Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition

Review of Resident Evil 4
Wii version

Resident Evil 4 was a big departure from the rest of the series. Although I’ve been a fan of the games right from the very first one, and played most from the main series, I enjoyed the fourth installment of the main series the most. While a lot of fans will disagree with me, I firmly believe that Resident Evil 4 was exactly what the series needed to make it interesting again.

Resident Evil 4 was first released on the GameCube and later ported to the PlayStation 2, PC and Wii. I’ve played the GameCube and the Wii versions, and of the two, I prefer the latter for the improved controls and added features.

One of the two main protagonists from Resident Evil 2, Leon S. Kennedy, returns for Resident Evil 4, a few years older and wiser, and with another daunting task in front of him. After the Racoon incident he was recruited into the US Government, where he was later assigned to a top-secret organization, working directly under the President. His purpose was to handle safety around the President and his family. Before he started his duty, however, the President’s daughter, Ashley Graham, was abducted by a strange cult and taken to Europe. The game begins when Leon arrives at a small village on the Spanish countryside to investigate sightings of Ashley in the area.

He quickly discovers that the locals are less than friendly with him, and instead of cooperating chooses to attack him on sight. After some investigation, Leon discovers that the villagers have been infected with a parasite known as Las Plagas (Spanish, meaning “The Plagues”). The parasites are used by a group called Los Illuminados (“The Enlightened Ones”) to control the locals.

This is where the game really picks up, as you try to find and rescue Ashley Graham as well as uncover the mystery surrounding Los Illuminados.

The gameplay is another aspect that is vastly different from the previous games of the series. While earlier installments were played with a fixed camera displaying your character on a pre-rendered background, this one is in fully rendered 3D, from a third-person perspective that changes to an over-the-shoulder perspective whenever a gun is aimed. This makes a huge change in the gameplay because earlier games were focused more on puzzle solving, ammo conservation and survival while Resident Evil 4 offers more gunplay, more ammunition and more health items than any before it.

While some argue that the departure from its earlier survival-horror style to the newer third-person shooter with a horror theme was a step back and a step down from what Resident Evil really is, I felt that it did nothing to the storytelling of the franchise at all. The slow control and the fixed camera always bugged me when I played the earlier games, especially when you consider that the conservation of ammunition was one of the key premises of survival, and your biggest enemy was the camera itself, since half the time you just heard your enemy but you could only see your character staring blankly into a room on the screen. That aspect added a lot of horror to the previous games, but also a lot of frustration. In Resident Evil 4, I can always see what Leon can see, and I shoot at what I want to shoot.

The controls are smooth, especially on the Wii, where you simply use the Nunchuck to move and look around when a gun is pointed, and the Wiimote to aim the gun, shoot, use the knife and much more. Shaking the Wiimote will allow you to use the knife instantly, which is perfect for awkward situations when the enemies gets too close. Shaking the Wiimote as well as pressing the A and B buttons are actions that are used frequently in some of the in-game movie sequences, where failure to comply to the commands on the screen will often result in death. It adds a lot of tension to the sequences, and there are few occurrences where one could simply sit back and enjoy the show. These command prompts will also appear during numerous boss fights, where they are used to either deal more damage or to avoid one-hit-kill attacks.

The absence of zombies is another obvious change. Instead of the slow, mindless drones of the previous games, Resident Evil 4 offers enemies that are generally more intelligent and more sentient than zombies, Los Ganados (“The herd” or “cattle”). Though they are less resilient than zombies, they are faster, they are able to dodge blows and bullets and they are able to use weapons. Since they are also in essence humans, albeit controlled by parasites, they are also able to work together to try to sneak around corners, attack the player from behind and form attack patterns, with Ganados equipped with throwing weapons in the back and Ganados equipped with melee weapons in the front.

Some more features are the new inventory system, with a grid pattern similar to games such as Diablo and the ability to buy and upgrade weapons from the Merchant featured in the game. The final, and one of the coolest new features, are the context-sensitive controls. The actions you are able to perform while playing the game will change depending on your surroundings. If you stand on the second floor of a building, with a ladder leading up to a window, you will be able to push down the ladder, disabling that entry path until the Ganados have raised the ladder again (which they will do, intelligent as they are). You are also able to jump out of windows, perform melee attacks and – as previously mentioned – dodge some attacks from bosses.

Graphics and sound:
Though the game is less focused on horror than previous titles, it isn’t completely without its scares. A lot of the weird, scary feelings comes from the music and the dark, gothic graphics. Though I often lack the sheer sense of fear I got from the previous games, there is a sense of panic in many scenes of the game, especially when fighting such enemies as the Regenerators and Iron Maidens.

The graphics are a couple of years behind compared to the new generation of games, since the engine was made for the GameCube and not the Wii. Though they are not exactly cutting-edge, they are in no way bad and some cleverly used lighting techniques helps in making up for some of the shortcomings.

I know it is lame to review a game such as Resident Evil 4 when Resident Evil 5 has just recently hit the shelves, but I might be back with that one at a later date. The demo for the latter was very impressive, and I just need to get enough cash to buy an Xbox 360 to play it. Resident Evil 4 still stands as one of the best titles on the Wii and the GameCube and deserves a replay every once in a while.

While some might disagree, I think that one of the most scary, weird and disgusting aspects of Resident Evil always have been that you are essentially fighting humans all along. Regular every-day people who didn’t do anything wrong but cross the path of the T-Virus are what makes up the bulk of enemies in most games. In Resident Evil 4 this is even worse, because you aren’t fighting people who are really dead, you are fighting living humans that are acting under someone else’s influence.

This is enhanced by the closing credits, where a series of pictures along with piano music chronicles the introduction of Las Plagas to the villagers and the effect it had on the population. In retrospective, the game’s story is really strong and anyone could feel bad for the people affected.