Capcom’s latest remake in the Resident Evil series is their best yet, giving everyone a chance to go through Leon’s worst day imaginable in Resident Evil 4. Even though the past few years have been filled with remakes surrounding classic titles that many may fondly remember or have yet to experience for the first time, this game does not feel stale, despite so many horror games making their way on the market.
On the contrary, it’s a stark reminder of why the Resident Evil franchise is one of the best survival games to date, and Capcom does right with this remake by graphically building up this highly regarded entry in the series nearly 20 years later. They also provide modern innovations that turn it into a watermark for every Resident Evil game moving forward, shaping Resident Evil 4 Remake into an unforgettable thrill ride.
Leon’s return is better than ever
For those who have yet to play Resident Evil 4, it stars Leon Kennedy, the rookie cop who had his first day on the force when Racoon City was under siege by a massive zombie horde in Resident Evil 2. It’s been six years since those events , and Leon has become a highly trained Secret Service agent who finds himself in Spain in search of the President’s missing daughter, Ashley Graham, who gets kidnapped by cultists in a small village plagued by a virus known as Las Plagas.
Anyone who has already played Resident Evil 4 will know all the story beats throughout this tale. Much of the plot is similar to the original, and Capcom does little to alter the structure. They don’t have to change what already works, and it stays in line with their continued remakes. Despite being a story from 2005, the overall narrative still works, and it’s fun to see them continue giving Leon several cheesy dialogue and one-liners you’d expect from a protagonist starring in a game from 20 years ago, and it’s still fun in an action movie kind of way.
This is the second survival horror remake that has come out this year, with the first being Dead Space, another game I reviewed. Both of these remakes amplify what made these games definitely fun 20 years ago by repeating much of the same material but also building and enhancing it with new technology to meet audience expectations of refined gameplay.
A superb example from the Resident Evil 4 Remake is the addition of the knife’s parry. It’s a tiny detail that vastly switches up the gameplay, simultaneously showing how far Leon has come since Raccoon City and giving players a split-second chance to defend themselves from an oncoming attack and take advantage of it with a few seconds to react. It’s a fantastic quality-of-life addition you wouldn’t believe you need in a Resident Evil game until you regularly use it. It weaves beautifully with the already heavy combat of the game and doesn’t make it too easy, but only adds to the experience.
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Take it step by step, and be sure to check your reservations
Resident Evil 4 Remake’s refined and smooth combat uplifts it and drives it home with how far Capcom has come in balancing the action-adventure and survival horror genres. This entry in the series does pull away from the core zombie survival game of the previous ones but finds a good balance between the two. There are brief moments before specific encounters where Leon can carefully take down select targets before opening fire on an oncoming horde of angry, infected villagers and monsters.
When the action starts, the swaying gunplay makes it feel like an authentic throwback. I immediately found myself carefully counting every bullet I had in reserve and ensuring each shot counted when pulling the trigger. It was tricky to find harmony in purely shooting a target or wanting to wait a few seconds to properly line up a headshot, get a stun, and then run in to do some heavy melee damage, saving future bullets. It was complicated to pick the right moments when I felt it was better to knock down targets or if it was a good time to save bullets. It was refreshing to feel many encounters weren’t trying to trick me into thinking this way, and instead, I found myself doing it naturally.
When resources become more scarce there are always side paths to explore that make tracking down valuable items easy. There are a handful of additional minor side quests the game gives you, unlocking other treasures and methods to secure valuable resources, something that never felt too time-consuming to participate in. Many of these activities were on the way to the main objective, and it was nice to have the option to do them or not. Even if you were to miss one of these side quests, it only changes what you can buy from the ever-helpful Merchant, who frequently appeared throughout the adventure, keen to help whenever possible while making a quick buck. Thankfully, his offered inventory never seems to expire, and at no time turns inventory management into a chore.
It does feel slightly disappointing that any attachment you buy for your weapons doesn’t go onto the weapon but remains in the cache, taking up a valuable slot. Luckily, there are enough inventory upgrades to make this manageable. These resources are often used enough where there’s always a revolving spot open, ready for something else to take its place. The Resident Evil team has mastered giving players a balanced inventory management, and it shows how much they’ve never forgotten their roots in delivering this remake.
Never forgetting the roots of Resident Evil 4
The team behind this remake does exceptionally well at always staying within the confines of the original game while adding to it only if it builds on what’s there, not tacking something else on because it’s popular. This is reflected in the addition of a widely diverse knife used to parry attacks and the updated mechanics for Ashley when she becomes a companion that you must protect from an oncoming horde of infected enemies.
Updating Ashley is a massive improvement, but there’s not enough to take away the difficulty of protecting her. She doesn’t have a health bar, but it’s game over if she falls or is taken by a cultist. Reviving Ashley does not take a health item, and in a game where every resource counts, this is a huge relief that only adds to the gameplay.
The additions kept the gameplay of Resident Evil 4 on track, and when the classic Resident Evil horror elements were introduced, they were magnificent. One standout example was facing the Garrador, the blind monster with large blades on the ends of its hands. I was forced to lure it into a small room, where it tried hunting me down, hounding my every step, and I had to carefully loop around it to get a good shot on its back and land a critical attack. Once it heard me, though, it’d come crashing at me, forcing me to rush out of the way and repeat the process until defeating it. The Garrador was an encounter that masterfully balanced the heart-pounding moments of quick action and the careful horror of trying to evade this bloodthirsty creature while cautiously using my precious resources.
The gameplay was methodical, and it reminded me of older games where fights like that didn’t happen too often. There are plenty of battles in this remake where it’s a balance of careful gunplay with fast reflexes while also trying to complete minor puzzles or side objectives before becoming overwhelmed. I never felt enemies were thrown at me purely to waste my resources. I had enough tools to effectively deal with them how I needed to while prepping for whatever was waiting for me around the corner.
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The Resident Evil 4 Remake follows what other remakes have done over the past few years, offering a far superior gameplay experience for a hit classic. What it does to stand above those remakes is by adding just enough new mechanics to make it feel like a more modern take on this tale, without having it be one-sided for players but also keeping to what transformed this entry into such a hit when it originally came out in 2005. The Resident Evil 4 Remake is a graphical masterpiece that is a hell of a ride from start to finish.
Although it’s a game that’s been definitively hyped up leading to an official release, the final product does not disappoint returning and first-time fans, making it the pinnacle Resident Evil game to date.
|+||Phenomenal gunplay with plenty of survival elements thrown into the mix|
|+||Exciting sequences, mixing combat, stealth, and puzzle-solving that never runs flat|
|+||Gorgeous graphics make an endlessly enjoyable campaign from start to finish|
|+||Improved quality-of-life mechanics uplift already solid gameplay|
|+||Unforgettable boss sequences and epic encounters|