Considered as one of, if not the best Resident Evil game ever made, Resident Evil 4 has come to iPhone. Taking place six years after the events and ultimate destruction of Racoon City, the story once again follows Leon. S Kennedy, a former police officer and now a US special agent. This time he’s off to a remote village in Europe, on a mission to rescue the US President’s daughter from the clutches of a strange cult. It transpires that the villagers are possessed by a strange parasite with mind controlling abilities. Not only that, but our hero Leon and the President’s daughter Ashley have been infected with the parasite. Cue a race to not only rescue Ashley and put an end to the evil cult, but also find an antidote before it’s too late.
Originally brought out on Gamecube, and later released for PS2 and Wii, the game featured great cutscenes, full 3D environments and the series hallmark of run/stop/shoot action were better than ever. So how does the iPhone version, subtitled ‘Mobile edition’, stack up?… Read on to find out!
The first thing that struck me with the game were the graphics. It looks just like RE4! Ok, it’s not as good looking as the Gamecube original, but squint your eyes and you would be forgiven for thinking that it is. The environments look great, particularly the later levels in the castle, with an almost mono-tone/sepia look to it. The textures are a little on the pixelated side, especially when close up, but it really doesn’t affect the overall atmosphere. Models look just as they did only slightly low in poly counts, and a marked improvement on RE: Degeneration where I found Leon to look slightly feminine! All this bounces along at a solid frame-rate, even when good old El Gigante appears in all his 30 ft glory. He looks every bit as frightening as he did the first time. The main obvious difference though, is the lack of light effects and shadows… this gives everything a slightly flat look, but again this is a small gripe.
Sound is good for the most part. The music is great, and really adds to the tension when wandering the environments. However, the sound effects are a little on the compressed side, and don’t quite live up to the original game. There is no voice over work in cutscenes, and the enemies all have the same sound when attacking. I miss the haunting sound of the monks chanting to themselves.
Controls are where RE games live or die. Thankfully Capcom had delivered a solid control scheme in their previous ‘Degeneration’ game. And that same set-up works even better in RE4. The left side of the screen houses the virtual analogue stick, and pushing in any direction will causes Leon to walk, or run if pushed fully.
On hitting the weapon icon, Leon stops, and the analogue stick is used for weapon aiming. Just like in the original game all weapons are equipped with a rather handy laser sight. The sensitivity is just right, but the laser sight makes it that much easier to pull off that all-important headshot. Those expecting a fast paced Gears-of-war-style, 3rd person romp will be in for disappointment, this is all about taking your time and lining up shots… not to mention re-loading!
The game’s menu system works perfectly with the touch screen, allowing you to swipe to the map, game options, or browse your weapons inventory and make your selection with ease. It’s probably the best user interface setup of any RE game.
Now, there is no way that Capcom could squeeze in the full RE4 experience onto the iPhone, not without the file size being huge. So, instead the game acts like a “best of” collection of levels. Taking key scenes from the original and turning them into bite-sized mobile experiences. There are 12 levels in all, taking the sights and sounds of the original story line. Most levels take around 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how steady your hand is, but most require multiple tries, as they are not a walk in the park. El Gigante himself took me several attempts before I could take him down with my trusty shotgun. While there are not any real puzzle elements to the game, you might be required to find two parts of an object, to be combined before opening a door… or flip a switch in one part of the level to open up the exit in the next. But, the majority of your time will be taken up taking down the various infected villagers and other nasties you encounter, while protecting the president’s daughter from being injured or captured.
Some of the levels can be near impossible with the standard set of weapons, so luckily the merchant from the original game is here to offer you his wares. Before each level you can stock up on health, ammo and weapons using money you have picked up on the way, as well as upgrade your current arsenal with more firepower and faster re-loads. While some money can be picked up in the levels, the best place to get rich is in the fantastic Mercenary missions. These missions are separate from the main story, and comprise of 24 challenges in all, with 2 or 3 unlocking as you progress through the story mode. Here you must complete the challenges within the time limit, and once you do, you are awarded money depending on how successful you are. This money, as well as any items you picked up in that challenge, can be used in the story mode. Stuck on a particular level? Then simply jump into mercenary mode, get paid and purchase yourself that nice shiny Magnum you’ve always wanted! These missions consist of many types of challenge, for instance you may be required to kill as many enemies as you can in the given time limit, or guide Ashley to an exit without getting killed. Time limits are around the 3-4 minute mark, and so are perfect for quick pick-up-and-play sessions. You can replay them as many times as you like to shoot for high scores, and as long as you are successful, you will be rewarded each time.
Of course this game is in no way perfect. With all this cutting down of levels and content from the original, the story takes a big hit. Not only are key events missed out, but what story there is, is presented in badly written, text and still image-based cutscenes. For people who have played the original (like myself), this isn’t such a problem. But for newcomers to the game, the story will not make much sense at all. At only 37.3 MB’s, Capcom could have added at least some of the original full motion cut scenes, to bolster the story some more. With games like Myst hitting over the 500MB mark, it’s not unheard of.
While the mercenary mode is perfectly suited to on-the-go play, the story mode isn’t so portable. With the levels playing out at around the 10 to 15 minute mark, you won’t want to pull this out and get into a game while on the bus. Of course this wouldn’t be a problem if you could shut down the game, and start up again later and jump right back in. But the game does not have a smart save feature that you would find in Rolando 2 for example, and instead only supports sleep mode, which is useless if you need to take a call, or check a text message or email.
Finally, as great as the mercenary mode is, I would have liked to see an online scoring system to track your scores and challenge your friends. For example, how quickly can you take down El Gigante? Or how many headshots you can achieve in 2 minutes? Features like this, that are now common in other, lesser, iphone games.. can really help with replay once the story mode is finished.
The bottom line
I was skeptical of RE4 when I first set eyes on the leaked Japanese video of the game in action. Sure, it looked good, but I really couldn’t see it translating well to the system. However, bar a few gripes on story, replay-ability and sound, RE4 is a great package and in most instances perfectly replicates the Gamecube originals key experience. It’s fun, challenging and, above all scary as hell!
Presentation and graphics
While the presentation of the story elements are terrible, the fact that the game is running on iPhone at all is a great achievement. So I’m willing to let them slide. Story aside it’s all about the game itself, and in that department the game look great.
Great music, let down by some compressed sounds and limited samples. The weapons pack a punch, and who doesn’t love the merchants ‘piratey’ “welcome”
Great controls, and challenging walk/stop gameplay. You’ll need multiple attempts at most levels, and you won’t get tired of trying.
The story mode should keep you in check for a few days, that is unless you are crazy enough to play it all in one sitting. Add to this the great mercenary mode, with 24 challenges to play through and RE4 is good value for $7.99 considering it’s premium status.