Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2014-07-25 06:42:48
Ba da ba ba ba, I'm lovin'...Resident Evil 4
You know that a game is good when it plays as well today as the day you first laid your hands on it. There are plenty of games that don't stand the test of time, but then there are some that are so well-made and paced that they still stand up under scrutiny in 2014. When Resident Evil 4 first launched on the GameCube in 2005 it was the critical darling of everyone's affections - journalists and gamers alike loved it. It revolutionised not only the Resident Evil franchise but also the third person shooter genre as well; now over-the-shoulder is a commonality in games and I highly doubt The Last of Us would exist if Resi 4 hadn't come before it.
I was on holiday with my girlfriend last week and, as you do, we started playing through Resident Evil 4 again, mainly to satisfy our mutual bloodlust for killing zombies without having to go first-person. While Resi 6 is utterly awful and Resi 5 is only half-enjoyable (let down by some terribly irritating sections and boss battles), it amazed me while playing through 4 just how well it still plays today.
The pacing is top-notch - every location introduces a new challenge to overcome, whether it be from getting trapped in a cage with an enraged one-hit-kill Wolverine impersonator; an enemy strategically positioned with a rocket launcher; or a mine cart section where an endless stream of enemies leap down onto you. Items and ammo are scattered about perfectly; you rarely have enough healing items to be considered safe, but you scarcely find yourself in a position where you're so utterly screwed that you don't want to continue. Everything is balanced with a timeless precision.
The enemies are still immensely satisfying to take down - headshots make you squirm a bit in your seat and popping kneecaps in order to run up and deliver a roundhouse kick is something that I believe will never get old. The storyline is the most coherent and engaging Resident Evil has ever come out with, containing just the right amount of cheese to still feel like part of the series. In the HD update there are various unlockables and extras that make the game worth playing through a second or third time as well - a rare feat for a 15-20 hour single player game.
A few design choices are slightly antiquated, including the inability to map weapons to button commands and enemies that spawn out of nowhere occasionally when a scripted event demands it, but these are tiny and insignificant indiscretions in a game that is full of excellent design choices and memorable situations. When it released, I firmly believed that Resident Evil 4 was one of the greatest single player video games ever made - and it is comforting to know that I stand by this assessment almost a decade later.