When the original Resident Evil was released for the Nintendo GameCube in 2005, it was soon considered not only one of the best RE games to date but it’s also considered to be one of the best video games of all time.
It would later receive multiple ports on multiple generations for the following decades, to the point in which it reached double figures. It’s become somewhat of a running joke with it being ported as much as it has, putting it firmly alongside the likes of Skyrim. However, there’s a reason why RE4 has been ported so often and that’s because it’s a bloody good game.
Resident Evil 4.
March 24th, 2023.
A special demo is coming soon. 🌿 pic.twitter.com/DkK7Uf097P
— Resident Evil (@RE_Games) February 23, 2023
Granted, as great as the OG Resident Evil 4 is, it also divided opinion, as this was no longer the survival horror game that fans of the series loved. Sure, RE4 had some horror elements, and there were times when ammo and health would run low. Sadly, RE4 favoured action over horror. And with RE4 selling like hotcakes, Capcom would follow the action trend with RE5 and RE6. Thankfully, survival horror would return in 2017 with Resident Evil 7.
Despite being a fan of survival horror, I still loved OG RE4 and I’ve lost count from the top of my head on how many copies of this game I own. OG RE4 still plays wonderfully today and many have asked if it really needs a remake. What’s more, can Capcom actually make one of the best games of all time, better? In a nutshell, yes they can and they have.
Now powered by Capcom’s in-house RE Engine, Resident Evil 4 in 2023 not only looks better, but it plays better than ever. To be honest, nearly 20 years on, we’d expect nothing less. The premise of its story remains the same, though I’m not complaining. Four years after the Racoon City incident, Leon S. Kennedy is now a key member of President Graham of the United States. However, the President’s daughter, Ashley Graham is kidnapped by a mysterious cult known as Los Illuminados, located somewhere in the wilderness of Spain.
I won’t spoil anything here, because there are some caveats in the updated story and some of the events as well as locations have been moved around. But that’s good because it helps to keep even veteran fans on their toes. We even get added lore, in particular involving the illusive Jack Krauser. Furthermore, we’ll even be treated to some new enemy variants too. It doesn’t matter if you’re new or returning, the Resident Evil 4 remake is an absolute joy for all.
Before we move on to the new gameplay improvements, visually the Resident Evil 4 remake is gorgeous and if you’re playing on PC and new-gen consoles, you’ll have additional graphics and performance modes to choose from. This remake is quite possibly the best-looking game in the series yet and its visual tension is perhaps heightened further with more of the game being set at night.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of daylight sequences, but compared to the original, this remake leans slightly towards horror and those moments are always a little more intense when the lights are off. This is something that I appreciate, because the original game wasn’t all that scary, other than perhaps the encounter with the Regenerator. So, it’s nice that Capcom has mixed it all a little by adding more horror, something that the original lacked for the most part.
As with any story, especially with horror, audio plays a huge role and the Resident Evil 4 remake is no exception. The moans and cultist chants of the infected Ganado villagers are instantly recognisable to veteran fans. Thankfully, that still remains the case, only this time there’s more variety and more of an authentic delivery. The soundtrack and environmental audio are equally sublime and will tug at your nervous emotions, even during the calmer moments of the game.
What’s more, the voice acting in the remake is taken to a new level top to bottom. Nick Apostolides returns as Leon S. Kennedy does a wonderful job in delivering a more grizzled and experienced former RPD rookie cop, but still retains that inner boyish charm. Ada also returns, but with a new voice actor. This time it’s Lily Gao voicing the mysterious agent, who also played Ada in Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City.
To be honest, I prefer Ada from the Resident Evil 2 remake, as I felt there was more passion and conviction in the delivery. Lily Gao’s portrayal is more calm, composed and cold. I won’t say that’s a negative because, at the end of the day, it’s just a subjective opinion. One of the most common complaints in the OG RE4 was the annoying tone of Ashely Graham.
In the remake, Ashley is played by Genevieve Buechner and annoyingly she is no more. Sure, Ashley is still somewhat timid, but why wouldn’t she? After all, she’s been thrown into an unreal situation where her life is constantly under threat. Ashley in the remake is more badass, quick-witted and capable.
In terms of gameplay, Resident Evil 4 evolves from the RE2 and RE3 remakes. Leon is now more fluid and manoeuvrable and unlike the OG game, you can shoot while moving. Leon can also dodge attacks more fluidly, but unlike having a dedicated dodge button like in the RE3 remake, it’s all done by simply moving the analogue stick.
This more natural dodge helps during the heat of battle and feels a lot more natural than before as you instinctively usher Leon out of the way when in a panic. While we’re on the topic of gameplay improvements, QTEs in the remake are practically non-existent. Yay!
Knife durability makes a return, so you’ll no longer be knee-capping Ganado’s and infinitely slicing them to death to save ammo. However, you will eventually be able to do that with certain upgrades and unlockables.
The knife actually has a better purpose in this remake, because you can use it to counter block. Whether it’s a Ganado or Dr Salvador with his chainsaw, if timed well, you can parry just about any attack. Better still, a perfect parry will grant an opportunity to melee attack an enemy, and then stab the downed body before it morphs into something more deadly.
The knife can also be used to stealth kill certain enemies; a new mechanic introduced in this remake. What’s more, the new crossbow weapon can aid stealth kills and you can even retrieve ammo. That being said, you might want to upgrade the crossbow to ensure one-hit kills are more consistent, otherwise, you may unleash waves of deadly attacks in your direction.
Speaking of upgrading, this mechanic returns from 2005 original, but as with most aspects of this remake, it’s been improved. Weapons will be upgraded at a cost via the in-game currency that you’ll pick up during the campaign to spend at the Merchant. Bonus upgrades can also be acquired by trading Spinel treasure for special upgrade tickets.
A lot of the Spinels will be found scattered about, but most of which will be acquired by completing side missions for the Merchant. Once complete, you will be rewarded with a variety of Spinel amounts which can be traded for upgrade items, the aforementioned tickets, treasures and more.
The inventory system also returns, and yes, that’s been improved too. Sure, you can still play ‘inventory Tetris’, but you can auto-sort your items by simply pressing the analogue stick. What’s more, the Type Writer is not only used to save your game, but it also acts as an additional inventory box. If your case is full, you can safely store additional items in the Typewriter storage. Various cases have perks, as do charms attached to the case which can be acquired by the new and improved gun range gallery.
Before we conclude, a post-launch update added microtransaction into the game, which was a shady move by Capcom. The microtransaction comes in the form of previously mentioned upgrade tickets which are purchasable in a variety of bundles from £2.59 to £7.99. Thankfully at least at the time of writing, acquiring these upgrade tickets in-game is the same now as it was at launch. It’s no less grindy, Capcom has just added that temptation, should you choose to use it.
This sneaky update arrived alongside the awesome Mercenaries mode. In case you didn’t know, The Mercenaries is a bonus mode which requires you to kill all the enemies on a map with the best time and score possible. You will also be able to acquire time extensions in-game as well as generate a bonus score the longer you maintain a kill combo.
Time to cause some mayhem!
The Mercenaries is now available as free DLC for Resident Evil 4!#RE4 pic.twitter.com/p2UgRWohrM
— Resident Evil (@RE_Games) April 7, 2023
Granted, this mode has fewer characters. However, this mode is just as fun and just as addictive, fuelled by the competitive online leaderboard. If Capcom were to add more playable characters and maps, perhaps even co-op multiplayer, this could easily end up being the best version of Resident Evil Mercenaries, ever.
Ok, I’ve rambled on for far longer than I have hoped. But there’s so much to talk about in this remake, that I could easily waffle on for longer. For your benefit, I won’t. To conclude, as Capcom proved with the 2002 remake of the original Resident Evil and with the recent Dead Space remake, Resident Evil 4 in 2023 is a prime example of how a remake should be done. It takes what made the source material iconic, modernises it for a new generation with added flamboyance, but still manages to retain that magic that brought it to the dance.
Resident Evil 4 remake is not only a redefined horror, but it’s a remake that has once more asserted itself into the Mount Rushmore of video games. Yet again, Capcom has created one of the best games ever. Kudos Capcom, Kudos.