After months of rumors, Capcom finally spilled the beans and formally announced their impending remake of Resident Evil 4, due for release March 24 on Windows PC, Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5. The publisher claims they will be “reimagining the storyline of the game while keeping the essence of its direction, modernizing the graphics and updating the controls to a modern standard,” and many developers who worked on the 2019 remake of Resident Evil 2 are returning for this title.
I’m excited to say the least. Resident Evil 4 is the best-known game in the series, and for valid reason: it’s a veritable rollercoaster ride. It starts off simple enough – U.S. government agent Leon S. Kennedy, first introduced in RE2, is tasked with rescuing the President’s daughter, who’s been kidnapped. The moment you enter a rural Spanish village to be ambushed by zombies known as “Los Ganados,” the action just doesn’t let up, and the variety of enemies you face and environments you encounter is impressive to this day.
Every time you start to build confidence in your mission, the narrative shifts completely, leaving you with the same sense of desperation and curiosity over and over again. Enemies vary from zombies to cultists to full-blown monstrosities, and the protagonists’ fitting reactions of bewilderment and horror keep the game reasonably grounded, keeping the story compelling and tensions high.
To be quite honest, I have a hard time getting through most video games with campaigns longer than six hours. It’s very difficult for game designers to instill enough variety to keep my attention for that long. RE4 clocks in at around 15 hours for a first playthrough, but I was hooked the whole time.
Amusingly enough, I was a latecomer to the RE4 hype train. Originally released for the Nintendo Gamecube in 2005, I did not pick up a copy until 2016. Suffice to say, the game holds up perfectly, and nostalgia doesn’t really factor into my enthusiasm.
Of course, that brings up a valid concern that is shared by many: If RE4 in its original form holds up almost perfectly in 2022, is there justification for a remake? It certainly has less to gain than the recent remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3, which went to great lengths to modernize those games obviously dated by forced camera angles, pre-rendered backgrounds and mediocre combat mechanics.
For this reason, many diehard fans of the series have been begging for years that Capcom see fit to remake Resident Evil: Code Veronica instead of RE4 – the argument being that Code Veronica is far more antiquated than RE4, and while it’s an offshoot from the main series, it tells an interesting story regardless.
I sure wouldn’t be against Code Veronica getting a makeover, but from a marketing standpoint, it’s not hard to understand why Capcom chose to skip it in favor of RE4. While fans of the series are a bit divided on RE4, it’s the best-known Resident Evil game by a longshot and appeals to many, many more gamers than the series’ deeper cuts. It’s also a perfect blend of action and survival horror compared to the very action-centric fifth and sixth entries and predominantly-horror elements the series began with.
But I’ll freely admit that there’s a part of me that’s nervous about this impending release. RE4 went through a development hell wherein the game was scrapped and redeveloped all over again twice before they settled on what we ended up getting. The result was intense but campy, horror yet sci-fi and unsettling but oddly amusing sometimes. It doesn’t check everyone’s boxes, but the end product was completely unique.
For that reason, I just hope Capcom doesn’t go overboard with “reimagining the storyline,” as they put it. They gave the previous remakes a similar treatment, and the general consensus is they treated RE2 with great respect but fumbled RE3. But Capcom has been pushing Resident Evil more than ever in recent years, and the series continues to grow in popularity. They’d have to be insane to push out a mediocre reimagining of the franchise’s most popular game – this one feels like a safe bet, and I’m hyped.
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