PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
March 24, 2023
Taking us back through the history of one of the greatest horror gaming franchises of all time, Capcom has been absolutely killing it with their remakes of Resident Evil. Whether it’s the monumental perspective shift of Resident Evil 2 or the updated look and feel of Resident Evil 3. These new releases have done more than just open the door for newcomers to experience classic action-horror releases, they’ve also reinvigorated the spark and given gamers a warm reminder of just how superb this series is. Often regarded as one of the best, if not the best in the entire franchise, Resident Evil 4 is next in line and it no doubt comes with a heavy weight of expectation. Thankfully Capcom has stuck the landing, with Leon and Ashley’s tumultuous journey through an infected hellscape realised amazingly with modern flourishes.
Once again jumping back into the shoes of Leon S. Kennedy, Resident Evil 4 takes the player to a quaint Spanish town in a not-so-quaint search for the President’s kidnapped daughter. The biological impact of the T-Virus from years prior has ravaged the area and left only mutated destruction and cult-worshipping, mind-controlled zealots in its wake. A set of horrific abominations and comically over-the-top enemies stand in your path as you try to make sense of what’s happening and who is really on your side.
What made Resident Evil 4 an instant classic back in 2005 was how it evolved this horror franchise and turned it into a successful, third-person, horror-action hybrid. More enemies, more encounters, but importantly, more fun. Resident Evil as a franchise was never afraid to be somewhat goofy in its portrayal of characterisations, dialogue, puzzles, world design, and more. And Resident Evil 4 is kind of the pinnacle of that mentality. Mix that with some genuinely triumphant pieces of game design and engaging sequences and you have a winning formula that’s maintained for nearly two decades.
“…you have a winning formula that’s maintained for nearly two decades.”
When other modern games are focussing more and more on realism, it becomes very refreshing to jump into a game like Resident Evil 4 that’s happy to trade realism for fun. That’s true whether it’s earning tokens from shooting galleries, encountering larger-than-life characters like Ramón Salazar, suplexing infected foes as a melee combat animation, or just running into the never-explained, around-every-corner, bottomless-pocketed merchant. Between encounters you’ll be hunting for wind-up figurines to destroy, completing silly side-quests such as collecting fish or killing rats, and uncovering treasures and gems to sell for special rewards. I love doing dumb shit in video games and Resident Evil 4 just allows me to constantly scratch that itch.
As one of the best games in the series, it’s hard not to praise the brilliance that was already found in the original release, made only better in the remake. Gameplay sequences where the threat grows bigger and bigger, only to end abruptly just as you were on the brink of being overwhelmed are an immediate standout. As is the frequent switching of gameplay sequences between boss fights, standard encounters, backtracking, treasure hunting, and more. Without jumping into spoiler territory, Resident Evil 4 keeps things fresh and firing on all cylinders as new happenings keep you hooked on the action and begging to play for another minute… or hour… or more.
The remake shines and glistens on the RE Engine, quite literally when it comes to Leon’s character model. You can see how much love and attention was put into bringing this game into modern times with all the visual detail you’d want. Foes look more horrifying than ever before, the world is captured in great detail, and importantly, it all connects with the images you’ve held in your mind over the years. This is a remake done right and it doesn’t end with just a coat of paint.
Gameplay enhancements propel Resident Evil 4 into new territory. Most consequential is the knife system which allows for considerably more dynamic gameplay. Gone are the quick-time-event fights and in their place are real-time and reactive battle sequences. Stealth plays a larger role as you creep up on your foes, silently taking one or two down with your knife and slightly reducing the overall threat before inevitably being compromised as things turn into an all-out war. A knife durability system keeps the weapon from being over-used whilst a parry system moves the action combat one step closer to its ideal state. The knife parry is admittedly far from perfect, with enemy attack animations not feeling particularly natural and a lack of lock-on functionality making close-quarters melee combat a bit of an awkward nightmare. Though the game is all the better for introducing the system even if it’s not perfected.
“Resident Evil 4 didn’t change too drastically, just enough to cleverly highlight the best elements and strategically tone down the worst.”
Escort missions run a whole lot smoother than they did in the original game with less frustration being the clear goal. On that front, Capcom succeeded, with Ashley being considerably less of a burden. Ashley is at her best when she gets to fly solo for a sequence that sees her escaping from animated knights. Whilst she may not be the kind of well-rounded character a modern game typically strives for, there’s a weird and warm nostalgia that’s found in her incompetence. Resident Evil 4 didn’t change too drastically, just enough to cleverly highlight the best elements and strategically tone down the worst.
The remake of Resident Evil 4 can be nitpicked for some of its shortcomings, such as some inconsistencies I found in its audio balancing, especially when using the speaker found in the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller. However, these criticisms really do feel rather inconsequential when comparing them to the game’s achievements. I’m glad I got to revisit this specific release because it was special back in 2005 and that has not changed in 2023. Where Capcom goes from here is a bit more up for debate, but the fact they were able to preserve and amplify this specific release is absolutely worth celebrating.
- A graphical facelift that gives new life to the world of Resident Evil 4
- An improved gameplay experience where every bullet feels mighty impactful
- Some seriously good game design and gameplay sequences
- Refuses to sacrifice fun for realism
- The knife parry system, whilst not perfect, is still such a good feature
- Some audio balancing issues impacted immersion
- Further fine-tuning to the melee combat would have gone a long way
Resident Evil 4 rips you right back to 2005 and reminds you how special games can be. A remake done right, this release amplifies the game’s strengths and obfuscates its weaknesses, making for a superb and modern take on a classic. Whilst further improvements could have been made, the results still speak for themselves, as Leon and Ashley’s journey becomes immortalised with contemporary gameplay and visuals that maintain respect for the original release.