Resident Evil 4 Remake reanimates a gaming icon in style

Resident Evil 4 Chainsaw GarnadoCapcom

We went hands-on with Resident Evil 4 Remake, and came away blood-soaked, breathless, and with a chainsaw ringing in our ears.

Heads being stomped like watermelons, old women snapping necks like twigs, and being bisected by a big angry chainsaw man like… we don’t have a simile here.

Resident Evil 4 Remake takes the brutality of the original and adds a whole new level. Just as the prior incarnation kicked things up a notch, this is Resident Evil at its best — unsettling, unhinged, and unflinching.

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Our short time with the latest resurrection of a survival horror classic cements one thing — nobody does remakes quite like Capcom. Like a Garnado plugged full of bullets before morphing into something heinous, Resident Evil 4 is a gruesome, familiar visit to a gaming legend.

Not welcome here

Resident Evil 4 Remake Villager AttackCapcom
Villagers have impressive detail in both faces and animations.

It feels like an odd thing to say, but it feels like Capcom’s excellent work on remakes of prior installments of the Resident Evil franchise has all led to this.

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The original Resident Evil 4’s influence is felt outside of the franchise, outside of the console generation it arrived on, and even outside of the genre. It almost feels, in some bizarre test of loyalty and slavish care for the series, as though Capcom needed to earn the right to remake arguably its most critically lauded entry.

Resident Evil 2 Remake’s focus on horror and its sequel’s focus on action marry just as perfectly here as they did in 2005, but that’s not to say there aren’t new tricks in Leon Kennedy’s survival manual.

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We spent time in the initial Hunter’s Cabin, experiencing the first meeting with a crazed Garnado, before heading into the village. It’s not quite the same as we remember, with the initial cottage brought to life in painstaking detail.

The bones and animal skulls feel more thematically tied to Resident Evil 7, swapping the bayou for the brush and brickwork of Europe but conveying the same message — there’s something evil here.

Knife to meet you

Garnardos Attacking Leon KennedyCapcom
The first run-in with a Garnado is creepier than ever.

Leon’s got new tricks, too, and we’re not just talking about the physics that see his “still perfectly mid-2000s” fringe flop and fold perfectly.

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For one, stealth is a more viable option than it was on GameCube. Crouching around the initial village, knifing unnervingly realistic-looking villagers may feel like an easy way to thin the herd, but there are limits.

Our protagonist’s knife can now degrade after multiple uses, and using all of its sharpness locks Leon out of a new parry mechanic that stops attacks and opens up a chance to reposition or line up another shot.

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Resident Evil 4 Remake Combat KnifeCapcom
The combat knife is lethal, but has limited uses.

If you’re worried that would alleviate some of the tension of fighting back the horde of possessed villagers, then you’d be wrong — Resident Evil 4 Remake is just as tense as the original. Rounding a corner to find a mob of Garnados is a pulse-pounding moment, and they’ll now grab you from the back so their cohorts can hurl an axe, run you through with a rake, or just grab you.

Thankfully, the shotgun is just where you remember it being — and still just as satisfying to use. Even better, throwing a hand grenade into a group of enemies and seeing just a single leg left standing when the dust settles feels a perfect match for the game’s campy tone.

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That’s right, Leon still performs roundhouse kicks, makes one-liners to himself about bingo, and hurls himself out of a window while saying “I’ll see myself out”. It perfectly meanders along the line of silliness and seriousness in a way the best Resi games always do.

Deja Views

Resident Evil 4 Remake VillagersCapcom
Not so friendly faces.

As you’d imagine from a modern-day remake, particularly one in Capcom’s ever-impressive RE Engine, Resident Evil 4 Remake looks gruesome in the best ways.

Rotting animal corpses, a police officer burning at the stake, and scrawlings on the way make it clear that this is a village in the throes of decay, and that Leon is not welcome there.

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Contrasted with the brownish hues of the non-HD original, it’s a transformation that Wesker himself would be proud of. A thin layer of mist, the rustling of bushes, and all of the unpleasantness of the setting coalesce into the kind of locale you’ll swear you can smell — and it’s equal parts intoxicating and uncomfortable.

Final Thoughts

Our short, but sweet, play session ended with a visit from the chainsaw-wielding madman that terrorized us all those years ago, and in many ways, he’s now endemic of the remake.

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While he previously felt scary but looked a little goofy, he now peers through his makeshift mask with bloodshot, piercing eyes that feel like a true nightmare — and we’re ready to get scared silly again in 2023.

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