Resident Evil 4 In Handgun Only + No Damage Mode on Professional Difficulty

You can't really see how hard a game actually is unless you try to play it on a high difficulty level, using only a standard weapon like a handgun - and if you are up for a bigger challenge, attempt to go through it without taking damage. If you are an avid gamer like me, you most probably have already tried - and hopefully succeeded in - doing all the above.

Although the games of the Resident Evil series were not the ones that I started with to play in such 'modes', so to speak, Resident Evil 4 was the first of the saga that I did play with just a handgun and losing no health. As impossible as this may sound, in fact it's a lot easier than it seems, although it is an extremely intense and challenging experience that is definitely not recommended if you don't know the game well enough.

The best handgun in the game to try this challenge is the Red9 - this stylish, vintage weapon which is powerful enough to get rid of enemies quickly, while at the same time being very light, so as to have minimal recoil. It's only downside is that it doesn't have much piercing power, making the fights with shield-carrying enemies a lot trickier. The Blacktail is extremely reliable and has a lot more piercing power, but is not as precise as the Red9. The Matilda is an excellent automatic handgun that you can use successfully against almost any sort of enemy or boss, but as it can fire several consecutive shots, it can easily eat up your ammo, no matter how much of it there may be in your inventory.

In my Professional handgun-only / no-damage runs of Resident Evil 4, I play on a New Game Plus, which allows me to have a fully upgraded weapon in my hands, while having collected as much ammo as possible from previous playthroughs. It's a luxury that I allow myself, so as to carry out the challenge while not depriving myself of the fun that the game offers. It is definitely much more challenging to attempt a handgun-only New Game run with the non-upgraded default handgun, but I will leave this to the super extra hardcore gamers for the time being.

So far, I have played the game with three of the available handguns: the Red9, the Blacktail and the Matilda. Although the different characteristics of these guns significantly change the way certain sections can be played, there are some cases that are always a pain in the neck when you play in this custom mode, no matter your weapon of choice. The list that follows features these cases, which are presented in order of appearance and not in order of difficulty; their difficulty may vary as Resident Evil 4 is not the same every time you play it. Also note that this report covers only the three aforementioned handguns (Red9, Blacktail and Matilda) which are the most powerful of their kind.

1. The Cabin Fight (Chapter 2-2)

Leon and Luis were born ready for this battle

This section is actually the first serious battle of the game. You can breeze through the areas up to then, but this part can be seriously nasty. The main problem here is that the handgun, even if it is the powerful Matilda, doesn't have the stopping power of a shotgun, so when there are multiple enemies attacking, there is no way to keep them off with a shot. You have to face them one by one, which is a bit impossible, since they are approaching from all directions. The best way to deal with this part is to leave all the hard work to Luis and just randomly shoot a ganado when he gets too close.

2. The Pools Room In The Castle (Chapter 3-1)

These monks are anything but holy

Now this is where the real fun begins. Not only you have to deal with shield-carrying enemies, strategically placed archers and numerous standard monks (some of which mutate into those gruesome head-chopping plagas when you shoot them) all at once, you also have to make sure Ashley is kept safe. Which is extremely difficult given the conditions, as you cannot hide her in the only available closed room: monks spawn in there too, and they can easily catch her or - even worse - hit her and even kill her. The best way to make it through without getting hit, is to quickly shoot the archers and the first set of shield-carrying zealots, and then run around with Ashley, shooting whoever else gets in the way. As soon as you make it to the closed room at the far end to trigger the crank with the pressure pads, you are safe for a few seconds; then it's better to order Ashley to stay in one of the corners while you wait for the enemies to arrive from the entrance or the hole in the ceiling. Of course there will be more shield-carrying monks to spice things up, but at least now you can hopefully deal with them one at a time. When it comes to turning the crank, which lowers the set of stairs and triggers the group of monks holding scythes, run like mad in that closed room (hopefully Ashley will follow Leon and she won't crouch amidst the monks in terror), and wait for them to show up, shooting them quickly as they appear through the door. The last part with Ashley turning the cranks on the ledge to raise the bridges is not that bad, as the monks that appear up there wanting to catch her are moving slowly (except one) and you can kill them or at least stop them before they are able to reach her. The sly zealots hat show up to attack Leon can be a pain though, so it's a good idea to keep an eye and get rid of them as fast as you can.

3. The Garrador Cage (Chapter 3-3)

When you want someone to scratch your back, look no further

This section can be extremely easy with a little luck and good timing, but it can also frustrate the hell out of you - which is most likely to happen. Surprisingly enough, the biggest problem is not the Garrador himself, but the monks that are in and around the cage. The good part is that, unlike all the other cases involving Garradors, here you don't have to kill him in order to proceed. A clever strategy is to ignore the Garrador and shoot the archer monk as quickly as possible. Next thing should be to kill the monk who is just outside the upper lock of the cage, as he can easily hit you when you get closer, then slash that lock with the knife - as any Resident Evil 4 player knows very well, Leon's knife is super powerful and it's actually a weapon that you can strongly rely on for a handgun-only playthrough. If you feel the Garrador is getting close, stop and move elsewhere in the cage to distract him, then run and slash the lock again until it breaks. Run out as soon as it does, then out of the room and don't look back! Alternatively, you can outsmart the big guy and kick him to the ground, making your escape much easier and safer.

4. The King's Grail Room (Chapter 4-1)

Not exactly the knights in shining armour one would dream of

From where to start about this room! Literally a nightmare when you play with a handgun, as you only have a limited space to move, and the knights are constantly chasing you around. Your best bet is to stop moving at some point so as to lure them into thinking that they can attack you, which will hopefully make them stop and try to hit you while you will be already running away, so as to shoot them from a distance. Shooting their heads reveals the hidden plagas which take more shoots to be destroyed than the plagas of the standard enemies. Moreover, the second trio that shows up when you kill the first, have these horrifying head-chopping plagas that show absolutely no mercy.

5. The Garrador Twins Room (Chapter 4-1)

Leon is so popular that all the monks and Garradors run to greet him

Close to the end of Chapter 4-1, is this room in the clocktower, which is guarded by two Garradors and several monks. The real issue here is not so much the two Wolverines, but the monks that show up, forcing you to attack them and therefore attracting the attention of the twins. It may be tempting to limit yourself to the lower section of the room, so as to not trigger the extra monks that appear as soon as you move up the steps, but if you do that, you won't have much space to move and the huge claws of the Garradors may randomly hit you. So it is better to go up the stairs, trigger the monks and kill them, then use all the spaces of the room to run and hide, shoot the bells to distract and lure the twins, and generally do whatever you can to have them turn their back to you so that you can shoot their plagas enough times to defeat them.

6. The Novistador Cave (Chapter 4-2)

At least real-life mosquitos are not that huge

This may be one of the most frustrating sections of the game, even in regural gameplay. These huge bugs are quite possibly the most annoying creatures of the whole Resident Evil saga. Not only there is a horde of them in that cave, but they can also attack in several ways (including jumping on Leon's shoulders and kicking him back, grossly chopping off his head or spitting a disgusting goo that melts half the skin on his pretty face), appear from inside walls or even emerge from the floor; and although you can insta-kill them if you shoot them at the right spot, if not you have to waste several bullets on each of them. I found it best to kill the first wave from the entance corridor, then run in the right cave and hit the switch there, run back to the entrance and exit to the previous room, then get back to the cave. This way, the game keeps that last checkpoint so I won't have to repeat the whole process if something goes wrong on my way to the other cave. Sometimes, and depending how the bugs will react, you may find it possible to just run to one cave without killing anything, return to the entrance and exit to the previous room, then get back and run to the other cave and hopefully go for the exit with the bugs breathing down your neck. This is not always easy to achieve, but from time to time you may be lucky enough and have it happen.

7. The Lava Pool Room (Chapter 5-2)

Things are heating up

This is the part that I always fear when starting a handgun-only playthrough of Resident Evil 4. In a regular run, the Shotgun is your best friend in this section, shooting down the enemies while you run like mad towards the control room, then having Ashely operate the wrecking ball as you shoot and kill whoever gets close. Things are dramatically different when you use only a handgun: the lack of stopping power unfathomably increases the difficulty level of this part. I found it best to have Ashley wait above the room instead of jumping down with Leon, and deal with operating the ball myself. As long as you kill almost nobody there, no more enemies will arrive from where she stands, so she will be safe. The enemies in the main room rely strongly on the fact that they can attack in a group, so the best strategy to deal with them is to make them scatter by running around, which seems to distract them somehow. Also it's better to try and dodge an attack instead of stopping to fight. You might want to neutralize the archer though (it's the guy with the red scarf covering his head) as he is the only one who can hit you from a distance (random thrown axes don't count, as they are very unlikely to hit you if you are constantly moving). As soon as the ball breaks the debris and the door is revealed, order Ashley to follow you and run to the exit. Don't wait for her and don't look back. For some mysterious reason, she will jump down from the ledge and arrive safely by your side just in time to leave the room.

8. The Bulldozer Ride, Part 2 (Chapter 5-2)

Are you guys a boyband or something?

This very brief section can seriously play with your gaming nerves in numerous ways. It is the second part of the bulldozer ride, just after you hit the lever that raises the platform - elevator, leading to the upper section of the road and the end of the chapter. This part is nothing like the first one, where you just stand on the bulldozer and shoot the enemies as they approach at your ease. Here the enemies attack all at once from all directions and they are much more hostile and vicious than the ones in the previous section, and their HP is also bigger. As if this wasn't enough, several of them mutate into plagas. This part is piece of cake when you have a Shotgun, but the handgun, no matter how powerful it may be, can do very little to help you here. You can only hope that you will be lucky enough to not have that many mutations around you, as they can also hit Ashley very easily.

9. The Camp, Part 2 (Chapter 5-4)

It looks like Lord Saddler was preparing for war

A rather nasty part, with three mounted machineguns, dozens of soldiers attacking from everywhere possible and - where the hell is Mike? On Professional difficulty, the firepower expert pilot disappears as soon as you enter that area, and the best case scenario is that he will remember to shoot one of the towers when you are already done with this place and are heading for the exit - in other words, too late. The worst part in this section is the mounted machine gun which is close to the exit, as the guy who operates it cannot be easily shot from a safe spot, and will most likely hit you as you are about to give him the final blow.

10. The Prison Yard (Chapter 5-4)

Take it easy guys, I am just a tourist here!

The last major battle area of the game is quite memorable, with plenty of soldiers and a huge JJ mercenary leading the dance. Getting to the locked gate as soon as you can triggers almost immediately the appearance of the soldier who is holding the exit card, whom you can hopefully kill fast enough and pray that you will be able to run through swarms of enemies to put it in place and operate the two buttons that open the door. You may or may not want to deal with the JJ, depending on how courageous you feel.

Of course there are a lot more situations that can put your patience to the test while going through a 'no damage' playthrough with handgun only on Professional difficulty. I just featured those that gave me the hardest time in all such runs.



WAIT! WHAT ABOUT THE BOSSES?

If you know Resident Evil well, you also know that the bosses in the series are relatively easy to deal with, and the Resident Evil 4 ones are no exception; which is why none of them was included in the list above. There are several ways you can defeat them without frustration in a handgun-only playthrough, so let's take a quick tour!

The Pueblo Gigante

Even the Gigante bows before Leon's fighting skills

In a handgun-only Pro playthrough on New Game Plus, your handgun of choice is fully upgraded, so dealing with that first Gigante is a walk in the park. Shoot him just a few times, and he will be stunned, then run onto him and slash his plaga. Repeat this two more times and he is done.

The Outskirts Gigante

How many giants can a village hold?

After the cabin fight is over, you are prompted to choose between two routes, one guarded by villagers and another by another Gigante. It is recommended that you choose the Gigante in a handgun-only run, as the villagers are way too many and there are the Bella Sisters among them, to make your joy complete. If you choose the Gigante, you have two options that are equally easy: either shoot him and slash his plaga like with the first Gigante (he too goes down very easily) or, alternatively, shoot the rocks that are high up to block him in the two consecutive areas while you make your way through to slash open the gates, grab the exit key and - hopefully - the handgun ammo from the cabins. If you time it right, he won't be able to catch up with you at all. This second method is the one I also used in my Professional-New Game-No Merchant playthrough.

Bitores Mendez

Pretty long arms you got there, mister

With your fully upgraded handgun, you can defeat mr Mendez in no time. Just make sure you never stop shooting, and that he doesn't have the chance to scratch you with his claws during his second creepy mutation.

The Prison Garrador

The Garrador attacks inanimate objects as if they owe him something

Not really a threat; just hit the bells to lure him onto them and shoot his back; repeat until he breaks them, then watch him carefully and shoot his plaga when he turns his back to you or whenever he sticks his claws on a wall. I found that if I walked instead of running, he couldn't easily sense me, and I had more time to plan my next move. When you hit him enough times, he will die.

The Verdugo

The frozen Verdugo is a sight for sore eyes

This insanely strong boss has a very weak point, which renders the confrontation with him very easy when used cleverly; he is vulnerable to nitrogen. If you use the nitrogen canisters to stun him, you won't have to fight him and therefore the boss fight is practically non-existent. Kick a canister when he gets near, but do not kick him while he was frozen. I know it is tempting, but trust me, you want him to stay frozen for as long as possible. Every time you hit the Verdugo with nitrogen and he freezes, it takes a while before he gets back to normal ("well, normal is the wrong word", as Lara Croft would say), by which time you can move close to another canister and kick it to release the nitrogen gas as soon as the Verdugo gets close. When all canisters are used and you have to wait a bit more for the elevator, just run around the corridors dodging any attacks, until it arrives. Watch this video where I fight and kill him with the Red9 and this video where I use the canisters to keep him frozen until the elevator arrives.

The Gigante Twins

Leon keeps his cool style even when dealing with two gigantic monsters

This adorable duo that enters theatrically in the second part of Chapter 4-2 is way stronger than its Pueblo brothers, but this doesn't mean that it is hard to kill with a handgun. Just make sure one of them falls in the lava trap, so you only have to deal with the other. Shoot until he is stunned then slash the plaga on his back and repeat until he dies. If you don't want to waste ammo on him, use the ladder to climb up to the ledge; when he follows you to swing the construction, jump down to his feet, slash them a few times, then climb back up the ladder. You can repeat this as many times as needed until his plaga is revealed. Run onto his back to slash it, then repeat the process with the ladder. Do the same thing again and again, and eventually he will die. It takes a while to do it this way, but if you are playing with the Matilda, it is vital that you conserve your ammo for the later levels. Moreover it's a relatively safe method, as long as you climb back up the ladder in time, before he has the chance to kick you or grab you.

Salazar

A literal wallflower

Our little midget has grown up and became an impressive built-in flower monster at the end of Chapter 4-4. The fully upgraded handgun works wonders against him however; just be ready to dodge the attacks of his tentacles and don't hesitate to run like mad as soon as he opens that huge mouth that resembles a carnivorous plant, as it will insta-kill you.

U3

Why get a cat or a puppy when you can have this cute little pet?

This gigantic creepy creature is very annoying but it shouldn't be much of a problem in the battle with a fully upgraded handgun. Actually the hardest part is the first in the cages, as the U3 has the nasty habit to block your way in the most inconvenient time and place (especially in the last cage). Once you get on solid ground, just shoot it or slash it whenever you can, dodge its attacks and run. During the first part of the fight, it's better to shoot it in the face, as it is more effective, but after it mutates again, try to shoot its rear (that huge, red, sting-like thing) and it will go down much faster than you think.

Krauser

Leon's knife totally eliminates Jack's boss identity

It is useless to try to attack Krauser with the handgun; it takes ages to even wound him a bit. However Jack has a very strong weakness, and that is no other than Leon's knife. Whenever Leon hits him with it, he is unable to resist. Knowing this, you can do the whole fight with the knife and if you practice a bit, it's incredibly easy and way faster and safer than any other gun. The first stages of the battle should be no problem; it only takes a few slashes every time to make him throw a flash grenade and disappear. In the last part, he will mutate his arm into a huge, lethal wing with which he is moreover able to cover his upper body, making it impossible to hit. Run carefully up to him when he is not about to attack, aim for his legs and start slashing them. Make sure you do this when he is close to a wall or near the edges of the platform, so that he cannot easily move away from Leon. Try to keep him down on his knees while you slash away, and very soon he will 'die'. Watch my video here.

Saddler

Saddler seems to enjoy it a bit too much when Leon sits on him

Lord Saddler looks intimidating, and your instict may tell you to run from him, but in fact keeping him in close quarters is the best strategy. If Leon moves away from him, Saddler will go berserk (he is nothing but a perverted and degenerate old man, as it turns out) and you will be unable to stop his attack unless there is an explosive barrel nearby to cut off his momentum. Shoot the eyes on his legs - there are four of them; the two front ones need to be shot twice to break, while the rear ones only need one shot - and attack his big mouth eye every time he falls. Once all the leg eyes are broken, the main eye becomes shootable, so shoot it and slash it until he is defeated. Watch me killing him with the Red9 in this video; you can also watch how I kill him with the Blacktail in this video, and how I kill him with the Matilda in this video.

CONCLUSION


Playing with a handgun only on a high difficulty level can be frustrating, but it helps you understand  the mechanics of the game and subsequently makes regular (that is, with a full organized inventory) playthroughs end up much easier than you may have found at first. Using the same gun against all enemies - from minor ones to bosses - gives you the chance to see how strong each kind is, and hopefully come up with better strategies to defeat them. It also feels much more realistic to have your character run around with just one gun in his hand and plenty of ammo, instead of a huge inventory of heavy weapons that are impossible to carry at once.

My Red9 Only + No Damage Playthrough of Resident Evil 4 HD on Professional
My Matilda Only + No Damage Playthrough of Resident Evil 4 HD on Professional
My Blacktail Only + No Damage Playthrough of Resident Evil 4 HD on Professional

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