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March 2024

Resident Evil 4 Remake

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: March 24, 2023


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PS5 Review - 'Resident Evil 4 Remake'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 17, 2023 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

In Resident Evil 4, players rejoin Leon, who is now a U.S. agent with a top-secret mission, looking into the abduction of the President's daughter, now with modernized gameplay, a reimagined storyline, and vividly detailed graphics.

Buy Resident Evil 4 Remake

It can be tough to update a classic game. There's a thin line between being slavishly loyal to the original — and changing too much and losing what made the original special. This year has already had some fantastic remakes that have captured the spirit of the original, like Dead Space. There are few games that are as tough of an act to follow as Resident Evil 4, though. A classic video game, RE4 is still darn popular and beloved, and it's been re-released for every console under the sun. A remake doesn't have to be good, but it has to be good enough to justify following in the footsteps of a giant. Thankfully, Resident Evil 4 Remake manages to stick the landing and creates a game that, in its own way, is just as good as the original — if not better.

Set years after the events of Raccoon City, Resident Evil 4 represents a turning point for the franchise and enters a new world. Umbrella has fallen, and zombies are a thing of the past. Leon has become a member of the President's Secret Service. Unfortunately for him, he's sent on a solo mission to a vaguely defined part of Spain. The President's daughter, Ashley, has been kidnapped, and only Leon can rescue her. No sooner does he arrive than he finds out that the kidnappers are no ordinary terrorists but are a bizarre cult tied to a parasitic creature called the Plagas. It's up to Leon to rescue Ashley and escape before they become the cult's latest victims.

RE4 Remake's plot skews more closely to the original game than Resident Evil 2 or 3 did, but that doesn't mean it is identical. You can expect a lot of the same events and occasionally the same dialogue, but everything has been gussied up and revamped. Things that happened in the original might not occur in the remake, or events are changed around to adjust the story flow. For the most part, all the pieces end up in the same place, but there's enough new stuff that even though I was seeing the same story as I had seen before, I wasn't bored. You also don't need to worry about it being too serious. Leon still unleashed a bevy of terrible quips, and everyone who isn't him or Ashley is busy chewing the scenery so hard that you might mistake it for the source of their powers.

The core combat system in RE4 Remake is similar to the original release or the recent Resident Evil remakes. It's a third-person shooter with an emphasis on targeting specific spots on an enemy rather than just dealing damage. Returning from the original Resident Evil 4 is the inclusion of context-sensitive melee attacks. When an enemy is stunned or weakened, you can approach them and hit a button to perform a close-range attack, ranging from a kick to a suplex to repeated stabbings, which does a whole chunk of bonus damage for no cost.

The combat is amped up heavily from the last two remakes. The main enemy is the Ganado, which are more like monstrous humans than zombies, and they're capable of using weapons and working together. Most foes are faster, more aggressive, and work together in a way that significantly changes the tone of the game. The original Resident Evil 4 was arguably the game that changed the franchise from horror to action-horror, and the same is true of the remake.

I was most concerned about the dreaded inclusion of weapon durability. Your combat knife now has a durability meter like Resident Evil 2. As you use it, durability drops, and when your knife breaks, it must be repaired at the merchant. There are also several weaker temporary knives that can't be repaired. I think it's understandable to worry about this ruining one of the coolest aspects of the game — the always-available knife — but RE4 Remake does a fantastic job of making the durability feel like a natural evolution of the survival-horror resource management mechanics, rather than something restrictive.

Effectively, the knife has gone from a weapon to an all-purpose tool. You can attack and slash with it for little to no durability loss, but it has many better uses. There are now context-sensitive button presses, rather like the melee command, which use your knife to effectively insta-kill or seriously damage an enemy. (This was present in the original game but is more widely available now.) This takes a small amount of durability but instantly finishes off standard Ganados and other smaller foes. If you do a knife finisher while the enemy is grounded from a melee attack, you can prevent a Plagas from spawning. That can save you a lot of ammo in the long run and helps it feel like a natural part of melee combat.

Perhaps most importantly, the knife is now a defensive tool. By raising your knife while an enemy is attacking, you can parry their move to knock them back and nullify the damage you'd otherwise take. Time it perfectly, and you can even stagger the enemy, leaving them vulnerable to a melee attack. This takes relatively little durability and feels incredibly awesome. On the other hand, if an enemy grabs you or you are responding to certain deadly attacks (like a chainsaw one-hit kill), you can use the knife to escape with less or no damage, but that's in exchange for a much higher cost to durability. Combat knives aren't meant to parry chainsaws, after all.

Using your knife becomes a central part of the game, and it has the same sort of "ammo" concerns as a main weapon, and it feels great. Do you take a hit and heal, or do you escape and weaken your knife? Is it worth blowing a bunch of your knife durability on "safe" kills, or do you use a flash grenade instead? The parry mechanic feels amazingly good. It feels buttery smooth to block an enemy's scythe attack and then punch them into a crowd of foes so you can follow up with a knife slash or suplex. This is probably the best implementation of the RE4-style melee mechanics to date.

Properly managing your resources is also important because the game feels like it's designed to make you want to use your tools. I'm not sure if it has the same dynamic difficulty as the original Resident Evil 4, but it appears balanced to leave you at roughly 1-2 clips of ammo for most of your weapons at any given time. It makes sure you have plenty of ammo while maintaining the feeling that you're close to running dry. Proper use of melee, knife and other tools gives you a nice buffer to build up for tougher foes. Of course, the risk of getting close is that you might use more health than you want.

Adding to the dreaded weapon durability, RE4 Remake also features an escort mission where you escort the kidnapped Ashley through danger. Much like the knife mechanic, the escort mission in RE4 is one of the least painful in gaming. Ashley is pretty good about staying out of danger, and the gameplay is designed so there's relatively little risk. In the original game, she had a health bar, but now, she will get "downed" if she takes serious damage, and all it takes is a friendly pat on the back to get her up. If you have to face serious foes, you can also shove her in a locker until you're done so you can focus on the fight. Much like the durability, this is an example of the mechanic done right, allowing it to add tension without feeling cheap or unfair. The revamped health system also prevents some of the annoying "Ashley gets one-shot by a catapult" attacks from the original game.

Resident Evil 4 also introduces a merchant, a mechanic that reappears in Resident Evil Village. The Remake keeps the mechanic almost unchanged. Scattered throughout the game are merchants from whom you purchase or upgrade weapons and blueprints. As you progress, they get more inventory. You can also complete side-quests for them to get rewarded with Spinels, which are a rare resource. You can trade Spinels for special items, so it's often worthwhile to take on these side-quests.

If you've never played the original Resident Evil 4, then it's important to be clear that this game is bonkers. It is almost constantly throwing new things at you: challenges, environments, and foes. I'm loath to spoil things for newcomers or returning vets, but it's important to make clear that this title makes the previous games look sensible. The pacing is solid enough, so you'll never get bored. If anything, RE4 Remake is a touch more frantically paced than the original. You basically never get a break because something new is always out to murder you.

Resident Evil 4 Remake exists in a midpoint between the "effectively the same game with some changes" of Dead Space 2023 and the full update of Resident Evil 2 Remake. Almost every major set piece, event and location from the original game is present, but things are also significantly remixed. Some events happen earlier or later than they did in the original, or with new twists. There are a lot of things specifically designed to surprise players of the original game or play with their expectations. There are a couple of noteworthy absences from the original game. but I would say almost everything that players remember from the original appears in some form, and the elements that were cut are usually in favor of pacing.

RE4 Remake does a fantastic job of updating the original game. There are a few areas that I liked more in the original, but there are also areas that I found to be a lot more compelling in the remake. There are some genuinely cool and creative new takes on the existing areas, and there are fewer areas that I'm not eager to replay in Remake than there were in the original. Yet it's also familiar enough that I was able to recognize various segments, and they felt so accurate that I got nostalgic. It's a fantastic and heartfelt remake that feels like it came from a place of love for the original. I can't help but miss a couple of things, but this is no Resident Evil 3 Remake and clearly put a lot of effort into capturing all of the most iconic and memorable moments and areas.

The one area where RE4 Remake is a little light is in post-game content, and that's mostly in comparison to the original or Resident Evil 2 Remake. Thankfully, we already know that the delightful Mercenaries mode is coming later as free DLC, so this is a temporary quibble. RE4 Remake is easily the longest of the modern Resident Evil titles, and it has more than enough content to keep you busy even without DLC.

It's tough to answer the big question: "Is RE4 Remake better than the original?" The original game is the blueprint that the remake follows, and the remake wouldn't exist without it. Looking at it without years of nostalgia? RE4 Remake looks better, plays better, and feels like a much more approachable game for people who are coming to the franchise from the remakes instead of the originals. I still love the original, but it will be hard to replay it after experiencing Leon blocking chainsaws with his knife. There's enough that is unique about the original that I can see myself replaying it, but I also don't see myself missing QTEs anytime soon.

Resident Evil 4 Remake looks phenomenal. It's an amazingly good re-creation of the original game, with so many environments reimagined and remastered in near-perfect detail. The animations are fantastic, and the Ganado and associated monsters have never looked creepier. The new animations do a fantastic job of selling that they are puppeted monsters rather than human beings, and seeing one walking toward you with a visibly broken neck is way creepier than anything in the original. The sound design adds genuine fear to a game where you suplex evil cultists. The voice acting is also excellent. It's notably cheesy in places, but Resident Evil 4 should be cheesy.

Resident Evil 4 Remake does a hell of a job arguing why a video game classic needed a remake. It straddles the line between loyalty to the original and providing a fresh experience better than even Resident Evil 2 Remake did. Pretty much every new gameplay mechanic and design choice leads to a more engaging and enjoyable game. I can't say that it replaces the original, but it's a damn fine companion, and most people wanting to experience RE4 for the first time will likely gravitate to the remake. Either way, it is a must-play for Resident Evil fans, and RE4 Remake is already a strong contender for one of the best games of the year.

Score: 9.5/10

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