It has been two years since our Game of the Year 2005 was released and just a little less time since the PlayStation 2 version hit the shelves. So now, in 2007, is Resident Evil 4 still relevant? Is the game any better with the new control scheme? Is this just another poor port to make a few quick bucks (yes, I’m looking at you, Mr. Resident Evil 4 for the PC)?
Yes. Yes. And, hell no.
The premise for RE4 is simple; you’re Leon S Kennedy, a secret agent who has been sent on the seemingly simple mission of retrieving the kidnapped daughter of the American President. Sounds like the plot for a Michael Duddikoff (aka, The American Ninja) movie, doesn’t it? Fortunately, the game quickly harkens back to its biological terror roots as Leon finds himself in a rural part of Europe where the villagers act, well, like zombies – but aren’t, remember that.
The story won’t always surprise you but it will keep you on edge and may even force you to say “I’ll go to sleep in a few minutes” every couple of hours. RE4 is highly engaging thanks to its even pacing – huge action set-pieces spliced with eerie trails through the unknown; massive bosses and of course the odd puzzle thrown in for good measure. Were RE4’s formula a recipe it would produce an epic meal capable of pleasing the most picky of food critics.
Fortunately, this formula hasn’t gone off after two years; it’s still fresh and it is still tasty.
What makes the Wii version so special is its control scheme; these are the best any version of the game has seen, hands-down. Movement and turning are controlled using the Nunchuk's analog stick, and you can switch to aim-mode by using the remote's B button. No longer do we have to use analog sticks to get Leon to aim at our desired target; nowadays we have the Wii remote which acts as a virtual gun – we’re talking such excellent precision it'll make your mouse commit suicide. It's incredibly intuitive, and you’ll not want to use your standard controller on this game again. This is what Nintendo fans have been waiting for – the implementation of the Wii controller abilities in such a way which makes them feel a part of the game, as opposed to a tacked on feature (hello Ubisoft, how are you today?).
Shooting and walking aren’t the only things affected by the new control scheme; other changes include the way you use your knife and what you do during the context-sensitive cutscenes, which seem to be standard in almost every game these days. Shake your Wii remote and bam! Well, slash! Your knife will pop out and Leon will start swiping at peeps like a villain with a switchblade in a 60’s movie. Previously, during the cutscenes, buttons would need to be pressed for the scene to follow through to conclusion; now, buttons have been for the most part replaced by Wii controller motions. It’s all very immersive stuff; it helps further your investment in the game and the desire to keep playing.
Sound is largely the same, which isn’t a bad thing as RE4’s sound has always been eerie and phenomenal. The music is always right on cue and never gets tiresome to listen to. Thanks to the built-in speaker in the Wii remote you’ll now hear the swish of your knife as you slice through an enemy, and likewise the sounds of your gun being reloaded. Unlike with Twilight Princess the sounds aren’t distracting - they're actually very much welcome.
The graphics show no signs of age, which is sad, that is, for the 360 and PS3, as two years after its release Resident Evil 4 still looks better than some next-generation titles. Ouch.
Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition probably won’t have the same impact on gamers as the original did on the Gamecube in 2004 (2005 in New Zealand) but that doesn’t make it any less of a game. If you’ve never experienced the terror of Resident Evil 4 then there’s no better version than this. If you beat the game before you’ll still want to come back to see how the game was meant to be played. Resident Evil 4 is a definitive gaming experience, and no collection should be without it.