Two of my top three contenders for the 2007 “game of the year” crown - “God of War II” and “Metroid Prime 3: Corruption” - have been reviewed in Citizen Gamer. But the remaining title is the one most likely to take the top honor. And before it does, I believe it is worthy of a review - even if the game technically belongs to 2004.
This summer, “Resident Evil 4” was released for the Wii with polished graphics and a fresh control scheme that fully utilizes the Wiimote and nunchuk's capabilities.
The Wii controls add an entirely new dimension of enjoyability to a game that hurls players headlong into a national security nightmare on the European countryside.
As Leon Kennedy, the heroic rookie policeman of “Resident Evil 2” and now a stereotypical secret agent, the player must rescue the president's daughter from an unknown group of kidnappers in rural Spain. Soon Leon learns that her captors are actually a small army of mace-wielding religious fanatics in robes and skull masks, all of whom are mind-controlled by your token creepy cult leader, Osmund Saddler.
Saddler controls them through Las Plagas: Tailed parasites that turn them and the area's villagers into a subhuman species called Ganados. The good news: They're not zombies, unlike every other “Resident Evil” game, so they don't dine on brains. The bad news: Unlike zombies, they can run, they can open doors and they can use weapons like pitchforks and axes.
“Resident Evil 4” also breaks from previous games in the series by repositioning the camera behind Leon's back in a continuous shot, rather than the frequent cuts between static angles as the character passes through an area.
The result is a more lifelike game experience that heightens the suspense far above any other title in the survival horror genre.
Several moments in the game spike that suspense level by requiring the player to press a button or wave the Wiimote with split-second reflexes.
Players are never safe from this facet of the game play. Even during the cut scenes, when one may normally sit back and watch the story unfold, a Wiimote icon could flash on the screen to indicate the player must shake the controller immediately.
A timely response will allow Leon to dodge a boulder rolling after him, a monstrous tentacle thrust through the wall or the swing of a Ganado's axe. The slightest delay could cost the agent his life.
In the Wii edition of “Resident Evil 4,” the aim of Leon's weapons is no longer controlled by an analog stick.
The player can point the Wiimote at any spot on the screen and push the trigger-like 'B' button to shoot. The precision of the pointing system is well suited to the game's anatomy-specific shots, whereby a Ganado stumbles when Leon shoots his leg, for instance.
But the shooting is eased almost too much by the game's target reticle, which turns from red to green when Leon aims at an enemy.
The red laser scope in earlier editions of the game is gone, and so too is the skill of tracing its tiny mark to a Ganado's torso and firing in that fleeting moment.
The player can also swipe Leon's knife with a wave of the Wiimote to break open boxes that contain ammunition, the occasional snake and gold coins. He can collect that currency to upgrade weapons or expand his item-carrying capacity.
The Wii's higher-end hardware bolsters the graphics of “Resident Evil 4” to a still-impressive degree of detail. Raindrops visibly splash onto Leon's shoulders and bullet-casings can be seen ejecting from his 9mm handgun after every shot.
The Ganados look frighteningly life-like, from their splotchy cheeks to the shiny buckles on their shoes.
The dreary Spanish countryside of dense leafless forests and rocky canyons has never looked so … dreary.
Although “Resident Evil 4” already collected several awards when it was released for Nintendo's GameCube system in 2004, the title receives a superb revision on the Wii.
With sharper graphics and a dynamic new control scheme, the game should once again be considered for those awards in 2007.
Staff writer David Wilcox reviews video games for The Citizen. He can be reached at 253-5311 ext. 245 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“Resident Evil 4”
Score: 99 out of 100
Parental rating: Mature for blood and gore, intense violence and language
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Features: 1 player
Life span: Fifteen hours
The final boss: A new Wii control scheme works seamlessly to revise the exquisite survival horror of “Resident Evil 4”