Four years before Resident Evil 4 remake, Capcom recognized a problem. Their series was stuck in an outdated mold, producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi lamented at the time. “RE4 was going to revolutionize the game,” he said. “We wanted to give gamers something fresh.”
Resident Evil 4 remake brought back its combat-forward roots for a reboot that reconsidered its survival horror roots.
Starring Resident Evil 2 co-star Leon S. Kennedy as an international action hero on a mission to rescue U.S. president’s daughter from an evil cult, Resident Evil 4 was widely hailed as a masterpiece and breathed new life into the franchise that would only become more action-focused in subsequent installments – leading to yet another reinvention with Resident Evil 7 Biohazard taking us back to basics once more.
Capcom’s Resident Evil 4 remake brings to life one of the series’ most beloved and influential entries with lavish detail, modernizing it from top to bottom. Developers have reframed Leon’s adventure through other recent Resident Evil remakes, adding new levels of beauty and gore while also updating controls and story.
This shows that these developers understand their source material and strive to make it sing by fully fleshing out every possible detail.
This game strongly suggests Resident Evil 4 remake may require a reinvention.
Resident Evil 4 remake core elements are present in the remake. Leon S. Kennedy, now a dashing government agent, is sent on an undercover solo mission to Spain where he searches for “Baby Eagle,” real name Ashley Graham daughter of U.S. President Graham.
Cultists have kidnapped her with plans to infect her with parasite and make her their puppet. As Leon searches for Ashley in rural village overrun by parasite, angry residents and powerful men stand between him and his rescue.
Leon is no longer the inexperienced cop from his previous game, facing only one or two zombies at a time. Instead, he’s well armed and combat-ready to face off against swarms of infected humans known as Ganados.
Where resource management and ammunition scarcity were core to early Resident Evil games, players in 4 must focus more on crowd control and parrying attacks from all sides – particularly in the remake version – to survive against overwhelming odds. Resident Evil 4 presents an entirely new type of challenge: surviving against overwhelming odds!
In the remake, avoiding death can seem impossible. Ganados and burly men wielding chainsaws or giant hammers will quickly surround Leon.
But Leon is capable of parrying or dodging most attacks; roundhouse-kick or Supplex bad guys before finishing them off with a knife through the skull; or approach encounters stealthily, creeping up behind unsuspecting enemies and taking out their weaknesses with quiet executions.
All these options make combat exciting yet flexible; occasionally frustrating too, as waves of enemies appear out of nowhere rather than providing solutions – often leading to frustration as Leon struggles against seemingly endless waves of enemies in set pieces that feel more like trial-and-error than puzzle-solving exercises.
As in the original, Leon must protect Ashley from harm in multiple, albeit brief scenes where she and Leon team up. Ashley is completely vulnerable in these moments and Leon must fight not only for his own survival but that of Ashley as well. Unlike in the original though, who could get quite easily hurt during these fight sequences.
Luckily this time around Ashley’s presence wasn’t such a nuisance – her health system has been simplified greatly. Originally Ashley’s presence proved divisive but now she works well together and enjoys watching them flirt!
In between Resident Evil 4 remake action-heavy set pieces are a series of puzzles, many inscrutable and ornate in the classic Resident Evil style, along with fetch quests. Unfortunately, these lock-and-key tricks still take a backseat to combat and feel perfunctory in relation to the overall design – even those particular to RE4 feel like afterthoughts from its developers.
Players will likely spend most of their time trying to decide how best to equip Leon, as a mysterious merchant offers an extensive selection of upgrades, weapons, armor, repairs and recipes for purchase. (The Merchant even asks, as fans would demand: “What are ya buyin’?”) Players have plenty of time on their hands! (On rare occasions, designers show remarkable restraint.)
Capcom has added an exciting layer to Leon’s upgrades in the remake, enabling him to not only enlarge his attached case for storage of items, but also customize it itself with variants offering different perks and attachable charms for even greater buffs. Players earn these charms at various locations throughout the game – I spent way too much time trying to unlock all of RE4’s best charms which are randomly generated!
Resident Evil 4 remake stands apart from previous games in its linearity. There’s not much backtracking involved here, as the game relentlessly pushes Leon forward into new areas and scenarios. Though the sequence of events remains unchanged from the original game, Capcom has adjusted and refined it considerably.
They wisely eliminated or reframing some of the sillier elements from the original title for a more serious tone. Quick-time events from the original, where Leon would have to outrun boulders or an out of place mechanized giant statue, only to potentially fail in milliseconds before starting over again, have been recontextualized. Most notably, Capcom has recast Ramon Salazar as less of a bleached Chucky doll and more like an aged but distinguished old man.
Resident Evil 4 remake does a remarkable job at smoothing over its rough edges, similar to how RE2 did in 2019, making an iconic but now outdated game feel brand-new again.
But after four Resident Evil games in as many years, even these modern iterations of the franchise start feeling familiar – there are still signs of that cookie cutter mold Kobayashi set out to break free more than two decades ago, even in Capcom’s polished remakes. This latest one is no exception.
Resident Evil 7 Biohazard and Village demonstrated, just like its predecessor, Capcom’s capacity for adaptation and reinvention. After completing 4 a second time, I found myself asking: Where do they go from here?
On March 24th, Resident Evil 4 remake will be available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC and Xbox Series X. We reviewed the game using a final “retail” PlayStation 5 download code provided by Capcom.