Game On: Resident Evil 4 makes a triumphant return
Thu., March 30, 2023
When Resident Evil 2 was remade in 2019, raking in several awards and excellent reception for modernizing the 1998 classic that cemented the franchise’s prominence, many fans speculated that Capcom would go on to do the same with several other entries. While a separate studio handled the third entry’s remake in 2020, RE2’s developer M-Two immediately got to work on recreating Resident Evil 4.
Gamers were understandably nervous about the prospect of modernizing RE4. Despite being of legal age, it’s held up phenomenally well – aside from a few questionable controls and some obnoxious quick-time events, the gameplay is as fun as ever. Even from a graphical standpoint, it still doesn’t look bad – its worst sin is some rather wooden mouth movements.
So in this relatively new age of video game remakes, reboots and remasters, the question is always: Just how much of a rehash is it?
RE4 was remade from the ground up on a new engine, its cutscenes changed and level layouts tweaked – but it all plays out very similarly to the 2005 original. I’m pleased to report that Capcom absolutely nailed Resident Evil 4 yet again.
Being the best-known entry in a franchise just about every gamer has at least heard of comes with a lot of expectations. In retrospect, RE4 also marks the point where Resident Evil became less focused on the survival-horror elements and more focused on the action and gunplay. Capcom eventually reversed this course in 2017 with Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.
While there exists a faction of diehard horror fans who abhor RE4 for representing the beginning of a genre shift, most fans will agree that it found a sweet spot between action and survival-horror. I freely admit being in that camp – the guns are certainly a-blazin’, but your ammo reserves will quickly run dry if you’re not careful and resourceful.
Most of your foes are infected with the Las Plagas parasite, making them prone to mind control and granting them superhuman resilience – typical zombie traits. You also face legions of armored cultists and a handful of monstrous opponents. Long story short: a headshot is rarely a one-shot kill, so you’ll need to utilize knives, roundhouse kicks and environmental hazards to make the most of your limited ammo supply.
That gameplay loop is as gratifying as ever – notable additions include a bolt thrower for silent kills, a rudimentary stealth system and a knife durability mechanic. With few exceptions, modern games have become notorious for hand-holding, but you’ll find none of that here. RE4’s remake is actually more difficult than the original at times, but never unreasonably so.
But even more impressive is how gracefully M-Two handled RE4’s story and dialogue. Although nothing is recycled and many elements are reimagined, the spirit of the original game is mostly intact. In our current era of edginess trending in media, it’s predictably a bit more serious, but much of the iconic campiness has been preserved. My only gripe is the loss of the merchant’s iconic “wot are you buyin’?” lines.
If anything, protagonist Leon S. Kennedy trash-talks his victims with even greater frequency than before. It’s a great way to break up the tension and provide the player with a sense of relief while further endearing us to the character. Better still, the dialogue between Leon and Ashley Graham – the U.S. president’s daughter, whom he is tasked with rescuing – has a lot of added depth this time around.
As far as superiority over the original release goes, it’s hard to call either iteration objectively better than the other. Both have their own innumerable strengths with only a small handful of weaknesses.
Resident Evil 4 earns high marks all around, and I happily recommend it to longtime fans and new players alike. Although the games have an overarching plot, each entry’s story stands largely on its own, so there’s no harm in starting with number four.
Riordan Zentler can be reached at email@example.com.
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