You might remember a game called Resident Evil 4. You might remember it because when it came out on the GameCube it was an instant action classic, reinvigorating the Resident Evil series and bringing it right up to date with a massive bang (and then a sort of slippery noise as an exploded head drenched the floor). Then, when it came out on the PlayStation 2 with extra content, it took one look at the law of diminishing returns and gave it a massive roundhouse kick to the head, to became even more of an action classic, full of moody camera-cuts, conspiracy-theory cultists, shambling, leprous villagers, and some of the most heart-stopping set-pieces and frantic firefights in videogame history.
You might remember, too, that one of Resident Evil 4's improvements over previous games in the series was a new, improved control scheme. It granted players direct control over Leon Kennedy (and an assortment of others), and introduced precision aiming. Which is where Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition comes in. It enters with a quick nunchuk to the ribs, followed by a dagger slash to the throat to establish the definitive version of the game: like it was on the GameCube and the PlayStation 2 but with an even newer, more improved control scheme, thanks to Nintendo's universally accessible Wiimote.
Except it doesn't. It actually just trips over its own feet and flies off the wriststrap through your mum's window. Because it doesn't feature an improved control scheme, it features the opposite: a worse control scheme. Here's what Kristan had to say about the game when it came out on the Playstation 2: "Being able to aim quickly and with precision is the key to enjoying Resi 4 - because that's pretty much the bulk of what you'll be doing throughout the game as you fend off a succession of demented plague-ridden Spanish villagers." Well the bulk of what you'll be doing throughout the game is still fending off a succession of demented plague-ridden Spanish villagers. It's just you won't be able to aim quickly or with precision, so it's slightly more difficult to enjoy Resident Evil 4 on the Wii.
Here's how the controls work: you move with the analogue stick on the nunchuk, and you hold down the Z trigger (the one on the nunchuk) to run. To turn quickly you press the Z trigger and down on the analogue stick. Holding down the B trigger (the one on the Wiimote) brings up the targeting reticule (which, you'll notice is much bigger than in previous versions on the game - a testament to how difficult it can be to aim. More on that later). Pressing the action button, A, fires your weapon. And you can open up your menus and maps using the other buttons on the face of the Wiimote, and adjust the camera using the d-pad. That all seems pretty straightforward.
The problem is that the aiming process is an uneasy conjunction between pointing the Wiimote and twiddling the analogue stick. You'll point the Wiimote at things you want to shoot, but this is a wobbly, fuzzy experience, compared to the precision of the previous versions of the game. And you'll twiddle the analogue stick to steer the screen round if you want to aim at something to the edge of your view or off-screen. And because you can't move the camera round with the Wiimote the absence of a strafe function and the slow turning speed and the impossibility of shooting while moving feel even more backward and annoying than they did the last time around.
The disjoint between the analogue stick and the Wiimote also reduces knife combat to a horrible random confusion of spazzing around trying to line targets up without ending up staring at the ground, or up at the sky. It's actually possible to quickly wield your knife by just waving the Wiimote, which sounds nice until you try it and it barely registers your wrist action. Which is problematic, because that's the exact motion that you use to reload your weapons, too. And then there are the interactive cut-scenes, which now require you to shake the controller around and press buttons instead of just pressing buttons. Which might just be a cosmetic change, but it is a fairly annoying cosmetic change.
Apart from that, it's exactly what you'd expect from Resident Evil 4: a hokey conspiracy plot, corny voiceacting, kidnapped president's daughter rescued by a solitary agent, red herbs, green herbs, yellow herbs, inventory management, maps, the occasional puzzle, and lots of files left around detailing the nefarious plans of some mental evil types. Most importantly, it's still one magnificent set-piece after another, and all the neat touches are present and intact (including one that I hadn't noticed before: the cows sound like a distant chainsaw). So it's still decent enough, if you can get your head round the controls.
And if you can get your head round the game's appearance. Because now that our eyes are capable of seeing more pixels, the visuals feel a bit out of date. Even though it runs in widescreen in progressive scan, like the PS2 version, it still looks dated next to newer high definition games, and especially if you're playing it on a high definition telly. The art style still has its own unique charm, obviously. It's just that part of that appeal was the crisply detailed textures and whizzo lighting effects. They're not so whizzo now that our eyes have adjusted to the future.
Maybe I'm being unkind. Maybe this review is nothing more than the out-of-date opinions of a gaming dinosaur, out of touch with the general gamer. Maybe Wii's target audience will take to this like a duck to water, unburdened by hands that are semi-permanently contorted into a dual-stick controller grasp. Maybe it is, as many people are saying, the definitive version of the definitive game in Capcom's superb survival horror series. But they're not writing this review. I am, and in my opinion, bolting on an unwieldy Wii control scheme adds nothing to the game; it just makes it slightly worse.
Since it's only £25, you might as well take a punt if you haven't already played it. It's just a shame that one of the best ever action games has become another casualty of the Wii controller. Indeed, for a controller that was supposed to herald a new dawn of inclusive gaming there are a lot of third-party publishers who have yet to get their heads round it. Presumably, when they decided to create a Wii version of Resident Evil 4, Capcom envisaged an even more inclusive version of the best ever action game. What they got is a game that now looks dated, and plays exactly the same but with worse controls. Not exactly a new dawn.
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