Resident Evil 4 is a game I’ve bought more times than I care to admit, and based on how many systems it’s been ported to and the general community sentiment around it, I’d imagine I’m not alone there. A remake of a game with that kind of staying power has the potential to make people a bit anxious, however – what parts will stay, what parts will go, and where things are improved, will it be handled in a way that nostalgia and modernizations are successfully married? Those are all questions Resident Evil fans will soon be able to put to rest because, just like it did with the original game, Capcom has again nailed it with the Resident Evil 4 remake.
Leon S. Kennedy is the heart of Resident Evil 4, and the same is true for the remake, so if he wasn’t remade just right in this game, what’s the point? Like Kratos or Master Chief, Leon is more than just a protagonist, and as the character who’s arguably the face of Resident Evil, he’s got his looks, sure, but his quips and generally nonchalant demeanor in the face of danger is what makes him so memorable.
Though Resident Evil 4 is darker and more serious overall, Leon’s persistence as a goofy, effortlessly likable lead persists and once again gives him decisive control over the game. The remake’s true-to-from representation of Leon complete with “bingo” lines and a penchant for dramatic flair shows that the remake team really understood what was needed from Leon and the game overall in order to transform it for a new audience.
But in addition to his updated looks, Leon’s got some new tricks up his sleeve this time. Him being able to crouch gives way to some surprisingly impressive hitboxes where he narrowly avoids strikes and elevates a simple mechanic into something that fits right in with the rest of Leon’s more cinematic moveset filled with forceful kicks and suplexes. Parrying is right up there with crouching in the sense that it’s something you could totally ignore if you want to play the new game like the original, but parrying makes for a much more entertaining experience. Is it a bit goofy to parry a chainsaw? It sure is, but it’s important to have things like that so that the remake doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Moving while shooting is his most notable upgrade, though if you’ve played some of the more recent Resident Evil games, that shouldn’t feel too new. What’s interesting, however, is how that little bit of extra movement allows for a heightened tempo in almost all aspects of the game. It’s a bit harder to make that out in common encounters when you’re just trying to suppress mobs of zombies, but in the one-on-one encounters against things like the new brutes, the Garradors, and the Regenerators, the tension is tangible. Capcom gave players extra mobility and defensive options to work with and upped the threat of these kinds of enemies, too, to force players to use these tactics. These already fan-favorite creatures shine even brighter (darker?) in this remake for that very reason – there’s no shame in reserving a save file for these encounters alone just so you can go back and replay them.
That’s not to say everything done to the Resident Evil 4 remake qualifies as an addition, though. Some things – big things, in a few cases, which we will not be spoiling here – are totally removed from the game. In their place are snappier ways to connect pieces of the narrative together which, for the most part, work well. The Resident Evil 4 remake overall is like the best kind of déjà vu in the sense that setpieces and key moments are so faithfully recreated that you’ll sometimes find yourself second-guessing what’s new and what’s not. The few parts of the original that are removed from the remake are smoothed over well enough that it was hard to disagree with the omissions.
You can’t omit an entire act from the game, however, and for that reason, the island portion remains and is still the weakest part of the remake save for a few highlights. It still makes for a jarring transition going there after visiting the village and the castle, and Krauser in particular somehow feels less imposing and more nonsensical here compared to the original despite attempts to add depth to his story. His voice acting and the dialogue for Ada and the Merchant leaves a bit to be desired in this remake which could be chalked up to nostalgia, but when you have characters like the very much improved Ramón Salazar excelling in that area, it makes the shortcomings stand out that much more.
New features and omissions aside, one can hardly forget Ashley, the character Leon’s charged with protecting who spends a great deal of time at his side. Gone for the most part is the mechanic where you hide Ashley away from danger while you clear away threats – you’re meant to be much more conscious of Ashley’s position this time with a new mechanic where you command her to stay near or far from you. Truthfully, it never really felt like that made much of a difference. Ashley stays behind you, and you naturally do your best not to let zombies get behind you, so if you’re doing that, it doesn’t particularly matter how far or close Ashley is. It does raise the stakes a bit at least knowing that she’s out in the thick of it with you, so the change is effective in that regard. She calls out for Leon less often in the remake, too, which stamps out one of the most common memes from the original where she constantly called for Leon’s assistance.
Even if there’s a part or two in the remake that could’ve been handled better, replayability is a core part of a Resident Evil game’s success, and Resident Evil 4 is no exception. It should be a promising sign then that as soon as credits rolled, the next logical step was to look through the new challenges at hand and plan out the next playthrough. Costumes, new weapons, and challenges both self-imposed and presented by the game are incentives that bolster Resident Evil’s arcade-y feel and give the player an excuse for another run, but even if they were absent, the Resident Evil 4 remake offers enough to justify countless runs once more.
The Resident Evil 4 remake releases on March 24th for the PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, and PC platforms. A review copy was provided by the publisher and was played on the PlayStation 5.