I think it’s officially nostalgia season in the horror game industry, given the major surge of remakes of old school titles that won over our terrified hearts tens of years ago. We recently got the remake of Dead Space back in January, and are about to dive deep into Resident Evil 4 in just a few days, with Silent Hill 2 to come later this year as well. The Resident Evil series has come a long way since its inception back in 1996, and Capcom knows exactly how to push the franchise forward even after nearly 30 years. The fourth entry released back in 2005 exclusively on the Nintendo Gamecube and is often lauded as the best game in the series, as it redefined the survival horror genre. After several remasters and ports onto various platforms, Resident Evil 4 is finally getting a full fledged remake following the major success of RE2make and RE3make, and boy is it terrifyingly exhilarating.
You again assume the role of Leon S. Kennedy, six years after the Raccoon City incident in Resident Evil 2. What’s nice about the story here is that it technically requires no knowledge of prior titles and can be enjoyed as a standalone experience. No longer a rookie police officer, you are now a special forces agent tasked by the president of the United States to rescue his daughter, Ashley Graham, who has been kidnapped by cultists in a rural village located in Spain. Instead of the brain-dead zombies infected by the T-Virus, you now face an army of brain-washed villagers infected by the Las Plagas virus. Victims of the Las Plagas, known as Ganados, are technically still alive, and are much stronger and resistant to pain compared to those infected by the prior T-Virus infectants. It’s a competent narrative that easily takes you on a 15-20 hour journey filled with many twists and turns.
Part of what made the original Resident Evil 4 so revolutionary was its introduction of an over-the-shoulder camera system and precision aiming. No longer did you have to play with clunky tank controls and fixed camera angles that made the overall experience feel subpar. These may not seem so refreshing and exciting now, but Capcom has implemented more than just a fresh coat of paint for this fan-beloved masterpiece. It’s also important to say that this remake retains all the content and design of the original, and does not cut any major material like RE3make did. That being said, the overall tone and atmosphere of this remake does take on a more dreary and darker aesthetic, and for the better, considering this is, after all, a horror experience. The original Resident Evil 4 arguably swung the franchise away from horror and more into action, which is evident in both Resident Evil 5 and 6. This remake serves as an excellent swing back to the series’ roots.
The real deals here are all the other gameplay elements the developers added into this project. So what’s new here? Well for starters you can now parry most attacks with a well-timed button press. The caveat here is that the knife also has a durability factor and can break. More can be found via exploration or the default knife can be repaired and upgraded at the infamous Merchant. Stealth is a much bigger mechanic as you can crouch, whereas you couldn’t in the original. You can one-shot enemies while in stealth with the knife, but again, this costs durability so it’s a gamble. Moving while aiming is now a thing, which is a game changer considering you had to stand still to shoot before. Direct combat encounters feel a lot more natural and engaging, especially when you can follow up with a roundhouse kick to the face after disorienting enemies. Many of the iconic locations in the game now feature new paths and rooms to explore, whereas the overall settings remain the same. Quick time events still exist in the game, but come much less frequently. Speaking of QTEs, there’s no dodge mechanic in the game like in RE3make, but instead sometimes you get the random option to complete a QTE in order to dodge. It doesn’t work very well and pops up very inconsistently, so I wasn’t sure why this mechanic was not implemented normally.
Crafting makes a welcome return from more modern Resident Evil titles, and works as you would expect it to if you are familiar with the series. Mix together different colored herbs to produce different healing concoctions or combine raw materials to craft ammo among other useful tools. The famous inventory management suitcase now comes in different versions, and can be attached with charms, each with a unique perk of its own. You’ll have to play the game for yourself to discover it all but expect never-before-seen enemy types and weapons too. Don’t worry, the fan favorite Red9 handgun is still in the game. The other major change to gameplay is with Ashley, as she takes on a more critical role as your “sidekick”. You can no longer leave her behind to do all the dirty work yourself, but now must command her to stick close to you or spread out. She also no longer has a health bar that you must monitor, but instead will go into a downed state that requires you to revive her, if she is hurt enough. This is an overall great tweak in mechanics, as it makes dangerous scenarios all the more dire and tense. You can only access certain segments if Ashley is by your side, which promotes some Metroidvania style backtracking if you want to explore every nook and cranny.
The proprietary Reach for the Moon Engine allows this remake to look absolutely stunning, with state of the art visuals that allow you to see even the strands of Leon’s luscious hair. Resolution and performance modes are offered, with the PlayStation 5 version offering ray tracing in the former and utilizing dynamic resolution in the latter. The PS5 version of the game runs flawlessly, with ultra fast load times and excellent implementation of the dual sense controller features. For example, taking video calls from Ingrid directly uses the speakers on the controller and haptic feedback/triggers are utilized when riding the boat or shooting a gun. These are the little things that go a long way in terms of immersion. That being said, the particle effects from the constant rainfall in the game can get a bit jarring visually, but the developers have promised that a day one patch is in the works.
A part of Resident Evil 4 Remake feels extremely arcadey, and not in a bad way, just different. The game is broken down into chapters that each end with a score screen, indicating how long you took, how many times you died, and your shooting accuracy. This arguably takes a bit away from the aforementioned immersion, because a cutscene simply jumps to the chapter end screen, then proceeds with the next chapter’s cutscene. The Resident Evil games are definitely meant to be replayed, considering this one in particular comes with new game plus included, as well as unlockables after beating the game. Speedrunners and hardcore gamers will surely appreciate the brief moments of respite with the previously mentioned score screen, especially on Professional difficulty. A free VR version is in development plus the multiplayer Mercenaries mode is also making a return, so there’s plenty bang for your buck here.
There’s a reason why RE4 remains the most beloved Resident Evil game of all time. It says a lot that even the original holds well in today’s massive sea of survival horror experiences. There’s no question that this monster of a remake will do even better. Capcom has truly outdone themselves with Resident Evil 4 remake, with its completely rehauled visuals, flawless performance, immaculate immersion, and excellent gameplay additions. Now the question is if 5 or 6 are going to get the same love or not…
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.