After playing Resident Evil 4 everything else begins to pale in comparison.
GTA's fiddly combat system seems all the more fractured, God of War's graphics aren't really as good as you thought they were and Snake Eater seems about as action-packed as a trip to the launderette.It has taken Capcom a faintly ridiculous nine years to ditch the old formula of fixed cameras, shuffling zombies and limited D-pad movement, but by God has it been worth the wait.
Forget survival horror - this is pure, uncompromising action the likes of which you've never played before. Every second of play feels polished to the point of perfection. It feels like a game that's been playtested for hours upon hours by thousands upon thousands of testers.
We can guarantee that, for however long it takes you to finish the thing, you won't be bored once. There are no lulls, no dull levels, no drops in pace - it's ferociously playable and implacably action-packed, from its eerie Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style opening to its frenzied, explosive climax. The best thing about it, though, is the combat. The camera hangs over Leon's shoulder and you can aim freely with the right analogue stick, which lets you target specific body parts.
And the enemies - primarily, the local villagers, the Ganados - react to this brilliantly. Pop one in the knees and he'll cripple over, letting you either kick his head in or fill it full of bullets. Shoot him in the shoulder and he'll recoil, shoot him in the hand and he'll drop his weapon - or just go straight for the face, resulting in the most cathartic headshot in a game ever; the ensuing gush of offal makes a lovely 'splash' sound and there's a real sense of impact. Whether you're using a pistol to pin down the enemy or a shotgun to send entire groups of them flying, it's flawlessly designed and always entertaining. You can't strafe or even move while you shoot but thanks to some impeccable design on Capcom's part, remarkably, it doesn't matter.
About five hours in, Ashley, the president's kidnapped daughter and the reason you're in Spain, joins Leon, which is when you bury your head in your knees and wail "Not a bloody protection mission! Not now!" But then you play on and realise that she's not the liability she could've been. It's not like San Andreas, where you have to keep running back and checking on the person you're looking after - Ashley ducks out of the way when Leon gets trigger happy.
More good news - the oblique riddles and puzzles of yore have been ditched completely. There are still puzzles in RE4, but they're all incredibly easy and don't interrupt the flow of the game, which they so easily could've done. Other familiar RE accoutrements (herbs and typewriters) are in there too. It still all feels like classic RE and won't alienate fans.
But the truth is, a lot of you will have already played this on Gamecube and you're wondering if it's worth buying on PS2, right? Well, we'd reckon so.
There are loads of PS2 exclusive extras to unlock, the most notable of which is Ada's new mission. There are also a couple of new weapons - a laser gun, which is powerful but lacking the blood-and-guts impact of a regular gun, and a chuffing fantastic crossbow for Ada that fires explosive darts. Separate Ways is five extra hours of play with new areas and it's a worthy addition to the game, though it's nowhere near as polished as the main event, which makes it slightly less than essential.
There are two new special costumes - a '30s gangster outfit for Leon and a suit of armour for Ashley - and a new movie viewer that lets you watch any of the game's cutscenes at your leisure. It's a good horde of stuff and makes the PS2 version the definitive version. Play the new bits in front of your Gamecube-owning mates and watch them seethe.
It looks just as good too. Some thought the ancient PS2 wouldn't be able to cope with the graphical lushness of the GC version, but it's actually almost exactly the same - if very, very marginally more 'washed out' in places - and easily the best-looking game on PS2. There's a real bleakness to it and the subdued colour palette and extreme realism give it a real filmic quality that entrenches you even deeper into the mood of it all. There are some lovely spot effects too - lashing rain, glowing lava and some of the best fire and explosions we've ever seen.
When you're running through a graveyard on a rainy night and you see the glow of your enemies' eyes up ahead in the gloom, it's really quite eerie and as accomplished visually as Silent Hill 2 and other similarly atmospheric gems. The textures might be a bit flatter and the lighting effects less rich, but you really would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between both versions. It's an amazing achievement.
Just after God of War came along and took the crown as the best action game on PS2, Resident Evil 4 crashes in and shows it who's boss. It's easily one of the best games of the year and an unquestionably essential purchase. There's absolutely nothing to dislike about it. It's not making any great leaps in the grand scheme of things as San Andreas did, but in many ways it's far better than anything Rockstar have ever done. Buy this. Buy this now.