I mentioned last time that Resident Evil 4 is a masterpiece, and it's for a number of reasons: it's incredibly well-paced, there's a lot of variety in the gameplay, it's surprisingly long, and it rehabilitated the Resident Evil series in a lot of completely necessary but also entirely unexpected ways. Before RE4, you had a lot of games in the series that could be called good Resident Evil games but weren't especially good games. It's like there was a list of ingredients that had to be included or it wouldn't be a Resident Evil game, and many of these ingredients were holding the games back for everyone except fans.
In the interest of full disclosure, I include myself in that group of devoted fans. I still played them, and I still enjoyed them, going so far as to run the entire series I owned at the time in chronological sequence:
Resident Evil Zero -> Resident Evil -> Resident Evil 3 (first half) -> Resident Evil 2 -> Resident Evil 3 (second half) -> Resident Evil: Code Veronica -> Resident Evil 4
But Resident Evil 4 was a revelation. It wasn't really about scares anymore, though truthfully it hadn't been about the scares for a long time anyway. Now it was straight-up action. You still moved like a tank, but with the new over-the-shoulder perspective it felt quite a bit more natural. And the environments! The first ten minutes of RE4 show you in dramatic fashion how different it's going to be: you're stranded in the middle of a village, with houses and buildings all around, and a mob of crazed villagers attack you. You can climb in and out of windows, push bookcases to block doors (which then get smashed open), climb up onto the roofs and knock down the ladders the villagers set up to chase you... it's amazing, and it was entirely new for the series.
And then the guy with the chainsaw shows up. At that point in the game it feels like he takes an incredible amount of punishment, and his ability to gruesomely kill you in one hit is terrifying. But if you keep away from him and lead him on a merry chase throughout the village, eventually he'll fall. Then the church bell rings, the crazed villagers stop chasing you, and they all file into a single building. Then... silence.
It's amazing, and very different than the predictable jump scares, doorknob-collecting, typewriter ribbon-hoarding, and crate puzzles of previous games in the series. I will absolutely be buying it again when it comes out on PSN and Xbox Live later in the year. How much of a crazed fan of Resident Evil am I? Enough that I'll also be rebuying RE: Code Veronica when it comes out again... complete with predictable jump scares, doorknob-collecting, typewriter ribbon-hoarding, and crate puzzles. I guess not every game needs to be a masterpiece after all.