Well, I completed the main story of Resident Evil 4, still leaving a fistful of side stories and mini-games to master - and of course I want to play the whole thing a second time with my upgraded weapons. My completion time was 16 hours and 40 minutes (which probably corresponds pretty closely to the amount of free time I've had over the past week or so). I was expecting to get a poor rating, but, hey: no ratings! Which, personally, I think is great. It would be a shame to have such an intricate, expansive world and then encourage players to rush through it.
The, uh, 'not zombies' are fantastic. A heady mixture of 28 Days Later, The Thing and Deliverance - but also very original in their realisation. An intelligent enemy, driven by hatred and manipulated by religion, evoking the unwashed masses of unfamiliar lands, fond of chainsaws and pitchforks, eerily degenerated, prone to obscene transformation... Wish I'd come up with something like that myself.
I particularly love the way RE4 continues the Ada/Leon relationship from Resident Evil 2 (a game I've raved about before). And I liked all the 'good guys', even Princess Useless (or Ashley as she's also known) - although the bad guys were a bit too cookie-cutter for my liking - especially compared to previous Resi outings. Special mention to the two minor male characters: Luis Sera the 'mysterious Spaniard' and Mike the semi-anonymous helicopter pilot.
Like Half Life 2, RE4 also demonstrates once again that there is no excuse for games that repeat themselves (Halo, anyone?). One moment you're barricaded in a besieged house with Luis, the next you're riding a runaway mine cart, or trying to convince a huge monster to stand over the trap door to a molten-iron furnace. You get the impression that if Capcom excluded anything from their brainstorming sessions, they must have been the really out-of-this-world ideas.
The aesthetic is gorgeous - or horrible, rather, but in a good way. Muted palettes, leafless trees, ruin and piled garbage abound. Brilliant use, in places, of dark scenes lit primarily by lightning. The laboratory right at the end (there's always a laboratory at the end in Resident Evil) was nicely grimy, rusted and littered, like a former torture chamber that has since gone downhill.
The game's themes are interesting to boot, like you get the impression the Japanese developers were trying to recreate the neo-con versus Islamic fundamentalist conflict, without realising that neo-cons are mostly fundamentalist Christians themselves. Leon's quip that, "Faith and money will lead you nowhere!" is brilliant, but utterly unlike anything you'd expect to be coming from a clean-cut US agent (although Leon is arguably not so clean cut after his stay in Raccoon City).
Right at the end, though, the sequence after the credits... A game containing, as this does, decapitations, impalements, exploding heads, grotesque mutation and so on - that's all well and good. But right at the end, when Leon re-establishes contact with Hunnigan and tells her she looks cute without her glasses... Absolutely unconscionable. But the game's certainly good enough to overlook it.