In the Spotlight: Leon S. Kennedy

Few characters in the Resident Evil franchise have imprinted themselves on the consciousness of gamers as Leon S. Kennedy, co-star of Resident Evil 2 alongside Claire Redfield and all-out action hero of the evolutionary Resident Evil 4. Since arriving on the scenes back in 1998, we’ve seen Kennedy transition from likeable, wet-behind-the-ears love-sick puppy to a wise-cracking, super smooth government agent who survived a zombie outbreak and managed to rescue the President’s daughter to boot. Not bad for a bloke who hasn’t even turned 30. As such, PSU decided the time was ripe to shine the spotlight on Kennedy in our on-going celebration of gaming’s most iconic characters.

Little is known of Leon’s past prior to 1998, and the only details of his exploits prior to joining the Raccoon Police Department are briefly elaborated in the non-canon novel adaptation of Resident Evil 2. Graduating with flying colours, Kennedy was appointed to the R.P.D as part of the city’s new recruitment initiative in wake of the suspension of the S.T.A.R.S. in fall 1998. The token rookie, floppy-haired Kennedy was everything you’d want from a new bobby on the beat; enthusiastic, bright and burning with a desire to protect and to serve. His enthusiasm masked an obvious inexperience that manifested occasionally in times of extreme pressure, but Kennedy always pulled through nonetheless. His overall weakness? Women in red dresses.

In the years that follow his escape from Raccoon City however, we see Kennedy go from idealistic rookie cop to hard-as-nails government agent. Experience in the field has shaped him dramatically, and his training has endowed him with superior athleticism and handling of firearms. He’s also developed something of a cocky streak, seemingly having a penchant for making on-the-spot quips in the face of overwhelming adversity. One thing that remained consistent however: Kennedy always found himself in the company of lovely ladies.

Kennedy’s rollercoaster journey begins in September 1998, when he arrives in Raccoon City to start his new position with the R.P.D.  Having overslept, the tardy rookie arrives late in the evening, where the streets are deathly quiet. ‘Deathly’ being the operative word, as he soon discovers the city infested with walking corpses hungry for human flesh. Separated from his jeep after stepping out to investigate a dead body in the road, Kennedy bumps into Claire Redfield, also in town to hunt down her brother Chris. The pair jump into a cop car and head towards the police station, only to be derailed by zombified truck driver and end up separated. Both arrive at the station through alternate routes and decide to split up after a quick meet up. Kennedy battles through the night and into the early dawn against hordes of undead and countless bio-weapons produced by Umbrella, pairing up with the sultry spy Ada Wong, whom he falls completely head-over-heels for. Of course, Miss Wong doesn’t divulge the real reason for her being in town, merely claiming she’s there to find her boyfriend, John.

Kennedy eventually penetrates Umbrella’s secret lab after a trip through the stinky sewers. Here, he fends off former Umbrella labcoat Dr. William Birkin, who by this point has become a perpetually-mutating monstrosity after injecting himself with the G-Virus. Wong is seemingly killed during a scuffle with the inexorable T-103, but not before the pair share a brief, passionate snog before she kicks the bucket. Kennedy eventually escapes the base with Redfield and Sherry Birkin as the whole laboratory is blown sky high. Following this, Kennedy hands the young Birkin into the custody of the U.S. government while Redfield continues her search for her brother. Chris would later contact Leon for Claire’s whereabouts after she is imprisoned on Rockfort Island in December 1998. In the years that followed, Kennedy eventually joined up with the U.S. government became involved in numerous anti-Umbrella activities across the globe. One notable event occurred in 2002, when Kennedy is dispatched to South America alongside muscle-bound agent Jack Krauser to apprehend the drug baron Javier Hidalgo. Here, the pair slogged through an outbreak of the T-Veronica virus and eventually killed Hidalgo, who had assimilated with a Veronica-infected plant.

In autumn 2004, our floppy-haired hero – now a fully-fledged government agent – was tasked with rescuing President Graham’s daughter, Ashely, from a religious cult in Europe. Ditching the incompetent local plod, a cock-sure Kennedy entered the outskirts of the village, only to be set upon by mindless savages armed with rudimentary tools such as pitchforks and knives. Fighting his way through hordes of these ‘Los Ganados,’ Leon later discovers that the inhabitants of the village have been infected by a parasitic entity known as the Las Plagas. Along the way our hero gets into a ruck with the local village chief and battles numerous Plagas-created beings known as El Gigante and Del Lago, and eventually takes refuge inside a nearby Castle with Ashley in tow. The leader of the outfit, Lord Saddler, informs Kennedy of the group’s nefarious scheme to infect Miss Graham with a Plagas parasite before sending her back to her father in the U.S. Turns out, Leon’s also been infected too.

After becoming separated from Ashley, Kennedy bumps into an old flame – Ada Wong, alive and well despite taking a pasting at the hands of the Tyrant six years ago. Leon also hooks up with ladies man Luis Sera, a former researcher of the cult who defects and supplies Kennedy with some much-needed medication to surpass growth of the parasite growing his body. Sadly, there’s no time for a bromance here, as Sera is swiftly and brutally dispatched by Saddler, who retrieves the Plagas sample. After battling through the castle and triumphing over Saddler’s pint-sized flunkie Ramon Salazar, Kennedy escapes to an Island with Wong’s help, where he discovers the cult’s base of operations. Here, Leon battles infected soldiers and reunites with Ashley, also encountering a formidable adversary in the form of the Regenerators. Eventually, after fighting his way through the base, Leon squares up against Saddler, who having endured enough of the U.S. agent’s meddling transforms into a hulking, spider-like monstrosity. With Wong’s help, Kennedy dispatches the oversized arachnid with a rocket-propelled grenade, with the former departing with the Plagas sample – but not before activating the island’s self-destruct mechanism. Legging it to the underground cave network, Leon and Ashley manage to escape via Jet Ski and head for home.

Not much is known on his activities post-RE4, though one standout incident occurred in 2005 when Leon once again found himself inadvertently partnered with Claire Redfield during a T-Virus outbreak at Harvardville Airport. These events were depicted in the CG flick Resident Evil: Degeneration, later turned into shoot-’em-up for mobile platforms. Finally, Capcom has confirmed that he’ll be tackling another zombie pandemic in Resident Evil 6, so watch this space…

Stay tuned for more In the Spotlight here at PSU.com in the coming weeks.