Release Date : March 24, 2023
Developer(s) : Capcom
Publisher(s) : Capcom
Platforms : PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Remakes are one of Capcom’s greatest talents. The remake of the first Resident Evil in 2002, for the Nintendo Gamecube, is the first and best example. A game that surpassed its model in every way, with the luxury of more content and more polished characters. Nearly twenty years later, the company made another comeback with Resident Evil 2, and then Resident Evil 3, both benefiting from a brand-new engine, the RE Engine, which would also be used for another of its major releases, Devil May Cry 5.
So, clearly, when Capcom announced the remake of the saga’s most beloved episode, the fans were thrilled. And not only fans, since the original game’s reputation speaks for itself, and recent releases of the series have brought in a lot of new blood. Moreover, after the highly successful remakes of the second and third installments, as well as the more recent addition of a third-person camera in Resident Evil Village, it’s hard to imagine how the developer could possibly fail.
And everything we saw before the release of the Resident Evil 4 remake was indeed exciting. Redesigned environments, enhanced graphics, action and bloodshed, and even more horror. We were very enthusiastic about this remake, but to be honest, we still expected that there was a chance that the developer might do something wrong. And when you are dealing with a giant videogame like this, you can expect the slightest mistake to cause furious grumbling on the web. Fortunately, none of this is likely to happen.
The first thing that strikes you about Resident Evil 4 2023 is, obviously, its visual appeal. They’ve not only redesigned the environments and tweaked the 3D models, but they’ve also brought the whole thing to life with a highly efficient engine, the RE Engine. The result is a highly detailed Spanish countryside looking more beautiful than ever. Unfortunately, this goes along with a few textures that lack finesse, and a technique adapted for cross-gen that doesn’t work any miracles. Occasionally, this remake shows the age of its engine, which suffers a little in the more open environments, with some display delays and blurring. But overall, Resident Evil 4 still looks amazing.
Last but not least, the game’s attention to detail is impressive, particularly when it comes to the dismemberment and gore effects, which work like a charm. Like Electronic Arts with its Dead Space Remake, Capcom wanted to make this Resident Evil 4 even more sweaty, violent, and bloody than the original. The result is a tenfold increase in handheld sensations. Eighteen years and two console generations later, dismembering plagas by the dozen is even more enjoyable, thanks to the outstanding visual effects.
Although the developers have revised the level design, some of the sequences are virtually identical, with the added bonus of a visual overhaul. It has to be said that 2005’s Resident Evil 4 still works very well today, despite the absence of a free-form camera, and some awkwardness. The 2023 version retains some of these clumsinesses, contributing to an atmosphere that quickly captures the heart, and doesn’t let you go until you’ve reached the credits. This remake is darker, a little more serious, and perhaps a little less sage than its model.
Less sage, because it sometimes has fun with the player. Fans of the original will quickly find their feet, even if the aiming system takes a little time to get used to. Most of the time, they’ll find themselves on familiar ground, with environments that have often been updated and corrected, benefiting from a level design that’s more vertical, more organic too, but still directional. Many of the treasures are hidden in the same locations as in 2005. But the title will also surprise them, by adapting some sequences differently, and even deleting certain phases and bosses in favor of new content.
As for newcomers, they’ll learn to fear the sound of chainsaws, but more importantly, to look behind them. Because, again like Dead Space Remake, Resident Evil 4 chooses to take the player by surprise on several occasions, provoking delightful panic and even a little gasping. This new version takes care of its atmosphere, which is better mastered than in the original, making its effect felt at nightfall, as well as when encountering certain tougher opponents. Like the new form of villagers, who get up after being knocked down, more swift and solid than their predecessors.
This Resident Evil 4 is just as chatty as its predecessor, and follows a very similar narrative framework, while allowing for a number of small changes that make it more coherent overall, as well as better explaining a few grey areas. We’re back to good old Leon Scott Kennedy, plunging as best he can into the depths of the Spanish countryside to rescue the daughter of the President of the United States, Ashley Graham, who is being held prisoner for obscure reasons by a band of religious fanatics infected by a strange parasite. It’s a great B-movie, as we’re used to with the license, and it works quite well, particularly thanks to a well-executed staging that’s more refined than you would expect.
The staging is supported by a fitting re-orchestration of the musical themes from the 2005 game, and by the English voice actors, who are clearly committed to their work. But, like its recent predecessors, Resident Evil 4 also has the luxury of full dubbing in different languages with actors doing a fine job. Leon’s courage is clearly present, as well as Luis Sera at his finest, and overall, the casting in all languages is perfect. It’s also worth noting that the sound design and spatialization are excellent. But of course, that’s not the most important thing.
Because we expected the staging to be nicely refined, the graphics to be on the mark, and the atmosphere to be darker. But there was still a shadow over the gameplay, which could in no way have been reproduced as it was. We mentioned above the protagonist’s relative heaviness, and it’s true that it’s obvious. Leon’s way of moving is very reminiscent of Isaac Clarke’s in Dead Space, with a free-form camera and, of course, the ability to move while aiming, which obviously lowers the accuracy of the shots. In addition, it’s now possible to crouch and perform executions, with certain sequences enhancing stealth.
When it comes to the shooting sensations themselves, it’s hard to describe them in any other way than with synonyms for the word “jubilant”. The dismemberment and gory effects are obviously part of the experience. But it’s the sense of the different weapons that really counts. The good old shotgun has never been so exhilarating to use, and neither has the Killer7 (a reference to Suda51’s game that this remake keeps intact). It’s a shame, however, that with the exception of heavy grenades and a variant of the rocket launchers, all the weapons are familiar to the fans. Although the arsenal is still sufficiently well-stocked, and reworked, for this “problem” not to be an issue.
There are also new knife-related mechanics that make the knife infinitely more useful than in the original game. It is now possible to parry a large proportion of attacks, whether melee or ranged, with a simple pull of the trigger at the right moment. This is a rather clever way of boosting the game’s fighting spirit, which is certainly vibrant in this version. The downside is that Leon’s military knife breaks after a few uses, so you’ll have to scavenge around for other blades, or have it repaired regularly at the merchant.
Overall, Resident Evil 4 Remake reworked and corrected every aspect of its predecessor, even the things it did well. For example, there’s a constant flow of ammunition, adding to the already intense tension. You’ll need to rely on a crafting system (inherited from Resident Evil Village), supported by a few resources to be found on enemies or in the scenery, which is basic but functional, providing you with bullets as needed. But even with this, you quickly run out of bullets, which clearly encourages you to use the knife, abuse grenades, and vary your arsenal. Fortunately, while the game is not exactly easy, it is not complicated in standard mode. In fact, if you’re familiar with the original, we’d advise you to play this remake in hard difficulty mode.
Some sequences disappear, while others are combined, which is generally for the better. The adventure brings just the right amount of innovation and change for those familiar with the original to enjoy rediscovering Resident Evil 4, and the progression is even more organic as a result. Absolute fans will notice a few missing elements, while a new boss is sorely lacking interest. And this version hides fewer little surprises for fans of the license. It does, however, offer a slightly more detailed story and a few pleasant nods to the past.
QTEs, which made up a large part of the original experience, are less frequent, and certainly used in a more relevant way. The title pushes us to be more mobile, since it’s no longer possible to dodge all the attacks of certain bosses with a single keystroke at the right moment. Once again, there’s just enough to go around, including the use of the knife to counter certain attacks. And if you were worried about QTE combat in the 2005 game, there’s no such thing. Once again, almost everything has been reworked, even this.
In the process of modernizing, Resident Evil 4 also gives Ashley a more convincing artificial intelligence, generally preventing her from getting in the way of the action. The developers had the bright idea of retaining but slightly improving the orders system, which is still very basic but perfectly functional. The young lady loses her life bar, which is one less thing to worry about. But she can still lead to Game Over when she suffers two consecutive blows without you finding the time to pick her up, or when she is abducted by an enemy who leaves the area carrying her on his shoulder. It’s fair to say that she’s much less of a burden than she was eighteen years ago, and that’s a relief.
Of course, there are a few things to complain about. Getting used to the game takes a little time, for example. Most of the bosses retain their original patterns, which are a little too basic. The merchant would have benefited from learning more lines. The game sometimes lacks a little subtlety, although this is also the case for the 2005 version. Some missing sequences could have been retained. But above all, we’d have liked to see completing the adventure unlock Ada Wong’s campaign, as on PS2… And while the title will soon get a dedicated mode for PS VR 2, and fans of the famous Mercenaries will be eligible for it in a free update, we’d obviously have appreciated all this being available at launch.
Resident Evil 4 Remake is in fact quite long in its genre, with a few new side missions ( although not very exciting ones) and a traditional but still effective New Game+, but the lack of any content once the adventure is over is a bit disappointing when you’re familiar with the original. We can comfort ourselves with the return of the shooting mini-game, present in a few places throughout the adventure, or an in-game challenge system, which unlocks several weapons, as well as a host of 3D models and concept art to admire via the main menu. And, of course, with a Professional difficulty mode, for those looking for the ultimate challenge.
Highly anticipated by a solid community of fans, this Resident Evil 4 remake makes no real mistakes. Relatively beautiful, particularly enjoyable, and fairly complete, in addition to a revised level design, a more organic progression, and a storyline that remains as good as ever, it only suffers from a few gaps that will only be missed by absolute fans of the 2005 game. After two highly successful remakes, and a highly enjoyable eighth installment, Capcom signs the return of the king who made TPS more popular and accessible for many players.