While the majority of gamers have most likely already played Resident Evil 4 on either the Gamecube or Playstation 2, it doesn’t mean that the Wiimake of this classic should go un-played. The nerve-wracking tension of the gaming experience that is Resident Evil 4 is intensified by the immersive control scheme. The use of Wiimote and Nunchuk reinvigorate the game and make it a title worth playing a second, third or even a fourth time through.
For the one or two people who haven’t played Resident Evil 4, you play as Leon Kennedy, secret agent extraordinaire, who is charged with finding the president’s daughter. She has been…surprise, surprise…kidnapped by a mysterious Spanish cult-like organization. Leon travels far into the Spanish hill country to track down the kidnappers and save the president’s daughter. Upon arriving at the small farm town, Leon finds its residents to be less then inviting. Not much of the small town hospitality here. On a scale of undeadness, the townsfolk aren’t quite zombified, but not much is going on besides bloodlust with these people. After they take a look at you, they decide that you would look better with an axe in your head or a pitchfork in your eye. Thus, the adventure begins. The storyline is intense and leaves the perfect amount of ambiguity that makes gamers uneasy at every turn and plot twist. The Wii version of the game does include the “Separate Ways” addition of the PS2 version, but it fails to provide any new exclusive content. If you completed the game on the PS2 or Gamecube, you won’t have any surprises as far as the storyline goes on the Wii.
The environments are beautiful and truly foreboding. Leon travels through sepia drenched farmhouses, slimy caves, and gothic churches. While gorgeous, the surroundings have a dead feeling to them that compliments the inhabitants perfectly. Flies buzz around spoiled food in every farmhouse Leon enters. A sense of decay abounds from every corner. Crows fly ominously above your head throughout the game. Fire flickers naturally and provides shadow filled light for most rooms. This is a game best played with the lights off. Character models are rendered with great attention to detail. The game is limited by the stunted graphic firepower of the Wii, but honestly, this might be the best the Wii is going to look.
Make no mistake, this game isn’t easy. Within five minutes of starting the game, you are thrown into a relatively intense battle with hordes of the cultish Spaniards. The sparingly rationed ammunition exacerbates the difficulty of the game significantly. This isn’t a lock, load and go shooter. Gamers will have to think about their ammunition supply constantly and might be wise to go around some of the undead townsfolk instead of blasting through them. Boss battles are epic. The first boss drags you along a lake on a little dinghy while you try to launch harpoons into its massive body, and the boss’s just get bigger and more menacing from there. The Wiimote and nunchuk flow beautifully into the game. The precision aiming that the Wiimote affords does make the game slightly easier then previous incarnations, but this game is far from being a walk in the park.
Gamers now have full control of where they aim and character movement is achieved by the control stick on the nunchuk. Enemies respond accurately to where you shoot them providing a deeper gameplay experience. For example, if there are several enemies bearing down on you, you can easily place a few choice shots at their kneecaps causing them to fall and buying you precious time. However, you need this time because unfortunately when you enter “shooting mode” you become paralyzed from the waist down. To some players, this will be a frustrating experience. Gamers will naturally want to run and gun, and in Resident Evil 4, this is just an impossibility. I found myself shooting, running backwards, turning around, and shooting again many times while playing the game. Luckily, enemies don’t come at you at a lightening pace, but coping with being paralyzed while you shoot does affect your strategy. The balance of the pacing between the being immobile when you shoot and the speed of approaching enemies almost seems deliberate.
My only other criticism of the game is that while the camera angles work most of the time, there are points where you are left walking in the dark. The camera remains upright while descending stairs, so you can’t see where you are running, but remember if you want to take a look, you have to go into aiming mode which freezes your movement. Another improvement on the control scheme is reloading now just requires a simple wag of the Wiimote while in aiming mode. This is more evidence that by simplifying gameplay, it actually becomes more immersive. Getting out your knife also just involves a flick of the wrist. Developers also incorporated some of the Wii’s motion sensitivity during in-game cut scenes. Gamers will have to furiously wag the Wiimote back and forth to avoid being hit by boulders and other various calamities.
Resident Evil 4 shines in the sound department. The score is sparse and understated but sets a perfect mood for the environments. Creeping through caves gamers will hear single drops of water echoing ominously off the walls. Hearing the grunts of the villagers as they draw closer to you is a panic inducing experience. Boss’s roar guttural screams that emphasize how small you are in comparison. Weapons sound accurate on every level. The Wii version did manage to add to the already stunning depth of the audio in little ways. You will now hear your knife whisking through the air from the speaker of your Wiimote, as well as, the sounds of your weapon reloading. This small change does add to the overall immersion of the gameplay experience.
While you may have played and loved Resident Evil 4 already, the port of the game to the Wii proves one thing above all others. Great games don’t die. Gamers most likely won’t be as blown away as they were when the title was introduced on the Gamecube, but the new additions make an already great game even better. The precision aiming of Wiimote breathes enough life into the game to make gamers remember why they loved playing the first version, and give them a few more reasons to love playing the game’s latest incarnation.