Resident Evil 4 Remake – Game Review

The Resident Evil series has long been held up as the pinnacle of the survival horror genre, and with it being one of the longest running and best selling series in that genre it’s hard to disagree with that statement. Fans of the series will often hold up Resident Evil 4 as the best of the series. Released in 2005, the game took the series into a new era, introducing more action elements, revamping the structure of the game, and introducing several quality of life improvements that would become staples of the series going forward. The game not only helped to redefine the Resident Evil series, but gaming in general (we have Resident Evil 4 to blame for all of the quick-time-events segments in games around this era).

With the remake of the original Resident Evil (now itself 20 years old) the original clunky game was given new life. It introduced new areas, new enemies, and a fantastic upgrade to graphics in what’s still possibly the best looking game on the Nintendo Gamecube. The recent release of updated remakes for Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 did much of the same, taking games with pretty poor graphics, stiff tank controls, and very basic game-play and gave them a huge revamp. But, with Resident Evil 4 being the entry in the series that revolutionised the modern Resident Evil era, is there much that can be done in remaking it? Is there any real point in this game? The answer to both, is absolutely yes.

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Resident Evil 4 takes place in 2004, several years after the Raccoon City incident. Since surviving the destruction of the city and the monstrous hordes that plagued it, rookie cop Leon Kennedy (Nick Apostolides) has been recruited into special government training. When the daughter of the President, Ashley Graham (Genevieve Buechner), is kidnapped, Leon is sent to find her. Tracking her location down to rural Spain, Leon travels to a small village where he hopes to find clues to her whereabouts. What he finds instead is a community under the control of a mad cult leader who is using an ancient parasite to transform people into willing slaves and monsters. Leon will have to fight through hordes of cultists, mutants, and monsters in order to save Ashley and get home.

Upon beginning the game it’s clear that the remake has been given a huge face-lift. The drab orange and brown colour scheme of the original has been replaced with a darker, moodier tone that seems to have embraced the horror elements a bit more. Before you’ve even reached the main village where the first portion of the game takes place you discover mutilated offerings on shrines, creepy cabins, murder victims, and dangerous foes that force you to have to sneak past them. The original game opened with a bang, and whilst the remake does once you enter the main village, the steps getting there make a point to remind you that this is a horror series too.

© 2023 Capcom.

And this is one of the things that has changed the game the most. The original Resident Evil 4 shifted more towards action, with Leon able to punch, kick, and suplex downed enemies (don’t worry, he can still do all of that), and there being enough ammo that you could plough your way through enemies. This would continue a trend across the next two games that saw the horror almost completely forgotten by the time the sixth game came out. Here, however, the game is tense throughout. It’s not just the first time that you encounter enemies that you have fear, as fairly standard foes in later segments of the game will still cause you to get worried as they swarm towards you, weapons raised.

A big part of the fear factor in the remake is down to resources. There’s simply not enough ammo lying around to get through the game. You cannot find enough bullets and shells to see you through. To deal with this the crafting system that was utilised well in Resident Evil: Village makes a return. Gathering resources and gunpowder allows Leon to craft ammo for his guns, as well as flashbangs and grenades. Whilst resources aren’t exactly abundant, finding and crafting will get you through the game. Though you may be finding yourself juggling inventory space to make room for your much needed resources, and considering carefully which ones to make.

The game also introduces what I’d describe as your new best friend, the bolt thrower. At first I was a bit unsure about this fancy crossbow because the big selling point was that you could reclaim spent ammo. Would this ruin the careful balance of resource management? No, if anything, it almost felt necessary to use to get through my first play-through. Whilst you can reclaim your bolts, it does depend on where you shoot them, and you can lose them, resulting in having to gather to craft more. It does lead to some tense moments as you’re pumping enemies full of shots, watching your ammo count go down, and realising you’re going to have to make a mad dash to grab some spent bolts to finish the horde. The bolt thrower quickly became my new favourite weapon, however, and the fact that it could be used for stealth purposes made it essential too.

© 2023 Capcom.

Speaking of stealth, the game has introduced a new mechanic in the form of sneaking and silent take-downs. Leon is able to crouch-walk up behind enemies and take them out with a single knife attack that doesn’t alert nearby foes. You’re able to use this mechanic to sneak your way around the environments, trying to bring the horde down before they spot you and swarm at you. You can’t stealth your way through the entire game, and you will find yourself forced to fight openly more than not, but it is a cool addition to the game that opens up some extra choices for you.

Outside of game-play, the new remake has also altered the environments and level design a lot. The game feels very similar at first, with a tweaked but familiar path leading to a village that has pretty much the exact layout that long-time fans will remember. Pretty soon, however, it becomes apparent that the game will not allow existing fans to fall into a sense of ease as it starts to mess with the order of things. An early stage of the game flips things on you entirely, as you begin in the part of the level where you would have been heading to in the original, and makes you play the new environment backwards. There are other parts where the placement of locations have been moved around slightly in order to make a better flowing game, and some parts have been removed entirely.

The castle location is perhaps the most changed in the game, and will provide a number of nice surprises. There are segments in there that not only never appeared in the original, but may have even been impossible to do back then. For everything removed from the original design the team have added something new to replace it. Because of this, it never feels like you’re missing out on something that the original game had. Pretty much every enemy comes back, along with several new ones, and the only thing I can think of that didn’t make the return is a boss that felt kind of forced into the original anyway. The game also decided to take one of the scariest enemies from the original and made them worse by making them a lot faster this time round too, and I hate how it made them so much more frightening to go up against.

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There’s also a new request system in the game. In the original game you got one request from the Merchant, to shoot a number of medallions to get a free handgun. This time round there are nineteen such challenges to undertake. This can range from shooting medallions to hunting rats, gathering eggs, or taking on dangerous enemies. These challenges will often get you to revisit areas in order to unlock them, and reward you with exclusive treasures that you can use to unlock extra items and resources. This, along with hunting down all of the treasures scattered across the maps, will lead to a lot of exploration and revisiting of areas.

All in all, the Resident Evil 4 Remake takes everything great about the original and improves upon it tenfold. All of the things about the original that feel kind of clunky and dated have been dealt with, and there have been improvements across the board, including game-play, story, and design. Having replayed through the original before the remake was released (literally finishing the night before) I can say that out of the two there’s one that I’ll hold up as one of the best made and most fun entries in the Resident Evil franchise, and it’s not the one that’s almost 20 years old.

Resident Evil 4 is out now on various platforms.

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