Economy of Effort

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5 Things I Think I Think About... Resident Evil 4

5 Things I Think I Think about…


1. I think the Wii version is the only one I can stand playing. This run-through of RE4 was the third time I tried to play the game. The first two false-starts were on the GameCube and the PC. I found the one-stick control style on the GameCube to be abhorant. The PC version looked beautiful, like a completely different game compared to the Cube and Wii versions (just from the high resolution support, really). But even with a 360 gamepad, the game was insistant on mapping movement and aiming to the left stick.

By moving the aiming system to the Wiimote and putting movement on the nunchuk, the Wii version is the only one that uses a true two-sets-of-axes system - you know, the control approach that is the reason every gamepad comes with two analog sticks now. You still can’t move and shoot at the same time, but the player’s left thumb is no longer performing this awkward double-duty while the right thumb twiddles… itself.

The Wiimote aiming scheme isn’t a 1:1 mapped “pointer” like one might intuitively expect. Rather, the Wiimote acts, as one Gamers With Jobs poster describes it, like a giant right analog stick. It’s nice and responsive, and allows for pretty good fine aiming control.

There were some baffling control issues from time to time, though. When aiming through the rifle scope, the Wiimote no longer controls aiming, but rather the nunchuk stick does! This is jarring, of course, because the rest of the game uses the Wiimote for aiming. But what is worse is that the nunchuk stick is very sensitive, in part (I imagine) because it’s only used for movement and camera control throughout the rest of the game. Aiming through the scope with the hyper-sensitive nunchuk stick is a bitch and a half. I understand that the rifle scope is a “fixed view” rather than a floating aim cursor like non-scoped weapons. But there still ought to be an option to aim with the Wiimote, which offers the fine movement control that the sensitive nunchuk stick lacks.

Oh, and to add one little wrinkle: I’m an inverted control sort of person. Not just thumbsticks, either, but mice too. Everything. Aiming with the Wiimote is pretty natural, but at first I found myself having a hard time dealing with the nunchuk’s stick for “looking” around while aiming. Pushing “up” to look down is natural for me, but at the same time it felt at odds with how my right hand moved to go “up”. Trying to switch the nunchuk’s stick back to Normal, however, was disasterous. Eventually, my brain was able to deal with the slight disconnect, and my inverted thumbstick and pointed Wiimote worked in harmony.


2. I think the Wiimote-aimed exploding headshot is one of the most satisfying “kills” in any game I’ve played recently. I could very easily spend these 5 Things just rattling off complaints about the game. In fact, that’s sort of what my first draft of this looked like. So I took a step back and tried to put my finger on why I enjoyed the 16 hours I sunk into this game. I’ve been a fan of previous Resident Evil games, but this one was a very different experience. The one thing that I could point to with zero hesitation was the satisfaction behind every well-placed shot. Being rid of the awkward, uncomfortable feeling of trying to aim with my left thumb (my “non-aiming” thumb, you could say) helped with this feeling, I’m sure.

3. I think the visuals in this port deserved some attention that they didn’t receive. It probably looks just fine on an SDTV, but blown up on my 47" 1080p panel, even with the Wii component cables, RE4 on the Wii was a jagged, muddy mess. This doesn’t truly come across in screenshots, which don’t look particularly bad. But in action, the game’s great detail was partially lost in the upconversion process.

I understand that the game also makes use of the Wii’s “deflicker” filter, which softens and blurs the image. Some Wii games, like Super Smash Bros. Brawl, make this filter a user-selectable option. RE4, however, has no such option. The blurred image doesn’t do enough to deal with the heavy aliasing. Really, it just blurs away any edge definition, and makes it difficult for things to stand out from the background.

At the very least, I wish the Wii supported higher output resolutions.


4. I think the game really tried to piss me off. None of the sections in this game were unduly difficult. A couple required repeating, but nothing brought progress to a halt or raised frustration levels from excessive challenge. The game was quite adept, though, at doing small things to piss me off.

I’m OK with the tank-like movement in RE games. I’m not OK with areas that have enemies drop from above to land right next to me, irritatingly poking at the weaknesses of the RE combat style. (This one wasn’t too bad on the Wii, where I could reach the edges of the screen with the crosshair even before holding the button to go into “aim” mode, but I can’t imagine how much I would have howled at these situtations if I had to deal with the GameCube aiming.)

I’m not OK with enemy and boss types that involve running around with the enemy off the screen the majority of the time. You didn’t make the RE4 camera or combat system for these. Don’t do them. The Garridors (the blind claw guys) and the Gigantes were just awful. Some of the worst moments of the game.

I’m not OK with the maddening inconsistency with how enemies react to taking bullets to the face. Some enemies, like the big dudes with axes, might normally stumble after taking a bullet or two to the dome. But then, randomly, they would decide that they could shrug off a half-dozen hits to the face on their way to closing the gap and slashing you with a devastating axe chop. Look, is a bullet to the face going to deter this guy or not? Don’t making a certain approach to an enemy a winning tactic 90% of the time, but then gash me for half my health the other 10% of the time.

I’m never, ever, ever OK with item boxes that contain a trap instead of an item - in this case, a snake. OK, if it’s a DnD-style game, and detecting traps is part of the game world, fine. But if not, what’s the point? You’re not turning the box into a risk/reward scenario. The player has to hit up every single box. He/she is totally dependent on them for acquiring sufficient supplies to progress. All sticking a snake in there does is punish the player for a choice that he/she has to make. (And yes, I know killing the snake yields a healing item. It doesn’t make the idea any less dumb.)


5. I think I had my best gaming “ticking bomb” scenario ever. Near the end of the game, there’s a boss fight (Krauser) that requires beating the boss and exiting the “room” before a 3-minute countdown timer hits zero. As I finished off Krauser and bolted for the exit, my time ran awfully low. When I got to the exit door, there was less than a second on the clock. But I had to stick 3 things into the door to reveal a door behind it that I could actually exit through.

I mashed the “A” button as fast as I could. The clock wouldn’t count as the game “placed” the objects, but it would start back up again as soon as one was placed. I mashed faster. By the time the actual exit door was revealed and control returned back to me to register one last pound of the “A” button, the clock was down to 00:00.07 - seven hundredths of a second.

I don’t know how punishing the game is when that clock reaches zero. Maybe there’s a second or so of hesitation, or maybe being all the way by the door was “clear enough” of the blast. Or maybe it was indeed instant death at 00:00.00. I didn’t intend on finding out. All I know is that when I saw Leon finally enter the door with seven hundredths of a second left, I thought to myself, “oh damn!”.