Resident Evil 4 being remade was probably inevitable the moment Resident Evil 2’s own remake arrived in 2019 to rapturous reviews and solid sales.
In many ways, Resi 4 is still the series’ most iconic entry, with legions of fans looking forward to running through its hellish gauntlet once more. Playing it through again feels like slipping your favourite B movie into a VHS player and being greeted with crystal-clear footage.
Resident Evil 4 Remake
This remake is super accomplished, with smart modernisations and a visual overhaul that make it scarier and punchier.
- Great new looks
- Much-improved movement
- More combat options
- Obviously profoundly silly
A classic revisited
Resident Evil 4 doesn’t hang about – it picks up the story of the Umbrella Corporation’s evil machinations with Leon Kennedy, star of the second game, dispatched to a mysterious island to rescue the US President’s kidnapped daughter.
Things don’t get any more tied down from there, with Leon quickly discovering that the island’s Spanish-speaking peasantry is infected with a hideous disease that renders them furious and mutated.
The bulk of the game is spent rescuing Ashley, that daughter, and then keeping her safe as you try to navigate through grim villages, mining tunnels, a sprawling castle and more in search of an escape route.
Needless to say, the twisted residents don’t make that easy, with the Ganados, as they’re called, recreated in frightening detail that is only compounded if a kill sees a tentacled menace burst out of their neck.
Resident Evil 4 is one of the most tonally loose games in the already bananas series, so it’s happy veering from near-horror sequences to guns-blazing action at the drop of a hat, but the focus is much more action-heavy than more recent releases.
As a consequence, there’s nothing here to rival the doll’s house basement from Resident Evil Village, for example, where fear is concerned.
On the story side of things, the changes that Capcom makes are typically minor, from characters with more sensible outfits to clearer exposition at key moments, but there are a few surprises in store that we won’t spoil.
Smoothing things out
Resident Evil 4, like most games in the series, bounces between tense exploration, puzzle-solving all the way, and more action-packed combat.
Combat is much improved over the original – a game that was fluid at release but has now been outdone, at least in terms of impactful it is.
Animations are smooth, apart from a consistently janky melee system, and there are a host of weapons to buy and upgrade tactically through the game.
This gives you a series of choices to make as you pay to improve weapons that you know you’ll end up selling when one with a higher ceiling comes along, along with the classic inventory Tetris to fit your loadout in the first place.
Do you spend huge amounts on a few hard-hitting weapons with scarce ammo to safeguard you from bosses, or focus more on lower-powered guns that have more plentiful ammunition? A choice each of us will make as we play.
Those who know Resident Evil 4 inside out will find the layout and map largely very familiar, but there are easily enough changes to make it feel fresh, with a New Game+ mode beckoning upon completion, too.
It’s lovely moving through each location in turn, discovering how Capcom has managed to give it a huge visual overhaul without making it hard to tell exactly where you are in the game.
One small touch is the addition of collectable attache cases for Leon to find, each of which offers a perk when you’re using it, plus charms to hang off the case for more benefits – the sort of small addition that returning players will be able to get to grips with.
Quite a looker
If Resident Evil 4 preserves the feel of the original, and makes sure to pay proper respect to its rhythms and pacing, where it really lets loose is by updating how the game looks.
The remake looks completely excellent, to give you the short version – it’s been rebuilt on the latest tech and has all the hallmarks of a modern release.
Locations that were once washed-out and short of detail are now deeply meticulous and full of character and tiny touches that sell the world.
Lighting is moody and atmospheric pretty much the whole time, doing away with the washed-out nature of the original game’s hardware-limited visuals.
This means that enemies hiding in corners are far more liable to shock you, while key moments such as a knife fight with Krauser (no longer a QTE but a full encounter) are significantly more dramatic and cinematic.
The castle, in particular, looks unrecognisably improved, with no more tiling textures of identical brick, giving way instead to mottled rock and properly laid-out areas.
Luckily, any risk of things becoming harder to read due to darker lighting and more realistic shadows is allayed by hugely improved sound.
This means you’ll generally know when enemies are around a corner, thanks to their chittering and chanting.
Resident Evil 4 proves that Capcom is in the form of its life, with another excellent and considered remake continuing to demonstrate that Resident Evil is in the best place it’s ever been.
Those who’ve already played this seminal game will recognise its B Movie charms and revel in them, but if it’s a new experience then you’ll be experiencing everything the series has to offer.
Tense fights, frightening archetypical locales, almost completely meaningless plot twists – it’s all here, swathed in gorgeous visuals and a clear sense of fun.