What did everyone think of The Walking Dead finale? It was a one scene episode for sure, but what a scene it was.

Anyway, with that done for a few months I’ve found I have an undead horde shaped hole in my life which I decided to fill with the HD release of Resident Evil 4 on Xbox live. I had some free time on my hands and stormed through it in a couple of days, but I think even if I hadn’t had that free time I probably would have cancelled anything else to have more time with it.

Simply put, in this writer’s humble opinion, Resident Evil 4 is the greatest video game of all time. I thought that when I first played it on release day in 2005 and I still think that now 11 years later.

I can already hear the sounds of people leaving or getting ready to argue with me, but let me make my case.

The story goes that Shinji Mikami, creator of the RE franchise and coiner of the term “survival horror”, wanted to shake up the general tone and gameplay of the series after RE: Nemesis and went for an action-oriented hack ‘n’ slash style which the team eventually decided strayed too far from the original formula. This went on to become Devil May Cry, which is a whole article in of itself.

Deciding to keep the more action-oriented approach but with a more grounded direction they eventually produced Resident Evil 4.

The story is simple: 6 years after escaping from Raccoon City, RE 2’s Leon Kennedy has become an agent for the US secret service and is sent on a mission to rescue the President’s daughter, Ashley, from Los Illumindos, a cult who want to take over the world using mind controlling parasites. It’s a simple A-B adventure set-up, but it does it well and manages to keep the pace up and all the major players have clearly defined roles: Leon is the All-American pretty boy hero, Ashley is the damsel in distress, cult leader Osmund Saddler manages to be both threatening and captivating in equal measure, and series regular femme fatale Ada Wong is doing her thing, playing both sides from the background. Lower tier bosses get bigger and badder in good progression, too. Like every good story the threat levels grow on a steady curve that makes the overall objective that much more satisfying when you reach it. The fight with the zombie army where you are aided by a fucking army helicopter is a definite highlight.

See, the overall plot line for the Resident Evil game universe is so twisty and turny  it rivals Metal Gear Solid for batshit crazy plot points, but RE 4 kind of got away from that to present it’s own beginning, middle and end. The overall arc was there, but in the background and almost unimportant. A player with no prior knowledge of Resident Evil could jump in and be able to follow everything, no problems.

Another aspect I liked was the B-movie presentation. Every RE game has a B-movie quality to it, but unintentionally. RE 4 has an awareness to it that gives the dodgy dialogue, voice acting and OTT nature of the action set-pieces a certain charm instead of being a barrier to enjoyment of the product. Going back to it after 5 and 6 it’s refreshing to see it not take itself seriously, because the rest of us surely don’t.

As for the gameplay I personally can’t think of another game in the 21st century that has been so influential to the industry as a whole. It pioneered and innovated the use of 3rd person over-the-shoulder perspective, which I think most 3rd person shooters still use now. It was also the first game that I can think to have context-senstive commands and special killer death moves. Seriously, when you shoot a zombie in the knee and the command “press X to suplex” comes up, you know you’re in for a good time.

It does make use of Shenmue-style button matching sequences in cutscenes which became somewhat of a bane of the industry for a few years, but it made them a core part of gameplay, not just popping up out of nowhere and most of them are intuitive enough that it’s reasonably easy to get through most of them first try.

So that’s my case for RE 4 being the G.O.A.T. of video games. What are your thoughts? Is it as influential as I think? Do I have bad taste games?

Take it easy, and I’ll see you next time.