Resident Evil 4 is the greatest video game of all time. It’s hard to say any game is the greatest game of all time without it sounding like bombastic rhetoric, but Resident Evil 4 simply is. And you know it is. You’ve played it so many times. No, I don’t mean it’s many re-releases and ports. I mean you’ve played Resident Evil 4 in Batman: Arkham Knight. You’ve played it in Gears of War. Still unsure? Have you ever played the masterpiece Bioshock? Okay, then you’ve played Resident Evil 4. Allow me to explain.
The stage: Resident Evil 4 was originally released on January 11, 2005. Lifelong Resident Evil fans were marred by the franchise’s recent releases like Resident Evil 3 and Code: Veronica while Capcom released new exclusive entries on the lackluster Nintendo Gamecube. Better yet, the closest anyone ever really got to a true Hollywood action-type of video game were through cutscenes in Metal Gear Solid or the set pieces in Halo 2 (okay, let’s not talk poor of Halo 2). When you put that Resident Evil 4 disc in your console you said goodbye to the games of old and put them to bed. No more playing as your favorite characters. With this game you are that character.
Resident Evil 4 introduced an innovative behind-the-shoulder camera angle that you’ve seen in so many games. Here, for better and not worse, is the new third-person shooter. You’re not watching an enemy from the corner-angle of a basement cellar slowly creep up to you. You’re in amongst it all. You’re in the action, watching the recoil of every shot from your pump shotgun or the mad slash of a chainsaw-wielding Las Plagas victim. You’re not playing as a hot-muscle-bound-fantastic-haircut-perfect-quipping special agent. You are the hot-muscle-bound-fantastic-haircut special agent. Resident Evil 4 is.
That special agent is Leon S. Kennedy (don’t forget the S.). This time around our favorite RE protagonist is no longer a new cop caught in an outbreak. He’s a special agent out to save the daughter of the President of the United States, and that makes all the difference. You haven’t happened upon this immense danger – you’ve gone and sought it out. This dichotomy is the true star of Resident Evil 4. It’s all action and camp like any good B-movie, but the thrilling suspense of being chased by a mob of pitchfork-wielding villagers or the itch of isolation you feel as you stand along the castle walls is unlike any other I’ve known. How many games can balance a sardonic pensioner-child man belittling you in a pirate costume with the gut-wrenching feeling of having one last clip in that pistol you just know you should have upgraded, when the hooded man politely asks you “Whadaya buuyyyin?” but you decided to put a scope on your rifle instead? You know you can find pistol ammo in every second pot, man, c’mon. It’s silly, it’s camp, it’s macabre and it’s terror. Again, Resident Evil 4 simply is.
After Resident Evil 4 sold its many millions of copies and became a critical darling praised in the East and the West, it went on to inspire developers across the globe. Sure, you’ve got your Dead Spaces and the like, but that’s obvious. It’s present when you look at the story of The Last of Us and you imagine a wry smile from Ada Wong. It’s in the recent God of War’s shift to a third-person action game that makes you reminisce about the time you ran from a castle-tall giant moving statue. And it’s found in all the screams and cries about the terrible marketing campaign for the new Batman: Arkham game that makes you laugh about the time you blasted a rocket in that giant troll’s big ugly face. And he (she?) was ugly. These developers aren’t shy about the game’s influence either. How could you be?
Resident Evil 4 is the first time I ever actually became a fanboy of a single developer. Where, rather than the big corporation behind him, I worshipped Shinji Mikami. I replayed and replayed Vanquish. I fell in love with The Evil Within and pre-ordered the sequel. That’s the way it should be. Nowadays, I use Twitter to fall in replies of developers and artists of all kinds to thank them for giving me these raw emotions of joy and bliss, terror and wonder, melancholy and all its ilk. Do yourself a favour and play this title on Xbox One. Better yet, go replay any one of your favorite games and fill your heart with passion so you can write up an anniversary piece of your own. Anyways, I’m off to pre-order the remake of Resident Evil 3. The developers have nixed the fixed camera angles of that game for… a third-person action view. Well, I guess even they know that Resident Evil 4 is simply the greatest game of all time.