Review: Resident Evil 4

3 Apr 2023

I can still remember myself sitting in the living room in January 2005, impatiently awaiting the arrival of the delivery truck. Every time I heard a car coming down the street, my eyes perked up as I rushed to the window. Hoping, praying, that this would be the truck I was waiting for.

My Nintendo GameCube was haphazardly plugged into our big screen TV, sitting on the floor, cords outstretched so that I would be able to sit on the couch with the controller. As soon as the truck pulled up to the house, I grabbed the package, ripped it open, and finally jumped into the game.

In the weeks and months that would follow the release of Resident Evil 4, I can remember seeing at least a dozen clears on my memory card. I played the hell out of this game and, to this day, I still remember where to shoot down various bird nests and treasures.

Fast forward to today and Resident Evil 4 is now the latest in the series to receive the remake treatment. With Resident Evil 2 earning a perfect score, and Resident Evil 3 getting good marks as well (though easily being the “worst” of the bunch), I was anxious to see just what Capcom would change, or keep the same, with their latest remake.

Resident Evil 4 is now out on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. Capcom provided us with the PlayStation 5 version for this review.

It’s a Day I’ll Never Forget

Resident Evil 4 takes place six years after the events of Resident Evil 2. Whether he’s truly excited about it or not, Leon S. Kennedy is now working for the United States government. His latest assignment sends him to a small European village while he attempts to locate the President’s kidnapped daughter, Ashley.

Upon arriving in this village, Leon quickly discovers that not only is he not welcome, but that there’s something wrong with the villagers. An “I totally broke this guy’s neck but he’s still alive” kind of wrong. This means that instead of asking the locals for help in locating Ashley, Leon has to fight them off at every turn as they grab him, rush at him with pitchforks and even throw dynamite at him.

As expected of a remake, the story of this new version of Resident Evil 4 doesn’t stray off its previously established path. The big story beats that were present in the original are still here. Now, however, everything is supplemented with even more detail courtesy of in-game cutscenes or the documents that you can find scattered throughout the game. The beginning of the game now gives a glimpse at just how dangerous this group is and exploring the village and finding documents and photos of them before everything made a turn for the worse made me feel more sympathetic this time around.

It’s laughable to say that the tone the story has been molded into feels more “realistic” when this is a game that involves, well, giant lake monsters and parasite infected cultists. But yes, the narrative shift with this remake feels more realistic, if not more believable than the original.

Bill Me For the Repairs Later

The original RE4 was, without a doubt, one of the best third-person action/horror games on the market at the time. In this remake, the core gameplay is still here and, like the story, has seen some additional touch-ups that make it feel even better to play than its predecessor.

This time around, there is much more emphasis placed on Leon and the training he’s received since the events of RE2. Leon can crouch to sneak around areas to try and remain undetected and can also use his knife for stealth kills. The knife also allows Leon to parry incoming attacks, often leaving enemies prone to a melee attack. The “shoot bad guy and kick him” gameplay that was present in the original is still here, but now you can save yourself from attacks as well with these knife parries. Heck, you can even parry a chainsaw if you time it right. It’s ridiculous, really, but parrying these attacks feels good and, more importantly, it’s fun. The downside of all of this, however, is that the knife has durability and so if you use it too much, you’ll need to pay to get it repaired at the merchant.

The gunplay is also pretty much the same this time around, though the added knife play is a great addition. Guns (and knives) can be found or purchased and then upgraded at the merchant. If you later decide you don’t need the gun anymore, you can sell it back, or now you can store it at a save point. It’s not quite the item chest that we’ve had in previous Resident Evil games, but it’s a great option to have when you’re trying to save on space in your attaché case.

Speaking of which, yes, the attaché case from the original is back as well, with some interesting changes. One of the most memorable parts of the original, for better or worse, was the inventory management. You’ll still find moments when you go to collect an item and find that you don’t have room, but this time, there’s a new button. This wonderful new button… will auto-sort the inventory (see the images below). It’s a wonderful quality of life change that can save players some amount of frustration, and while it may not always organize things exactly how you want, it does most of the work, while also giving players that small need to move things around just right in order to fit that fish you just found.

Another big change is that you’re able to change out the type of case, which could give you additional perks such as a higher chance to find handgun ammo. You can also attach charms to the case, which are earned by redeeming tokens in a gacha style machine. The tokens can be found, or earned through the shooting gallery mini-game. These charms give Leon bonus effects such as increased running speed, increasing the amount of healing a certain type of item does, and more.

Another feature in Resident Evil 4 are requests. During the game you’ll see blue pieces of paper around the game telling you to shoot some medallions, or sell the merchant a particular item. Upon completing these requests, you earn a special currency that can be exchanged for items like treasure maps, gems, tokens, and some weapon accessories.

It’s nice to have something that you can do while you run through the game, but my biggest issue with these quests lies in actually finding out about them. During my first playthrough, I only noticed these pieces of paper after I came out of an area, which meant that I had to backtrack to do the missions contained within. This isn’t always the case, of course, but this also means that you could completely miss the fact that a specific task even exists if you don’t find the blue flyer for it.

And of course, how could we not address escorting Ashley! In this version of the game, Ashley no longer has her own health bar that you have to dedicate healing items towards. I always spent a moment on the item screen wondering who should get that yellow herb… thankfully, I don’t have to make that choice this time around. If she gets hit once, she goes prone. If she gets hit while prone, that’s game over. If she gets picked up, Leon can run up from behind and use a knife to stab the the enemy, or go for the tried and true “shoot their legs” approach. If Ashley is carried to the door of the current area you’re exploring… that’s also a game over. Also in this version, the “follow” and “wait” commands are restructured into “follow me close” and “follow me from a distance so I don’t accidentally hit you.” All in all, the changes made here seem like solid choices that make for more straight forward gameplay.

Oh Hey, I Remember That

When looking at a remake of a game, I feel it’s important to compare it to the source material. In fact, prior to the release of the remake, I went back for a long overdue replay of the original Resident Evil 4.

Going through the remake, I could absolutely see the influence of the original in its area designs. Things definitely felt familiar, but remixed in a way that made them feel fresh. New puzzles are added to areas that didn’t previously have them and each of the areas felt more cohesive than they ever have. I absolutely loved for example, that I could see the castle along the cliffs of the lake.

There are some things, however, that didn’t make it into the remake from the original. I won’t go into heavy spoilers in this review, but I will say that there was one boss, and the area where you fight it, that didn’t make it into the remake. Additionally, there were some other areas that were omitted. In some cases, like the gondola, you can still see it, but it’s long past its days of use and you don’t use it. That said, there are plenty of nods to the original game that are sure to please fans of the original. The things that were omitted feel like they make sense, or were reinvented to better fit this version. For me, the Resident Evil 4 remake isn’t omitting anything that felt integral to the original. It also keeps its clocktower! Sorry Resident Evil 3.

The voices of Leon and Ashley are incredibly well done. Nick Apostolides, who came into the series with the Resident Evil 2 remake, offers up a matured Leon that has clearly seen some stuff, and Genevieve Buechner’s version of Ashley is a much more likeable and believable version of the character than what we saw in 2005. One misstep I felt, was with Lily Gao’s portrayal of Ada Wong. Gao, who played Ada in the film Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, delivers a performance that doesn’t feel in line with the iterations of the character that come before, and after Resident Evil 4 in the series timeline. That said, I’m pretty sure this makes her the first character in the series to be in both a game and movie, and that’s pretty cool in its own right.

How About We Do Some…Overtime

Going into Resident Evil 4 there’s absolutely the thought of “the original was so great, there’s no way they can mess this up!” and for the majority of the game, that holds true. It’s a solid and fun game that offers a good deal of replayability with its various unlockable cosmetics and the chance to try your hand at getting new charms for your attaché case. The New Game Plus option will even let you carry over your weapons and items, letting you speed through additional runs all the faster. Even as I write this review, a little over a week from the release of the game (because I keep wanting to play the game), the community is still finding little details as they do additional playthroughs.

While the removal of one boss in particular and an only okay performance of one character are notable missteps for a remake, the game otherwise feels like a solid iteration of the original. For RE4 newcomers, it’s a fun game that turns up the action of the Resident Evil 2 remake and has a similar inventory to Resident Evil Village. To those that played the original in 2005 however, it’s a nostalgic love letter that you can tell was made with care, and respect to the original.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back and continue my fifth playthrough.

~ Final Score: 10/10 ~

Review copy provided by Capcom for PlayStation 5. Feature image courtesy of Capcom. Screenshots taken by reviewer.