Upon its original release, Resident Evil 4 was the pinnacle of survival horror gaming. A little over 5 years old now, the Wii release has kept the same game intact, whilst introducing some new ideas, including having the game revolve entirely around the Wii Remote and nunchuk. But does a game half a decade old still hold its own on Nintendo’s latest, especially considering that we’ve already had the next game in the series already released on 360 and PS3?
If you haven’t played Resi 4 then you may not know what to expect. One of the reasons that game did so well critically and commercially is because of the new direction that Capcom decided to take the series in. Gone were the days of static environments and awkward controls. Resi 4 took the gameplay to a whole new level of intense, putting you almost in the shoes of our hero, Leon, in a third person-behind-the-head camera view. The gun could also now be aimed completely freely, doing away with the terrible auto-lock-on way of shooting. What’s more is that Resi 4 manages to create an air of terror from start to finish without even throwing you up against a single zombie…
Okay that’s not entirely true, whilst the enemies you face in this game aren’t technically zombies, they’re still freaking terrifying and are enough of a biohazard (Japanese game name pun!) to keep things scary the whole way through. There are a vastly diverse group of unique enemies, from the relatively normal human beings that you will need to take out, to the absolutely absurd monsters that will take up two-thirds of the screen during boss fights (some of which are amazing).
Anyway, I digress. From the word go, you play Leon (not Jean Reno, but a gamer can dream, can’t he?), a specialist member of the President’s special defence squad, who is tasked with rescuing the President’s daughter, Ashley, who has been kidnapped and taken deep into a remote area of South America. The story that follows isn’t exactly the best ever, but it’s certainly very interesting and leads you to some excellent locations and encounters with some impressive enemies, some of which will truly force you to change your underwear.
You’ll notice that when you first take control of Leon that the controls are a bit odd. Leon moves forward back, left and right with the control stick on the nunchuk. You can look around the area and aim your gun with the Wii remote by pointing it at the screen and hold down the B button. Only in this mode can Leon actually turn around with any sort of speed. Firing the gun is done during aiming with a simple press of the A button. So, from the word go, you will find that you will have to be holding the remote horizontally and pointing at the screen the entire time. This isn’t exactly terrible but it does take some getting used to.
Trudging through a bleak forest, you will come across an empty, broken-down shack. You enter. You come face to face with a very average looking gentleman…who turns around and tries to stab you with a pitchfork. And from here on out, the hunt begins. The game holds an absolutely relentless terrifying pace that never seems to let up, and from this early on in the game, you will find yourself running from the enemies, inventing hiding places and trying your absolute best to stay alive.
It’s not quite that simple though. The human enemies, Las Palagas (I won’t spoil what lies beneath their surface), are actually smart. It’s utterly petrifying how clever these characters are. A particular standout moment in the game for me was getting trapped in a two-story house with numerous windows. There was a ladder outside propped up against one of the top floor windows which I knocked over, assuming that the parasites would climb up and attack me from above. Haha, I was one step ahead. I locked myself inside the house. Enemies began pouring in through the windows, pitchforks in tow and staffs ablaze. I pushed large bookcases in front of the windows to stop them coming through. Silence, for a minute or two, I thought I’d beaten them. Before I knew it, they were attacking from the top of the stairs. They’d only propped the ladder back up and climbed through the windows on the floor above! Honestly, it’s completely insane how clever these bad guys are and how much they want to kill you. The real horror though came from the fact that they just kept coming, there seemed to be an endless horde of them. They only stopped when I ran out of bullets. Whether this is coded into the game or whether I was just horrendously lucky I do not know, but either way, the suspense built in this game is nothing short of mastery.
Whilst not all areas of the game are that level of intense, there is always the element of threat from one direction or another, always the air of uncertainty. This, for me, is the beauty of the genre. Half of the terror comes from what you think is going to happen rather than what is actually there.
Graphically, the game is unchanged from the Gamecube version. This isn’t exactly a bad thing, the game looked damn good for it’s time, but it’s starting to look a little bit dated in comparison to current titles.
The Wii version is definitely worth picking up if you’ve never played Resi 4 before, or even if you have and fancy playing it all through again, if only for the motion controls that add an extra twist to playing. Whereas on the Gamecube if you wanted to use your flick-knife, you would have physically go to the inventory and change your weapon before using it. Now, the knife is drawn with a quick shake of the remote. This allows you to seamlessly flick between long and short range weapons, and it works really very well. The Wii version also has extra Aida Wong missions that open up once you complete the game, something completely missing from the original. They’re not the best missions ever but considering the budget price of the game it’s certainly a very nice addition.
So, should you buy Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition? Yes. It’s a bloody good game, despite the graphics being a bit dated. It’s in the big leagues with the other more “mature” titles for the Wii, and there’s enough for people who have already played it through. It might not have the balls-out terror of Silent Hill or Dead Space, but the tension that builds throughout is absolutely crazy, and the combat is made extra brilliant with the new Wii-exclusive controls. Even with the advent of the next in the series, Resi 4 is still a stand out game in the genre and is ageing very well. If you’re playing for the first time you wouldn’t know that the original came out over 5 years ago.
Hi-Score – Fantastic mix of Survival Horror and Third Person action, great controls, nice extras.
Lo-Score – Story a little flaky, graphics slightly dated.
Final Score – 8 out of 10