It’s been six years since the fall of Racoon City, as told by the storyline following the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3. Braver, bolder and more determined than ever is Leon Kennedy, the protagonist of 2005’s Resident Evil 4, sporting his classic cheesy one-liners and stylish haircut. Reimagined for a modern audience, the Resident Evil 4 remake aimed to take everything from its original and completely upgrade its core systems regarding gameplay, plotlines and character developments, making for one of the most innovative experiences of Capcom’s development history.
Like a Whole ‘Nother Game
Resident Evil 4 changes various settings dramatically, specifically the first chapter’s cabin scene. For example, Leon’s broken Spanish makes its first appearance when attempting to talk to the first Ganado, ending in a violent cutscene of Leon roundhouse kicking the poor fellow into a wall, breaking his neck. Giving back control to the player, Leon ventures into a basement where all sorts of ghoulish wrongdoings seem to be going on, and he also finds the body of one of the Spanish officers that brought him to the village. Making his escape, Leon encounters the former Ganado with his neck snapped, and he charges towards Leon, grabbing him and presenting a twisting, wiggly parasitic organism that has broken from the neck wound the Ganado suffered previously. This encounter is just one of the many welcome changes to the remake, enhancing the lore and adding further plotlines to the story.
A Modern Experience
Long gone are the days where Leon has to stand in one spot to pop off shots into a Ganado’s thick skull as the player now has access to far more options for maneuverability. Capcom are doing all they can to implement next-gen technology into Resident Evil 4, making for a more fun and immersive experience. For example, need to get out of range of a Ganado’s grab? Just crouch down and they will stumble away, giving you the perfect opportunity to add a hole to the back of their head. Is it too late to escape that machete blow to the shoulder blades? Counterattack with a quick parry, then kick the attack into next week. Also, quick time events are now extremely sparse, only being used within gameplay like when escaping grabs or dodging attacks that cannot be parried, giving players more opportunity to play the game their own way.
It’s a Long One
Capcom have been known to make more cuts than a pair of scissors in their games, and Resident Evil 4 has not been spared. Alas, this hasn’t really hindered the gameplay experience one bit as where Capcom has made a cut, they have replaced it with a new idea or expanded upon certain areas completely. For instance, the infamous Krauser fight cutscene that was probably the original game’s biggest quick-time event extravaganza was cut and replaced with a properly playable knife-fight scene. For reference, my first playthrough of the original Resident Evil 4 was about 16 hours, and the remake was just over 20 hours. One disappointment I had was the exclusion of a certain terrifying boss that I won’t get into, but for the most part, the game seemed to be full of content, despite the cuts that were made from the original.
Resident Evil 4 has always been described as an action-horror experience, but Capcom really hit the nail on the head with regards to the spookier sections. A playable section featuring Ashley gives all enemies the ability to one-shot kill her, making her defenceless and forcing the player to focus on running and hiding from enemies in early sections of her gameplay. Chase sequences become frightening when there is no way to slow the enemy down, and Ashley’s character development really shines here with staggered, scared breathing and panicked body language. She portrays pure terror without Leon’s trusty bullets that help her avoid certain death, but later in her section, players might be happy to find that Ashley’s gameplay does have a mechanic that completely stops foes from moving, giving players some temporary relief from being relentlessly hunted down.
My Bullets Don’t Discriminate
Resident Evil 4 might have some of the largest enemy variety since Resident Evil 6, complete with almost the whole host of enemies that were present in the original 2005 game. Many of the game’s Ganado are all unique to each other, some carry pickaxes, shovels and machetes to stick into the gooey insides of Leon’s body. Returning monsters, like Dr. Salvador and the Bella Sisters sporting readily revved chainsaws, are as scary as ever, and the notorious Regeneradors take as much bullet sponge punishment as they previously did. Certain bosses, like Salazar, have been redesigned to make more sense into why they decided to mutate and to give nostalgic and modern players a new perspective on these colossal fights. A classic player like me who has done repeated playthroughs throughout many console generations, like Xbox, PlayStation and even the Meta Quest 2, found so much familiarity through the remake, but I was also happy to be offered a new perspective over the original.
One of the main gameplay elements that saw significant improvement are the Ashley escort sections. In the original, the AI for Ashley was overwhelmingly annoying, specifically due to her frequently getting in the way of Leon’s aim, her constant magnetism towards enemy grabs and lack of any ability to evade enemies. Players could only tell Ashley to wait in one specific place or command her to follow. The remake considerably improves this element in a few ways. Firstly, Ashley will no longer be told to wait but instead will ‘spread out’, indicating to her AI that she must keep away from Leon’s line of fire and dodge enemy attacks. Otherwise, she will be told to stick close, meaning she will be glued to Leon’s side, which is good for when you’re escaping from enemies. Although not perfect, considering how Ashley might decide to crouch low and accept her fate for an oncoming axe swing, the new elements feel much more tolerable.
What’re Ya’ Buyin’?
Resident Evil 4 has no shortage of weaponry, and the wider variety available makes players spoilt for choice. Everything that can fire a bullet feels strong, powerful and suitable for a special agent like Leon. For instance, simple pistols have much more weight to their firepower, sounding heavier, and sniper rifles can pull off powerful sounding headshots that turn Ganados’ brains into mush. If you wanted a bit more bang for your buck, the new Merchant will have everything you need. From the starter pistol all the way to the Killer7, the Merchant can really help Leon change his simple weapons into a fully-loaded arsenal. Once I got used to his new voice acting, I started to really enjoy the new characterisation of the mysterious stranger, offering Leon rewards for completing requests throughout the story. These requests act like side-missions, providing spinels to the player as rewards to then be traded for treasure maps, attachments or even special weapons, meaning players should invest their time to complete these missions to further enhance their gameplay experience.
Feeling a little shaky when aiming? Players can also access the shooting range, giving them an opportunity to improve their accuracy, and more importantly, earn charms that can be attached to the attaché case for bonus perks that apply throughout gameplay. Special charms require gold tokens that increase the chances of earning one, like the Merchant charm that takes 5% off all weapon upgrades or the Chicken charm, allowing 100% more healthy recovery with all egg types. Charms come in all rarities, and players are encouraged to spend lots of time at the shooting range to discover the best combinations available.
Resident Evil 4 has completely hit the mark when it comes to modern remakes, and Capcom have solidified a fantastic entry that can be described as nothing short of a masterpiece. A variety of perfectly fleshed out characters and a revamped storyline have made Resident Evil 4 a near-flawless survival horror title that old and new fans will surely remember for years to come.
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PS4, Windows PC
Release Date: 24th March 2023