Available now on PS4/5, Xbox One & Series X/S and PC – Reviewed on Xbox Series X
It could be argued that remaking Resident Evil 4, is almost as silly a prospect as remaking Jaws, or The Exorcist. What is the point in remaking an established benchmark in the medium? Especially when it’s still so widely available and revered to this day. I only played through Resident Evil 4 again at the end of last year after downloading it on yet another console, and I had a tremendous time. The controls may seem a little stiff and outdated compared to more modern 3rd person action games, but once you’ve given it time to bed in, Resident Evil 4 is a thrilling adventure that goes way beyond any of its predecessors, and just happens to be one of the greatest videogames ever made. Mechanically and visually it is a treat to play, and with a story and characters that’s as mad as a box of frogs to go with it, you’re guaranteed a great time.
So why the remake, especially when Resident Evil 4 is available to own on literally every gaming platform since the GameCube? Well, I suppose it carries on the series of remakes following the exceptional 2002 update of the original Resident Evil, and the more recent remakes of Resident Evil 2&3, which I thought were both very good games in their own right, however felt like they missed the mark somewhat, when it comes to what made the original games so good. They are remakes of games made when 3D survival horror was in its infancy, with what some would argue, archaic controls, bad voice acting and ropey visuals (personally they all add to the experience for me). The visual update for all three is nothing short of stunning, despite the almost 20 year (TWENTY!) gap between the remakes of Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2, but given how good Resident Evil 4 has looked since it debuted on Nintendo’s little purple box a couple of years following the first remake, the visuals have always been perfectly fine. Using the same engine as the more recent remakes, as well as Resident Evil 7&8, this new remake is undoubtedly the most visually impressive installment of the 27 year old franchise, and it starts as it means to go on.
As much as things change, they stay the same. For those that have played the original, one of the standout set pieces for most, will be the village mob scene in the games opening. Finding one of your Spanish police officer escorts being burned alive at the stake, Leon S Kennedy returns to the forefront of the action in the search for the president’s daughter, Ashley Graham, which has led him to this remote area of Spain in the early 00’s. The villagers don’t take to kindly to the outsiders, as Leon’s colleague unfortunately found out. Things soon take a stressful turn as the mob descends on Leon, meaning you have to fend them off for as long as you can. This sequence introduces the player to what kind of action they can expect from the game, as well as some fantastically absurd close quarter combat techniques such as roundhouse kicks and suplexes, as well as a knife parry and the ability to jump out of first floor windows unscathed. It’s frantic and just as challenging as the original game.
And while there are lots of cut and paste moments throughout (if it ain’t broke…), there are sections that have benefited from a rehash or that have been cut altogether, making it a much leaner and thrilling experience. There are even some parts that are completely new to the game, just to keep those who know the original inside out, on their toes. A lot of the changes have been made for the better, with some of the boss fights being a bit more entertaining, and the Indiana Jones inspired mine cart section was an absolute blast from start to finish.
The characters have been improved a lot as well. Leon and Luis (the enigmatic european whom Leon encounters early on) make a great double act at times, and Ashley is no longer a meek child in distress yelling for Leon’s help every 2 minutes. While at first she may come across that way, she has a little more about her this time around and even contributes to some puzzle solving if you find yourself getting stuck. Leon himself is every bit the smart mouthed action man we get in the original game, complete with a full set of one liners and witty retorts. Some of the enemies are improved, although unfortunately Salazar seems a little toned done this time around. A constant nuisance in the original version, here we only encounter him a few times before the inevitable boss fight. Of course, one of the stars of the original game makes a welcome return in the guise of the merchant. Helping equip Leon with his arsenal and anything else he can afford, as well as tuning up your weapons. Often a welcome sign of respite in the game as well, you know you’ve got a few moments peace before heading back into the mayhem. However, despite this, he’s kind of lost some of his edge. While his iconic phrases and line delivery is still there, and just as amusing as ever, the change in voice actor means the merchant in the remake is nowhere near as gruff as the original. A minor gripe, but an important one.
Naturally it’s difficult to review this game as its own thing if you’ve played the original. Resident Evil 4 was the template that inspired the action and horror genre for several years following, and even the recent Resident Evil remakes, but nothing has quite replicated the sheer thrill ride, until now. Objectively, this remake surpasses the original. The sections that feel dragged out are tightened up, the visuals are as great as you’d expect, and the game flows so much better. And despite it being a leaner experience, it isn’t really any shorter. There’s a lot of bang for your buck, with challenges, new game plus and a recently added Mercenaries mode, so there’s plenty to keep you coming back. The fact the game is as good as it is, should be reason enough for you to want to get straight back in for another play through. And you get to keep your weapons for a second run through, which means you can crank up the difficulty and and go through it with more firepower.
Resident Evil 4 isn’t a necessary remake, but when it’s as good as this, it really doesn’t matter. It’s a shining example of the action horror genre and is so much fun, you’d be daft to pass it up. Where the series goes from here, who knows? 5 was pretty bad and 6 is a different story altogether. With 8 being the conclusion of the more recent mainline series, it’s up in the air as to what direction Capcom are going to go next. But in the meantime, make sure you play Resident Evil 4. One of the best games in the genre for many years.