Resident Evil 4 Review

Time is a fickle mistress. Apparently Resident Evil 4 is 18 years old this year, which feels so wrong given how vivid my memories of excitedly sitting down to play the GameCube game. Since those short-lived days as a Nintendo exclusive, Leon S. Kennedy’s European vacation has been ported to a dozen other formats and with good reason. Widely regarded to be the highpoint of Capcom’s survival horror behemoth, RE4 bought a more action-packed approach with a side order of high camp and a whole load of suplexing evil monks. Now, those still unbelievable 18 years later, the long rumoured and much anticipated Resident Evil 4 Remake is finally here.

After Capcom took Resident Evil into a first person perspective with Resident Evil 7 and Village, it at first feels a little jarring returning to 4’s over the shoulder view. This is especially true as it fuses the original game to the modern quality of life improvements found within Village and the remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3.

Leon feels far more weighty here and there is a real visceral touch to the combat. The fabulous RE Engine allows enemies to be dismembered and destroyed by the full range of Leon’s arsenal and their attacks on Leon himself hit hard enough to make you wince – especially with the haptics on the DualSense. While this isn’t the most developed use of Sony’s controller, it is still very effective and really adds to the experience. The sound design and atmosphere is right up there with the very best and I’d definitely recommend playing in a dark room with headphones on for the full immersive effect.

Resident Evil 4 Remake Combat

As you would expect, Resident Evil 4 Remake is obviously a huge step up from the original graphically, but it’s just as much about art direction as it is about taking advantage of modern hardware. Environments are richly designed and there is great use of lighting and weather effects throughout – don’t worry, the rain effect is a far cry from the early footage that had fans worried. The early stages of the game see a full range of weather that plays into both the narrative and the gameplay. Having recently replayed the HD remaster to refresh my memories, the difference visually is night and day.

Resident Evil 4 Remake isn’t just a glammed up retread of the original, though, as there are many entirely new areas and story beats alongside fancier takes on fan favourite moments. There is a real mix of familiarity and innovation here, both in terms of narrative order, pacing, added side quests and specific events. Helping to expand the story, the supporting cast of characters have also been developed further, giving Ashley and Luis deeper backstories through dialogue and collectables to elevate them from being caricatures.

Resident Evil 4 Remake Luis

Despite Capcom’s early insistence that nothing would be cut, which was no doubt made to reassure those disappointed by Resident Evil 3’s remake, there are some moments (and iconic dialogue) that haven’t been included here. It’s not as campy as the original, but the end result in no way feels inferior, and the changes and additions actually make this remake better paced than the 2005 version.

Resident Evil 4 Remake continues the dark and mature tone of Capcom’s more recent entries to the series, and it feels like an appropriately grown up rendition. This does mean that it loses some of the high camp that made the original so unique, but there are still plenty of cheesy lines and over the top moments. While the default presentation trends towards grim dark, the numerous costumes revealed as pre-order bonuses certainly play into the sillier parts of the original – which is still an eminently playable game that can happily coexist with this remake, if you want that original tone.

Resident Evil 4 Knife Counter

Last week’s Chainsaw Demo revealed many of the new gameplay mechanics to fans, and the full game makes excellent use of the more developed combat system. Standard difficulty can be cleared in traditional run and gun style, but higher difficulty modes really push you to use the beefed up melee attacks and the crucial knife parry.

The timing of this can take some getting used to, but it certainly doesn’t turn Resident Evil 4 into Sekiro. Mistiming parrying leads to your knife taking extra damage and so there is a real sense of risk and reward. The same applies to using your blade to escape from enemy grapples. Your main knife can be repaired for a price at the Merchant, but extra, weaker blades can be found as well. I’m looking forward to watching high skill playthroughs where the knife takes centre stage. Ammo crafting also plays a large part here, and you have to balance resources between low power handgun bullets and more resource hungry heavier ammo.

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