“Resident Evil 4” was first released on the Nintendo GameCube back in 2005. Since then, it’s been hailed as one of the best video games of all time. Its goofy dialogue and action-based gameplay made for an entertaining adventure with government agent Leon S. Kennedy as he rescues the president’s kidnapped daughter, Ashley, from a mysterious cult.
Almost 20 years later, Capcom has now remade “Resident Evil 4” from the ground up. When it was first announced, I thought to myself, “This game holds up and it doesn’t need a remake.” I was dead wrong. This remake of “Resident Evil 4” is amazing as it manages to honor the original, but also sets itself apart from it.
The game follows Leon on a mission to a rural village in Spain. The villagers there are infected with a parasite called Las Plagas and attack him on sight. As he fights his way through the village, he must uncover the truth behind the parasite while also tracking Ashley.
It’s a very silly premise that works as a sort of B-movie aesthetic in the original game. However, the remake has a much darker and more serious tone. It’s reminiscent of games like “The Last of Us” and “A Plague Tale: Innocence,” where you’re on an escort mission with a companion.
The remake seems to take some cues from the more survival horror leanings of the “Resident Evil 2” and “Resident Evil 3” remakes. There are sections of the game in dark and enclosed areas with much dimmer lighting than in the original, invoking feelings of fear and dread. I became more methodical and careful about what might be hiding around the corner, rather than just going in guns blazing as I did in the original game. But the remake still retains some of the original’s levity by allowing Leon to melee wounded enemies with a roundhouse kick or suplex.
The game strikes the perfect balance between horror and action, whereas I felt that 2021’s “Resident Evil Village” was a very uneven experience — the action-packed Castle Dimitrescu was followed up by horrifying House Beneviento, which resulted in a whiplash pacing. In this “Resident Evil 4” remake, the combat sequences are exhilarating but afterward allow for moments of brevity in between. There are 16 total chapters and it certainly felt twice as long as the original. The game is so well-paced that I didn’t realize I spent about an hour on each chapter.
Another immediate difference I felt in the game was its controls. They feel much smoother than they ever did in the original “Resident Evil 4.” The original game played out in a stop-and-go motion, requiring Leon to stand still while he aimed his gun down at enemies. In this remake, Leon has much more flexibility and is able to perform motions such as backing up while also aiming down and shooting. It’s such a small change in gameplay detail that has massive ramifications on the game’s fast-paced shooting combat.
The PS5’s DualSense controller was implemented here nicely, too. Whenever Leon patches in a radio signal to speak with someone, you can hear it through the controller’s speakers. The haptic feedback from the trigger buttons also adds a touch of immersion as you can feel your weapon’s drawback and recoil.
The only complaint is that Leon sometimes feels like he runs too slowly and sluggishly. In order to do a melee attack on an enemy, you have to be up close. When shooting at a distance and seeing the enemy double over, that’s your cue to do melee them. However, Leon might not make it up to the enemy in time before they recover, leading to an awkward situation where now I have to try and back up to avoid being attacked.
Enemies will come at Leon in droves, but he has a huge arsenal of pistols, machine guns and shotguns to take them down. He can also find currency lying all around the village to buy various items, like first aid kits and weapon upgrades. So whether you like to go for precise headshots with a pistol, or mow down enemies with a submachine gun, you can tailor Leon’s weapons to your own play style. The game is also intensely replayable as there are multiple difficulty modes and special unlockable weapons for finishing a playthrough under certain conditions.
There are some other big gameplay changes to the game as well. When Ashley is accompanying Leon, you have the option to either have her stay close in order to run past enemies or give you space so you can safely shoot them down without her getting in the way. This is a welcome addition as it gives more options to protect Ashley. However, it still feels like you’re babysitting her, given that she doesn’t have any way to defend herself. This is really annoying considering how fast-paced the combat is — it’s easy to panic when someone is carrying her away and you still have to deal with numerous enemies trying to stab you.
The spinel jewels found in the original game were only meant to be sold for cash. However, in the remake, they can now be traded in for extra perks, such as a treasure map of the area Leon is currently in, or extra parts for guns, like a fancy new scope. The remake also adds side quests, which include small tasks like killing three rats in a building. While these sound mundane, it’s worth completing them as they reward you with spinel jewels to trade in.
These new features are smart touches that honor the foundation of the original game while also modernizing it for the current day. It’s clear that Capcom put quite a bit of thought into the “Resident Evil 4” remake in order for it to stand on its own merits. It doesn’t replace the original game at all; it’s merely a different and supplemental version of it.
Whether you’re a long-time fan of “Resident Evil 4” or a newcomer to it, this remake is an incredible game. Despite some small issues, I can’t overstate how much fun it is and how it honors the original’s legacy as one of the greatest video games of all time.