It’s hard to understate how influential Resident Evil 4 has been on the industry. One of its prototypes would branch off and become the famous Devil May Cry series. games like Gears of War, Uncharted, Bioshockand dead space (which hilariously also got a remake earlier this year) would have developers involved say Resident Evil 4 was the biggest inspiration. Even within its own series: Resident Evil Village was specifically made as a big callback to Resident Evil 4. This is all to say, it’s a tough game to remake. The amount of love and care put into the original product is something you don’t see very often. It’s a beloved game, and there’s really no world where the remake will be as good as the original.
Well, except in this world, where it’s better.
I know that’s a hell of a statement to make, so I need to follow it up with an even bigger one: the Resident Evil 4 remake isn’t just better than the original game, it is the best resident Evil game. Call it a hot take, call it a hard to swallow pill, call it whatever you want, but resident Evil has simply never had an entry this good with this much love and care put into it. If this is the effort we can expect for future entries or future remakes, then we’re in for something wonderful.
Whether or not you’ve played the original Resident Evil 4, you’re probably aware of the basic plot. Leon S. Kennedy, a member of the US Secret Service, is sent to a mysterious village in the middle of Spain to find Ashley Graham, the president’s missing daughter. Once he gets there, however, he finds the villagers have been taken over by a mysterious parasite called Las Plagas, which appears to be controlled by a cult called Los Illuminados. To complicate matters, his ex-love interest Ada Wong appears to be back from the dead. Now he needs to stop the cult’s plans while still rescuing Ashley and figuring out what Ada is up to.
If you’ve never played the original game, your question is probably “is the story any good?” and the answer to that is yes. It doesn’t have any sort of insane plot twists or crazy unexpected moments, but the story is solid and it’s easy to like all the characters involved. The writing is fun in that over-the-top way (at one point a character is bisected and Leon comments “I guess your tapdancing days are over”), and each new situation brought a smile to my face. You should get plenty to enjoy out of this one.
If you have played the original game, your question is more along the lines of “is this a faithful retelling” and the answer to that is also yes. All of the story beats you remember from the original game are here. Some have been expanded. Luis and Krauser have had their background stories beefed up, and both of them are in more of the game than they were the first time. Maybe my only real complaint about the story is the voice acting. Most of it is fine, but a few characters (particularly Krauser) aren’t that good. Still, it seems to fit with the fun cheesy action-horror tone the game is going for.
While there may be a new game+, other modes haven’t made the cut. We know Mercenaries is coming as free DLC down the line, but there’s no word yet on if either Assignment Ada or Separate Ways will show up. Here’s hoping.
When it comes to the gameplay, Resident Evil 4 plays most like the recent remakes of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. The absolute basics are that it’s a third person shooter where carefully placed shots are super important, and you’ll use them to link into quick melee attacks. Enemies come in overwhelming numbers so that you’ll need to carefully find ways to group together or separate enemies so you can deal with them. Whatever your choice, there are plenty of ways to go about it.
You’ll need to use explore all options because you’re not fighting mindless zombies here. Even the most basic and simple enemies in the game are armed and willing to fight you with tools. They’ll have hatchets, pitchforks, knives, and more. To counter, there are actually a bunch of different ways you can interact with enemies. Shooting their arms will cause them to drop their weapons, something particularly useful if they’re holding a stick of dynamite. Legs will cause them to trip, allowing you to get in a quick melee attack. Headshots do the most damage and sometimes stun them, but also come with a major risk: there’s a chance the head will split open and a parasite will emerge, giving the enemy a dangerous and possibly deadly second phase.
The biggest change in gameplay, and what may be the most controversial, comes from the knife. In the original game, the knife was a useful tool to save ammo while still dealing damage and was occasionally used for cool quick time events. In today’s Resident Evil 4, it has been totally reworked. The knife can parry attacks, be used to execute downed enemies, allows you to quickly escape from grabs, can be used for stealth kills, and more. It is an absolutely essential tool in Leon’s arsenal, and you’re going to constantly be finding uses for it. To balance all this, the knife now has durability. Use it too much, and it’ll break, blocking you out of all these useful skills. Thankfully you can find backup knives to use in a pinch, or pay to have your main knife repaired by the merchant. There’s a good balance in using these moves to defeat enemies, while also making sure you don’t waste all of your knife durability.
There’s actually an all new simple crafting system in the game, though you only ever use it to combine gunpowder and spare parts for ammo. Still, that ammo is going to be extremely important.
In addition to the hoards of regular enemies, there are quite a few unique ones that you’ll have to put some extra work into fighting. Chainsaw enemies can kill Leon in one hit, while smaller Las Plagas will jump on the back of enemies and enhance them. If you’ve become used to the original game’s cast of enemies there are some new ones that will surprise you, such as a bull-head-wearing brute with a hammer that can smash through doors, or a Los Illuminados priest that can cause Las Plagas to burst out of others’ heads. Finding out the best ways to take out each enemy is a joy.
One of the big features from the original Resident Evil 4 that I’m sure most people have opinions on is Ashley. Your goal is to protect her, having to stop the Los Illuminados from abducting or killing her. Ashley doesn’t have a health bar, instead getting injured and falling down on the first hit and being killed on the second. However, you can pick her up to bring her back to full health. You can also ask Ashley to hide in lockers, or order her to either stick close or keep her distance from you. If you’re worried this will be a tedious escort quest, no fears, I found Ashley rather easy to deal with and never had an issue with her.
It’s not just combat you’ll be dealing with though. This is a Resident Evil game, and that means you’ll get really weird puzzles that make you ask questions like “who built this and why?” That’s okay though because the puzzles are pretty solid. You’ll be rotating colors in a church window, or trying to match tiles with faded hints. None of the puzzles are so hard that I was stuck for more than a few minutes, but they all have a solid challenge and those perfect “aha!” moments when you manage to overcome them.
You’ll also be doing plenty of exploring. There’s a ton of hidden treasure and other goodies to be found in the game’s three major zones. Even better, you can freely explore each area. As you advance in the story you’ll get new items that give you new places you can open or look, which, of course, gets you more treasure. You’ll want to get as much as possible too: while you can’t buy ammo and healing items are rarely sold, you can upgrade your weapons, and you’ll need the most powerful weapons to survive.
New to Resident Evil 4 are requests. You can find blue pieces of paper from the merchant asking you to perform certain tasks. This can include things like shooting blue medallions or finding and selling golden eggs. By completing them you’ll be awarded Spinels, which you can collect and trade for some unique items from the merchant. It’s a fun little feature, occasionally made frustrating by objective descriptions telling you to go to the wrong place. For example, one description said the quest took place in a library, but I discovered it was actually in a dining hall.
Library or dining hall, Resident Evil 4 was always beautiful to look at. I honestly can’t think of a game that managed to look as good as consistently as Resident Evil 4 did. This especially shines in the monster designs, which always manage to perfectly capture the level of cheesy and terrifying that’s always being shot for.
Resident Evil 4 | FinalThoughts
I expected Resident Evil 4 to be good. I did not expect to be greeted with one of the best remakes this side of, well… Resident Evil 2 really. I guess I should have saw it coming with a remake that good. Fans of the original will find plenty to love here, and those who haven’t played the original will find a game they’re sure to love. Now let’s see if we can do 5 and 6…
TechRaptor reviewed Resident Evil 4 on PlayStation 5 using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.