Fear factor

Resident Evil 4 comes to the Wii
By MITCH KRPATA  |  July 24, 2007
4.0 4.0 Stars
RELENTLESS: With its swarms of intelligent, nimble fiends and variety of phobic scenarios, RE4
never lets up.

Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition | For Nintendo Wii/Rated M for Mature | Published and developed by Capcom
You are going to die!

Mankind scooted up the evolutionary ladder with those catalytic words echoing in his ear. Failure to heed the body’s warnings means you’re less likely to stick around long enough to breed. That’s why we’ve inherited physical alarm bells. Hunger. Pain. Fear.

Fear, unlike hunger and pain, has largely ceased to serve its evolutionary function, and no one’s quite sure how to deal with that. We still need it, sure, just not as much as we once did. So some of us do strange things to burn off the fearful energy we’re saving up. We voluntarily jump out of airplanes, or we play survival/horror video games. And Resident Evil 4 — first released for the GameCube, then the PlayStation 2, and now on the Wii — deserves to be considered among the best games ever made because, for the duration, it keeps you walking that razor’s edge of fear.

The biggest threat comes from the ferocity of your enemies. Whereas previous Resident Evil games opted for a low-grade dread, content to suggest horrors just around the next corner, Resident Evil 4 swarms you with bloodthirsty foes from the outset. They’re not the languid zombies we’re used to, but intelligent, nimble fiends who can coordinate their attacks. The opening set piece makes clear that the stakes have been raised. Barricaded in a small house, you have to fend off dozens of possessed villagers who can open doors, set up ladders, and flank you. The danger is immediate and overwhelming, and never lets up after that.

But every action game puts you in a situation where you’re outnumbered. Resident Evil 4 is unique in the way it synthesizes so many different fears. There are primal terrors that need no further explanation: splashing through a sewer and encountering man-sized insects, or fighting the claustrophobia of a hedge maze while being pursued by rabid dogs. And there are the less-instinctual fears. Being alone in a foreign country. Drawing the ire of religious zealots who pledge allegiance to an authoritarian ruler. Being infested with a parasite and forced to act against your will. It’s as though the designers drew up a list of paralyzing phobias and tried to tap into as many as possible.

The question for the consumer is whether the Wii edition is sufficiently improved from the last-gen versions to warrant a purchase, particularly for those who could simply play the GameCube version.

Aiming with the Wii remote does lend a greater level of precision to most weapons, such as when using the handgun from a distance. The rifle and other weapons with scopes are a little harder to use, because they’re controlled by the Wii’s fickle thumbstick. Further, the laser sight from previous versions has been replaced by a useful, but ugly, aiming reticle. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it clashes with the game’s otherwise realistic aesthetic.

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