Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition Review

Resident Evil 4 is a title often considered to be one of the greatest games ever made; it was a game that moved away from many aspects that were established in prior entries in the series in order to bring something new to the table.  When the game was originally released back in 2005, the game was highly praised and Resident Evil 4 became not just a classic, but also one of the most ported games ever.  A few months after the game's original release on the GameCube, the game was ported over to the PlayStation 2, and that version featured new content not found in the original release; subsequent ports of the game would be released in later years for different systems including the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the PC, twice.  This version of Resident Evil 4, released in 2007, was my first introduction to the series, along with the divisive Resident Evil 6, but regardless of your own experience with the franchise, this version of the highly praised classic remains the definitive version of Resident Evil 4.

Set six years after the events of Resident Evil 2, the game follows Leon S. Kennedy, who was one of the two protagonists of that game.  Since those harrowing days in zombie infested Raccoon City, Leon has shifted from his days as a cop and survivor of an outbreak to the role of a government agent.  Leon's latest assignment has him finding the President's daughter, Ashley Gramm, who has been kidnapped and held hostage in a remote part of Spain.  When he spots a nearby house, Leon goes to check and see if anybody is there, and he finds a person inside tending to a fire, but when he asks the man about Ashley's whereabouts he doesn't respond; instead, he tries to apply an axe into Leon's head.  After shooting the man, things go south when Leon's vehicle is attacked and ran off the road by some of the locals.  Eventually, he makes his way to a town where the hostility increases after he gets spotted by the townsfolk, and after fighting off the attacking villagers, they mysteriously stop trying to kill him and head into a church, and all of this happens within the first thirty minutes of the game.

When it comes to story and pacing, the two aspects clash together, creating a rollercoaster ride of a game that finds Leon not only just saving Ashley, but also stopping bad guys with evil intentions.  It's an entertaining story filled with many memorable moments, set-pieces, and characters, both good and bad or somewhere in between, and the game's writing and dialogue are sure to make certain that you remember these characters, even if said dialogue can be laughably bad.  In certain ways, Resident Evil 4 reminds me of the movie Aliens, primarily for the contrast in tone between this game and older installments and also for the previously mentioned pacing.  Like Aliens, Resident Evil 4 puts less of an emphasis on creepy environments or scary bad guys, though those are still present in the game, and more of an emphasis on action, and just like that movie, the shift in tone works successfully.

In porting this game over to the Wii, developer/publisher Capcom has done a successful job at translating the controls found in the other versions over onto the system's remote and nunchuck combination.  The biggest strength these controls have over the other versions is the remote's pointer functionality, which makes aiming at enemies accurate and very satisfying.  There are motion controls, but they're used sparingly; although you can hold the C button and press A to use Leon's knife, it's much better to rapidly flick the remote to knife enemies.  Also, a majority of the game's quick time events involve waggling the Wii remote from side to side, but this never becomes annoying.

Resident Evil 4 shook up the formula established in prior entries in various way; namely in the perspective and how progression through the game is made.  Instead of having fixed camera angles, the game utilizes an over the shoulder, third person perspective, though you can't directly control the camera; instead, camera control is limited to left, right, and overhead turns via the d-pad.  As for game progression, Resident Evil 4 is a more linear and focused experience than the earlier games; there is some backtracking and light exploration for finding objects necessary to open locked doors, but otherwise, you're constantly moving ahead in the game, rarely revisiting any previously explored locations.

Besides shaking things up through camera perspectives and progression through the story, the game also shifts its focus from a mixture of combat and puzzle solving to putting more of an emphasis on combat and not as much on puzzle solving, which is still prevalent.  Yet, the game's puzzles are a weak aspect of the gameplay; most of them involve finding the right item to put into the correct spot where it belongs in and only a few of the puzzles are legit ones that need to be solve.

As for combat, it's very satisfying; for starters, the enemy selection is quite varied.  The roster of enemies includes standard enemies, or Ganados, that move slowly, but are more than capable of using weapons against Leon and primarily rely on their numbers to overwhelm him.  These foes are the most common enemy Leon faces, with the other bad guys varying in terms of size and attacks.  Sometimes there are Ganados armed with chainsaws or piloting minigun turrets, and they can soak up more damage than regular ones; other times there are human sized insect creatures that will grab Leon and try to spit acid onto him and there are also terrifying enemies called Regenerators that can only be killed by attacking their weak points which can only be seen with a thermal scope for the sniper rifle.  Each of the enemy types shifts Leon's tactics up and requires him to keep an eye out for certain weaknesses; for example, shooting Ganados in the head or knee opens them up to a melee attack.

Fortunately for Leon, there are a variety of weapons for him to acquire over the course of the game.  The weapon selection includes various types of handguns, shotguns, and sniper rifles, along with a submachine gun, a powerful magnum, and a few other weapons.  These weapons can be purchased from a mysterious merchant and Leon can also sell guns he doesn't need anymore, upgrade the ones he currently has, and sell treasures to the merchant which can be found hidden about in every level.  All of your guns, healing items, and ammo are held within an attach√© case that can also be upgraded to hold more items.

Each of the guns Leon can purchase and use feel satisfying, but you'll have to make sure not to run out of ammunition.  Although the game is more combat focused, conserving ammunition is still important in this game; while ammo can be found from enemies and from breaking open objects such as crates and vases, certain ammo types, like magnum or submachine gun ammo, are more hard to come by.  Ammo conservation is especially important in the game's boss fights, which are challenging but satisfying to fight.

At a certain point in the game, Leon rescues Ashley and he rescues her there will be times in which he needs to ensure that she stays alive and doesn't get killed by the enemies.  Fortunately, most of the tedium involved in such parts of a game is alleviated since she always sticks close to Leon and he can order her to wait or hide in certain spots while he takes care of any enemies ahead; although certain parts where Leon has to protect Ashley while she does something can be annoying.

Resident Evil 4 is a game that is hard to put down; it's a satisfying experience from beginning to end, and I'm only just scratching the surface of what this game offers.  After beating the game, new game plus is unlocked, which allows you to replay the game with all of the weapons you had from your first playthrough; alternate costumes are available for use as well and ultra-powerful weaponry is available to purchase from the merchant.  There are also additional modes unlocked for play, which are Separate Ways, Mercenaries Mode, and Assignment Ada.  Separate Ways, which was originally in the PlayStation 2 version, reveals more about the Umbrella Corporation's involvement in the story as well as the role of series character Ada Wong in the events to.  This is a fun side story that offers more Ganado shooting action.  Mercenaries Mode is a score attack mode in which you play as one of six characters, five of which must be unlocked before using, and you earn as many points as possible from killing various enemies before time runs out, and this mode is quite fun as well.  Unfortunately, the last mode, Assignment Ada, is the weakest of the three, it feels more like filler content, takes about an hour to beat, and doesn't warrant much replayability.

While this is a port of a game originally released in 2005, the Wii version's graphics still look really good, with solid character models and environments, some of which do give off an unsettling atmosphere to them, like the forest and abandoned labs filled with the creepy Regenerators.  Though at times the textures can look rough and the cutscenes in Separate Ways have a grainy look to them.  Voice acting is good, even if some of the performances and lines of dialogue do sound cheesy, but in a good way, and the music does a great job at sounding ambient, creepy, or intense, depending on the tone of the situation.

Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition is a great port of what was already a great game, with an entertaining story mode and various unlockables it's a game filled with tons of content and replayability.  For those who have yet to play this game, this is the version strongly recommended worth playing.

Final Score: 9/10

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