We know, we know. This review is a little late. I was going to make up some long winded story about how I had the review written out before a bunch of the undead stole my hard drive and took me on a wild goose chase around Raccoon City before I could get it back. I didn't think you'd believe that story though so I'll just come clean: I've spent the past 4 months or so either sitting on the bog or cleaning my under garments.
Resident Evil 4 was a modern classic originating on the GameCube and then spurning a release on the PS2. I'm sure a lot of you reading this review will probably have played this game when it first came out but I am one of those that didn't pick it up first time around and so I'm reviewing Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition as a totally fresh and unique experience.
You play as Leon S. Kennedy who is a secret agent in charge of recovering the president's kidnapped daughter (yes, the plot is very American). Leon's search takes him to a clichéd, horror-film-esque European village providing the perfect backdrop for a horde of awful zombies and horrible things.
While I've built this up to be a pretty cliché setting for a “survival horror" type game, I want to genuinely highlight at this point that the game actually is creepy. It plays on your paranoia with a combination of sound effects, wind swirls, musical slurs and excellent lighting physics. It's not so dark that you can't see what's going on but it is dark enough to make you wonder what is around the corner. You will not want to just leg it through this game as it pays to take care with every move you make, as if you were Leon himself.
Aside from the main adventure also included in this game is a side story called “Separate Ways" in which you explore much of the same plot from the perspective of a spy named Ada Wong. This adds to the longevity of the game immensely and helps to fill in gaps from the story however unfortunately there is no additional content specific to the Wii version.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Resident Evil series, this iteration plays in pretty much the same way we've come to expect. You view the action from a third person perspective and when you arm your weapon the camera zooms in a little closer to allow you to pick apart the oncoming flock of nasties.
What makes the Wii version so fresh is the control scheme. As expected you move your character with the nunchuck's analogue stick, using the Z-button to run and the C-button to arm your knife. Striking your knife is controlled by the swinging of the Wii remote which works pretty much flawlessly every time. However it is the use of the aiming functionality of the Wii remote that provides the biggest change. By pressing the B-button you arm your weapon and thus are shown a targeting receptacle on the screen which can be moved by moving the Wii-remote. You then fire by pressing the A-button. While this system does take away some of the games difficulty that was invoked by the inaccuracy of using the joystick in the original version of the game the boss battles are no less intense and it's a trifle more rewarding to know you actually had to aim to get that head shot.
It's fair to say that audio usually gets overlooked when a game is reviewed but in horror games audio is usually one of the most compelling things. The sound of the guns is particularly amazing as you hear the bullet fire across the landscape and the shells bounce on the floor. The guns just seem to cut through the silence and return and eerie reverberation caused by the open plain in which Leon is placed. There is also sound added to the Wii Remote such as the “swoosh" of the knife adding to the 3D sound that the Wii can provide – although granted it does sound a little tinny at times.
While I'm told the graphics aren't a great enhancement on the GameCube version they are still nothing short of breathtaking – as I've already mentioned the lighting effects are phenomenal and all the characters are rendered gloriously. This game may be a few years old but graphically it's some of the best we've seen on the Wii so far – whether that tells its own tale about the hardware itself is a totally different debate.
As a newcomer to Resident Evil 4 I can safely say that this game has the freshness and polish of a brand new game. The controls are spectacular (to a degree where I'd say the game was made for them) and the graphics are engrossing. Tie in an incredible (if not somewhat clichéd) storyline and atmosphere you could slice with a knife and you have one of the games of the year on your hands. Seriously – clear your mind that you've completed this before and just play it all over again. You won't regret it.