The Resident Evil 4 remake is here, but did the game really need a remake, and more importantly, is it worth your time?
Resident Evil 4 (2005) is one of the most celebrated games of all time. Not only did the original reinvigorate an aging horror franchise, it also helped redefine the third-person shooter as we know it. That’s quite a legacy to live up to, and while the original Resident Evil trilogy from the PS1 era sorely needed remaking, many fans were on the fence about a Resident Evil 4 remake.
In many ways, the game didn’t need one, especially after being ported and updated to every console generation since it was released. Also, while there’s no such thing as a perfect game, for many, RE4 is as close as you can get. A remake risked tarnishing that rather than elevating it (arguably, like the rushed RE3 remake). With this in mind, we went into the Resident Evil 4 remake with a mixture of apprehension and anticipation, but it didn’t take long to realize that our fears were misplaced.
Resident Evil 4 key details
- Price: £59.99/$59.99
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: March 24, 2023
- Platforms: PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Resident Evil 4 trailer
Welcome back, Stranger
In many ways, the Resident Evil 4 remake is the same game you remember, just modernized. That said, Capcom has also taken the opportunity to make a few tweaks. The good news is, every single one of them is for the better. It’s with great pleasure (and a degree of relief) that we can tell you that the Resident Evil 4 remake improves on the original in every way.
To be clear, this isn’t simply a 4K remaster of the original Resident Evil 4, it’s a full, from-the-ground-up remake in the same vein as the RE1, 2, and 3 remakes. If you’ve played the latter two games, you’ll be instantly at home with it, even if you didn’t play the original RE4. This remake feels like somebody took the Resident Evil 4 template and lovingly blended it with the mechanics of Resident Evil Village.
Village itself was a homage to RE4 in lots of ways, so it’s great to see 4 back and borrowing from its younger sibling, while also putting the RE Engine to such excellent use.
Survival Horror vs. Action Horror
The original RE4 was distinct from earlier entries in the series, as it was more light-hearted and action focused. The game kept the B-movie flavor but opted for an approach that was heavy on guns and cheesy one-liners. However, in recent years, the Resident Evil series has returned to a more grounded, serious, and horror-focused universe. Being distinct from what came before and what came after, the original RE4 was starting to feel out of place.
Luckily, the remake does a superb job of adapting to this new style, but without dishonoring or changing what made the original so beloved. While it places more emphasis on survival horror, it’s still very much in the spirit of the Resident Evil 4 we know. Leon’s quips are still here and just as cheesy, but everything feels more in line with a now battle-hardened and confident Leon S. Kennedy. This is the Leon we met in the RE2 remake, rather than the super-spy from the original RE4. His journey from rookie cop to bad-ass agent feels natural and more believable this time around.
The remake dials back some of the more cartoonish elements from the original game, although it finds new ways to reference, honor, and present them that should please purists. The game cuts away some of the less interesting aspects and expands on the more celebrated moments. There were times when we thought, “I wonder how they’re going to do that bit,” and were pleasantly surprised and supportive of the change once it played out.
Surviving the onslaught
The over-the-shoulder perspective that Resident Evil 4 popularised has never been as effective as it is in this remake. Leon is a joy to control and can spin-kick, stomp, and German suplex his way out of danger. The game also adopts the Resident Evil 1 remake’s knife moves, allowing Leon one last chance to avoid injury by sticking a Ganado with a blade should they grab hold of him.
Gunplay has also reached new franchise highs, even improving on Village’s system. Every shot feels satisfying and weighty with every weapon having an important use and reason to upgrade it. The remake brings back all the guns from the original but also throws in some surprises too.
Enemies never feel like cannon fodder, even in the most action-packed moments. Every crazed villager, mumbling monk, and beyond feels like a legitimate threat. If you get complacent, they’ll get the better of you, especially when playing the harder settings. We had also forgotten how terrifying the rev of a chainsaw could be. This remake soon reminded us.
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Building a new Resident Evil universe
The remake’s story does a better job of making RE4 feel like an important chapter in the universe rather than like a side story – or a baffling coincidence. Resident Evil 7, Village, and the remakes of RE2 and 3 have worked hard to tell a complete and interconnected story, and the RE4 remake continues this trend by making slight changes to the plot. It works and helps connect the chapters that came before and will come after Leon’s trip to rural Spain.
Several characters have had their motivations tweaked and this really improves the narrative flow of the game. The remake subverts expectations at times in an effort to throw off players who are very familiar with the original, but it does so in a way that’s always satisfying to fans and to new players alike. We’d compare it to the RE2 remake in this sense, faithful to what came before while still managing to be fresh.
The Resident Evil 4 remake is exactly what we wanted it to be and answers the question: is it possible to improve on what many would once consider the pinnacle of gaming? Luckily, this gives us the answer, and it’s a resounding yes.
While we might still question if a Resident Evil 4 remake was strictly necessary – we’re so glad Capcom created it. No matter what era of Resident Evil is you’re favorite, Capcom has designed this game with you in mind and we look forward to seeing where the series goes next.
Reviewed on PS5
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