Resident Evil 4
(Capcom for PS2)
by Mike Delano
Like an unholy spawn from the Gamecube’s rotten womb, Resident Evil 4 destroyed everybody’s world upon its release in January 2005. Preliminary screenshots had every gamer’s interest piqued for what seemed like forever, but screenshots can lie, and there was certainly no faulting anyone for shrugging off the thought of anything remarkable springing forth from either the one-foot-in-the-grave Gamecube or the long-stagnant Resident Evil series.
But RE4 was remarkable. Jaw-dropping in scope, mood, and execution, it instantly took its place beside Metal Gear Solid, Halo, and the original Resident Evil as one of the definitive gaming experiences of all time.
Apparently, unleashing such a monster was about all Nintendo’s purple machine could take: It’s been in a creative coma since RE4‘s release, and even the upcoming Zelda might not have enough juice in its paddles to shock this sucker back to life.
Luckily, RE4 was too good to be confined to the Gamecube graveyard, and now it’s free to reach a much wider audience on the PS2. As a bonus, Capcom threw in a short bonus mission with Ada Wong, the game’s mysterious female gunslinger. Plus, since this is the PS2, you get annoying loading times the GC version was blissfully without, although they don’t slow down the action much. Really, the meat of the game is unchanged, and it does everything right. It recalls that thrill of the original when you were expecting a pretty cool game about a house infested with zombies, and it blew up into a big ol’ conspiracy adventure with enemies and locales a hell of a lot cooler than zombies and mansions.
RE4‘s “rescue the President’s kidnapped daughter from a bunch of crazy European villagers” initial storyline would’ve been sufficient with gameplay this good, but this time around, you’re stalking around, Magnum in hand, on a remote island during the finale, all of your highest hopes exceeded.
The series has always offered rewards to gamers who play through a second time, but this is the first time that, even knowing all of the surprises in advance, it’s actually fun to do. Collecting and powering up all of the weapons, taking down hordes of villagers and other monsters, and aiming that little red crosshair onto enemies’ foreheads just never gets old.
The series can still scare you too, and not just in the hellhound-smashing-through-the-window kind of way. Some of the action scenes here are so full-throttle that you become genuinely nervous, and you’ll probably cheer rather than gasp or throw the controller in frustration the first time you get decapitated by a chainsaw.
With this achievement beneath their belt, Capcom can feel free to crank out its 377th installment of the Mega Man series, and it would be hard to complain. In fact, with RE4, the company has done what it couldn’t with either its longest-running (Mega Man) or most successful series (Street Fighter), and that’s reinvent itself into something vital for this generation of gamers. Both of those series will continue, dutifully and satisfactorily, into the future, but the brilliance of RE4 makes them look like big, lumbering zombies with bright red crosshairs on them, just searching for the right spot.