high-explosive air support as you take out all and sundry through this huge complex. Eventually you’ll make it through the mass of trenches, tunnels and various buildings swarming with enemies to emerge on a plateau, only to be surrounded by a load more of them. Fortunately, Mike appears again to sort you out, but not before one of them manages to launch a rocket and take him out, leaving you looking down a cliff face at the wreckage and saying your goodbyes. No time for too much sadness though, because there’s a couple of nice jewels glinting around the place that The Merchant will have off you shortly, then it’s through the next gate and we’re in mystery business!
You’re now back in some kind of ruined fortress, and as you wander in you’ll see a big lump taken out of the wall on your right.
Get a bit closer and you can just about make out some structures in the far distance through the gap in the wall.
Pull out your rifle with whatever scope you’ve got equipped, and you’ll see it’s that radio tower and a load of Saddler’s nefarious facilities in the distance.
Now we’re going to start zooming in down that scope, as far as we can go, slowly scanning around the area with what appears to be a collapsed roof beneath the left hand side of the radio tower.
Now imagine you’re looking out for Slimer from Ghostbusters! You’re not, but with a regular scope and its rapid movements at full zoom – not to mention the swirling fog – it’s going to be easy to miss and this will help!
Bit of a squint later, and there’s almost-Slimer peering out of the right side of a vertical column, crisscrossed by what seems to be two diagonal cables or struts going upwards to the tower on the right side, then there’s one going downwards on the left, attached to a horizonal block.
Adjust your eyes a bit more, and Slimer becomes a green puffer jacket or maybe a sweater. And here’s our mystery person, accessorised with a dark scarf and what might be denim jeans and white trainers. Hard to tell from this distance (though more so due to the massive pixellation) if it’s male or female, but having been travelling backwards and forwards to Tokyo a lot while working for a Japanese company for over twenty years, I’m feeling Japanese male with a slightly non-conformist hairstyle. They are also holding up their hands, which might be a pointing a gun at them kind of gesture, but again, from experience of being in many photos over there, it’s possibly the peace sign gesture that Japanese people often use when posing for one.
At this point I hope I’ve made it obvious that this is something I found out about after falling head over heels in love with the game and engrossing myself in its lore, rather than trying to claim I’ve come up with anything new here myself… Credit for that needs to go to YouTube user SR212787, who seems to be the first to have documented it in a video entitled “Resident Evil 4 – Girl in Green Jacket? Easter Egg” published on 5th January 2017. What a mystery though, and one I simply couldn’t resist delving into as well, while also giving this person a bit of credit because there’s not a lot out there on this that actually does!
Also keep in mind that this is all about twelve years after it was released, which isn’t bad for a hidden object in a game! My favourite’s always been the Arkham Asylum hidden room behind an unmarked breakable wall with the map giving a clue to the sequel that took almost a year for anyone to find – it was a bit like the hidden room we found in our new 400-year old house just over five years ago at the time of writing that was marked as a void in the roof and turned out to be a lot more! Anyway, the sequel, Arkham City, went one better with clues for its own sequel, and the Calendar Man secret message that hinted at Arkham Knight; this involved setting your console date to developer Rocksteady’s formation day, and I’m still amazed it only took three years for someone to find! WaveRace on the GameCube from 2001 then had a hidden miserable commentator that took eight years and a modified Konami code for anyone to find. My dear, dear love Silent Hill 2 lasted about fifteen years before giving up its save-on-demand and mini-map features by getting the secret dog ending then messing about with controller settings. There’s loads more, of course, but the longest time for a secret to be hidden that I’ve come across was the revelation from then Nintendo president Iwata in 2009 that in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, you can take out Bald Bull with a single body blow by looking out for someone in the audience to take a photo, and punching when you see the flash. That’s a full 22 years after release!
Back to our mystery, there’s actually not much more to say. No one seems to know who this 2D figure in the distance is. Capcom and the game’s developers have kept their mouths shut on the subject until now, so until whoever did it comes clean, we’ll never know their identity or why they are there. My best guess is in line with the consensus of other fellow Resident Evil 4 nerds, and that’s that it was probably snuck in by an artist working on the game, and is either a secret but everlasting monument to their own ego, or perhaps to a family member or friend.
What we do know, however, is that just a few short minutes later, Leon will have dispatched mutant Saddler, jumped on a jet ski with Ashley and be racing against the clock, a tidal wave and a ton of falling boulders to get out of the island’s watery tunnel network before the whole thing is blown to oblivion. And therefore we also know the dark fate that befell our mystery person. May they rest in peace!