Jack Krauser and Leon Kennedy have history. Krauser, once an honourable soldier to whom the thrill of combat gave life meaning, slipped out of favour with the US military to eventually wind up as Albert Wesker henchman. It was during a covert mission to suppress a T-virus outbreak in South America a couple of years prior to Resident Evil 4 Remake that Krauser and Kennedy first met. As the operation progressed, Krauser grew resentful of Kennedy, believing his greater importance to the mission reflected poorly on his self-worth. Compounding matters was Krauser’s growing obsession with the power of the Veronica virus, culminating in him perceiving the infection as a means of power as beneficial, as an opportunity to become formidable, a chance to be stronger than Leon.
Krauser, on a personal endeavour to harness those powers for himself, fakes his death and seeks out Wesker. This backstory is played out in 2009 spinoff Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, but it’s important here for a feature on Resident Evil 4 Remake as it adds an emotional weight to an already tense first encounter. Emerging from the shadows shortly after RE4 Remake’s awesome coal mine section, Krauser announces himself with a knife lobbed into the back of Luis Serra, the distain between Kennedy and Krauser immediately apparent. Of course, Leon deduces Krauser’s involvement in Ashley Graham’s abduction, but what really antagonises him is Krauser’s incredible physical ability; his strength, agility, power, and reflexes are a mile away from the Krauser Leon knew during their operations in South America. Clearly, Krauser is going to be a formidable foe.
This first encounter is a blast because of Krauser’s insistence on using knives. This knife fight utilises Resident Evil 4 Remake’s parry system. It’s an encounter reliant on precision, on parry, deflection, and melee. This parry system can be used throughout the RE4: Remake but using it against Krauser is an altogether different experience. If timed correctly, a parry deflects attacks, momentarily stuns, and staggers enemies, giving Leon opportunity to unleash his roundhouse kick. The parry is also useful throughout Resident Evil 4 Remake to deflect punches, rebound ranged attacks such as throwing axes, and – rather outrageously – block chainsaw strikes.
Deflecting Krauser’s stabs and swings is uber-satisfying. Even if using lower difficulty settings where the timing required is less precise, the sensation of blades skidding off each other always feels powerful, the sound of unsheathed metal on metal atop the encounter’s ominous orchestral soundtrack pierces the eardrums. Furthermore, Krauser’s taunts are menacing, his stocky frame oftentimes silhouetted by spotlight meaning his unsettling voice is the only sensation detectible through the darkness. The only downside to this fight is its brevity; its over far too quickly, but Kennedy and Krauser’s epic second battle more than makes up for it.
And so, en route to the location where Ashley Graham the president’s daughter is being held captive, Leon once again is stifled by Krauser. Leon, prior correct in surmising Krauser as integral in Graham’s kidnapping is then wrong to assume Krauser is acting out of revenge. Well, no, as it happens, Krauser is drunk on virus power. So drunken is his power that the stream of his laser-sighted weaponry is all over the place. We know his infection hasn’t surrendered his freewill unlike the usual enemies dotted through the ramshackle Spanish countryside, but something seems way off with his aiming. Leon takes cover behind the ruin’s crumbling columns, breaking out into the open to take pot shots at the increasingly unhinged major. If Krauser felt a formidable foe during the pair’s earlier knife fight, he’s now morphing into full-on cartoon villain. This isn’t intended as a negative – Resident Evil games are masterful at balancing tension with light heartedness and comic relief. Krauser’s over-the-top demeanour is the perfect exemplifier of this, and once Leon follows Krauser into ruins’ corridors and walkways, the tension ramps up.
There’re more lasers, there’re hostile cameras, it’s dark and claustrophobic, with Krauser’s taunts once again beckoning Leon from somewhere in the darkness. The only slight downside to Kennedy’s second battle with Krauser, if there is one, is this section: moving through darkened tunnels, shooting laser beams and bear traps with Krauser harping on and on in the background is perhaps too stately in pace. The flow of the encounter is disrupted, there’s no more backstory, no more exposition. No, what we need now is an epic final showdown.
Before we get there though, with Leon out of the tunnels and back in the open, there’s yet more laser evasion, although perhaps Krauser’s virus infection isn’t making him hesitant behind the trigger after all, but instead the laser is another means to tease the once-rookie cop. Grenades, more knife fighting, more mind games all serve as set up for Krauser’s eventual transformation. His sinister secret weapon, the blade-like appendage jutting out of his arms, massive, sharp, and deadly, is revealed. Krauser finally realises his wish of becoming extremely powerful, his blade punching a literal hole through the stone floor plunging Leon into the dark location beneath. Lit only by torch, with atonal brass and strings of the game’s soundtrack growing into an awful crescendo, here is where the tension really ramps up. The balance between camp horror and bloodcurdling anxiety is perfect here. Leon can still parry Krauser’s massive blades with his tiny knife, but it feels a little more on edge, a lot more dangerous should the deflection be imperfectly timed.
Climbing upwards to the aerial platform, Leon meets a Krauser with both arms now transformed into grotesqueness. The climactic battle is exhilarating; after a 10 or so minute spell of cat and mouse, it’s a genuine thrill to finally take on Krauser in his final most powerful form atop a perilous precipice. His strength is formidable, his dive bombs from afar will almost wipe Leon clean out of health. This is the pinnacle of survival horror showdowns, with our protagonist barely clinging onto life against the most formidable of opponents. All we can do is unload as much firepower as possible, keeping shooting, deflecting, and evading. If Krauser’s impenetrable wing blocks his torso, shoot his legs; if his now severely deformed hand grabs Leon’s head, stab him in the chest.
At this second bout’s outset, Leon extolls the former virtues in Krauser. Despite him being a warped and twisted individual now, at least in his former life he obeyed some semblance of honour, or a code of ethics perhaps. And so, lying on his back defeated, it’s heartening to witness Krauser’s former honourreturn, even if only partially. See, his constant taunts of rookie, meant to belittle Kennedy during their encounters, give way. His final words: “I trained you well, Leon.” In defeat, some humanity was restored, and its telling that as the drawbridge lowers and Leon moves on, there’s clearly anguish on his face. This battle is memorable for its cinematic aplomb, sure, but it’s an emotionally significant one too, one that shapes Leon as he continues onward.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.