Leon Scott Kennedy.
Resident Evil’s poster boy, and arguably main character. From an ensemble cast, he took off like a shot, standing out against the blood spattered crowd. So what makes him shine from the other BOW surviving badasses? That’s what we’re gonna look at today: the journey from stepped-in-it-now rookie cop, to trained and prepared secret agent/zombie specialist.
Leon stumbled into the war against infection in 1998’s Resident Evil 2, released for PlaystationOne on January 21st. Created by Nobou Sugimura and brought to life by concept artists Isao Oishi and Ryoji Shomogama, Leon came to a game that had big shoes to fill. Hot on the heels of mega-successful Resident Evil (1996), both producer Shinji Mikami and his crew knew they had to come up with something special.
They were so dedicated to that fact, they were three-fourths of the way through development of the game before scrapping it to start from scratch. The famed Resident Evil 1.5 featured a more realistic police station, a smaller overall building, and a set of protagonists that never crossed paths. Leon survived this purge, though his original partner, Elza Walker, did not, being reformatted into series favourite Claire Redfield.
Oishi has said he based the design of Leon on his bloodhound. This is easier seen in early concept art when Leon is often standing at attention, with a longer face and a strong nose. His police uniform is done up very different from the rest of the police officers in Raccoon City to set him apart from all the zombie cops roaming the screen.
That’s Leon’s adventure to your home screen. Once there, things got wild.
Leon arrives in Raccoon City on September 29th, late to his first shift of work after sleeping in at a hotel. Having just recently graduated from the police academy at twenty-one, he requested to be stationed at the Raccoon City Police Department to get a piece of the grizzly murder action that had been plaguing the town for the last two months (post the end of Resident Evil). His jeep comes to a screeching halt when he discovers a body smack in the middle of the street. From there, he’s attacked and chased by a horde of the undead, leading him to cross paths with Clarie Redfield, rescuing her from a zombie in a diner.
It’s a breathless sprint to a police car, where the two flee for the police station. Discovering the radio’s out, the two introduce themselves but are interrupted when a zombie reveals itself in the back seat of the car. Unable to fend off the carrier and maintain control of the wheel, the car crashes, and their problems don’t end there: a man having been bitten has turned, his semi out of control careening right towards them. Leon and Claire flee the car, just barely escaping the crash and explosion, and, unable to reunite, agree to regroup at the station. Separated and armed with a single clip, it was time to brave the streets to reach the RPD.
And that’s just the opening FMV.
Leon makes it to the RPD, only to learn from his superior officer (who is down for the count) that the station is also overrun, and it’s up to Leon to look for survivors. It’s a pretty fruitless search, but he does meet the mysterious Ada Wong, claiming to be searching for her boyfriend, John.
Over the course of the game, Leon gets (in order): shot, fights a giant alligator, learns his potential love interest is a spy, leaves her to die, and escapes on a train with Claire, where he fights a giant blob monster before having to out run the train exploding.
That has to be the hardest part: surviving a Resident Evil title upon introduction.
Resident Evil 2 was critically acclaimed; the game has become a million-seller, and is the franchise’s most successful title on a single platform to date. So Leon at least had that going for him in staying power. He later starred in a GBA game, Resident Evil Gaiden, but it’s awful and non-canon and we won’t talk about it, nuh-uh.
Leon also starred in 2009’s Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles. In Resident Evil 3 (1999), it’s revealed Leon is picked up by the government and they’re hiring zombie experts. In DC, we follow Leon’s first mission infiltrating a bio-terrorism event, taking place in 2002, on a rail shooter adventure that happens to feature a retelling of the events of Resident Evil 2.
But is that what really shot him to stardom in the series? No, for that we need to turn the clock back to January 11th, 2005.
The release of Resident Evil 4, baby.
Leon’s been moved to the secret service, but before he can begin his security detail, the president’s daughter is kidnapped by a crazed cult in 2004. Leon is sent to rescue her, and the adventure is incredible. Shinji Mikami once again used his game to break the mold. It received many Game of the Year awards for 2005, and was seen as a successful cross-platform hit that highly influenced the evolution of the survival horror and third-person shooter genres. It’s even been listed among the best video games of all time. Leon, now a seasoned badass, storms the scene with no apology in search for Ashley Graham. He fights infected villagers in a deep boonies town without law, cultists in a castle, and flipped militants in an insurgent base.
Widely recognized as the best game in the series, this is the real turning point for Leon in popularity. His cheesy one liners and action-packed antics, coupled with tight gameplay and a scary ride, launched him to the forefront of the series. He went on to star in both CGI movies Resident Evil: Degeneration and Damnation, and has finally appeared in the live action films as of Resident Evil: Retribution.
That’s not going to hurt Leon, though. Thanks to starring in two juggernaut titles for the series, his place is solidified amongst survival horror royalty. He’ll continue to be the character that comes to mind any time someone mentions Resident Evil. He mans the flagship game of the series, and no one can take that away from him.
No matter how hard Resident Evil 6 tried.