Review – Resident Evil 4 (Remake)
The original Resident Evil 4, released way back in 2005, is an undeniable classic that single handily inspired some of my favourite games of all time. Including the fantastic Dead Space which also to has happened to just have had its own superb remake. It changed the gaming landscape forever, with the likes of Gears of War and Last of Us not existing without it. It’s hard not to deny the impact that Resident Evil 4 had, but it wasn’t perfect, and a few sections in the game’s second half stuck out. After dozens of ports, including the Nintendo Switch and Quest 2, could a brand-new remake possibly live up to the original? As it turns out, it surpasses it in just about every way.
Set six years after the raccoon city incident, in which Leon S. Kennedy was one of the only survivors, we find him still haunted to this day. He’s clearly suffering from the events of the past, but pushes forward when the president’s daughter, Ashley Graham, gets kidnapped and taken to a remote Spanish village. Leon has been sent by himself to investigate the village and bring Ashley home safe. However, things are not as they seem, as a crazed cult of Los Illuminados lies in wait with a mysterious and deadly parasite that has infected the entire area.
If you played the original in 2005, you will know what to expect. Much of the story beats are here, but the game takes a darker tone. Its cult-like setting is much more brutal and haunting from the get-go. The cult is now more aggressive and in your face. However, despite being more serious, it doesn’t lose all of its charm. Leon will often spout out amazingly cheesy one-liners. Some even make their way back from the original release to help lighten the tension (the right hand doesn’t come off though).
Characters like Ashley and Luis have gotten major overhauls. The former of which has transformed into someone you actually want to protect throughout the game. As she grows more confident in the traumatising situation and trusts in Leon’s ability, their relationship grows throughout. She feels much more likeable than in the original. As for Luis, his entire backstory has been changed to make him a more tragic individual with a darker past, and it’s all superbly well done.
The original Resident Evil 4, whilst still a really solid game and still worth playing today, is also a product of its time. Playing it recently, I found it still plays well, but the heavy tank controls and lack of moving and shooting can certainly be off-putting for some. Here, Leon no longer controls like a tank. Fitting in with the new style of Resident Evil titles, you are much more agile. You’re now able to move and shoot at the same time, as well as effortlessly navigate the environments. By stunning an enemy, you can run up to them and perform powerful melee attacks that will stun enemies immediately near them.
Alongside this, Leon’s knife has seen a significant gameplay upgrade. In the original, it was mostly a glorified box opener; it wasn’t used too often in combat except in certain situations. Here though it is an essential tool, being able to parry any incoming attack and stun enemies with ease. This also plays in with the light stealth mechanics introduced allowing you to stealthily take down a couple of Ganado before the action kicks off; it adds a slight touch of Evil Within that is appreciated. Just don’t expect to clear entire areas. As such, the knife will be used a lot, and to balance this out it can break. Your main knife can be repaired, but the kitchen/boot knives that you can pick up around the environment will be lost forever.
The core gameplay loop of Resident Evil 4 is incredibly satisfying and arguably one of the most addictive since DOOM Eternal. It feels like Resident Evil, but much more modern. Completing my initial playthrough on Standard, I felt like this is about on par with what to expect from the previous games in the series. Hardcore certainly lives up to its name, with some brutal sections that will test your resource management and strategy. Resident Evil 4 requires you to use Leon’s full arsenal to its fullest potential to survive. Either way, it’s a challenging game, with some great boss fights and encounter designs that never get old, thanks to its solid enemy variety. When a special enemy comes across, it’s never overused. The Norvistadors, Garradors, and El Gigantes are all here.
Then we have the infamous Ashley Graham, who for many was a problem in the original. Personally, I came to love Ashley’s impact on the game. Once you got the hang of how she behaves, she isn’t become a problem at all. It was inevitable that things were going to change here regardless. Now you have one command that will keep her either up close to your back or spread out a bit; this can help split enemies attention or move her away from difficult enemies. You can still tell her to hide in lockers and such but these are much more spread out than before. Her AI isn’t an upgrade over the original, but once again I never really had a problem with her.
Every area from the original is present as well. From the village to the castle and the island, it’s all here. Although, the changes Capcom have made are smart, and as the game goes on, the more drastic the changes are. The first time I set foot in the castle, I was blown away by just how big of an upgrade this truly is. It’s wonderfully designed, creepy, and feels so much more lived in with the Los Iluminados feeling much more dangerous and zealous. Almost every single section has been lovingly recreated here, giving it a much more tense and thrilling experience.
For the few moments that didn’t make it in from the original, that’s probably for a good reason, as I found them to be much weaker aspects. Often these were replaced by something else. I’m not going to spoil the specific changes here, because they need to be seen, but the overhauled Castle and Island sections are fantastic. Moments that I was once dreading are now some of the best in the game.
So much love has been put into this remake that every single section, despite how much it’s changed, remains recognisable and iconic. Then the little things like where you encounter certain enemy types might be mixed around, new events and some incredibly clever changes to set pieces. It creates some of the best moments when something you expect to happen doesn’t, and kept me really on edge when something new did happen. It’s impressively well done, and the changes are often great. Even if you have played the original dozens of times there’s a lot here to justify coming back a dozen more times. It’s a remake that captures the essence of the original, whilst making bold changes.
The merchant also makes a return. Whilst it’s disappointing the same voice actor didn’t reprise his role, his inclusion has been slightly expanded. He will still sell Leon a variety of weapons and upgrades to help him in his adventures. Then there are the request orders. In the original, this was simply shooting blue medallions in the opening village sections. These sidequests aren’t expansive, but do flesh out the world a lot, with some interesting mini-bosses thrown into the mix, and you will still be shooting those medallions as well. Completing sidequests will reward you with spinels, which have been slightly modified from sellable items to tradable ones, allowing you access to special merchant items. This includes the laser for pistols, which I would highly suggest picking up.
Once you are done with the roughly fifteen hour campaign, it’s not over. As is tradition with Resident Evil titles, the level of replay value is immense. New difficulties open up that proves to be an extra challenge, NG+ allows you to bring your fully upgraded gear forward to just have fun with the mechanics. There are tons of unlocks that now extend into more outfits, and infinite ammo being something to aim for with challenging requirements. The Mercenaries isn’t here at launch but will be following shortly. The biggest loss, however, is the lack of Assignment Ada and Separate Ways. Hopefully, this follows in some capacity.
Rebuilt from the ground up in the RE Engine, this remake looks absolutely phenomenal. Every environment is dripping in detail and feels so much more lived in as a result. When blowing limbs off the Ganado, you will see the plaga parasite still wriggling its way around its corpse in gloriously gory detail. Animations are top-notch as well, with Leon adjusting his aim based on how close the varied enemy designs are. Or just suplexing them into the ground. There are a couple of rough edges, but for the most part, Resident Evil 4 stands among the best-looking games.
Similarly, sound design is also excellent. Leon and Ashley prove to be a great duo in this one as their relationship deepens. The only weak points are the new merchant and Ada Wong, who just sounds bored every time she is on screen. I don’t know if this was me being so used to the voice actors in the older games, but it just didn’t quite sit well with me. There’s also a slight over-repetition in some sound effects that can get slightly annoying. Elsewhere the sound design is phenomenal, with the chants of the Ganado surrounding you, making you feel watched in every instance, and a stellar soundtrack that really ramps up, with some of the best moments in the final third.
When the Resident Evil 2 Remake was released back in 2019, I believed the series had peaked and that it couldn’t get any better. I was completely wrong. The Resident Evil 4 Remake takes everything that worked about the original, taking away the few things that didn’t work, and then bringing in some modern features to create an entirely new masterpiece. Finding a perfect balance between new and old. This is for everyone to enjoy.
There are some minor rough edges but Capcom’s RE Engine proves to be a technical showcase bringing in one of the most detailed games in the series.
The Resident Evil 4 Remake does a fantastic job reimagining the original game whilst making you feel like an absolute badass.
Some of the series’ best voice acting with a stunning soundtrack. Let down by some mixed performances and repetitive sounds.
Fun Factor: 10
Resident Evil 4 Remake succeeds in the gargantuan task of not only beating the original game but becoming arguably the series strongest entry to date.
Final Verdict: 10
Resident Evil 4 is available now on PC, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, and PS5.
Reviewed on PC with an RTX 2060, Ryzen 5 3600X and 16GB RAM. Tested on Steam Deck.