Resident Evil 4 - Was it all downhill for the series from here?

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I've had a love/hate relationship with the Resident Evil series, and whilst I'm loathe to admit it; I wouldn't have it any other way.

Without getting too far into the history of the series, the original Resident Evil is best remembered for its hamfisted FMV sequences, which thankfully never reappeared through the various sequels and spinoffs which followed. Resident Evil 2 brought us out of the mansion, into the big smoke of Racoon City - and it was glorious!

By the time the Resident Evil 3 had shipped, Capcom were beginning to show signs of fatigue with the Resident Evil series. Working within the same timeframe of Racoon City across multiple entries was always going to be a problem for continuity; how many times could someone hit the RCPD precinct, and not run into Leon or Jill Valentine? That fatigue invariably culminated in the unannounced development of another sequel, a game which eventually became Devil May Cry.

Back in 2002 something unexpected happened. The eagerly anticipated Resident Evil 4, then under development for Sony's PlayStation 2 (as far back as 1999), was cancelled; then, not long after, it was re-announced as coming for a fledgling competitor in the form of the more capable Nintendo Gamecube.

I was stunned. And then it got cancelled, again.

As a fan of Resident Evil 2, and its sequel Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, cancellation disappointments aside I found myself excited for more adventures in Racoon City; however after fast forwarding to 2005, our adventures with Leon Kennedy took a decidedly new approach to survival horror. Leon had turned into an action hero, the zombies and Umbrella by and large were gone, and this was a new Resident Evil.

I recall reading the Eurogamer review at the time, which described it as a "relentlessly compelling title that feels so rich with atmosphere, breathless excitement and palpable tension" - I'm inclined to agree. This was the first Resident Evil game to feel more action packed from start to finish than anything else from its era; a change from the pregnant pauses of games gone by, instead upping the cinematic quotient to a resounding eleven by comparison. An evolution of sorts you might say, you'd only have to read reviews from other outlets at the time to see this was the popular opinion going around. By comparison, Resident Evil 5 did alright.

Whilst the action hero approach which might have worked wonders eight years ago, it wouldn't hold much sway in 2012. With so many outlets looking at Resident Evil 6 through a critical glass, and a significant number of them turning out either mixed or negative reviews its arguable that RE4 represented the highest point in the series.

I know a ton of you enjoyed the game, I'm holding off judgement until I play it for myself but as a point of reference I found RE5 a complete mess.

Does that mean we need another (d)evolution of the series to get it back on track? Do you agree that Resident Evil 4 the last great numbered game in the series?

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