Resident Evil 4 Review – The Perfect Organism
Contrary to the other forms of art, perfection in gaming is a fleeting thing, prone to aging badly. Nobody would dare suggest improvements to Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, or Michalengelo’s Pietà; The very idea of remastering Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea would be heretical, wouldn’t it? What about legendary games? The general consensus says that Resident Evil 4 is the gaming equivalent of Pulp Fiction, Tarantino’s genre-defining/defying cinematic masterpiece. RE4 premiered so many new ideas and systems that practically single-handedly steered the trends in game development. And yet, in 2023, the original game and its subsequent HD remasters feel like they belong in the past. Even the most devout fans must admit that.
Capcom, never the one that shuns challenge, decided to walk the tightrope and completely remake the beloved original. Resident Evil 4 (2023) follows the principle implemented in the Resident Evil 2 remake from 2019, stepping further into the realm of total conversion. Capcom reinvented the considerably bigger and much more impactful game with titanic skill, vision, and effort. This remake is, arguably, the best remake that happened to any game, so far.
Corny, Horrifying, And Exciting As Ever
For long-time fans, one of the most crucial improvements will be a broad refreshment pass through most characters. Leon S. Kennedy, Ashley Graham, Luis Serra, and others had their roles deepened and fortified in a few important areas. Their motivations are better flashed out, and the emotional baggage they carry seems more meaningful. The overall plot is still pure corny fiction spiked with horrifying overtones, but everything feels much more… would I be wrong to say “real”? It certainly feels more cinematic, in part due to the fresh new engine and masterful treatment of every scene. Because Resident Evil 4 is not only the best, but the biggest game in the series, the amount of work needed to remaster each and every scene was probably staggering.
Resident Evil 4 is sculpted in RE engine, the same one used in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and every Resident Evil title since then, as well as Devil May Cry 5 and Street Fighter 6. It allowed unrestricted manipulation of original RE4 sections and assets. Some areas are expanded and redefined, and some are the same as you remember them, or at least feel that way. In parallel with playing the remake on PlayStation 5, I fired up the HD version on Switch, for which I had plenty of saves. The initial village area and the trail leading to it, for example, subtly differ. The path is shorter, and the village is slightly bigger. Almost every section was cleverly refreshed this way, some more noticeably than others.
Nimbler Leon, Better Combat
The original Resident Evil 4 abandoned the tank controls of the past and introduced a revolutionary over-the-shoulder perspective. It felt like a breath of fresh air at the time, but nowadays, RE4 (2005) is objectively sluggish. At least that’s how it feels to me after playing the HD version on Switch for a couple of hours. Remaster considerably speeds things up, making Leon much more agile in every respect. Mr. Kennedy is quicker, able to change direction faster, can parry with the knife, and even go crouch for the stealth approach. Sneaking around is a viable strategy. Killing cultists with the knife or (newly introduced) bolt-thrower/crossbow thingy can save you a lot of hassle, not to mention the precious ammo. The knife has the durability meter now, the same as in the RE2 remake, and the merchant can repair it for a fee.
Most of the foes you’ll encounter and kill along the way had their movement and behavioral patterns adjusted. Ganados, monks, and other human mobs now move much more erratically and can unexpectedly lunge forward. You can evade some of those attacks with a quick time prompt, wiggle or use the knife to break the hold. Iconic enemies such as Garrador are terrifying and deadly as ever, but killing them is a bit easier due to the nimbler protagonist. The escorting aspect of the game also benefited from an overhaul. Ashley lacks the HP bar now and even if she can easily be incapacitated, you can revive her just as quickly. In the original game, she was super annoying because you had to worry about her all the time; In the remake, she is still a nuisance, but a more manageable one.
I Know It’s Early, But Let’s Talk GOTY
Brutal and exciting combat is sustained with the help of a strong economy. The merchant guy will buy anything you picked up along the way, offering upgrades, new weapons, and resources at reasonable prices. Nowadays, he has a dual inventory. For the common one, you’ll need Pesetas, a famous Spanish currency from before the glorious Euro days. For his special inventory, he accepts Spinel gems, typically obtained by completing side missions, such as finding and destroying blue medallions dispersed around. Resident Evil 4 is rich in hidden treasures, some of which can be inlaid with “common” gems for extra profit.
Upgrading firepower, reload speed, clip size, and rate of fire gets gradually expensive in every tier, but the game allows you to sell augmented weapons without loss. The game encourages you to experiment and never forces you to stick with a gun you don’t like just because you invested a fortune into it. The same rule, to some extent, applies to ammo. Apart from specific bullets, you will collect gunpowder and other crafting mats, allowing you to make the kind you need. You won’t feel compelled to use a crappy handgun just because you don’t have any shotgun shells.
Exciting combat, plenty of clever puzzles, fantastic environmental design, epic length, and unique tone always separated Resident Evil 4 from its prequels, sequels, and spin-offs. All the good things about the original were dialed to eleven in this remake, and anything less than adequate was substantially improved. In short, the best Resident Evil game just got a whole lot better. Is it too early to talk about GOTY 2023? Early last year, no one had objections to using Elden Ring and GOTY in the same sentence. No reason to be overly reluctant now.
- Brutal combat, clever puzzles, and exceptional environmental design.
- Streamlined control system made Leon nimbler, quicker, and more capable of dispatching monsters.
- Abundance of quality-of-life upgrades.
- Best Resident Evil game just got a whole lot better in every respect.
- Regenerators are still more annoying than challenging.