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Resident Evil 4


Now With Extra Spicy Shot of Wii! Makes a BIG Difference.
Non-bloodcurdling survival horror doesn't impress me. Neither does the entirety of the shooter genre. You'd think that with those two biases, a subsequent review for Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition would be nothing but a critical massacre. So why does Capcom's platform-crossing, icon-establishing blitzkrieg through exploitative zombie thrashing rank in the upper tier of my favorite games? Other than the generic comment of "solid gameplay" that universally leaks into such reviews, I honestly cannot explain why. But what I can tell you is this: Though I loved RE4 with both Wavebird and Logitech in hand across platforms, nothing beats the amount of control you ensnare with the Wii-mote. This might sound cliché, but quite simply the new controls just make you feel like you're in it with gun in hand.


Plot:

Enter Leon S. Kennedy, an ex-Raccoon City cop dispatched on a special government mission to grassroots Europe. Packed with a pistol and a grim as hell demeanor, he's on the hunt for the U.S. President's daughter, Ashley, supposedly kidnapped in a royally dilapidated area ransacked by a severely peculiar virus that, no doubt, has something to do with the Umbrella Corporation. The buildings aren't the only things dilapidated around these parts, either. Brazened with glowing scarlet retina, tattered flesh wiggling off the bones, and a voracious appetite for just about anything with legs, every single citizen of this ramshackle excuse for a European getaway are nothing short of an infested nightmare.

Biologically speaking, these nasty buggers (quaintly named Los Ganados) truly are an infestation. Within this squirmy plague weaving through their innards, a high-powered order named Los Illuminados controls every motive and thought cycling through their dusty brains. To say the least, as he attempts to gracefully jet through this mud puddle squirming with zombies, Leon won't be relying on finesse and persuasion to get passed these guys. Well, depending on your definition, he might muster up a little finesse. However, this search for the president's daughter seems firmly adhered within the actions of one man's presence that the Los Ganados persistently whisper with their dying breath – Lord Saddler. In case you couldn't tell, the process of extracting Ashley from the pits of Ganados Land might just involve taking down everyone and everything in your path.

Though it sounds a bit simple in build, don't let that leave you scratching your head as to why it's a winning narrative. An uncomplicated plot structure like this one in Resident Evil 4 grants us the receptiveness for multiple contingencies that blister, blast, and blow up along the core story's simple tracks. The only time that we have to process something resembling substantial brainpower is once we discover the random clues near the "safe house" typewriters used as save points. We sort out character interaction between the scattered human characters – namely between Leon and Ashley, as well as with a Spanish researcher named Luis and a mysterious woman in red. And, in general, RE4's voicework balances on the edge of believability much more than not. Every once in a while the forced delivery reminds you that you are playing a game instead of watching a movie. However, getting that lost in this explosive little creep-out is a very high compliment.

The only place Resident Evil 4 loses me a bit is within this sharp game's lack of scares, jumps, and overall fear. With firearms in hand, turning around every corner is a tactical obstacle, not something to get the heebie-jeebies about. As a rabid purveyor of Konami's Silent Hill series as well as the likes of the Fatal Frame series, my insight is that much of the inability for fear in Resident Evil 4's narrative lies in the strength of the main character. Along with that, if the game isn't wholly epic in nature, then the sights and sounds can be a bit underwhelming. You start out strong with Leon and continue to build your strength as time goes on. As you progress, the creatures do get a shade more difficult. But, as such, Resident Evil 4 keeps you much more desensitized and focused on the game's tactically adventurous aspects. It's not necessarily a "bad" thing, but a noticeable shame for those guys and gals in search of something to give them the shakes.

With that little discrepancy in mind, scenario after scenario fleshes out across Resident Evil 4's weaving bravado with gruesome, stylish grace. And, to top it all off, this usurping, dirty little gem is remarkably fun to trample through. If you haven't played any incarnation of this fast-paced, atmospheric explosion of action-packed horror, then this will probably be one of the best gaming purchases you'll make all year. Trust me, this is a glorious gem you really should whirl through.


Gamecube vs. PS 2 vs. Wii

Let's get to brass tax here. Odds are if you've been involved in the gaming world over the past 2 or so years, you've likely picked up a copy of Resident Evil 4 on one platform or another. The eternal debate between superiority with the Gamecube and Playstation 2 versions normally surfaces from the swirling dust as a victory for Nintendo's original incarnation. Though, quite attractively, the Playstation 2 offered up a few exclusives like true widescreen support and a wealth of extra material not included on the original release. Nintendo fires back with a more fluid graphical presentation and a noticeably more comfortable control scheme.

For $30, however, Capcom has made it wholly worthwhile to scrape both editions clean from your collection in replacement for this Wii edition. Capcom and its development team have packed in everything from both the Gamecube and Playstation 2 copies (save the weaker graphical presentation of the latter) into this new Wii-make. Separate Ways and Assignment Ada, two narrative-specific extra features, alongside several other features (discussed later on) find their welcomed way gracefully into this edition.

This graphical translation is exactly what the money ordered: the Gamecube's panache with detail, lighting, and coloration splayed in full glory across a 16x9 television. Beforehand, you held the opportunity to potentially "zoom" in on the letterboxed image with susceptible television sets, but it still blurred up a bit more than I'd like. This Wii edition of Resident Evil 4, once compared with some of the video footage from next-gen survival horror games like Gears of War, Bioshock, and even Resident Evil 5's preliminary footage, gets to showing a bit of pixilation and rough edges associated with the age of the game. However, RE4 hasn't ever looked this good.


Gameplay:

So, how does our little white remote control gun work against those obnoxious zombies? Unbelievably well. In fact, a little too well. Here’s why:

Part of the panache and difficulty across each platform's presentation of RE4 is the painstaking process with aiming, firing, and button mashing. Timing yourself perfectly with each press of the button and each rotation of the analog stick is a pain in the rump – a wholly gratifying, enjoyable as all get out pain in the rump.

With the Wii-mote, everything except analog movement has been pretty much scraped out the window. In steps the finesse of a grandiose aiming schematic. It's simple: click and hold your trigger button, move your pointer to and fro across enemies, then give the A button a tap and fire your poison of choice at the bodies of thine enemy. With Nunchuk sitting in your other sweaty palm, your actual movement is dictated by the thumbstick. To run, you give the Z button a push while angling. Now, when you aim the Wii-mote at the screen, you've got this wondrous little crosshair that, cough cough, turns from a glowing green to a vibrant red any time an enemy is in the line of your immediate proximity fire. To reload, all you do is give a backwards flick of the wrist and bam, you're ready to go with a freshly stocked firearm.

Plain and simple, Resident Evil 4's new Wii-mote schematics make this horror survival romp through zombie-infested conflagration much easier, yet at the same time much more immersive and flat-out remarkable.

Pinpointing the exact focus of shots with the Wii-mote is ridiculously easy compared to the infrared scope scaling across the shooting visuals. One of the many joys implanted within RE4's gameplay is the infamous zombie kneecap plunking, followed directly by aggressive takedown of a head (or two, if you’re "lucky"). Conducting this little exercise is exceedingly rewarding and, instead of just purely being a necessity for speed and ammunition sake as in the other incarnations, borderlines even more on gratuitous, satisfying addiction. Headshots, in all their explosive glory, are a joke to execute as well. However, make certain to keep your enemies in front of you, because making a 180 degree turn to use anything but a knife in close proximity is next to futile. Trust in this fact, however: using a knife is a lot easier and a lot more fun to use in combat than in the controller-based versions. Whip the sharp little tool out with the C button, swing the Wii-mote, and you're hacking away with ease. Need not worry – if you get in a spot of trouble, you can just give a flick of the wrist and the knife will slide out on its own. In short, this finely tuned usage of the newly finagled Wii controls feels natural, easy to grasp, and very freakin' enjoyable.

Once you reach the navigational screen, however, just about everything is operated using the thumbstick and the buttons on the Wii-mote much like a stationary controller. Pressing the plus and minus buttons on the inventory screen toggles whether the highlighted item is picked up or ready to be tossed away. To switch amongst all your options, you click and zip along with the thumbstick. It actually feels much more streamlined and quicker to access, which can come in quite handy when in a tight pinch. There's not a lot altered through here, so it just takes some time to grow acclimated to the alignment of each button to its function.

Progressing through the game means upgrades and side tasks. Of course, there's an all-powerful merchant along the way that, somehow, gets a hold of high class weaponry for sale. You, on the other hand, hound up as much money and treasure as you can muster through enemy defeat and secret discoveries. Bear this in mind: as simple as the aim-and-fire mechanic has become, the difficulty plummets further with weapon upgrades. Since we're discussing the merchant and the aiming scheme, one of the favorite side tasks to tackle along the way is the shooting gallery. My first time through with a handheld static controller, this target practice frustrated me past the point of getting more than one or two bottle caps. However, first round through across the subsequent galleries, the targets almost begged for me to shoot them.

Worried about that trip backwards to nostalgia with the Wavebird controls? Worry not. RE4 is fully equipped to be used with either the Wii-mote OR with your Gamecube controllers. If you're a hardcore fan, then there's nothing I can tell you that'll make you want to unload your metal-cased collector's tins or steelbooks. However, if you've got a Wii, then it's easy to declare this one the stand out premium presentation of Resident Evil 4 both with its newly modeled Wii-mote controls and the option for the standard analog schematic.

In the end, whether you prefer the tougher handheld-based controls or the grandiloquent boldness of the Wii-mote, gameplay in this Wii edition is optimized for all parties.


Video and Audio Quality:

As mentioned above, this Wii presentation of Resident Evil 4 comes equipped with true widescreen support so that you can enjoy the cinematic quality across a 16x9 television. Now, this thing was a graphical powerhouse a few years ago. Plain and simple, the Gamecube engine's version hinges on an impeccable panache with lighting, textures, and supreme utilization of a grimy color palette. Seeing as how this version is practically an exact replication of the prior version, all those strengths (and scant weaknesses) remain intact. In short, even by today's standards, Resident Evil 4's dark artistic design is a sharp and gritty tour de force not so much for the detail and flawlessness of the presentation, but for impeccable artistic gravitas.

Granted, when glancing at RE4 after seeing some of the other wonders spilling onto the screen within the HD gaming world, Resident Evil 4 has lost a little bit of its richness. But boy, is it only a small bit. Each cutscene running off of the Wii's graphics card holds very true in quality. Does it look any better or worse than the other two incarnations? Well, it might have a few more jagged lines here and there, causing a bit more shimmering than previous editions. However, the enhanced Gamecube light mechanics and rich color scheme spread full-on across the screen is vastly more pleasing than said miniscule deterrent. In a few words, RE4's astounding design hammers home a shadowy, filthy, and delightfully decadent aura.

Harder to discern any clear "winner" is within the sound design. Presented in a strongly familiar Dolby Digital Pro Logic presentation, I don't believe there's much of any difference within the aural onslaught. This is perfectly alright, considering the fact that the original sound design is rather superb. In direct comparison with the Playstation 2 version, however, vocal replication is much stronger and enveloping through the Wii's processor. Though it's pouring through a high-frequency bitstream through the PS2's optical option, it seems like some of the panache got washed over in this respect through that port (especially noticeable with our merchant's voice). Through the Wii's surround settings with ProLogic II, however, this fantastic sound design comes crashing and crackling through with dynamic precision. Though the range of lower frequency explosions and such isn't terribly expansive, the replicated firing effects from Leon's weaponry sound phenomenal in the higher-pitched canopies.


After The Game:

Here's where true fans of the Wii and Resident Evil 4 will start to really get engrossed into the ongoing playability. Once you've finished, several items become available for purchase at the merchant. Granted, throughout subsequent rounds this enhanced weaponry will make the game even easier. Does it make it more fun? That'll all depend on what you find "fun" about blazing through an enjoyable scenario.

A few side games also open up for play, including a wonderful extra included on the PS2 version entitled Separate Ways, featuring sultry woman-in-red Ada. Equipped with a different feel and finesse, you get the same span of control from Leon but with a slightly different presentation through her side missions. Other small goodies are able to be unlocked once you barrel through this first round.

And, most importantly, once you've hammered through the game once, a PROFESSIONAL difficulty level comes barreling out of the gate. This higher difficulty level is where the Wii edition is at. Once you've slammed through once, the heightened difficulty makes the immersive experience much more difficult and frustrating … actually, more of a replica of the handheld's frustrations.

Blitzing through the land of Los Ganados and receiving some rewarding little tidbits makes this ramshackle undead shooting spree worth the trip countless times over.

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Final Thoughts:

Want me to say it? Alright, you've twisted my arm.

Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition is the paramount version of the game to get, bar none. Priced at $30 – possibly lower within the future – the graphical tweaks and the completeness of this package make it the ideal gaming pinnacle for this fantastic game for a few year's passed. And, to say the least, you'll have a blast busting through this zombie infection with your Wii-mote firmly in hand. Considering price, availability to resale previous versions, and the extras inclusions, this phenomenal package very easily earns VGTalk's Collector Series moniker.