Resident Evil 4 Remake Review
A Classic Rebirthed
Will Capcom be able to capture the brilliance of their past work with the highly acclaimed Resident Evil 4 in their latest ground-up remake? GameWatcher’s review will reveal whether the Capcom of today can extrapolate the genius of the Capcom of yesterday.
Ahh, another Resident Evil game! Horror gaming is thriving, and once again, Capcom has been a major contributor to its resurgence. It’s no wonder that the return of Leon Kennedy’s Spanish adventure in a fresh, stylish new form is such a significant event.
Resident Evil 4’s remake faces a significant challenge when it comes to meeting expectations, as the original game was more accessible than the previous titles in the franchise. It has stood the test of time, unlike any other pre-Resident Evil 7 game. Moreover, it was arguably the last significant entry before Resident Evil 7. Even though my relationship with the original Resident Evil 4 has been inconsistent, my expectations for the remake are relatively high.
The remake attempts to strike a balance between familiarity and innovation right from the start. The opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the game, offering a sense of instant recognition but also introducing distinct differences. While the remake does introduce significant changes later on, it wisely saves them for later, initially opting for subtler adjustments. For instance, the color palette is a bit darker and less autumnal, but Leon S. Kennedy is still being escorted into a Spanish village by local police. He still encounters hostile villagers at a house and later fights for survival against pitchforks and rusty blades in a village square. However, the journey to these events features subtle shifts and tweaks to the path, like playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order, to borrow from Morecambe & Wise’s famous phrase.
And that’s not necessarily a negative thing. Certain moments in Resident Evil 4 are integral to the game and cannot be omitted, but if they can be seamlessly integrated with new and innovative elements, then it makes for a successful remake. Capcom has managed to achieve this feat quite well. Among the recent remakes, Resident Evil 4 has the least amount of content left out and incorporates numerous additional features into the mix.
The sheer amount of content in Resident Evil 4 remake is hard to miss. In its original version, Resident Evil 4 was a longer game than Resident Evil 2 or 3, and the same holds true for its remake. However, the remake of Resident Evil 4 feels notably more substantial than its two predecessors. Even if you completed both Resident Evil 2 and 3, you still wouldn’t match the runtime of Resident Evil 4. This is a welcome development, as the treatment of Resident Evil 3 left me worried about the future of the remakes. While Capcom has made some strange decisions in recent years (such as Re:Verse and the live-action Netflix show), it has still managed to do right by the franchise.
However, this is not just any ordinary remake - it’s the full-fat remake experience with all the bells and whistles. The excess has not been trimmed; instead, it has been sculpted and refined to almost perfection.
Visually, Resident Evil 4 remake is largely superb. The much-discussed rain effect is the most obvious technical hiccup, but Capcom is aware of the issue, and hopefully, it won’t impact too many players. The grotesque nature of Resident Evil 4 is brought to life in the most striking way. Blood and gore are portrayed as an art form in this game. The various forms of Las Plagas, consisting of twisted masses of muscle, sinew, and tendrils, are disgustingly realistic. When Leon blasts enemies with a shotgun, their heads disintegrate into a chunky crimson soup, further emphasizing the body horror and creature design that is even more elevated in this remake than in the original. The game’s most unsettling monstrosities are even more terrifying in their new form.
The Ganados island retains its familiarity in the right places, but the graphical overhaul is often stunning. Although I’m not particularly fond of the reimagined opening hour of the game, it still looks both beautiful and eerie. The indoor locations, particularly during the castle segment, are incredibly well-crafted. The interiors of the castle shine with a sickly regal sheen that can be found in the Spencer Mansion or Castle Dimitrescu. It’s in the castle where Resident Evil 4 remake feels most like a traditional Resident Evil game.
The Resident Evil 4 remake presents a fascinating overhaul with its emphasis on combat and threat balance. One of the most notable changes is Leon’s enhanced fluid movement, now accompanied by a stylish knife parry. Thanks to his expanded moveset from the Resident Evil 2 remake, Leon is a certified badass who can survive even the most hellish situations. His enemies have also undergone significant improvements, with increased speed, greater numbers, and new moves that add to the intensity of each encounter.
While the game’s focus on action might concern some fans, it works exceptionally well in the context of the game. Capcom seems to be returning to an action mindset that nearly ruined the series, but this time it is a smart move. The action sequences in Resident Evil 4 have only gotten better, upping the ante of each battle. Although it does diminish the horror aspect of the game slightly, the fear factor remains intact, even if Leon were to wield two LMGs and perform hurricanranas on Regenerators.
Initially, I was concerned that the parry system in the Krauser fight would become an overused byproduct of modernisation. However, now I can’t imagine playing without it. While it’s absurd that Leon can parry tentacle heads and chainsaws with little more than a butter knife, Resident Evil 4’s greatest strength has always been its ability to shift seamlessly from intense horror to ridiculous, roundhouse-kicking action. What matters is that it’s effective, visually impressive, and ultimately looks cool, and it certainly does.
A nice tap of L1 at the right time can deflect an attack, and even stagger some enemies so Leon can execute one of those tasty roundhouses and possibly finish up with a knife through the skull for good measure. The parry system brings combat together to create a flowing state that only dissipates once every goon in the vicinity is finally dead. It’s almost as if the process that birthed Devil May Cry never became a separate entity, and here’s the final result. Of all the changes that are in Resident Evil 4, I think this might be my favorite.
For fans of the original game, two particular gripes might come to mind. The first is likely Ashley, who receives undue criticism. The second is the island section. In the remake, Ashley, the President’s daughter whom Leon is tasked with rescuing, plays a more significant role. She is more helpful and stays out of the way when necessary.
Initially, I was a bit annoyed she didn’t appear to be all that fleshed out as a character, but it became clear this was intentional. You meet Ashley whilst she’s still essentially deep in the trauma of her ordeal, but her arc sees her gradually transform into a survivor in a nice callback to the way Leon‘s journey panned out in Resident Evil 2. It’s nothing deep, but Ashley is much more of a companion this time around instead of a task.
To give credit where it’s due, the previously established characters receive a lot more development in this remake. Luis plays a more involved role, Saddler is more prominent, and Krauser doesn’t feel like he’s been airlifted in from a different franchise. However, the most intriguing change is Salazar. Unlike his previous portrayal as a diminutive brat who was the target of Leon’s jokes, he now comes across as more sinister, cruel, and sharp-tongued. Although I’m not fond of his character redesign, the shift in his personality is well-executed.
Now, let’s talk a little bit about the island finale. While I can’t divulge too much at this stage, I can say that it’s certainly an improvement over the original version, with only one minor exception that I can’t mention yet. In my opinion, it’s no longer the weakest part of the game (that occurs earlier). Nevertheless, even the weakest section of Resident Evil 4 is superior to the strongest segment of Resident Evil 5 or 6.
The remade version of Resident Evil 4 is still a thrilling and gore-filled spectacle, but it lacks some of the raw edge that made the original so impactful. While the remake is a technical achievement in many respects, it’s important to acknowledge the significance of the original. It served as the blueprint for so much that followed, and the Resident Evil 4 remake cannot hope to recreate that special moment in time because it’s an experience that simply cannot be duplicated.
In a sense, we’ve already had a soft reimagining of Resident Evil 4 with Resident Evil Village, which even includes sections inspired by the former. As a result, the remake feels more like a faithful recreation that lacks the exciting freshness of the original. While it’s still a good game, it cannot attain the same level of excellence as its predecessor due to its faithfulness. What I’m trying to convey here is that you shouldn’t expect a revelation on par with what you may have felt with Dead Space’s remake because the bar is unquestionably set much higher with Resident Evil 4.
With that being said, the Resident Evil 4 remake is great. I actually admire the development team for approaching this with an understanding it couldn’t reinvent the wheel, but adding some stickers and a few extra spokes certainly helps to give it some sort of freshness among the familiarity.
Having said that, the Resident Evil 4 remake is still a great game. I appreciate the development team for recognising that they couldn’t reinvent the wheel, but by adding a few extra features and embellishments, they have managed to infuse some freshness into the familiar experience.
RESIDENT EVIL 4 REMAKE VERDICT
Although Resident Evil 4 is a superb remake, it still exists in the shadow of what made the original so important. However, the parry system stands out as the most welcome change to the largely familiar proceedings. At its core, the game remains the same stupendous spectacle of action horror it always was, but with arguably even higher intensity.
TOP GAME MOMENT
It’s goofy, sure, but applying a German suplex to a dazed enemy never gets old.
Good vs Bad
- Generally looks fantastic
- Parry system adds to combat
- Better characterisation
- Some interesting additions
- Small visual disappointments
- Can't step beyond the original's shadow