Recently, a brand spanking new copy of Resident Evil 4 for the Wii caught my eye. Reduced to clear and put in the shop window of a generic electronics shop in London’s laughable ‘electronics mile’, I couldn’t face the heart break over the thought of that particular copy of that gem of a game slowly yellowing and fading in the shop window, destined to be ignored by the people looking to buy new headphones or a replacement ipod nano charger.
So now I have two copies of Resident Evil 4. One for the PS2. One for the Wii. I should buy the Gamecube version to complete the shelf. Feeling slightly embarrassed in my hideous capitalist material ways with the realisation that there are people in this very world who struggle to have potable water or enough food to survive and here I am, Cunzy “two copies of Resident Evil 4” they call me now. I’d played the PS2 version to death but in order to ease my pig-dog conscience I decided to fire it up at least once and see how one of the best games of the last decade and in theory, therefore, of all time, translated to the Wii. Having loved the much maligned Dead Rising Chop Til You Drop, I thought it would be a simple case of revisiting an old friend, justifying my money’s worth and then shelving it on the shelf. NB: Resident Evil connoisseurs. As an aside I know that Resident Evil Outbreak File 2 and Resident Evil 5 aren’t pictured. I do have them it’s just they have to spend a time in play time purgatory before they end up on the shelf and I haven’t had much time with Outbreak 2 or with 5 online multiplayer. Dead Aim has no place here.
Three playing-long-into-the-night/early morning consecutive nights later it is like I’ve fallen in love all over again. I hadn’t forgotten it was a great game. I knew that all along but I did raise an eyebrow to see it still top many people’s end of last decade top 10 lists. Simply it is just such a good game and yes I am gushing like the street fire hydrant frolicking children scenes you see in so many American movies, that is to say, high into the air and then back into the faces of ghetto rats. Resident Evil 4 has so many good bits that even the bits you forget are better than more recent games’ highlights. The village is probably the bit that comes to my mind the most when I reminisced over RE4 but then there’s the thing in the lake, the LOTR trolls, the mumbling monks, the blind guy, the floating cage, the chainsaw guys, the statue, the Iron Maidens, so many bosses, the mines….. The beginning of every chapter blows the dust off the memories and I found myself thinking “Oh it’s this bit” dripping with anticipation when normally replays inspire “Oh it’s this bit” with teeth clenched and a temptation to see if a level select cheat exists.
Playing it again did annoy me because despite it being a Gamecube game, albeit a Gamecube game with the PlayStation 2 trimmings and Wii controls, it still trumps the vast majority of current generation shit. I know we labor the point here but with the progression of technology why aren’t we seeing a progression in the quality of games? Resident Evil 4 highlights this more so today than when it originally came out on a console, practically written off as “comatose DNR”. Okay so the actual story isn’t winning any awards, but the pacing, setting, structure, the weather, the sound!, the level design….. Each encounter with guanananananados (they are not zombies) can be played differently, a far cry from the grind of shooting the 424th alien in the face with over powered rifle number 6 in order to trigger the cutscene to reach the end of the next chapter. And even though it’s largely a game of getting enough distance between you and the goons and blasting away by the time you throw Ashely, bad guys who throw things, the whippy head people, chainsaw maniacs, blind brutes and shields into the mix every skirmish solicits a little release of satisfaction endorphins when the last not-a-zombie drops.
Playing it again also made me realise that Resident Evil 5 is actually quite better than I had previously thought. Playing RE5 through in co-op is a must, the fiddly item swapping of one-player mode firmly putting many people I know off. I did like Resident Evil 5 but I always assumed I liked it because it was a co-operative Resident Evil 4. I didn’t particular feel impressed by the setting nor did anything seem unique in 5 relative to 4 but it really struck me playing through 4 again that there are bits of 5 which I was almost pining for. I experienced some pangs of disappointment when something I expected didn’t happen because I was thinking of the wrong game. Don’t get me wrong, Resident Evil 5 does go a bit Indigo Prophecy in the second half, but playing RE5 and going back made me realise I don’t remember Resident Evil 4 being so dark and rainy and I certainly don’t remember Ashley being so vulnerable the whole time. On at least a half a dozen occasions I’ve accidentally greased her or she’s been stolen whilst I’ve been conserving ammo and knifing prone not-zombies, but I honestly can’t remember her being around that much at all. The mobs seem a lot smaller this time around, another effect of going back post RE5.
I also saw something new which genuinely surprised me in a scream-like-a-girl-way and in a more-games-should-do-that-way. It’s the bit before Del Lago, for those who know it, and it’s rare for me to think more of a game when it unfairly kills you.
So even though it is an old favourite, rediscovering Resident Evil 4 is an absolute pleasure and it has been quite a while since I’ve had a game on the brain so much as to want to run home and play it before tea time. The changes in the control system on the Wii have made the game significantly easier I think but by the same token it means that professional difficulty is much less grueling than it was. I know we all like to whinge about games on the internet but playing through RE4 again left me… what’s the word? Happy? Yes, happy. I’m just glad I was around to see the impact when it first came out and glad to have the chance to revisit it and still be surprised. As a self confessed Resident Evil fan, this was the one that converted those who were on the fence about the series and indeed survival horror as a genre. It also really demonstrated what can be done with a little bit of elbow grease and polish. Although it was a worthy successor, RE5 was never going to have that same impact and subsequent Resis will have to work really hard to accomplish the same kick start for a whole console, for a generation’s technology, the series and the genre.