Gamers, take control.
Releasing an old game on a new platform usually doesn’t generate a lot of excitement. Game companies like the idea of squeezing dollars out of products by adding some polish and sending them around to every conceivable gaming system. And, while the strategy might make business sense, gamers routinely shrug off these after-market novelties.
The arrival of “Resident Evil 4” on the Nintendo Wii challenges that complacency. While the 2-year-old game remains the same, the controls have changed. Toss aside those traditional controllers that made the title a hit on the PlayStation 2 and GameCube. On the Wii, players take that system’s motion-sensing controller in hand and shoot, slice and swing at the hordes of evil that lurch around every corner.
Once again the Wii surprises, not so much by innovation in game design as by offering you the simple thrill of moving around while you play. “RE4” proves that a perfectly entertaining game deserves a second play when you update the controls.
Sometimes we make too much of interactivity. Case in point: Rockstar Games’ bloodthirsty sequel “Manhunt 2” has raised controversy and ire, and that’s not because it changed the formula of a title that puts the player in a kill-or-be-killed survival scenario in a city filled with psychopaths. Rather, the idea that you could jab garden shears into an on-screen villain by lifting your Wii controller over your head and thrusting it downward was just too much for some people to bear.
Lingering social issues aside, it really is fun to point the Wii controller at the screen and shoot bad guys. While previous versions of the “RE” series had a nightmare quality, making you sluggishly target shambling monsters as they crept closer and closer, “RE” on the Wii allows you to pop off rounds like an Old West gunslinger.
This update to “RE4” reminds players of the classic zombie shoot-fest “House of the Dead.” The easier and more enjoyable combat interface of aiming a gun by pointing at the screen — or slashing a knife with a wave of the controller in your hand — doesn’t detract from the game’s classic creepy ambiance. “RE4” paces its challenges and surprises and puts its growing sense of dread to good use. As in an interactive haunted house, you might not be able to step over a rickety wooden fence. But you can crash through a window or battle gargantuan abominations when the appropriate moment arrives.
Tiptoeing in your living room, holding the Wii controller out in front of you like a flashlight, you may look like a model for a “Scooby Doo” cartoon. And that is the new fun. “RE4” lives up to the series’ macabre reputation while giving gamers something to grab hold of.