Sunday, March 26

Resident Evil 4 Remake Review

I played on: Xbox Series X
I paid: £58.99
Available on: PS4, PS5, Xbox Series S and X, PC
Notes: N/A

The original Resident Evil 4 was already a 10 out of 10 masterpiece that easily holds up even today. When Capcom announced that there would be a remake of RE4, I was doubtful they could improve on the original. After my first 16-hour playthrough, I can certainly hold my hands up and admit I was wrong. They most certainly improved on the original, making one of the best games ever made even better.

The story is still mostly the same as the original game. After surviving the Raccoon City outbreak, Leon S Kennedy is recruited by the special forces. His first mission is to rescue the President’s daughter, kidnapped by a mysterious Spanish cult, Los Iluminados. After arriving in a small rural village on the coast of Spain, he finds that the villagers have been infected with a BOW known as Los Plagas. Leon is then captured and infected with the parasite himself. He then finds Ashley, the President’s daughter, and learns she is also infected. It then becomes a race against the clock to remove the parasites from Ashley and himself before they mature into adults, and the two become servants to the cult. Little details here and there have been altered to tighten the pacing or give characters more agency. For example, Ashley is now less of a damsel in distress. She even manages to rescue Leon from a trap at one point. While I enjoy the original version of Ashley, this new incarnation of her feels a lot more believable. Other characters have received this same treatment, resulting in a cast that feels much more realistic with more complexity and depth.

Gameplay is where this remake feels the most different from the original. I love the classic RE4; indeed, its action is still a masterpiece today. That being said, it is a lot slower and less responsive than the remake. In the original, you would need to think about your positioning whenever you started firing at the enemies, as Leon refused to move while shooting. Resulting in a stop-and-start feel to the action. The remake, in comparison, is a lot faster, more intense and more reliant on your speed and reflexes. Like the RE2 and 3 remakes, you can now move and shoot. To compensate for this, the villagers are much faster and more aggressive. Leon has improved his skills with a knife since the original, as he can now parry incoming attacks. Specific, powerful attacks can also be dodged as well. Like the original game, if you shoot enemies in certain spots, such as the leg or head, you can follow this up with a powerful melee attack. This creates a much faster pace to the action, with you needing to pay attention during the chaotic fights to parry, dodge and counter everything around you, all while trying to thin the herd of enemies with your many guns.

These guns of yours will all have to be stored in your inventory. These take up a certain amount of space each, and it’s up to you to ensure everything fits. This works similarly to a game of Tetris, with you needing to rotate, combine and craft items where necessary. It’s a relaxing distraction from the combat and a highlight of the original game that has been retained in the remake. Like everything else, tiny, little changes have been made to this system to polish it up. The original game only had a single item that took up one square in the inventory, and as such, you very often had annoying spots with only a single block free. The remake introduces more items that take up a single block, so it’s now much rarer to have those annoying little holes left. You can also auto-sort your items if you’re not in the mood to micromanage your inventory.

The friendly and mysterious merchant returns from the original to sell you new guns and upgrade them when needed. He is just as memorable and quotable as in the classic game. While taking down, Los Iluminados Leon will come across plenty of rare and valuable items that can be sold to the merchant to fund your growing arsenal. You can combine certain treasures to increase their value. What’s new in the remake is the ability to choose which colour gems you adorn certain items with.  Do you add a ruby to the pendant now, or wait until you come across a yellow diamond later? While both gems will increase the pendant’s value, the diamond will add more than the ruby. This adds just a little extra strategy to the original game’s method. The other simple but genius addition is the ability to store weapons whenever you reach a typewriter. This means that you no longer need to sell a gun you no longer plan on using for a while to make space in your inventory. I’m working on having every fully upgraded weapon in the game simultaneously. A feat that would have been impossible in the original. 

If you’ve played the original RE4, then a lot of the areas you visit and enemies you slaughter in the remake will feel familiar. That’s not to say that it’s an exact remake. Things have been altered here and there. For example, you will still go through the rural Spanish village until you reach the lake and battle Del Lago. But now, the lake and the village are one giant area with no loading zones and plenty of hidden treasure and side quests. Unlike the original game, you won’t visit an area once and then move on, leaving it behind forever. Requests from the Merchant, such as destroying a certain number of blue medallions or taking on an optional boss, will see you backtracking to old locations. If you’re trying to upgrade your weapons fully, you will also need to purchase a treasure map and backtrack to mop up any valuable bits you left behind. This takes the fantastic level design from the original and expands it, naturally connecting everything.

The presentation is the last thing I want to discuss before moving on to the summary. This aspect of the original has aged the most since its 2005 release on the GameCube. Don’t get me wrong, Resident Evil 4 was a tour-de-force back when it was first released, but that was almost two decades ago. The remake lives up to the original’s legacy and feels like it’s pushing new boundaries. I’ve owned an Xbox Series X for a year, and yet the Resident Evil 4 remake is the first game that feels like it’s truly “next-gen”. Everything from the massive levels being one seamlessly open area to the lighting to the incredible models and the amount of clutter that fills every room up. The sound design is also excellent, with the score adding to the atmosphere and action perfectly during several larger set pieces. 

Resident Evil 4 was a perfect game back when it was released in 2005; as a testament to that, it’s still an excellent game today. While the graphics are a little dated, and the voice acting and writing are cheesy, the gameplay is still an absolute pleasure to play. That makes it all the more surprising that the Resident Evil 4 Remake is, somehow, even better. The last time I played a game this good was in 2005, when I first played the original RE4. This is a game that everyone should play at least once. The RE4 remake isn’t just one of the best games in the Resident Evil series; it’s one of the best games ever made. While reviewing the original RE4, I said it was a single flaw away from perfection. The remake fixes that flaw, polishes up everything else and delivers an unforgettable experience.

Simply put, this game is perfect.

Recommendation Rating: 10 out of 10.

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