The Wii’s first year on the market hasn’t exactly been spotless. Despite the glowing reports from mainstream media outlets who don’t know any better, and Nintendo’s own endless self-praise, there’s been a good deal of less-than-stellar material pumped out for the console. The worst of these budget games are “Wii-makes,” which is typically a euphemism for a half-baked PS2 port with motion controls unceremoniously tacked on. Ubisoft gained particular infamy for their practice of cheap-porting. Within the ocean of mediocre, a few gems do shine out, titles that had honest effort put into their Wii-ification. Trauma Center Second Opinion blazed the trail, but Capcom has arguably the best example of a successful Wii-make with their re-imagining of Resident Evil 4. In my opinion, this final version of their survival horror instant classic is the new benchmark by which all Wii ports should be measured.
It does help when you’re polishing gold in the first place; RE4 is one of the best games in recent memory, and I’m sure it lent more than a little inspiration to Gears of War. RE4 helped to revive not only its own series, but the survival horror genre, which had stagnated in recent years. You can go to any game website and hear bountiful accolades for this game, so I’ll spare you more fan gushing. Instead, I’ll try to convince you why this port is worth your money, and is the definitive version of RE4.
The main game remains unaltered, including the story. It works itself out nicely through the course of the game, but the basic gist is this. Leon S. Kennedy, hero of Resident Evil 2, has been dispatched to a secluded Spanish village where the U.S. President’s daughter has been taken captive. Leon soon discovers that there’s more to the village than a simple religious cult. The locals have been infected with a parasite on the scale of the T-virus, but they aren’t mindless zombies. They’re intelligent, cunning, fast and what’s worse, someone is pulling all the strings.
So if the game is just a port, what’s the big deal? Well, the biggest change to this version of the game is the controls. The original GameCube setup worked well enough, although it was a tad sluggish. The PS2 port handled about the same, but the PC bastardization was a nightmare—no native mouse support, which meant you were pretty much screwed unless you owned a USB controller. The Wii version’s controls are the best of all the ports, and they easily beat out even the old Cube scheme for which the game was designed.
The standard button controls are split between the remote and nunchuk, which feels less constraining. If you’ve played the older versions, it might take a minute or two to figure out where everything has been moved on the new setup, but the new controls are largely as comfortable if not more so than the old ones. The pause and map functions are a little awkward on the 1 and 2 buttons, but everything else feels just fine. It’s the aiming, however, that really makes the Wii setup rise head and shoulders above the older models.
The Wii remote really lets RE4 shine in the way it was supposed to. The laser-pointer aiming was a huge step for the series anyway, but the IR control makes it almost perfect. Instead of a flickering laser dot, a small crosshair is visible on screen at all times. When it’s not in use it is colored a light gray, but pressing the B trigger brings Leon into aiming mode and the crosshair glows neon green. When you have a target in your sights the crosshair goes red, which is accompanied by a nice little “bump” from the rumble. The combination of visual and haptic response makes lining up targets worlds easier than the old analog method.
There are a couple of changes that take some adjustment, as no control scheme is perfect. Turning, for example, is still done with the analog stick, even while aiming. When aiming, putting the crosshair at the edge of the screen does not turn Leon’s view, and this must be done with the stick (rifles, oddly enough, can only be aimed with the stick). I’m glad Capcom decided to forgo the clumsy “bounding box” mechanic that plagues Wii shooters, but their solution takes some getting used to. Rest assured, however, that it’ll become completely natural within a few minutes of play.
The motion controls don’t end with aiming, and are seamlessly integrated into other actions. Leon’s knife can now be used by swiping the remote back and forth quickly, and Leon will automatically aim at the nearest enemy or breakable object. The cool thing about the knife is that there’s a balance—the motion activated swipes are weak, so they’re better for quick, dirty situations. Using the knife the old way, by aiming it with the C button and slashing with A, yields stronger attacks. Motion sensing has been worked into reloading too. Aiming a gun and tapping the D-pad reloads as usual, but a quick flick of the remote works too and is more natural.
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