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After Capcom’s successful remakes of the 90s-era Resident Evil titles, a fresh take on its magnum opus, Resident Evil 4, was inevitable. Whether it was necessary was clearly a moot point. Now that we have the remake, how does it measure up to the influential original? It was very good, most of the changes enhance the story and gameplay. It has one or two disappointing changes (and some outright deletions), but it’s a fantastic way to experience Resident Evil 4, either as a replay or for the first time.
You all know the story. Raccoon City survivor Leon S. Kennedy is now a government agent and is sent to a rural Spanish village to kidnap the kidnapped First Daughter, Ashley Graham. The mission quickly spirals out of control as he must contend with an entire city of parasitic Ganados, a shadowy parasite-based cult, and follows several allies who aren’t quite what they seem.
There are a lot of things specific to the remake that I won’t talk about because of spoilers; I want all fans of the original to experience the special differences for themselves. I will try to talk about the changes in broad strokes. However, I feel safe in pointing out which things have stayed the same. Enough to keep both veterans guessing and newbies entertained. In short, I was convinced there was no reason to remake RE4, and now I’m glad they did.
Secret agent training pays off
The first thing to note, and I see this as a positive thing, is that RE4-make is not the same kind of remake as Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. Those games were huge seismic shifts in style and design. (which ironically both look more like RE4) and the RE4-make is more subtle. These small tweaks add up to an updated experience free of the original’s nastier age-old elements.
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Gameplay changes are the first and most notable. Leon can now move while aiming, which is much better than you might imagine, and he can also fight to hide. That’s right, a remake of the game that the existing Resident Evil has stealthily added. It’s not very useful, but it’s nice to have the option so you can save some ammo before the troops come out in force.
And there will be hordes. Resident Evil 4 packs a punch by multiplying the number of Ganados and other enemies Leo will encounter in the middle area of the game. The game is almost a pleasure to push the limits of the player in all three main areas of the adventure. Ganado is tougher than before, and even a perfect headshot isn’t a guaranteed kill. I was playing on Normal difficulty and was chewing a hole in my bottom lip trying to keep my ammo stock.
The RE4 makeover gives Leon’s trusty knife a new purpose… mostly in the sense that it’s no longer reliable. The knife gains a durability gauge and can break if Leon uses it too much. This is likely because another new gameplay addition is the ability to counter incoming weapon strikes with a knife. I’m sure most people saw Leo use this during the demo against Dr. Salvador’s chainsaw. Although the game gives you spare knives, you may end up in a scenario where you have nothing to fight enemies with.
RE4-make also takes advantage of Capcom’s own RE engine, as the countryside no longer looks as muddy and muddy as before. After its successor, Resident Evil Village, it takes a bit of time, as both the castle and the village look a bit more atmospheric. I do take issue with the amount of foliage added as it sometimes makes navigation a pain in the rear, but this is only an issue in the first third of the game.
One missing senorita
In addition to the gameplay, the story and characters have also received an update. The two characters that benefited the most from the remake treatment are Luis and Ashley, Leon’s two main side characters in the story. Leon spends more time out of frame talking to them and they interact with him more than in the original. This also helps make Leon a bit more interesting in company, as this version is more stoic and less willing to prank his enemies.
While the beat of the story hasn’t changed, the order has. Veterans will find that things don’t always go the way they used to, and the rewrites both keep the story fresh and make things make more sense. I can’t be more specific because, again, spoilers, but some characters appear at various points in the story, and some of the sillier dialogue is gone in favor of making the villains more overtly menacing.
Luis is much more human in the remake, being a little more intimate about who he is and what he does. Ashley fleshed out more, less as a prop and more as a character with thoughts and emotions. He spends most of the game understandably terrified, but willing to do his part to help, and his new solo chapter is one of my favorite parts of the game.
Even our old friend, the Trader, gets a makeover. Yes, he’s still a gunsmith with a raspy voice, and he still lets you buy, sell, and customize your weapons. But he also has a new trading system where you can do him small favors in exchange for Spinels, which you can exchange for useful and valuable items. These extra bits give the game some replayability and extra things to do.
Oh, and one small complaint about the original that I’m glad the developers addressed; spanish villagers actually sound spanish as opposed to mexican. In the first game, they kind of went off the rails by directly saying it took place in Spain (which I always assumed was an attempt not to offend actual Spanish people). In the remake, they all have proper Spanish accents and Luis makes several references to Don Quixote. It doesn’t make a huge difference, but at least it’s not as pleasant to listen to.
The more things change…
While I like the Resident Evil 4 remake overall, it’s not perfect either. There are times when you can almost feel the developers holding back on big changes. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the desire to stick to the original in a big way, which means they sometimes skimp on the details. Sometimes in-game chapters don’t always flow well narratively, as they seem to lack an interesting moment to wrap things up.
If Ashley and Luis become more charming and interesting in the remake, poor Ada is the victim. His mysterious sexual atmosphere has disappeared. here he is listless, apathetic and just plain tired. Her scenes with Leon lack the chemistry she has with the other two allies, and this makes her appearances (which are admittedly rare) falter. I think her voice actress probably got some bad direction because I can tell she’s trying to sound obnoxious and instead sounds like she has a sore throat.
Speaking of Ashley, she unfortunately retains some of her more annoying traits. Instead of hideouts, which are almost entirely absent, RE4-make trades in a “shaping” system. Using this, Leon can either tell Ashley to stay by his side or move further back and keep his distance. In theory, this prevents him from being hit by both enemies and Leon’s melee attacks. But because of the way the game’s dense map is designed, he’s always on top of you whether you’ve told him to fall back or not, which means the enemy is more likely to pick him up and make off with him.
As far as gameplay goes, there is one change that grates on my gears, but that’s fine. Leon’s run animation. very slow. His in-game sprint is about the same as the default walking speed of the original game. This becomes more troublesome later in the game when you have to fend off bigger, more aggressive enemies (and those pesky Regenerators) and it feels like Leon is running through quicksand. These complaints aren’t enough to ruin the game for me, but they dampened what was otherwise a very enjoyable experience.
“Where’s everyone going, bingo?”
The remake of Resident Evil 4 feels like something made by a big fan of the original, but someone who isn’t afraid to change things up a bit. I sunk about 20 hours into one playthrough, and I’ll almost certainly be playing more. While I sometimes wish the developers would change more than they do, I’m happy with the ratio of fidelity to novelty in the redesign.
There’s a chance that fans of the original won’t take this modified version well, and some of the elements in the above section really keep it from being a perfect experience. Even putting aside the fact that it’s a remake, it’s still a solid game overall, and one that will bring joy to new players experiencing this refreshed and updated Resident Evil 4.
Capcom provided GamesBeat with PS5 code for this game for review purposes. Resident Evil 4 Remake releases for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4 and PC on March 24, 2023.
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