Resident Evil has one of the most long-standing and well received lineages of any gaming series. Spanning most formats with a dozen different games over the past dozen years, itís a series that has always been held in the highest regard by most gaming aficionados. Prior to the release of Resident Evil 4 on the Gamecube in 2004, most people had their different idea of which episode in the series was the best. Once number 4 was released however, most people agreed that the latest version was the seriesí zenith and more than that, the highpoint of an entire gaming generation for many. Even 3 years after its initial release on the Cube and subsequent release on the PS2, many people still play the game on a regular basis and its longevity for an action game is testament to its high quality.
It's incredible to find that Capcom has made this Wii version even more essential than its previous releases. The sheer qulaity of this game shines through at every available opportunity. It's a game that can be played again and again while constantly feeling fresh and exciting.
Resident Evil 4 heralds the return of Leon Kennedy: one of the lead characters from Resident Evil 2. The former STARS member has been assigned to protect the Presidentís daughter, Ashley Graham, who rather unfortunately, though necessarily for the game, has been kidnapped. We begin with Leon on her trail in rural Spain and itís his job to rescue Ashley, and facilitate her escape.
Along the way, Resident Evil veterans will be pleased to see that a few old faces make welcome returns along with several more minor nods to the seriesí heritage. But this is a new Resident Evil for the 21st century and the seriesí previous climax building horror has been replaced by action packed panic. Prior games relied on building suspense followed by jump-inducing moments. Resident Evil 4 relies far more on overwhelming the player with sheer numbers and getting the heart racing with its claustrophobic attacks. There are very few occasions when you are subjected to surprise assaults but anyone who has heard the sound of a chainsaw fast approaching from behind knows that scares are not off the menu completely.
The most obvious difference between this and other Resident Evil games is the viewpoint. Previous games relied on an overhead view whereas Resident 4 has an over the shoulder camera perspective. This combined with using the Wiimote gives the game an almost FPS feel at times and engenders a greater sense of immersion. It is very occasionally frustrating when you get jumped from behind as it is difficult to see approaching enemies from the rear. Thankfully these moments are rare while the quick turn and the automatic knife function provide adequate cover for just such an occasion.
The game itself is split-up into three main areas: the village, the castle and the island. It is further segmented by using chapters to tell the story. There are also the ubiquitous cut scenes, although fans of the series may be happy or possibly unhappy to hear that the voice acting seems to have improved from previous incarnations. At various points in the game, Leon and Ashley are reunited and parted; the mysterious Luis Sera comes and goes; the evil Lord Sadler makes threats and his protťgť Salazar and their respective minions hinder your progress along the way. The game is also punctuated throughout by a series of intense set-pieces. There are many of note but special mention must go to the first chainsaw encounter in the village, the cabin shootout and the sniping sections to protect Ashley. There are also many spectacular and satisfying boss battles and fans will be pleased to know that Capcom have retained their ability to create grotesque and unique creatures to fight.
Thankfully, Capcom have also seen fit to update many of the series' idiosyncratic ideals. There is now very little backtracking to be done. Areas are revisited occasionally, but this is mainly for facilitating entry to another new location. Items no longer have to be kept in chests, thanks to the introduction of the Merchant, who appears at regular intervals throughout the game to sell you more advanced weaponry, increase the potency of existing weaponry or give you the ability to carry more goodies. He also sells maps of treasure locations which you can then find and sell to him to increase your funds. As with all the best adventure games, the desire to see what is round the next corner drives the player forward relentlessly and the game continually surprises, enthralls and delights.
The first major change of note to Wii players is the new control scheme: the red laser sight of the original version has been replaced with an aiming reticule which now glows red when an enemy is in your sights. You aim with the remote and move Leon using the nunchuck. It feels slightly unwieldy for the first five minutes but after that, many players will wonder how they could go back to the old control scheme. Precise aiming is now simplistic; exploding head shots are a frequent and viscerally satisfying regularity; villagers can be brought down much more easily with kneecap and ankle shots and bossí weak points are just that little bit easier to target and wreak damage upon.
Thankfully, this does not mean that the game has been reduced to a simple light gun type affair. If anything, the game feels slightly more difficult than its predecessor. There are more enemies than before, who appear to move just that split second faster, and ammo is now at a relative premium. The precise targeting of the Wiimote means you have to be equally precise with your shots, otherwise you may find yourself swinging you knife around for protection just that little bit too often.
Knifing enemies has also been given a slight facelift. Equipping the knife now means swinging the Wiimote to slash at your enemies. If you are panicked into a corner between reloading, you can also swing the Wiimote without equipping the knife for an automatic attack. Itís not as powerful as manually equipping but is still incredibly useful when surrounded unexpectedly.
There is also the usual bonus content to unlock, but unlike some of the games in the series, this means more than new costumes and different weapons. Without wanting to spoil the surprise, itís fair to say that the bonus content may well endure as long, if not longer than the main game.
Resident Evil 4 on the Wii has taken everything that was great about the Gamecube and PS2 versions and tweaked it just enough to enthrall even vetran players all over again. It looks the same on most TVís, it sounds the same and it plays almost the same. However, using the Wiimote makes it feel just that little bit more special and has made a three year old game fresh again. Although there was nothing wrong with the original control scheme, itís surprising how much more organic the Wii control feels. Itís no mean feat to create an amazing game in the first place, but to make it feel new again takes something truly special. Capcom has succeeded in making many peopleís game of the last generation, one of the games of the new generation. If you have never played Resident Evil 4, it is an essential purchase. If you have already played it to death, itís still an essential purchase to experience the new control scheme. Gaming perfection just became that little bit sweeter.