Las Plagas, A Missing Presidential Daughter, and Roundhouse Kicks, the long awaited Resident Evil 4 remake is here and -yes- it’s fantastic.
Did I mention the kicks?
The ancient injunction “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” does not apply to the 2023 remake of Resident Evil 4.
Resident Evil 4 has been the definitive best game in the entire franchise for over 16 years now (maybe a lil opinion there -ed). At the time of its original release, it was a genre-defining video game. RE4 set the standards on many of the mechanics and elements that subsequent releases would make use of.
Speaking of, after a few hiccups, Capcom has been on a roll with a slew of successes. Those have been almost year after year, with the remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3, as well as completely new sequels in Resident Evil 7 and Village. But after that last new title, Capcom finally decided to pull out all the stops, and start working on a full remake for Resident Evil 4.
It was a measure that was probably alluring as well as daunting to the developers of Division 1 – the standard bearer for everything Devil May Cry and Resident Evil. Many people considered RE4 to be a perfect game, in that it didn’t need a remake.
I personally could not think of any way for Capcom to improve on the original, aside from updating its graphics and removing some of the dated mechanics such as the QTEs. But that said, the remake annihilated all my pre-conceived notions in a very big way.
Here is my review of Resident Evil 4.
Resident Evil 7 initially blew people’s collective minds with the full might of the RE Engine. It was a revolutionary game engine that rendered 3D scanned materials (and people) with an incredible mount of detail, while using as few resources as possible.
Through gaming use of that, the next-generation Resident Evil games all had one thing in common: they all looked great even on the dated hardware of the eighth-generation consoles. And Resident Evil 4 looks as great, if not better than, its predecessors.
The game looks so good and the characters all look so life-like, that it almost feels like this is a new engine. RE4 looks now how I imagined it to look back when I was younger, and playing it on the PlayStation 2.
The guns are all well-crafted and the locales look amazing. Just a note here though, as there are some reused assets from the previously mentioned Resident Evil Village. Even so, it doesn’t take away from the immersion, and that’s 100% a good thing.
But again, I feel like I can’t overstate how absolutely gorgeous everything looks. And the best part about all of this is that you can still 100% run Resident Evil 4 relatively well even with an older (gaming) computer.
All in all, Resident Evil 4 is arguably the best-looking game released in the year 2023… well thus far, at least.
Resident Evil 4 plays like a dream. The original release was already lightyears ahead of its time in both gameplay and replayability, and the remake is the same if not better in every single way.
Referencing that original release again, it had tank-like controls, with an over-the-shoulder third-person perspective, and limited usage of the knife. But again, at the time it was considered an industry-defining title. Many of its successors, such as Dead Space, took some inspiration from this and created their own legacies that people love to this day.
The remake, however, has changed the game – literally. Leon can now parry enemies by pressing on the spacebar (for the PC) right before an enemy’s attack hits him. If done right, Leon will perform a “perfect parry” that will allow him to follow-up with a melee attack of his own.
The parry is a terrific new addition, but there’s also a key alteration. Gone are the tank-like controls, and Leon is now able to move while aiming and shooting. His movement is also more fluid, and Leon finally feels like the way he is portrayed in the arguably pretty good Resident Evil CG animated movies.
The president’s daughter Ashley is also way better this time, despite still being an NPC that Leon has to protect while moving around the game’s various locations. Not only did Capcom change the original “follow me” and “wait here” commands to the more tactical commands of “tight” and “loose”.
Using the command “tight” (using the left control key on the PC) will have Ashley stick close to Leon in the same way she did in the original. On the other hand, “loose” will have Ashley stay a certain distance away from Leon while he is the middle of a fight.
It’s an innovative way to change Ashley’s positioning, because not only is she more nuanced as an NPC companion, but she can also survive on her own with the “loose” command. To balance this out, Capcom actually removed the “hide” command save for a few scenarios of the game (where I think it is still sorely needed).
One of Ashley’s biggest changes is telling Leon to look out if an unseen enemy is about to attack him. There are numerous instances when Ashley saved me from a killing blow by calling it out before it happens. She will also alert the player if an enemy is preparing to fire at Leon with a projectile.
All in all, I am very satisfied with Ashley’s changes. She made Resident Evil 4 even better despite being someone I needed to babysit from the Plaga-infested villagers.
That’s a lotta luggage
Returning to the game is the beloved attache inventory system.
The attache functions similarly to the old system, but it’s learned a few new tricks. The case now has functional charms that give various buffs to Leon ranging from bonus ammunition, crafting, additional healing from herbs (plus eggs and fish), as well as a legendary charm that can even increase Leon’s movement speed.
Each attache case can hold up to a maximum of three charms out of a possible thirty. These charms can be unlocked by a simple gacha system from the returning shooting range and it will take a while to unlock every charm in the game.
Like the case, guns are also upgradeable. And while most of the weapons from the original game make a comeback, the P.R.L. 412 (which basically looked like a handheld laser cannon) is not included as of this writing.
It takes a lot of Pesetas to unlock gun upgrades too, but they are absolutely essential to surviving the horrors of the Plaga-infested Spanish countryside. However, not everything in the game can be purchased with money. The spinel also makes a comeback but in a slightly different form.
Instead of being an easily found collectible, it is now a form of currency that Leon can trade with the merchant for some nifty items such as treasure maps and additional attache cases that give buffs such as increasing the spawn rate for Red Herbs and materials for crafting.
As you can hopefully see from all of this, the Resident Evil 4 remake plays exactly like the original game… but at the same time it’s almost unrecognizable, with how much of its systems have been changed for the better.
The hills have Plagas
Unlike with the controls, the story of RE4’s remake plays out almost the same as the original. The US President’s Daughter gets kidnapped, and the information gathered from the Augmented Reality mini-game (that launched a few weeks before the game did) suggests Ashley was smuggled into Spain.
Leon is tasked by the President to investigate Ashley’s disappearance, and to get her back alive. There are a few key differences here and there as you progress through the story, but the overall gist is still the same. Still, there’s a devil in some of those details.
That’s because some of the changes in the story could possibly alter the direction of Resident Evil 5 and 6, should they be next on the docket to be remade.
Along with those story details, some of the characters’ fates have also been altered. That’s including Luis Sera, who was destined to die in the middle of the game in the castle section of the original game. (Minor spoilers ahead -ed)
Luis also becomes a companion NPC in the latter half of the game. But unlike Ashley, Luis can actually fight for himself, and the notorious double El Gigante fight is made a little easier with his help. One thing worth noting too, is how Luis is given more depth to his character from his voice lines as well as the various notes that Leon finds throughout his journey. And another character with a few key changes is one Ada Wong.
She is still protecting Leon from the shadows, while acting on her own agenda, but Ada is no longer a one-dimensional femme fatale. While still remaining cool, Ada is made more human in her reactions and interactions with Leon. She still cares for the former rookie-cop whose life she changed when she, uh, betrayed him… and seemingly died in front of him during the events of Resident Evil 2.
So Leon and Ada have clearly changed and been made more whole by the subtle storytelling in their encounters. But what hasn’t changed is that they both still clearly care for each other, albeit with Leon’s frustrations and jaded views on Ada and life in general.
Changes have also been made in the presentation and characteristics of major players such as Chief Mendez and Jack Krauser. While not as cartoony as his original version, Ramon Salazar is also altered for the better. Instead of being goofy, he is presented as trying to seem noble but with darker undertones, almost like a psychopath pretending to be a posh noble.
All in all, I really enjoyed how more grounded the characters seem to be in the new version of RE4. It’s definitely a welcome change.
Resident Evil 4 (2023) is the definitive version, above even the original release. It is better in every way and it’s the most fun I’ve had with a game in years. It took me somewhere around 17 hours to finish my first playthrough on hardcore mode, but it was worth every second.
This is now my Top 1, favorite game of all time. And while it has easily dethroned my former number 1 (which is unsurprisingly RE4 2006), there are still DLCs to come in the form of the Mercenaries mode as well as the rumored Separate Ways DLC (which is still unconfirmed as this review’s writing).
If Resident Evil 3 is arguably the worst remade game out of the original trilogy, then Resident Evil 4 is the best. And actually, as far as I’m concerned it’s the best Resident Evil game period. Bar none.
The best is yet to come for sure.
Resident Evil 4 (2023)
Release date: March 24th, 2023
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Xbox Series X|S, PS5, PS4, Xbox One
MSRP: $59.99 USD
Leon the Professional
Graphics - 10
Gameplay - 10
Replayability - 10
Story - 10
Resident Evil 4 (2023) is the definitive version above even the original release. It is better in every way and it's the most fun I've had in years.