Resident Evil 4 Remake Review: Remastered, Remastered, Replayable
After Capcom’s successful remakes of the 90s Resident Evil games, a new take on their flagship title, Resident Evil 4, was inevitable. necessary was apparently controversial. Now that we have the remake, how does it fit in with the influential original? Pretty damn good, with most of the changes improving the story and gameplay. It has one or two disappointing changes (and a few outright removals), but it’s a fantastic way to experience Resident Evil 4 both on repeat and for the first time.
You all already know the story: Raccoon City survivor Leon S. Kennedy is now a government agent and travels to a rural Spanish village to retrieve his kidnapped first daughter, Ashley Graham. The mission quickly spirals out of control as he has to contend with an entire city of parasitized Ganados, a dubious parasite-based cult, and keep an eye on a few allies who aren’t quite what they seem.
There are a lot of things specific to the remake that I won’t talk about because of spoilers – I want all fans of the original to experience the specific differences. I’ll try to talk about the changes in general terms. However, I feel confident pointing out which things have remained the same. Both are enough to keep veterans guessing and newcomers having fun. In short, I was convinced that there was no point in redoing the RE4 – and now I’m glad they did.
Secret agent training pays off
The first thing to note – and I think this is a positive thing – is that RE4-make is not the same remake as Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. Those games were huge seismic shifts in style and design. (which ironically made both look more like RE4) and RE4-make is more subtle. These small changes create an updated experience free from the older elements of the original.
The gameplay changes are the first and most noticeable. Leon can now move while aiming – which is a bigger advantage than you might think – and he can also crouch to hide. That’s right, a remake of a game where action-packed Resident Evil added stealth again. It’s not very useful, but it’s nice to have the option to save a few bullets before the hordes start chasing you in force.
And there will be hordes. Resident Evil 4 is picking up steam, increasing the number of Ganados and other enemies that Leon will face in the game’s mid-range. The game almost exults, pushing the limits of what the player can handle in all three main areas of the adventure. Ganado is stronger than before, and even a perfect headshot isn’t a guaranteed kill. I was playing on Normal difficulty and chewed a hole in my bottom lip trying to get more ammo.
The RE4 gives Leon’s trusty knife a new purpose… mainly in the sense that it’s no longer reliable. The knife has a durability meter and can break if Leon abuses it. This is likely, as another new gameplay addition is the ability to parry with a knife. I’m sure most people have seen Leon use this against Dr. Salvador’s chainsaw in a demo. Although the game gives you spare knives as a backup, you can find yourself in a situation where you have nothing to fight off enemies with.
RE4-make also benefits from Capcom’s own RE engine as the village no longer looks as dirty and dirty as it used to. It falls short of its successor, Resident Evil Village, which has both the castle and the village a bit more atmospheric. I disagree a little with the amount of foliage added as it sometimes makes navigation difficult, but this is only an issue in the first third of the game.
One Missing Senorita
In addition to the gameplay, the update also received the story and characters. The two characters that would benefit the most from the remake are Louis and Ashley, Leon’s two main supporting characters in the story. Leon spends more time outside of the cutscenes talking to them and they interact with him more than in the original. It also helps to make Leon a little more interesting by association, as this version is more stoic and less inclined to play pranks on his enemies.
While the bits of the story haven’t changed, the order has. Veterans will find that things don’t always play out the way they used to, and the rewritten versions freshen up the story and make it more meaningful. I can’t be more specific because, again, spoilers, but some characters appear in different places in the story, and some silly dialogue is gone in favor of making the villains more menacing.
Luis is much more personable in the remake, being a little more outspoken about who he is and what he does. Ashley is more fleshed out, more like a character with thoughts and emotions than a prop. Understandably, she spends most of the game in horror but is willing to do her part to help, and the new version of her solo chapter is one of my favorite parts of the game.
Even our old friend the Merchant is changing. Yes, he is still a scratchy-voiced cockney arms dealer, and he still gives you the ability to buy, sell, and customize your weapons. But he also has a new trading system where you can do him small favors in exchange for spinels, which you can exchange for useful and valuable items. These extra bits give the game some replayability and additional features.
Oh, and one more small complaint about the original, which I’m glad the developers have eliminated: the Spanish peasants actually speak Spanish, not Mexican. In the first game, they kind of sidestepped it, saying straight up that it was happening in Spain (which I always thought was an attempt not to offend real Spaniards). In the remake, they all have proper Spanish accents, and Luis makes several references to Don Quixote. It doesn’t really matter, but at least it’s not that unpleasant to listen to.
The more things change…
While I generally like the Resident Evil 4 remake, it’s not perfect either. There are times when you can almost feel the developers holding back big changes. That wouldn’t be a problem, except that the desire to stick to the original means a lot that they skimp on the little things sometimes. Sometimes the in-game chapters aren’t always well-narrative, as they seem to lack an interesting plot point to wrap things up.
If Ashley and Louis become more charming and interesting in the remake, then poor Ada will suffer. Gone is her sexy, mysterious look – here she is sharp, apathetic and frankly tired. Her scenes with Leon lack the chemistry that he has with the other two allies, and her performances (which are admittedly rare) are derailed because of this. I think her voice actress probably got some bad direction because I can tell she’s trying to sound sultry and instead sounds like she has a sore throat.
Speaking of Ashley, she has unfortunately retained some of her more annoying traits. Instead of cover, which is almost completely absent, RE4-make switches to a “formation” system. Using this, Leon can either tell Ashley to stay close to him or move away and keep her distance. Theoretically, this is to prevent her from being hit by both enemies and Leon’s melee attacks. But with the game’s tight map design, she’s always on you, whether you told her to back off or not, meaning the enemy is more likely to pick her up and leave with her.
In terms of gameplay, there is one change that hit me hard, but a good one: Leon’s running animation so slow. His sprint in the game is about the same as the default walking speed in the original game. This becomes more problematic later in the game when you have to run away from bigger and more aggressive enemies (and those dreaded regenerators) and Leon seems to be running through quicksand. These complaints are not enough to ruin the game for me, but they softened what was otherwise a very joyful experience.
“Where is everyone going – bingo?”
The Resident Evil 4 remake seems like something made by a big fan of the original, but to those who weren’t afraid to change things up a bit. I spent about 20 hours on one playthrough and will almost certainly play more. Although sometimes I wish the developers would change even more than they did, I’m happy with the balance of loyalty and newness in the remake.
There’s a chance that fans of the original won’t take this modified version well, and some of the elements in the above section really get in the way of a perfect experience. Even aside from the fact that it’s a remake, overall it’s still a solid game and will bring joy to new players who experience a remastered and updated Resident Evil 4.
Capcom has provided GamesBeat with the code for this PS5 game for review. Resident Evil 4 Remake is coming to PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4 and PC on March 24, 2023.
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