I completed Resident Evil 4 HD today and, after the credits, was overcome with the weirdest feeling I ever had.
It's what I call "So now what?" syndrome, and it's pretty complex to articulate (at least, it has been in my experience). So, for the purposes of entertainment, and hopefully fostering understanding, here is my attempt at showing it!
The following is titled: "You win!"
I'd done it. I had beaten Saddler. I won.
Finally, my 17-hour nightmare was over. It was intense: from the heart-pounding village confrontation forcing me to seek refuge, only to be chased by a chainsaw-wielding crazy 'doctor', to the thinning resources towards the end of the game, culminating in the 'don't screw it up now' urgency of the final escape -- you could say the game reached me on a different level.
The plot had been a mixture of a 'Muricah' blockbuster and the Wicker Man, but I had -- Leon and I had -- come through it almost unscathed. Every close call, every almost botched quick time event, every adrenaline-pumping regenerator encounter. Leon's worst case scenario had been mine; I felt the struggle when there was no ammo, I was confounded by the idea of the merchant but didn't look the gift horse in the mouth, I was supposed to know what was coming but I still felt the fear at the uncertainty lurking behind every corner, like Verdugo stalking us through the sewers.
But we made it.
And now, sitting here, watching the silent main menu as the background rolls by, I feel like it couldn't have been better. I haven't been this immersed in a game in years. I had to be sharp to make it through: I had to be competent -- methodical, yet quick; I needed to know the controls, know my weapons, know the game in and out; but above all else, I had to play smart. Throughout it all, Leon and I had bonded; his corny jokes and impatient nature made cutscenes fun to watch in between journeys into the horror, where the harrowing fight to survive became a harsh reality.
The end of a grand journey truly is bittersweet.
I want more. I want to go back and feel the panic as I realise I'm on my last clip of Red9 ammo. I want to have to waste magnum ammo on lesser enemies just to get by. Because at the end of the day, those moments of blind desperation were bliss.
Having absolutely no control had never felt so good.
But it's over; any subsequent playthrough wouldn't reach the same peaks of terror and quick thinking as the definitive playthrough. I do want more, but I've already jumped the shark; my biggest lament is that I will never feel the unrivalled rush of clearing a room using only your wit, reflexes and a few bullets again.
The credits have rolled, it's over, and we're done.
I should be elated -- another completed game to add to my Gamerscore. Instead I feel hollow, sad in the knowledge it'll be years before any game gives me the same joy-through-anxiety. Indeed, even this game won't anymore; the blockers are off, and I know what I'm doing now. I'm lost, unable to start Separate Ways and tarnish the fright-filled magic of the main story in the same night.
I'm grieving for a game, and it feels terrible.