Resident Evil 4
Capcom Production Studio 4
GameCube, PS2, Wii, PC
In a game so chock full of memorable boss encounters, it’s tough to settle on just one. With that said, though, the front-runner, and immediate stand-out in Resident Evil 4‘s gruesome gauntlet of titans, is the midway throwdown with the village chief, Bitores Mendez.
A character who had appeared a few times in RE4‘s first two acts, Mendez fit the bill perfectly as final boss material. He was mysterious, menacing, and extremely intimidating. In fact the first time Leon encounters him face to face, he is lifted up, wordlessly and struggling, unable to do anything to defend himself.
However, it’s not just his size that makes Mendez so immediately formidable, but also his station. As village chief, he is quite literally the general behind every single foot soldier you’ve put down so far. As such, the player has a feeling of taking down a real major player when they challenge Bitores at the turning point of RE4. This is your chance to cut off the snake’s head…or so you might think.
When the time finally comes to tackle this bearded giant, protagonist Leon Kennedy is once again overcome almost immediately, luckily an explosive barrel appears (something we can all relate to), and he is able to blow Mendez to pieces, ending the fight almost before it has even begun.
Just kidding! Mendez is gestating the Las Plagas virus as well, and as an early adopter he’s got the most extreme mutations you’ve seen yet. With his human shell blown off, we are left to witness the horror of what’s dwelling beneath. His torso extends into a centipede-esque creation, complete with tiny, frantically-gesticulating, legs. Massive mantis-like claws emerge from his back, and his stature grows dramatically. Just when you thought this hulk couldn’t possibly loom any larger.
Now, with the whole area in flames, the player is left with the unenviable task of trying to take down an enemy that just doubled in size and tripled in terror. A few deaths later, and the weak point becomes clear: his extended torso, now stretched impossibly thin, is the key to achieving victory. Firing at it relentlessly, while avoiding Mendez’s deadly attacks are the only chance of overcoming your adversary.
Only, when you accomplish this at last, Mendez reveals even more tricks, as his final, and by far most disturbing, iteration is revealed. With his bottom half now left to the flames, his claws extend, becoming alike to a squids tentacles. They grasp the burning beams of the barn, and he begins swinging himself after you with frightful speed and devastating accuracy. At this point the player must begin switching between the upper and lower levels of the barn, even as they become slow-moving prey for this speedy stalker. Astute observers will notice an irony to this progression, as the previously meandering Mendez is now able to capitalize upon Leon within a matter of seconds from anywhere in the environment.
Now, with the spreading smoke obscuring your vision, and a fleeting antagonist ready to burst from the shadows at any moment, you’re left to finish the job. High-powered blasts to the remainder of this freak show are the only answer, and when his tendrils release, and he drops to the ground at last, players can’t help but breathe a well-earned sigh of relief.
When Shinji Mikami and his team designed this boss, and many of RE4‘s other monstrous creations, they took clear inspiration from one of the most disturbing horror films of all time, with John Carpenter’s 1982 classic, The Thing. While there are a bevy of fear-inspiring menaces in Resident Evil 4, it is Mendez, with his transformative adaptability, survivalist tendencies, and wordlessly predatory nature, who looms largest among them.
With skin-crawling music, a truly terrifying adversary, and atmosphere to spare, the skin-searing, heart-stopping duel with Bitores Mendez is one that few gamers will ever forget, even a full decade after the initial experience.