Genre: Survival Horror
Release Date: June 2007
Though I was not present to participate in the voting process a few years back, I wholeheartedly support the choice of Resident Evil 4 as WorthPlaying's Top Game of 2005. As much as I tried, I could never wrap my head around the earlier series entries, as the "tank" control scheme frustrated me to no end. But with a completely new approach to gameplay and presentation, I took a chance on Resident Evil 4 and was immediately rewarded with perhaps the most engrossing gaming experience in which I've ever participated. I picked it up on the Friday following its release and finished the 20+ hour game that Sunday. What a brilliant way to spend a weekend in January.
Looking for a brilliant way to spend a weekend this June? Consider Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition, an enhanced version of the modern classic. It would be easy to assume that it takes after the original GameCube release, but the Wii Edition most resembles the later PlayStation 2 port, which added true anamorphic widescreen support and the playable Separate Ways side-story. Naturally, its appearance on the Wii console means that the Wii Edition will take full advantage of the motion-sensing Wiimote and Nunchuk to overhaul the already-fantastic gameplay experience.
Resident Evil 4 puts gamers back into the shoes of Leon S. Kennedy, the fan-favorite co-protagonist of Resident Evil 2. However, unlike previous entries, RE4 doesn't pit players against hordes of zombies, and the Umbrella Corporation has been all but forgotten. Now an agent of the United States government, Kennedy is tasked with rescuing Ashley Graham, the President's daughter. I wouldn't blame anyone for thinking that sounds a little cookie-cutter in terms of plot design, but once you factor in a bizarre cult, mind-controlling parasites, and all the twists and turns of a lengthy adventure, Resident Evil 4 ends up being both cohesive and fairly interesting by the time things wrap up.
While it's true that the move away from zombies and familiar settings benefits the game (by making it more of a singular experience, despite it being a numbered entry), Resident Evil 4 really stands apart from its predecessors due to a complete change in gameplay, which in turn eliminates the need for those pesky "tank" controls. With an over-the-shoulder perspective and an increased emphasis on fast-paced firepower, RE4 changed the feel of the gameplay while keeping intact the suspense and atmosphere that have defined the series since its inception. In addition to the modified weapon-play, RE4 adds quick-action button commands, similar to those in God of War (though RE4 preceded that game by two months).
The GameCube controller and the Wiimote/Nunchuk combination share many similarly named buttons, but thankfully, the original control scheme has not been blindly transferred to Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition. I had a chance to play through the first mission of the game (Chapter 1-1) at the recent Capcom Gamers Day event, and while the adjustment to a motion-based control scheme requires a fair amount of patience, the end result should be an improved play experience. Executing a brutal headshot is as easy as holding down A, aiming the Wiimote at your television and firing with B, while character movement is still mapped to the analog stick. Brandishing your knife requires little more than a swing of the Wiimote, and holding down the Z button allows Leon to run.
Many of the action sequences that previously required button presses are now mapped to the motion-sensing capabilities of the Wiimote. Instead of mashing down on the A button to outrun a massive boulder barreling down the path, players need only wave the Wiimote from left to right. Wiimote movements have replaced many of the button commands during these action sequences; however, video footage shows that there will still be instances in which a simple button press is necessary (i.e., suplexing an enemy).
So what's the deal with the bonus content? Aside from the Wiimote/Nunchuk-specific motion controls, there's nothing here that hasn't already been included in a previous release. hose who only played the GameCube version will discover a fair amount of additional gameplay that made its way into the PlayStation 2 release. Wii Edition will include the Separate Ways side-story, which thrusts Ada Wong (previously seen in Resident Evil 2) into the spotlight as a playable character.
As players make their way through the five chapters of Separate Ways, they will also unlock Ada's Report, a five-part faux-documentary that delves into the back-story of the game. And while not confirmed at this point, it seems likely that the Wii Edition will include the new laser weapon and bonus costumes found in the PS2 and PC ports. Resident Evil 4 may be a two-year-old game at this point, and while the Wii Edition did not appear to be much different than the GameCube one, it should still be one of the more visually appealing games on the Wii. Compared to the pre-rendered environments of past entries, Resident Evil 4 might as well be a next-gen title.
The video game industry is packed with franchises that seem to play it safe and crank out similar sequels that merely change the characters or settings. Resident Evil 4 bucked the trend of its predecessors and delivered a sequel that handily outclassed its many (and much-beloved) previous entries. Ignore the 4 — Resident Evil 4 works exceptionally well as a standalone entry and does not require intimate knowledge of the previous offerings in the series. Gamers who have somehow avoided playing a previous iteration of the game should jump at this opportunity to play the definitive version of an absolute classic. And at an expected retail price of just $29.99, those who have already enjoyed it should definitely consider a second go-round.