Regardless of its graphics, it is the incredible gameplay that keeps RE4 timeless. The Wii port retains the masterful pacing, a sense of mounting dread and panic. Each crisis, each boss, becomes more intimidating than the last, and rarely is there a moment to slow down and take a breath. You kind of get the sense that you’re digging your own grave. The game has a wonderful way of making the odds of success look impossibly hopeless, but beating it is still achievable by an average-skilled gamer. It is this consistent feeling of imposed desperation that makes the game so damn scary.
RE4 has a different flavor of survival horror than the rest of its family. Older installments of the series were frightening because it was so difficult to fight back, by virtue of the clumsy controls and rudimentary aiming system. RE4 has none of the old sluggishness, arbitrarily limited number of saves or cheap monster closet scares. It’s a pure shot of adrenaline, the action sequences punctuated by a pounding sense of urgency. The few brief lulls in the fighting let the queasy horror pool in your guts, as you take stock of how hostile and hell-bent the whole environment is on killing you.
One of the biggest contributors to the mood is the sound design. The music isn’t exactly soundtrack worthy, but it wasn’t designed to be; its purpose is to saturate each area with a unique mood, and it does this perfectly. Heavy beats with a lot of subtle percussion let you know that the villagers are right behind you, and the music doesn’t stop until you escape or eliminate every last one of them. Simply put, until the music gives way to wind-streaked silence, you aren’t safe. Every boss has their own distinct piece, and even a few regular enemies merit their own tune. The intentionally off-key music for the regenerators is half of what makes them so profoundly disturbing.
Naturally the voice work has some of the old Resident Evil camp, but overall the acting is strong and distinguishes each character well (there are no masters of unlocking this time). The villagers all speak authentic Spanish with convincing accents, which is a nice touch and adds even more realism to the mysterious European locale. Sound effects are uncanny, from the many painful death sounds to the crisp report of an automatic pistol. Some of the enemy sound work was enough to make my skin crawl—again, those freaky regenerators.
After more than two years on the market, Resident Evil 4 is still the king of survival horror and one of the best action games out there. What few signs of aging it shows, it makes up for with its ingenious design and razor-sharp style. For the budget price of 30 bucks, this package is a steal and has more to offer than most other current-gen games. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise—RE4 Wii Edition is the definitive version of the game. If you’ve played it before, play it again, if only for the Wii controls. GameCube purists have some extra incentive as well. If you’re one of the few who still haven’t sampled this digital masterpiece, you owe it to yourself as a gamer.
Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition is an even better game than the original release. Any graphical wrinkles are outweighed by the smooth new Wii controls, which put other sloppy “Wii-makes” to shame. The near-perfect game is only enhanced by the Wii additions, and this alone makes it a worthy purchase. If you’re a GameCube owner who never got to experience the PS2 extras, a fan of the original game looking for nostalgia or if you’ve never played it, RE4 Wii is a must buy. At $30, it’s almost wrong to pass it up.
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