Written by Jonathan Wojcik
REVIEWING RESIDENT EVIL FOUR MONSTERS
At long last, we come to what is officially considered the "fourth" Resident Evil game...five years and almost ten games after "Resident Evil 3." It certainly did feel like a fresh start, though. Up until this point, everything Resident Evil still revolved heavily around the events at Raccoon City, the outbreak of the T-Virus and hordes of groaning, George Romero zombies.
It was time for a change, and Resident Evil 4 was a big change, sending Leon Kennedy to Spain where he takes on a mysterious cult known as the Illuminados (subtle) and discovers something even bigger than Umbrella Corporation...
Unfortunately and bafflingly, there are virtually no clear, quality screenshots, models or artwork available online of the common, basic Plaga enemy, so this will have to do. Those going in blind to this game were in for quite a shock when they spent nearly an hour battling fully cognizant but violently enraged human enemies, seemingly not "zombies" or mutants or monsters of any kind, only for their heads to eventually start popping open into flailing tentacles, pulpy flesh and dangling, bloodshot eyeballs!
LAS PLAGAS ("THE PESTS")
The "pests" are large, intelligent, parasitic invertebrates able to completely control almost any animal host without compromising the host's abilities or even intellect, though the victim does tend to become unnaturally hostile and submissive towards those with a more advanced type of parasite. Only if the host sustains near-lethal trauma does the creature reveal itself, usually replacing the head and puppeteering the body just a little more awkwardly than it once could.
Admittedly, this aspect of the monster is more or less ripped straight from the manga Parasyte by Hitoshi Iwaaki. The basic type above, the Plaga A, even has a crescent-shaped blade it can swing around on a thicker, central tentacle! Perhaps enough time had passed to consider it more of a "homage" than a ripoff, and I do consistently forget that Parasyte began in 1988, when I was just five years old, and ended in 1995 none too long before Resident Evil debuted on the Playstation.
Later, you'll encounter B-type Plaga, which look more like crosses between lumpy nematode worms and long-limbed centipedes, with a tripartate mouth capable of biting your head off and killing you in a single strike!
Finally, you'll start to meet Plaga type C, which attacks at first with its beautifully bony, spidery legs until it completely leaves its host body, and begins to strike with its squirming "tail." This artwork from Clan Master is the first I've noticed a face of any kind on this creature, and I'm really liking its nasty little mutant fish-bug head!
Those infested by these parasites make up the Los Illuminados cult, but they're by far not the only monsters we encounter, as the cult has conducted myriad experiments in genetic alteration...
So what other surprises could they throw at us, this time? How about a giant? Just a full blown cave troll ogre man out of Dungeons & Dumbledores, but in a Resident Evil game. It's almost a little silly, but there's a subtle, primal sort of horror to MAN TOO BIG that I think goes under-appreciated in a cultural landscape so littered with flashier monsters. Knowing that this poor guy must have been mutated from a regular human is all the scarier, and in fact, this massive growth is the result of small, internal plaga that have been modified by humans to, in turn, heavily modify their hosts!
EL GIGANTE ("THE GIANT")
One of the cult's older experiments, this ordinary salamander was subjected to the same process that turned humans into parasite-infested giants, and was used to dispose of human bodies for apparently decades, growing to basically the size of a small whale. Salamanders definitely aren't appreciated enough as monster material, and I'm glad Resident Evil has actually offered us more than one, counting the wonderful Albinoid a few games back. One's got you covered if you want a really messed up salamander, and the other's for you if you just want a regular but BIG salamander. That's every base I can think of!
DEL LAGO ("FROM THE LAKE")
The Garrador is a pretty disturbing "monster," because it isn't just a human infected by a parasite; those giant claws have been permanently grafted to his arms, his eyes have been sewn shut and he's been mentally conditioned to uncontrollable, raging violence. It's a more "primitive," even more brutal way of transforming a human into a monster themselves, the medeival equivalent of a Tyrant or Nemesis experiment.
THE GARRADOR ("THE CLAWER")
The Garrador's parasite is a little different, too; a fat, bloated thing protruding from the poor guy's back like a giant, swollen tick!
I don't need to translate that for anybody, do I? Sort of resembling one of the symbiote guys from Spider-Man, this monster is the result of implanting a human with a large number of mutagenic Plagas, creating a relentless, bestial killing machine with massive teeth and an ability to regrow lost appendages. It heals so fast, in fact, that the only proper way to defeat one is to use a special scope to see where its parasites reside and shoot them one by one, a pretty fun gameplay mechanic and pretty frightening to pull off when it's slowly plodding your way!
Later, Regeneradors are replaced by their even more frightening evolution, the Iron Maiden, covered in spikes that can extend like lances to impale anyone who gets too close. The face is the coolest part, now lacking eyes but with a more monstrous mouth that continues up the middle of its face!
It's unclear at first how these giant, cockroach-like insects factor in to the Plaga uprising, but somehow, some way, these beings are yet another example of a human mutated by an experimental Plaga strain. That is quite a bit of mutation. I suppose not much more than we've seen in this series, but certainly the most extreme in this particular game thus far.
THE NOVISTADOR ("THE UNSEEN")
...Until we meet this guy, anyway, our first glimpse at how far a human-plaga team-up can go. This is one of the "more advanced" Plaga that don't necessarily take over their human host, but work together with them to command the lower level or "regressive" Plagas we've encountered up to this point in the game. It's a little boring, from a monster design perspective, that he keeps his human face intact. It is, however, also a little scarier that way.
I'm usually more into the squishier little critters, but these things are unbelievably badass, and the more I consider it, the higher they rank among my favorite Resident Evil monsters. Only two of them are known to exist, as personal bodyguards of a wacky little old man who just goes by Salazar, because yes, this game also gives us one of the most outrageous *human* villains in the franchise, and this image alone is all you really need to know about him at a minimum.
Verdugo is an actual human surname, but it originally designated a family trade as a butcher or executioner. They also just look rad as hell in their black and red robes, exposing only luminous eyes, insectlike mandibles and long, black fingers, but seeing them naked does not at all disappoint.
The Verdugo take some obvious inspiration from Giger's aliens, surprisingly one of the first obvious such cases in a Resident Evil title, but they're definitely a distinct concept of their own. Those giant fingers are way too cool, and the partial human head, only from the nose-hole up, gives them such a lovely gothic demon feel, or maybe...actually, now that I look at it, this feels very much like it was based on Darth Vader when we see only he top of his helmet come off, which really does lend itself to a wickedly intimidating monster design!
You would totally expect this to be the final boss of the game, and I certainly did when I first encountered it. It actually represents a fusion of the "queen" Plaga with Salazar and one of the two Verdugo, resulting in an absolutely humongous boss with a plant-like tentacled body, an insect-like head and one massive, maniacal eyeball! It's actually that eye alone that makes this one of my favorite series boss designs. Maybe you've noticed throughout my monster reviews that it's commonly just a single detail that "makes or breaks" a design for me, and you have to admit that without the eye, you're left with a fairly drab tentabeast. This way, though, it communicates a mad personality that suits its constituent parts very well!
THE QUEEN PLAGA
Salazar is not, however, the final villain of the game. That would go to a guy named Osmund Saddler, cult leader and chief of biological weapons research.
This poor monstrosity was nicknamed "IT" by its creator, Saddler, a fusion of human, insect and reptile with a Plaga at the center of it all. The lower body does an excellent job of looking simulataneously like a fat, oversized lizard and a spiny cricket, while the human head and torso end up looking more like a secondary parasite themselves when the massive, mutant Plaga head erupts above. Eventually, the human face even "dies" and goes limp, so if you prefer to think of this design as more of a big lizard-bug with an eyeless spider-snake face, you totally can.
The final mutation of the Big Bad is unfortunately far less epic in scope than Salazar, but it's still mighty interesting as an extreme version of the classic "head replacing" Plagas. This spider-like creature dwarfs its original body, and it's got more of those wonderful buggy eyeballs in such lovably odd places as its legs and Saddler's original mouth.
This about wraps up the new monster designs offered by Resident Evil 4, but there's a twist here that just about knocked my socks off back in the day. This entire series was built around the theme of genetic engineering, and that theme obviously factors pretty heavily into Resident Evil 4...but in a shocking twist to the canon, we soon learn that the "original" Plagas...
The history of the Illuminados involvement with these parasites turns out to date back centuries, and by the time we encounter fossilized Plagas at the bottom of a mine shaft, there's no doubt about it: these monsters existed on Earth well before humanity ever understood genetics or any concept of biotechnology. Modern bioterrorists are merely capitalizing on the reawakening of an ancient horror, something people of the past must have believed were demons straight from hell, and their true origins remain shrouded in mystery. Did such a thing truly just "evolve" on our very own world? Did it originate from some other world? Was it a genetic experiment by a civilization other than our own?
It's a reveal and an ongoing mystery that some fans were reluctant to embrace, but frankly, the alphabet of zombie viruses were getting pretty old by this point. Introducing a force older and greater than Umbrella or even our very species was, in my opinion, just what this franchise needed for a fresher take on bio-horror.
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