- Reviewed on: Wii (Viewed on an HP PL4200N 42-inch plasma TV at 480p)
- Also available for: PlayStation 2, GameCube, Windows PC
- The Good: Contains all of the thrills and chills that made the original so spooktacular; incorporates the Wii's motion sensitive controls to nice effect; adds a fair amount of bonus content not seen in the original GameCube version
- The Bad: There's an unshakeable feeling that we've been here and done that (which, in fact, many of us have) that isn't helped by a presentation that has undergone scant transformation since the last time we saw this game on a Nintendo platform
- The Verdict: Though mostly unchanged, Capcom's classic horror game is well worth revisiting on Nintendo's new console
You might be wondering why Capcom would re-release Resident Evil 4, a game many Nintendo fans are already quite familiar with (the original RE4 debuted to wide acclaim on the GameCube) for the Wii. That's a good question, and one I'll deal with in a moment. But first, I'm more interested in addressing why Capcom persists in making Nintendo's kid friendly platforms headquarters to one of its most adult-oriented franchises.
Capcom released no less than six bloody and gruesome Resident Evil titles for the GameCube-including the exclusives Resident Evil Zero and Resident Evil (a high-gloss remake of the original)-and even used the platform to launch RE4, the blockbuster game that reinvented the franchise.
I'm of the opinion that, when it came to the GameCube, Nintendo offered Capcom a lucrative publishing arrangement of some sort to deliver a few good mature titles that would entice older gamers to pick up their machine, which lagged behind the PlayStation 2 and Xbox in sales. But with the Wii, another platform with a predominantly family oriented selection of software (it has only six games rated Mature by the ESRB to date), I doubt such an offer was necessary. Nintendo's new console is selling like hotcakes and, despite its kiddy library, is attracting buyers from all walks of life.
Which brings us back to the original question: why re-release an old-gen game on a next-gen platform? Because it's easy money. With the Wii's incredible popularity, Capcom was just itching to get some software on the shelves, and a port of one of its most successful games of all time was the fastest and cheapest way to do that. (The Wii uses a graphics chipset very similar to that of the GameCube, which means Capcom didn't have much work to do to in the port outside of modifying the controls to make use of the Wii's motion sensitive remote.)
The down side for consumers is that, aside from a bit of bonus content, not much has changed. Still, I have to admit that I had a blast playing through this top notch horror title a second time.
Resident Evil: A retrospective
Let's backtrack a bit. If you've never played Resident Evil 4-or any of its many predecessors, numbered or otherwise-the setup is simple: An evil corporation called Umbrella created and unleashed a virus that turns folks into zombies. It wiped out lots of scientists and soldiers in the first game, an entire city in the second and third instalments, and a remote island research facility in the unofficial fourth (known as Resident Evil: Code Veronica).
Capcom changed things up a fair bit in the series' "official" fourth game, RE4. For starters, the living dead were ditched in favour of a different kind of zombie: Spanish cultists (they moved just as slowly but were perhaps more deadly since they use pitchforks and axes in their attacks). More importantly, Capcom fundamentally changed the way we played Resident Evil. There were no fixed cameras, no tiresome item chests in which to store surplus gear, and no need to collect typewriter ink cartridges to save your game. Basically, they took out everything that long-time fans of the franchise complained about.
And it was all wrapped up in a beautiful presentation the likes of which its original platform, the GameCube, had never seen before and would never see again. It even rivalled the best visual achievements available at the time for the Xbox and PlayStation 2.
Lots of old, but a bit of new, too
Fast forward two years and we have Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition. Suffice to say it no longer feels as earth shattering as it once did. The graphics are essentially the same as what we saw on the GameCube, and while it still qualifies as one of the prettiest games on the Wii (damning evidence of the graphical potential of Nintendo's shiny white box), the lack of obvious visual enhancements is slightly disappointing.
That said, there are plenty of reasons to give the Wii Edition of this now classic game a shot.
For starters, the story, action, and puzzles are identical to the original and as such remain just as compelling. Plus, the incorporation of motion-sensitive controls constitutes a major improvement. Targeting objects and enemies by simply pointing at them is far quicker and less cumbersome than using the GameCube's joystick to aim, and contextual actions such as slashing with a knife, reloading a gun, and shaking enemies off are accomplished via intuitive physical motions.
The Wii Edition also includes all of the extras from the PlayStation 2 version, including support for widescreen displays, five bonus missions in which players get to take on the role of on-again off-again series heroine Ada Wong, additional costumes, and a new weapon.
A superior game at a better price
This re-release of a game that many people have already played won't do much to dispel the notion held by some Wii critics that the system is simply a GameCube with a new OS and some fancy controllers.
Be that as it may, it's still the most adult-oriented fun I've had on Nintendo's new console to date-and a superior game to the original, even if the once landmark graphics no longer sparkle the way they once did. And, thanks to some extra content, better controls, and a discounted price-just $39.99- Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition is worth recommending even to those players who originally played it two years ago.
It also makes me very excited for Capcom's next Resident Evil project (yet another Nintendo platform exclusive for the franchise): an as-yet untitled game designed from the ground up to make the most of the Wii remote and nunchuck. I can hardly wait.