Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Resident Evil 4 [Steam page] is a great game that I resent. I don’t resent it because the SAVE THE PRESIDENT’S DAUGHTER PLOT is ridiculous in a way that I find grating rather than enjoyably camp, and I’m perfectly capable of brushing aside Sera and his enthusiastic reference to Ashley’s “ballistics”. The game is good enough to survive those horrors. But in among the SyFy channel mutants and daft heroics, there’s an actual horror game screaming for attention, and I feared the bombastic joys elsewhere might have strangled the terror out of Resi for good.
It’s a game that annoyed me quite simply by being so good at everything. The village fight at the beginning is a brilliant version of every zombies attacking houses thing ever, with barricaded windows, desperate escapes, and the hum of a chainsaw somewhere in the distance. It has a great lake monster, excruciatingly gruesome death animations, military vs monsters sequences, loads of variety in its locations, and great pacing. And at least two great horror scenes, with the introduction of the regeneradores and the garrador.
I wanted an entire game made up of similar scenes and Resident Evil 4 was so bloody competent throughout it seemed unlikely. If Capcom were ever going to focus on one aspect, it’d be the cheesy action-horror rather than the anxiety-inducing creepiness. Oh well. That they’d be able to capture the brilliance of Resi 4 again seemed unlikely, and 5 and 6 returned to the well to find that though it wasn’t quite dry, the water was muddy.
Now that Resident Evil 7 is at least aiming to take Resi back to basics, with limited ammo, scary monsters and super creeps, I find it easier to look at 4 as a singular masterpiece rather than an awkward turning point. I’m glad it’s not the final word on what the series can be and, instead, is one aspect of the global biotech plot. The big stuff is much more palatable when the backwoods and haunted houses aren’t entirely forgotten.
If you haven’t played Resident Evil 4, you should. You’ll almost certainly enjoy it, even if you do cringe when it Does Plot. For all that it does well, it’s a game that has a jetski escape from an exploding island.