One of my favorite games of all time is, without question, Resident Evil 4. I own it on GameCube (Picked up day 1), PS2 (Used), Wii (New, heavily discounted), and now Xbox360 (Xbox Live Arcade, full price). You don’t buy something four times unless you really love it. Like every special edition of your favorite band’s best album, or this year’s release of Neon Genesis Evangelion, now with 5 seconds of previously-unseen footage.
Resident Evil 4 is a joy to play, mechanically. In very few games does pulling the trigger and seeing your shot hit come with such a strong sense of satisfaction. So much has been said of RE4, and every 10-100-A+ score is absolutely deserved.
There’s just this one thing.
No matter what year Resident Evil 4 comes out in, no matter what system it comes out on, that knife fight is the worst thing in any game that year.
This isn’t just a gripe about RE4, honestly. It’s a gripe about any game that does stuff like this. Dead Space has a sequence with Isaac defending the ship from asteroids, like some hokey Star Wars rip-off. Let’s reach back—way back—even. The speeder level in Battletoads.
What all those games have in common is that they’re generally well-loved, mechanically-sound games, each with an incredibly irritating section in the middle that’s completely different from the rest of the game.
After hours of over-the-shoulder gunplay, RE4 suddenly pits Leon against his former comrade, Krauser, in an epic knife battle. This would’ve been an awesome cutscene. One to go down in history as the coolest knife fight ever. Instead, the developer chose to turn it into a quick-timer event.
Here’s the thing. Quick-timer events aren’t bad by their very nature. The grand-pappy of QTE games, Shenmue, actually got it right. Instead of punishing you with an instant death followed by a load screen, a missed button-press in Shenmue resulted in an alternate cut-scene and possibly another fight. Annoying, but not world ending. Ryo Hazuki was pretty great at karate.
Resident Evil 4, though, uses QTEs and misses the point of them entirely. Resident Evil is supposed to be deadly; I get that. Making QTEs deadly, though, just results in lots of do-overs. I’m terrible at QTEs. Whatever button you put on the screen, I’m probably going to press the opposite one. It’s just a thing with me. So don’t punish me.
I’ve nearly broken controllers on four different consoles because of one game. And then they’ll release RE4 on another system and once again I’ll forget about the knife fight, have a great 10 hours of game, and then everything turns red as my vision fades…