Version tested iPhone
In a sense, you couldn't ask for a more faithful adaptation of a home console blockbuster to a mobile handset than Resident Evil 4: Mobile Edition for iPhone and iPod Touch. Here's a game that somehow packs a fair approximation of its daddy's graphics, control system, enemies, locations, perspective, playing style, systems and story into a mere 37MB. It's even got a Mercenaries mode. It's unmistakably, faithfully Resident Evil 4, and Resident Evil 4 is a titan among action games. How could that be a bad thing?
It depends what you mean by faithfulness. A game like Metal Gear Solid Touch ludicrously reduces MGS4 down to a simple duck-shoot - but it does so with all the style, finesse and sense of drama you expect from Kojima Productions. That's a different kind of faithfulness, and I'd argue a better one, than that displayed by this port - which presses a magnificent game into your hand regardless of whether it's a good idea in the first place, and without the one thing that made the original truly great: attention to detail.
Although Resident Evil 4 is known as the game that finally liberated the hidebound survival-horror series from its painful control shackles and made it playable again, it was still restrictive and nit-picking in its way. It eked it out its fair share of tension from the fact you have to stop moving to aim your gun, and an hour or two of running time from inventory-management, treasure-hunting and shopping for weapons. The reason it worked so brilliantly is the same as the reason its predecessors worked - every minute of play, every cautious, echoing step, every lurch from the shadows, every camera angle and panicked set-piece was crafted to perfection, and paced better than most Hollywood thrillers.
It's that element the Mobile Edition entirely lacks, and without it, you're left with a clumsy and irritating shooting game made slightly more clumsy and irritating by being put somewhere it's not supposed to be.
Resident Evil 4: Mobile Edition consists of 12 stages. interspersed with barely comprehensible bursts of telegraphed plot. Each stage is a recognisable and atmospherically drawn location from the original, but in microcosm: a tiny, open-plan chunk of real estate with nowhere to go, a snow-globe souvenir of real Resident Evil. A reduction in scale is fair enough, but it's the reductive design of these stages that really disappoints.
You could fully explore each one, including awkwardly and laboriously hacking at item boxes with your knife and shooting down glinting treasure items, in under a minute. So they're spun out with carelessly placed, frustratingly random and seemingly endless respawning waves of Ganados zombies who seem to be able to materialise anywhere around you. Conditions for progress vary; sometimes you need to find a key, defeat a boss or simply outlast the shuffling, hatchet-throwing menace until the game decides it's time to move on.
The lack of craft or indeed, much thought at all in the way the enemies attack you and direction from which they do so turns what ought to be a compact Resident Evil Lite into a formless and sometimes farcical melee. The best tactic is often to run around the stage in circles, brushing straight past flailing Ganados until you can find a relatively safe, spawn-free spot to shoot from. It doesn't feel anything like Resident Evil at all.