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Over the past couple of years, Capcom and their most profitable franchise, Resident Evil, have been on a hell of a run. Since the release of RE 7, the franchise can seemingly do no wrong. Not only have their brand new installments into the franchise been wonderful, saving the IP from certain death, but their remakes of past fan-favorite titles have also been widely appreciated and lauded by fans and critics alike.
Each one of these remakes perfectly captures the essence of the original game while simultaneously improving on the already stellar content, ramping up the tension, graphics, and everything else along the way.
This is why so many fans became ecstatic when RE 4 was announced as the company’s latest remaster project. This game is widely known and accepted as the best in the franchise (by a country mile, if you ask me). However, as good as the 2005 edition of the game was, going back and playing it now, its age really is beginning to show, highlighting the need for a remaster. After all, I’m pretty sure most refrigerators can comfortably run the original game these days.
When I sat down to write this Resident Evil 4 Remake review, having played the original and each remake as they came out, I wasn’t expecting too much. While I had enjoyed all the other remakes, I never got that original feeling the OG games gave me all those years ago. But boy, was I wrong; as soon as I hopped on the rollercoaster ride that is the RE4 remake, there was no getting off, and my muscles are still sore now from the amount of tension this game put through them.
The real question still remains, though, just how different is the remake from the original, and is it worth your hard-earned bucks? Well, let’s see, shall we?
Leon’s Beautiful Locks in Living Color
Let’s not kid ourselves here; the main reason anyone buys a remaster for a game more than 15 years old is for the graphical update. While there may be other reasons, this is the meat and gravy of a remaster that every studio must hit out of the park.
While the original game was amazing for its time, pushing the graphical capabilities of every machine that it ran on, it is still incredibly dated by this point. Having gone back to the 2005 release of the title for a little refresh before writing this Welcome Home: Resident Evil 4 Remake review, I can tell you that the OG is simply laughable for modern audiences, so much so that I would argue that anyone without the nostalgic feelings we have for it would pass it by out of principle alone.
Thankfully then, Capcom, by this point, are no strangers to a full graphical overhaul and remaster of their games, having already accomplished some amazing things with their remasters of RE 1 and 2. However, this was the first time the studio had to rework 3D environments that the player could move around in with complete freedom.
Of course, they smashed this graphical update out of the park, managing to keep Leon’s hair looking amazing while updating and improving almost everything along the way. This leaves the game feeling much more tense and dark, with great atmospheric lighting and color balancing throughout to ensure that each space is just dark enough to spark fear without robbing your ability to see your enemies.
Throughout my time with Resi 4, I only found one area where the graphics weren’t up to the mark of a current-generation game. During my fight with Del Lago on the lake, the water graphics really shocked me as they looked more like the graphics found in the 2005 release. All of my lake-going experiences were marred with immersion-breaking annoyance. Whether they didn’t have time to update the water graphics or just didn’t bother, it became a real gripe for me as I explored the new areas dotted around the lake.
Changing Set Pieces
With these graphical overhauls and changes to the atmosphere of the game, many locations and set pieces have been tweaked or entirely changed to fit the new game’s pacing style.
While many fans of the original may not notice some of these changes, they are quite noticeable when you go back and forth. When you start the game, everything seems like business as usual, with no real changes being made to the starting areas. However, as you progress, you begin to see how a lot of small tweaks are all coming together in this new edition of the game to improve the overall feel of the game.
It seems like this goal was adopted throughout the game, as the philosophy can be seen over and over again. The end result is a game that combines improved graphics and amazing storytelling to create perfect pacing.
All of this is supported by amazing level design that allows the player to roam freely around the more open location without ever getting lost or going off track. I cannot tell you how many times I killed an enemy and got upset about being unable to reach them and attain their loot, only to be walked past said loot later in the game.
It is just amazing how they balance freedom of movement and story direction without the player ever feeling the designer’s subtle hand on their back, guiding them through. In my entire playthrough, I had to use the map once to find my way around.
A Better Ashley
There have also been major improvements in terms of character design for certain key players in Resi 4. While Leon stays pretty much the same, Ashley Graham has been completely reworked for the better.
In the original game, it was quite clear that the character was intentionally sexualized. While she is in her early 20s, according to canon, her character model presented her as a much younger girl who instantly adored Leon. This created an uncomfortable narrative that has no real place in modern gaming.
Thankfully, Capcom has apparently seen the errors in their ways, updating her model to be much closer looking to her canon age and preventing players from attempting the infamous upskirting routine that the OG game happily provided to you.
New Hardware, New Me
One of the fundamental differences between consoles now and the platforms available in 2005 is the controllers. I played this remake on PlayStation 5, giving me access to a full range of controller-based improvements.
First of all, with the new adaptive triggers, you feel every bullet you fire, increasing that resource anxiety that Resident Evil games are famous for with each trigger pull. This, combined with immense controller vibration when using weapons with high recoil, makes gunplay a lot more impactful.
When you receive a phone call from Roost or Saddler Jedi mind tricks his way into your head, the dialogue now comes through your controller, instantly pulling you deeper into the game, making everything feel so much more real.
There have been so many small little changes with the combat system in this game to improve the original system and make the player’s life a little bit easier. Let’s take a look at the major changes.
- Quick-time events have been reduced significantly with this remake. Instead, the only real-time the player must engage with QTEs is in the knife parrying or evade mechanics mid-combat. Thankfully there are very few cut scenes filled with QTEs, though.
- The player can now use dual stick control. Allowing you to casually evade oncoming crossbow bolts or thrown axes while keeping their crosshairs on another enemy.
- The knives in this game have been completely overhauled. Giving the player a parry system and a lot more fighting tools to play around with. This system shines during your knife showdown in the later stages of the game. Allowing for open combat instead of QTEs.
- Players no longer have to pause the fight and dip into their attaché case to switch between weapons. Now, you simply use the D-pad mid-combat to alternate.
- Looting animations and box breaking are much quicker so that Leon can stock up mid-combat when needed. These boxes are now also indicated with yellow paint.
- There is a new emphasis on the stealth element of the game, making it feel like a true survival horror game. Leon can now sneak up and take down enemies from behind with his knife or use the new and silent bold thrower weapon.
All of these changes come within the overall combat package, which teams impressive developments with the seminal over-the-shoulder style that RE4 popularised all those years ago.
So Many Enemies
Once again, this remake has changed so much about the enemies and how they interact with the player that it would be too complicated to read and understand every little thing. So let’s turn it into another list, shall we:
Enemies are more dynamic and open to change than ever before. Their movement patterns are just outside of the box enough to make it near impossible to predict where their head will finish for your next bullet.
When the player or Ashley gets hit or falls into trouble, the enemy AI recognizes this as blood in the water and begins to swarm, surrounding the player quickly. Later in the game, when you have to watch over Ashley, this can become a real problem, as whenever she is lifted, the rest of the enemies swarm to protect the carrier.
Enemies change their attacks and strengths repeatedly over the course of the game. When you become comfortable popping villager’s heads, the castle guard will come by wearing helmets.
The player will be flanked a lot more often in this game, with the AI forcing enemies to come at the player from every angle.
Ashley the Companion
One of the main issues people had with the original game was the negative shift in combat whenever Ashley entered the fray. Before, she would walk around with her head in the air, seemingly trying to get into trouble or danger.
Now, she is much less of a helpless healthcare accouterment to your fights and more of a companion, moving where you tell her to and adjusting her path when needed.
While I still feel that combat is not as smooth or enjoyable when you also have to look after Ashley, her inclusion helps to add an extra challenge km the remaster instead of an annoyance. I do wish they added some features, such as ammo finding for her, though.
Firing Range and Charms
While the firing range was part of the original game, it has been revamped slightly for this remaster, instead of being a simple room where players tested out new weapons and their effectiveness. The challenges found inside now have a real benefit for high achievers.
Each firing range comes with a set of challenges. Completing each challenge will give the player a token of approximate value to the score you achieved. After completing all challenges, these tokens can be used to randomly draw charms out of a pinball machine in the back of the room.
These charms are an entirely new feature in the game and can be attached to your attaché case to passively boost player stats throughout the game. In my playthrough, I ended up running with charms mostly focused on ammo creation bonuses and health benefits.
One of the most loved characters and elements in Resi 4 was the Merchant. He not only had a wide range of cool weapons and one-liners for the player to enjoy, but he also served as a recognizable safe haven and break from the madness that surrounds your hero’s journey.
The Merchant in this iteration of the game is much the same in terms of the role he plays. However, he has also improved significantly. With the base features already created in the base game, the remake has added several features to the Merchant and tweaked some of the more annoying elements of the game’s economy.
Before, the player was almost encouraged to keep a hold of their money until the late game, resulting in players completing entire runs without getting to try out some of the cool weapons, depriving themselves of some fun along their journey in the hopes of future reward.
Players would also refrain from upgrading weapons in the early stages of the game, knowing that they would be losing this money when it came time to upgrade their weapons. Thankfully then, the Merchant now informs the player that weapon upgrades are now factored into rebuying prices, effectively losing the player very little money when upgrading and selling these weapons.
Blue Notice Requests and Collectables
When the original RE4 was released, a triple-A game got by with a great single-player storyline experience with a few unlockable weapons along the way. However, as video games continue to creep up in price, the need to pad out the content and playtime is ever-increasing. Therefore, along with the base gameplay, this remake comes with Blue Notice Requests. These requests serve as extra challenges that unlock a new form of in-game currency called Spinels.
A blue notice request can involve the player doing some strange things, whether that is collecting and selling a golden chicken egg or killing several rats around a factory floor. However, the majority of the time, you will be asked to find and destroy a series of small blue medallions that will be hidden around the location. If you manage to get your hands on a treasure map, finding these medallions will be a lot easier.
While Spinels were also in the base game as simple gems that could be sold to the Merchant, you can now use these in the new ‘Trade’ section of the Merchant’s menu. Here, you can exchange Spinels for special rewards such as different colored attache cases, unique weapons, and treasure maps.
Outside of these blue notice requests, the player can collect castellan figurines throughout the game. There are 16 of these collectibles in the game, and collecting all of them will reward the player with a unique knife that, when fully upgraded, becomes indestructible.
Big Time Audio Upgrades
One thing that anyone interested in the horror genre will tell you is that the score and overall quality of the audio are fundamental when creating a sense of tension, disquiet, or unease. Capcom is no stranger to the making of horror games by now and seems to have audio production down to a smooth science.
The soundscape of this new game is completely different and revamped for a new generation of gamers equipped with headphones that could theoretically hear the movement of Leon’s bowels when originally confronted by the seemingly bulletproof Chief Mendez’s true form.
As you explore the grounds of the castle or walk through the little Spanish village at the start of the game, the atmosphere is perfect for driving the player forward with a sense of careful urgency. At all times, you are aware of the need for pace to save Ashley, but also very afraid to turn each and every corner.
Like the other RE remakes that Capcom has been producing lately, a decision was made to fully upgrade and rework the voice acting for this new edition of the game, replacing the original voice actors with more contemporary VO professionals. This change is something that I welcome, not because the OG voice actors were in any way bad, but because the sound quality back then just wasn’t what it is today.
Many of the characters who have already been cast in previous remakes, such as Leon and Ada Wong, feature returning actors in Nick Apostolides and Lily Gao. Both of these VO actors had very few original lines to shoot, as their dialogue was kept basically the same.
However, for the newcomer to the franchise, Genevieve Buechner, a whole new challenge was created as it was decided early on in the process that Ashley’s character needed to be a lot more well-rounded, thus requiring a ton of original dialogue and character work.
As you might expect, all of the VO artists knocked it out of the park and represented their characters perfectly for this updated game.
A More Accessible Experience
One other thing that is important for every modern game is the availability of great accessibility functions which allow anyone to enjoy the game. Of course, being the modern incarnation of RE4, this game has plenty of these options, but not as many as I would have hoped. Let’s take a look at these:
- Secondary Parry Button: Having played the game on PlayStation 5, I was allowed to choose whether I wanted my parry button as L2 by default or R2. This change is best for players not too keen on QTEs, as your already going to be clicking that R2 button flat out during a regular combat session.
- Closed Caption Subtitles: While this setting is obviously beneficial for anyone with hearing issues, it can also be great for general gameplay. Closed captions will allow the player to easily detect tripwires due to their beeping and enemies from far away.
- Field of View Adjustments: While this setting is usually reserved for first-person experiences, it comes in handy here also, allowing players to pick the camera angle that works for them. This setting is essential for some players, where certain perspectives can make them feel nauseous over time.
- Tap or Hold Action Buttons: While QTEs are very sparse in this updated version of Resi 4, there are some moments wherein the player must quickly and repeatedly press a button, such as when an enemy gets Leon in a rear body lock, the player must tap a button repeatedly to escape. This may be difficult for some players. Therefore, you can choose to simply hold that button instead of quickly tapping.
- Quick Turn: The quick turn function was something I accidentally realized was still an option. When I learned of it, I quickly tried to work it into my arsenal, but it isn’t a smooth mechanic and fails more often than it works. To make this mechanic easier, you can swap this for the crouch button. Of course, this will make crouching a lot harder.
While every game comes with difficulty modes these days, not very many of them come with increased accessibility options based on your selection. There are four different difficulty modes available to the player in this game. Let’s see what each of these means for the player:
- Assisted: This mode is apparently for players who are beginners to action games, but I would also see this mode as one that is perfect for differently-abled players as well. This mode gives the player aim assist, additional ammo creation in crafting, health recovery, and lower Merchant costs.
- Standard: This mode is made for players who are new to this particular game and is the base level of the game, which all other difficulty levels are adjusted around.
- Hardcore: This mode is a step above Standard difficulty. The enemies and challenges are much harder, with ammo being more scarce and Merchant items being more expensive.
- Professional: This mode is Resi 4’s version of New Game+, which many triple-A titles are releasing at the moment. It is only available if you have already completed the game and is the most grueling version of the game. You can only parry when you hit it perfectly, and you have no auto-save function. Thankfully, all weapon mods are made available from the very beginning.
Quick Pros and Cons
- The game’s audio and visual elements are simply outstanding, perfect for new RE fans and those who loved the original games.
- There are enough changes to the game that even veterans of the OG game can find something new to focus on and enjoy.
- Ashley is no longer overly sexualized and is a much more well-rounded character overall.
- The Merchant has been vastly improved.
- There are great replayability options here.
- The quick turn mechanic could be improved upon.
- The water physics and mechanics are not up to the level of the rest of the game.
- There could be more accessibility settings for players of all abilities.
While I honestly think this game is the pinnacle of the genre, there is still limited gameplay available here. Therefore, I have come up with a list of games that could scratch that same itch when Leon finally retires for a little shut-eye. Have a gander:
- Days Gone
- The Last of Us Part 1
- Resident Evil 1 and 2 Remakes
- Metro 2033
- The Callisto Protocol
- Dead Space Remake
The Perfect Recipe
While this game has some little flaws here and there, I cannot, in good conscience, give this game anything less than a perfect score. The overall experience is simply amazing from start to finish. It is tense, action-packed, and filled with corny one-liners that fit the overall aesthetic perfectly.
For me, this could be my personal game of the year, especially if some of the planned DLC content also lives up to this high stander. It just goes to show that a great original recipe, teamed with the technology and knowledge of 18 years of more game development, can make something truly spectacular.
Whether you have played through the original game multiple times and know it like the back of your hand or haven’t even picked up a RE title before, you will find something to love about this game and end up playing it one action-packed, beautiful menagerie of bullets and horrid guts. In short, buy this game; you owe it to yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is it worth buying the Resident Evil 4 remake?
Answer: When a classic game that everyone has already played receives a remaster, there is always the question as to whether the new iteration of the game is worth another purchase. In this case, I can unequivocally state that your money will be well spent here. There are enough changes to the base game (for the better) that any fan of the OG title will be mightily impressed.
Question: Is the Resident Evil 4 Remake the same as the original?
Answer: Yes and no. While this remake is very faithful to the original games story and map structure, there have been so many small and well-thought-out changes throughout the game that the experience between the two is almost night and day, and that’s before you even consider the amazing graphical update one expects with a remaster.
Question: Should you play the original Resident Evil 4 before the remake?
Answer: While there would be some benefit to this just to see how far the game has come, allowing you to appreciate all the changes and upgrades that have been made, there is no need or reason why you should play the OG game first. The Resident Evil franchise is the perfect example of a survival horror IP that invites players in, no matter the iteration of the IP.
James spent over 16 hours traversing the remade map of this installment of Resi 4, bolstering the uncountable hours that were spent on the 2005 OG game. James completed the main storyline, spending a great deal of time trying to complete as many blue notice requests as possible. Alas, the excellent pacing of the game resulted in him forgetting some of these extra bits while barreling through the main story.
After completing the main storyline, James started another playthrough of the Professional game mode and intends to complete this playthrough very soon, possibly trying to sneak a little bit more this time.