It Takes a Village

When Resident Evil 4 was originally released for the Nintendo GameCube in 2005, the game reinvented a lot of what had grown tiresome about the series. Most obvious were the setting and enemies you faced: Instead of the various building-overrun-by-zombies scenarios that played out in past versions, Resident Evil 4 begins with government agent Leon Kennedy investigating the kidnapping of the President's daughter in a European village. Turns out the villagers aren't the welcoming sort, and they descend upon Kennedy in a murderous frenzy.

But they aren't zombies: They talk to each other (in Spanish), use weapons, and work in unison to bring you down. Initially it appears the villagers are being influenced by the strange cult responsible for the daughter's disappearance, but you'll come to realize there's a lot more going on.

There is something wonderfully effective about Resident Evil 4's atmosphere: whether it's the haunting quality of a dilapidated pastoral setting, or the way the game riles your inner xenophobe with enemies who speak a different language as they plot to kill you -- or simply the fact that they set about it with whatever horrific everyday weapon they happen to be holding (pitchforks, chain saws). It's eerie and unsettling, in the best possible way. The game's later stages do start to feel routine -- abandoned industrial sites filled with machines whose sole purpose seems to be manufacturing dank and grime -- but when you think back on your experience with Resident Evil 4, it's the village you'll remember.

Capcom's new release of Resident Evil 4 for the Nintendo Wii takes advantage of the console's motion-sensitive controller and includes extra content found on the PlayStation 2 version. But otherwise, there are no changes: The graphics, sounds, and game events are indistinguishable from those on the GameCube.

Given that every GameCube title can be played on the Wii, and the original RE4 can be snapped up for a measly $20, some extra content and "waggle" controls may not seem worth the $10 more you'll pay for the Wii version. But they are; the mere fact you can pick up one of the all-time greatest games for a mere 30 bucks makes this gamer a bit misty-eyed.

The difference is in the gunplay. Though RE4 made great strides in control, compared to the notoriously clunky games that preceded it, aiming a weapon still wasn't as easy as it should've been. With the Wiimote, you simply aim at the screen and fire. Shooting becomes as easy as pointing and clicking online, allowing you to kneecap unruly villagers and shoot weapons out of their hands like a psychotic carnival trick shooter. If there's a downside, it makes the game a lot easier at first, but the difficulty eventually catches up with you, and the effortless control helps you forget about it and enjoy.

And despite the fact it is just a port, it's a game much-needed on the Wii. More than just a change of pace from the console's generally G-rated offerings, it delivers depth and complexity to Wii owners who'd like to see something more than the shallow, motion-based mini-games that dominate the console's library.

If you've already played RE4's GameCube or PlayStation 2 versions to death, the new control scheme may not warrant a repurchase. But if you haven't given the game a chance -- or you're ready to revisit it -- this is the definitive version, a modern classic with sublime controls and a budget price.

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Gary Hodges
Contact: Gary Hodges