I have never played the original 2005 Resident Evil 4.
As a somewhat relatively new player to the series, (I have no childhood attachment to this series and was not something I played growing up at all) I’ve heard so many great things about this game and that it is essentially considered the magnum opus of the Resident Evil games. Therefore, I have no rose-tinted glasses to view Resident Evil 4 Remake with or have any kind of nostalgia to base it off when I delved into my first experience trying out the remake.
After spending quite some time with this game, I can safely say this is a remake that will make long-time fans proud, but also bring in plenty of new ones because of how damn fun it is, and based on its own merits, is absolutely fantastic.
Resident Evil 4 Remake is set in the year 2004, with our hero Leon Kennedy, still somewhat recovering from the traumatic experiences of the deadly virus-infected zombies he fought off six years prior in Resident Evil 2, is now a U.S Government Agent, and is being sent on a mission to rescue Ashley Graham, the President’s daughter, who has been kidnapped by a bizarre cult. Leon’s journey takes him to a remote village in Spain, where our hero begins his nightmarish adventure.
It’s a simple story that is a retelling of the original game but repackaged of course, and it’s done well. I can’t compare this version’s story against the original, but in my experience, the game manages to mix a successful combination of action and horror elements, working itself very well against the backdrop of a creepy cult Leon is infiltrating and does not manage to lose the essence of what makes Resident Evil scary.
While not the scariest entry I have played to date (that claim goes to 2017’s Resident Evil 7: Biohazard) it still manages to provide some moments that made me jump and squirm uncomfortably as I progressed through.
Gameplay-wise, Resident Evil 4 Remake feels and plays amazingly. Playing as a third-person shooter-esque survival horror game, you can equip various weapons at your disposal, managing up to eight weapons as added shortcuts via the d-pad to change to on the go, as well as melee combat thrust into the mix.
If any knives are found on your playthrough, Leon can also parry and deflect weapon and enemy attacks with knives by guarding right at the last second of an attack, allowing counterattacks such as quick melee combat or knifing an enemy to the ground to finish off surrounding foes in the vicinity. Knowing how you can utilise your weapons and combat skills is key to ensure you manage your way through, and it feels extremely satisfying and fluid to mix and match your skills to victory.
This feels like the most responsive and greatest utilisation of Resident Evil combat mechanics I’ve experienced, and I hope future titles use the same gameplay combat or further expand and refine upon it for even further ease.
But if that isn’t enough, early in the game you will be introduced to The Merchant, a character that allows you to not only buy more weapons and items, but also upgrade said weapons to maximise on better ammo, less recoil time, better firepower, and more. It makes an excellent combat system even better with The Merchant’s help.
Since the introduction of the RE Engine from the above-mentioned Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Capcom have continuously proved to showcase how glorious and stunning their in-game character models are and Resident Evil 4 Remake is no exception. I could not get over how detailed characters such as Leon and Ashley looked. From the detailing of hair strands, light reflections on faces, right down to even the look of the clothing and close-up shots of zippers on jackets, this game looks an absolute treat on current-gen hardware.
Environments are incredibly detailed, and despite the grim scenario our hero is situated in, a wonderful irony of colours across all sorts of places and areas that make the game visually pop and look a marvel, which pleasantly surprised me.
Despite this, as I delved further into the game, there were noticeable pop-in texture issues with foliage and detailed markings on walls which I noticed one-too many times to ignore, or once exiting the pause menu, the game was quickly re-loading these textures to appear that I couldn’t unsee. These aren’t things that will heavily distract you or ruin the overall experience, but it’s something worth mentioning and I’m hoping that Capcom patch it up sometime soon, as Resident Evil 4 Remake is far too stunning of a game to have this kind of issue happen.
But it’s not just the visuals of Resident Evil 4 Remake that should be lauded; sound design and little character quirks are also impeccably done. Not only can you can hear things like nearby-enemy breathing, the sound of Leon panting whilst running or getting hit by an enemy, but also the way in which these characters interact with the environment is just such great attention to detail that I feel video games don’t really capture nowadays.
Getting caught in a bear trap causes Leon to briefly limp once free, or getting hit will have him grab hold of his shoulder, wincing in pain whilst running. It’s small, but it’s just so neat watching characters seemingly come to life with real-life quirks and interactions with the environment that they are in.
Hell, even the cheesy and campy one-liners that Leon blurts out during enemy combat also adds to his character and personality. Shoutout to Leon’s Voice Actor, Nick Apostolides, for providing a great performance and really bringing Leon to life as much as possible. You can tell he had a lot of fun recording. It’s just a neat attention to detail that I really appreciate that really shows how much love and care Capcom have put into this game, even for just the little things.
Difficulty-wise, I found this to be the most difficult Resident Evil game that I have experienced to date. I like to believe (on a good day) that I’m a pretty decent survival-horror gamer and can navigate my way around the spookies and scaries in this genre of video games. Resident Evil 4 Remake, however, really made me rethink how good I actually am. It tested all my skills and use of this games’ mechanics to ensure I can stick it out and Leon makes it through, as I died many, many times. Enemy AI is quite alert and are clever in ways to make sure you are injured and killed, such as throwing firebombs or throwing an axe right to you from far distances when you think you’re safe, adding to the difficult journey that lies ahead of you.
Truthfully, I welcome this upsurge in difficulty, even playing on the recommended standard mode! For reference, my first Resident Evil game was 2021’s RE Village, and for a first-timer, I found enemies to be an overall easy experience to defeat and not awfully difficult, even on that game’s respective standard mode, so this game’s standard mode difficulty was quite the shock.
Resident Evil 4 Remake’s difficulty really made me feel the stakes were truly high and that Leon was getting himself into some really bad situations with the cleverly creative enemy AI, and I loved every second of it.
Clocking in at almost 25 full hours in total on my first playthrough, each chapter is fairly lengthy and full of exploration and enemy encounters, yet the pacing felt just right on my journey with Leon. What felt like just an hour playing this game were in reality three or four hours spent simply from having a damn good time, and I never reached exhaustion in doing so.
There are also bonuses to unlock by meeting certain in-game requirements. These will take up even more of your time but for those who love to aim for a 100% completion file and achieve every bonus there is to get, like myself, there is plenty to get through, during both the main story and post-game.
Simply put, Resident Evil 4 Remake is excellent. Parts-scary, parts-campy, parts-extremely fun, it’s a game very confident of its identity that showcases the best of the series’ gameplay, story and graphics Capcom has to offer in it their long-running prestigious franchise; all rolled into one entry.
Long-time diehard fans will love this. Newcomers who have always wanted to try these games out but never have will love this. It’s an absolutely damn good time that never felt like it overstayed its welcome, providing plenty of playtime hours to feast upon. Resident Evil 4 Remake already holds the spot as my favourite game of 2023, and I cannot wait to see where else Capcom will take this franchise after this.
Resident Evil 4 Remake is available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and Microsoft Windows (PC). A review code for PlayStation 5 was provided for review purposes.