This is our official Halloween article for the year, so we may as well look at something spooky. What do we have available? Ghosts? No, those are too played out. Vampires? Been there, done that a lot. Hell? Ditto. The Grim Reaper? Did that last year. Skeletons? No, some of my best friends are skeletons. Zombies? Getting closer. Oh! I know! We will cover the scariest thing of all…
My good boys and ghouls, today we are going to talk about organized religion.
And while we’re at it, let’s take a look at one of the best games of all time, Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil 4 was released in 2005 on the Nintendo Gamecube, and, unlike the rest of the Capcom Five (five games [finally four] all meant to bolster the Nintendo Gamecube with exclusivity), Resident Evil 4 became a game that would live to see a version/port on every successive console generation (sorry you didn’t make it, Viewtiful Joe). And with good reason! Resident Evil 4 is somehow the perfect combination of gorgeous, modern, and… there should really be a better word for this… videogamey. Maybe it was a result of a tortured, years long development process (that wound up accidentally spawning another franchise), or maybe it was because Capcom had been creating videogames since some of its fans were in diapers, but Resident Evil 4 somehow became a videogame’s videogame. Put another way, this is a serious game about a serious special agent completing a serious mission in a serious world… that somehow still finds the time to include a minecart level. And it is integrated flawlessly! It is the most natural minecart level in the history of minecart levels! Whoever was responsible for that should be recognized as history’s greatest mind!
In fact, Resident Evil 4 may be such a great game exclusively because it perfectly integrates gaming conventions into a story/setting that would be indistinguishable from something you would see premiering after Better Call Saul (or… what was prestige television in 2005… Bones? It was Bones, wasn’t it?). Leon has a variety of “real world” weapons with recognizable advantages and disadvantages, and they all conveniently can be “leveled up” and are associated with color-coded ammo bundles. “Item drops” are a huge part of the game experience, but it makes perfect sense that a random villager would have some of the local currency on their person. And as for life-up drops… maybe they were trying to bring that healing herb back home to their sick child! And speaking of herbs, the whole “combine life up items into better life up items” thing is as anti-reality as it gets, but it somehow feels right that Leon is a survivor that can do some light pharmaceutical work while wandering around a haunted castle.
And the focus of Leon’s mission, rescuing Ashley Graham, President Graham’s daughter, is the dreaded escort mission gameplay taken to its logical extreme. Analyzing how much of the game sees the player palling around with Leon and Ashley simultaneously explicates how subtle much of Resident Evil 4 is with its gameplay: Ashley is not actually present for great swaths of the adventure, primarily because there are many reasons for the duo to separate (reasons usually involve new and interesting ways to be kidnapped). But your brain fills in the gaps, and imagines this to be a buddy comedy with the super cop (not a cop) and his attendant damsel in distress. The reality is that the gameplay of where Ashley is “escorted” makes enough of an impact to paper over the parts where the “videogame” pushes through, and Leon must stalk through a lava stage to earn one of three statue pieces that will unlock the next boss fight. But no matter, you will tell your friends that this is a fun, realistic game where you are protecting a woman while gunning down magical zombies left and right.
Oh, excuse me. You do not fight zombies in Resident Evil 4. You fight “Ganados”, the majority of which belong to the Los Illuminados cult.
So, yes, your enemy in Resident Evil 4, from your first villager to the final battle against a mutant “Pope”, is a battle against organized religion.
Now, to be clear for anyone who may have avoided Resident Evil 4 but is inexplicably still reading this article, Los Illuminados is not based on any real-world religion. Its icon looks more like something that would make a cool tattoo than anything associated with a real faith. Their robes were clearly generic Big Lots clearance hauls, and their churches are Catholic buildings because they only had a maximum of ten years to convert the local population to the hot new craze. So, okay, there may be a little Christianity mixed in there, but only because Spain already had some old religion laying around ready to be repurposed. But the actual beliefs of Los Illuminados are what is important here, and that has nothing to do with Christianity. These dudes worship a very real (in their world) parasite that is spread through injections. For the average person in Los Illuminados, there is a simple baptismal ceremony that involves ingesting parasite eggs, only to then be “reborn” with a mature parasite, and then it is back to a life of mundane farming and unwavering loyalty to the administrators higher up on the food chain. So, okay, it is pretty much feudal Christianity right down to the blissful servitude (serf-itude), but… uh… At least Christianity never gives you a sentient sword for a head! As far as I know!
But the obvious religious parallel of Los Illuminados is not important beyond one simple thing: Los Illuminados is immediately recognizable as a religion. Upon starting the game, in short order you are introduced to devout opponents, random documents talking about faith, and a Rasputin-looking leader running around raving like a madman. Your ultimate opponent, Osmund Saddler, is eventually proven to be a plotting bio-weapon research chief, but he certainly dresses the part of high priest (complete with freaky parasite staff). And from village to castle to island compound, you encounter armies of Los Illuminados followers that are 100% willing to die to protect what they consider to be the cornerstone of their faith. Sure, there is a bit of a “mind control parasite” thing going on here, but you are not simply fighting people here, you are fighting believers.
And that’s why these zombies are scarier than anything you ever saw back in Raccoon City.
Noted Quaker and church billboard inspiration subject D. Elton Trueblood once eloquently stated “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.” And, let’s be real here, “trust without reservation” is terrifying. Unconditional trust, like unconditional love, sounds wonderful for the person experiencing it, but horrifying for anyone that might “get in the way” of said trust. You cannot reason with someone that trusts without substantiation. You cannot disprove or present evidence to refute someone with unconditional trust. You literally cannot stop such a thing from continuing when a simple nugget of doubt is no longer an option. And that is all well and good in a situation wherein someone believes in something universally generous… but it is significantly more of a problem if they believe in a religion that actively encourages hurting others. Or they believe in a religion that has been perverted to make it appear that you should be hurting others. And then you have a situation where someone believes in a God that loves all His children, except maybe those different folk around the block. We should limit their rights, or find new and interesting ways to hurt them. It is the only way, because my belief in my God is unwavering, and this is what He wants.
You cannot fight faith. In the same way you cannot stop a teenager from running off with their latest beau that they are convinced they will love forever, the only cure for crippling faith is the person involved finding their own way through those beliefs. And when you factor organized religion into the deal, things get even worse. A person may eventually discover they have believed in something dishonest, but when they are surrounded by a veritable gang of people who all believe the same thing, it becomes unlikely they will ever come to a revelation that contradicts the group. Throw in a few leaders that likely have personal goals that can be bolstered by a legion of followers, and you have an association built to trap people in a cage of (false) certainty. And an organization filled to the brim with rational people willing to do anything irrational just so long as it pleases the group and its leaders? It is hard to imagine anything scarier…
And Resident Evil 4 illustrates this doomsday scenario to the letter. Saddler starts as a man with a plan, and influences a weak local official (a child monarch) to gain the resources he needs to distribute his faith. Then, he uses a local priest to spread the word of cleansing one’s sins through the magic of plague eggs. After converting the whole of a Spanish village, Saddler gets ready for the big leagues. The strategy that instigates the plot of Resident Evil 4 is using an American turncoat to capture the president’s daughter, and then eventually return her infested with the light of creepy parasites. This would convert a global superpower to the bad religion, and, from there, the world would be next on the chopping block. So if you need a quick summary of this plan, it was a short hop from charismatic smart guy to local religion to marriage of church and state to apocalypse.
And all it takes is a little blind faith.
Organized religion is not inherently bad. However, the potential for devotion and its inevitable structuring being exploited for nefarious purposes is infinite. Whether it be abused by an enterprising biologist or an entire political party, religion can be used as a force for subjugating people, and bringing more evil into this world.
And that’s your chilling Halloween tale for 2022.
FGC #640 Resident Evil 4
- System: It all started on the Nintendo Gamecube. However, it could not be confined, so there was an outbreak on the Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and (most recently) the Oculus Quest 2. We are going to draw special attention to the Nintendo Wii version, as it had special aiming controls that are completely repellent. Or that may just be my uncoordinated ass saying that.
- Number of players: You can play with any of a variety of mercenaries, but only one at a time.
- Favorite Weapon: The rocket launcher is forbidden, right? I guess the Rifle (semi-auto) wins then, as there are so many places where you can snipe off a group of monsters that are standing around doing nothing. Hey chain gun guy! Please don’t move while I decapitate you! Thanks!
- Memories of the Past: Remember the chainsaw Gamecube controller? That had to be the most ill-advised controller of its generation… Even if it did predict exactly what we would keep seeing on the Wii…
- Say something mean: For a game that so perfectly mixes gameplay and plot, Ashley is a big letdown. From a conceptual standpoint, anytime Ashley is kidnapped should be literally the worst thing to happen to Leon, as his entire mission is rescuing Ashley. But in a practical way, anytime Ashley is carted off means that you won’t have to worry about her wandering into beartraps or being sliced by parasites or whatever, so it is a relief when she’s gone. You know you’ll get her back anyway, as there was never any chance the Resident Evil franchise was going to bump off a cute schoolgirl (college is a school!). So, basically, “Ashley has been kidnapped by horrible monsters” is less “oh no” and more “great, a vacation”.
- Population Density: My final kill count on this run through was 899 (and a horrid hit ratio of 58%). Given the number of houses and such around the area, it is hard to believe more than 100 people lived in this chunk of Spain. So let’s assume an awful lot of people were smooshed into Salazar Castle. He had to have a staff!
- I Just Got That: Noted jackass Ramon Salazer has a puzzle in his castle that requires finding all the pieces of a chimera that comprises a goat, lion, and snake. Then, when you finally fight Salazer, he is combined with his Verduo bodyguard and the Queen Plaga to create a chimera monster comprised of three distinct lifeforms. Neat symmetry!
- Did you know? The Euro was the standard in Spain by 2002, so the fact that this disturbing village is still using Pesetas in 2004 is an obvious example of how The Merchant is some kind of crazy person. Why would you sell so many rocket launchers to a guy only carrying defunct currency!?
- Would I play again: Odds are super good on that one. I don’t enjoy a lot of Resident Evil games, but RE4 is a masterclass in making a game for everyone (who wants to shoot zombies). And, hey, this one is a lot easier on a repeat playthrough. Hand me my infinite rocket launcher, my good man.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… God of War 3! It is time for an extremely angry dude to murder every last god he can find! That’s one way to handle religion! Please look forward to it!