The Resident Evil franchise seems to have found new life through its recent slate of remakes.
There’s definitely a pun or two in there about the series returning from the dead, but I’ll aim to hold onto your goodwill for a bit longer, and instead dive into everything that makes the Resident Evil 4 remake one of the franchise’s best. The particular entry follows returning character Leon Kennedy, played by Nick Apostolides, on his quest to rescue the U.S. president’s daughter from the insidious Los Illuminados cult.
Let me preface the next bit by laying out my longstanding passion for the original, which was one of my very first video game obsessions when it was released back in 2005. It absolutely dazzled me, sparking a love for action shooters that’s only grown over the years. It’s my comfort game, one that I returned to over and over through the nearly two decades that now separate me from that long-ago launch.
All of this to say — I was pretty much bound to love the remake. It takes a few dozen steps up from the original in terms of quality, story, and, in particular, ambiance, but it still keeps the soul of that beloved classic, and most importantly, maintains the ever-necessary “fun” factor of the original.
With this in mind — and noting that my review comes from time spent with the PlayStation 4 version, rather than the shinier PS5, and thus differences in quality are to be expected — let’s dig into everything that makes the Resident Evil 4 remake one of Capcom’s best.
This new Resident Evil 4 reminds you that it’s a remake, not a remaster, from the very beginning, making minor alterations to the opening story and, most importantly, introducing a brand new voice cast. Leon maintains a familiar air of cheesy, but dedicated, confidence, but lacks some of the more immersion-breaking — but nostalgic — line delivery. Gone is his awful death groan, replaced by a slew of updated — and thoroughly brutal — death sequences, but little gems like “Where’s everyone going, bingo?” remain.
Longtime fans might miss some of Leon’s cheesier lines, but the fresh voice cast does an excellent job of updating the experience. Unsurprisingly, all of the fan-favorite characters from the original make a return for the remake, and most get a major upgrade in terms of characterization. Ashley is still obnoxious (would she be Ashley if she wasn’t?) but she’s much more palatable, and the game makes sure to reshape each of its characters so they feel more like real people. The same can be said for Luis and Ada, whose additional dialogue and minor background moments actually lend to the story, rather than feeling like shoehorned inclusions that only serve to drive the plot forward.
Upon launching a new game, fans of the original will quickly realize that this isn’t the same game you’ve been throwing time at for the last two decades. The stages are familiar, but fresh, and while you’ll find a few goodies in their familiar locations, a lot of collectibles have been switched up to keep you guessing. The same can be said for many of the environments, which maintain a flavor — and sometimes plenty more — of what you recall, while changing things up just enough to surprise players. Something as simple as entering a new area from a different location can really change how the game feels and plays, and this — combined with the title’s much more fleshed-out and fully-realized world — equates to a comfortingly familiar, but brand-new, experience.
Indeed, the villagers and enemies you know and hate have all received a facelift ahead of their return in this remake, but Capcom sprinkled in a few changes to throw longtime fans off their game. Several new enemy types serve as a mid-level threat between the bog-standard villager and more menacing chainsaw-wielding nightmares, and each new area typically brings along a new enemy for the ride. Burly villagers swinging heavy hammers and twisted undead with gristly broken necks now hunt you on your quest to find Ashley, each of whom takes far more than a few well-aimed shots to dispatch.
Minor, irritating issues that plagued the original game are all smoothed out in the new Resident Evil 4. Leon — who last time took a job in rural Spain without speaking the language — is actually able to understand some Spanish. It also fleshes out existing aspects of the story, like Sadler’s mind control ability, and tidies up tiny, messy details — like enemies simply giving up and walking away at the end of an encounter. These tweaks enrich the original’s relatively barebones narrative and make for a far more seamless experience, as do the added side quests, which give players more than a few blue medallions to look out for.
The map itself is particularly satisfying — Resident Evil 4 is decidedly linear and doesn’t offer up an open world, but it invites players to explore its nooks and crannies in the hopes of finding a shadowy corner rife with hidden treasures, and maybe an unexpected enemy or two. It’s all tied together with more involved enemy encounters, which sometimes require a keen eye to assess. You can approach enemies in a variety of ways, but you won’t have long to make a plan before the first opponent strikes.
Tension is a constant companion as you wander through Resident Evil 4‘s dilapidated, grimy towns; dingy, dripping caves; and gaudy castle halls, with a potential surprise (or ambush) always lurking around the next corner. Ammo is still relatively plentiful — but easy to use up — as you find yourself faced with a far more diverse range of enemies. Planning is a necessity, and adopting the same approach rarely works twice in a row. Instead, the game urges players to adapt to new enemies and fresh environments, some cramped and maze-like, others dangerously open, as they work their way across the map. Swapping between a shotgun, handgun, and those ever-necessary flash grenades will become second nature when faced with Plagas-ravaged hordes, but a degree of precision can make all the difference when facing off against many of the higher-level enemies.
The moment-to-moment gameplay has been revamped, adding the ability to parry attacks (as well as some thrown objects) and crouch to sneak around and avoid detection. The inability to properly dodge is (mostly) offset by the former, which makes combat far more seamless in up close and personal encounters. Without a dodge ability, however, combat — particularly against bosses — can become frustrating, and a bit formulaic. Sure, all of this harkens back to the original, but it’s a bit too irritating to come across as amusing nostalgia, and instead feels like a missed opportunity. You’ll get used to timing those crouches and careful parries, but the lack of a dedicated dodge feels out of place for a character who is so passionate about rolling out of windows and backflipping over enemy attacks. Thankfully, Leon’s continued use of “The Kick” — which saw us through many low-ammo moments in the original game — helps to alleviate some of the remake’s more irritating exclusions.
Stealth is a different story. It is hugely helpful in sections that seem deliberately designed for it, but it’s clear that Resident Evil 4‘s remake never intended to be stealth-heavy. You might dispatch an enemy or two in the vein of The Last of Us‘ Ellie, but you won’t be able to keep your gun holstered for long. Soon, waves of enemies will come flooding in, forcing you to rely on your various weapons and the surrounding environment to prevent yet another agonizing death scene.
The most familiar elements are perhaps found in boss encounters, which follow the original game’s formula to near perfection. The same tactics you ground into your brain back in the mid-2000s won’t work to defeat characters like Mendez — particularly when you factor in the updated attacks and abilities most bosses employ — but you’ll find that a similar strategy still pays off.
Puzzles follow the same trend. They’re different, and plenty of them are brand new, but you’ll recognize aspects of nearly all of them. They still follow the general formula of finding this to combine with this and open that, but inject a bit more challenge to keep things interesting. A few additional brain teasers might trip up more action-oriented players, but none present a massive obstacle.
I could go on for ages as I reminisce on the game’s sound design — which has a big impact on the ambiance and incorporates the controller’s built-in speaker for an additional sense of immersion — the tidied-up visuals, and the introduction of six potential control schemes, including one that mimics the original. That being said, none of those touches really lean into the most important question: whether or not it’s worth playing. And, in my humble opinion, the Resident Evil 4 remake very much is. Particularly for fans of the original, it’s a wonderful return to a world that delivered so much fun through its janky controls and delightfully awful dialogue. Even for newcomers, the game feels like a success, following in the trend of Capcom’s other Resident Evil remakes — ramping up the tension and scare factor by several degrees all while retaining the appeal and charm of the original.
Make no mistake — Capcom is absolutely beating a dead horse with its continued Resident Evil remakes. It’s leeching every bit of life it can from this franchise, but in doing so, it’s breathing fresh life into aging classics that — despite occasionally being subpar — delighted millions. These remakes feel infinitely better to play, and the new Resident Evil 4 is no different. It perfectly balances a solid story teeming with horror, elevated — but far from impassable — challenge, and fluid combat to deliver an experience that drips with nostalgia but still feels brand new.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Capcom.
Following in the footsteps of its other remakes, Capcom smashes ‘Resident Evil 4’ out of the park. The gameplay, controls, and story are all wonderfully familiar yet still feel updated and fresh. The remake cranks the ambiance up to a 12, and tension serves as a constant companion while you make your way through the game’s gorgeously rejuvenated world.
h/t – wegotthiscovered.com