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Resident Evil 4 Remake – The Best Has Met Its Match

The remake of Resident Evil 4 is both a fresh and familiar experience that complements the original game while providing thrilling new action-horror sequences.

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  • Title: Resident Evil 4
  • Release Date: March 24, 2023
  • Price: $59.99
  • Suggested Audience Age: Rated M for Mature by the ESRB
  • Availability: PlayStation 4/5 (PS5 version reviewed), Xbox, PC
  • Recommended for fans of: Resident Evil 3, Tormented Souls

2005's Resident Evil 4 was a literal game-changer. It eschewed its predecessors' brooding horror in favor of high-intensity action, and the result was a major critical success. It took a few years and a number of re-releases for RE4 to become a commercial hit, but it is now one of the highest-regarded games of its era. 18 years later, is it possible for a remake to capture the original's brilliance?

And since context is important when addressing this sort of remake, here is a little of my own history with the game. You could say that I'm just a tad obsessed with Resident Evil 4. The original is not quite my favorite game in the series (that honor goes to the remake of the first game), but it's still one of the finest action-horror games I've experienced. I was cautiously optimistic about the remake, but certainly did not go into it expecting it to be a masterpiece equal to the original.

What Is Resident Evil 4 About?

Leon can even parry lethal chainsaw attacks with his trusty knife
Leon can even parry lethal chainsaw attacks with his trusty knife

For better or worse, Resident Evil 4 isn't exactly well-known for its story. Six years after surviving the Raccoon City viral outbreak in Resident Evil 2, protagonist Leon Kennedy returns to the series on a mission to rescue the American President's kidnapped daughter, Ashley Graham. Leon's journey begins in a rural Spanish village where things are clearly amiss. It doesn't take long before things go full Gymkata, with Leon defending himself against an entire village taken over by a parasitic threat known as Las Plagas.

As in the original game, the story here isn't anything to write home about. That being said, it's fleshed out a bit in the remake. The script is almost entirely rewritten and characters are given more motivation for their actions. Ashley is less whiny, Ada (Leon's star-crossed flame from RE2) is more mysterious, and Luis, the guilt-ridden former Umbrella researcher, is more sympathetic. The primary antagonist, Osmund Saddler, is still rather thin in terms of characterization, but even he is contextualized slightly more by his ancestors' intertwined history with Las Plagas.

If It Ain't Broke…

Familiar places have an even more ominous atmosphere in the resident evil 4 remake
Familiar places have an even more ominous atmosphere in the Resident Evil 4 remake

When this remake was announced, many fans asked, “Does Resident Evil 4 even need a remake?” The short answer is no, but Capcom has miraculously delivered an experience that complements, rather than replaces, the original. RE4 devotees will have a lot of fun having their expectations subverted and seeing how even minuscule changes impact the narrative. Most importantly, what little content from the original was cut has been replaced by thrilling new sequences that will keep veteran players on their toes.

To no one's surprise, the 2023 version of Resident Evil 4 bears more than a passing resemblance to the remakes of 2 and 3, with very similar-feeling movement and combat. You can swing the camera around freely and even *gasp* walk while aiming/shooting. The real stand-out addition here, however, is the ability to parry with a knife. Leon's knife now has a durability gauge, which lessens as he stabs and parries. You can repair the default knife and pick up weaker knives, and effectively managing knife durability can be the difference between life and death.

Despite the modernized controls and mechanics, Resident Evil 4 still feels like, well, Resident Evil 4. Shoot enemies in the head to stun them and follow that up with a swift roundhouse kick to the face. Leon shoots, stabs, kicks, and even suplexes his way through an army of increasingly-monstrous enemies, all with action movie-inspired panache. Leon also has a plethora of quips and cheesy one-liners at his disposal, though the overall tone is darker and grittier than in the original game.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

The island environment now has received a major glow-up
The island environment now has received a major glow up

Capcom's RE Engine continues to shine by allowing games like RE4 to straddle the line between realism and over-the-top body horror. Character models are detailed and expressive without ever veering into the dreaded “uncanny valley.” Performance-wise, I have few complaints after playing through the game on my PlayStation 5. The sheer spectacle on display during any given action sequence is jaw-droppingly impressive, and the graphics engine keeps up with the explosions, both flame- and viscera-based, quite well.

The soundtrack has been entirely redone, but the new music provides the necessary intensity to keep your blood pumping through the game's increasingly hectic encounters. The new music provides fresh ambiance, but there are just enough nods to the original game's music to please fans without feeling pandering. Sound effects are varied and effective, with each of Leon's guns having a distinct sound when fired, and a multitude of squirms and splats emitted from Plagas enemies. My one complaint is that it can sometimes be difficult to discern which direction an enemy is approaching from based on the sounds they make.

Is Resident Evil 4's Biggest Scare Its DLC?

Mercenaries mode allows you to play as fan-favorite operative, hunk
Mercenaries mode allows you to play as fan favorite operative Hunk

I wanted to hold off on reviewing the Resident Evil 4 remake so I could allow plenty of time to digest multiple playthroughs, but the wait has also allowed me to evaluate the first wave of post-launch DLC. Within a month of release, Resident Evil 4 has DLC consisting of a handful of costumes and accessories for Leon and Ashley, “villain” and “hero” filters, an option to switch to the 2005 soundtrack, Mercenaries mode, and more.

The most controversial DLC is a series of purchasable “Weapon Exclusive Upgrade Tickets” at $2.99 each. These tickets normally need to be traded for with 30 spinels, which are mostly earned by completing side missions. One ticket allows early access to a weapon's exclusive final upgrade, which otherwise can be purchased only after fully upgrading the weapon. The decision to make this content available shortly after the game's release does raise some concerns, but as someone who has played through the entire game five times (starting on Hardcore difficulty) with no additional DLC, I can assure you that the game is perfectly balanced as is.

The free Mercenaries mode allows you to play as one of four characters in an arcade-style “score attack” challenge. With three available stages initially, mixing and matching characters and stages is great fun, as each character has their own specific equipment loadout and “Mayhem” skill. For example, Luis has a small number of guns that take a while to reload, but he can unleash devastating dynamite blasts after killing enough enemies to fill his Mayhem meter. It's a bit easier than Mercenaries modes of the past, but rampaging through 150 enemies is undeniably cathartic.

Final Thoughts

Resident evil 4 has many fun easter eggs to discover
Resident Evil 4 has many fun easter eggs to discover

The Resident Evil 4 remake had the unenviable task of living up to the original's reputation, and to say that it succeeded would be an understatement. What felt like a singular experience in 2005 is now complemented by a remake that feels simultaneously fresh and familiar. A ridiculous amount of care was put into preserving the RE4 experience, with consideration put into even the smallest bit of cut/replaced content. 2023's Resident Evil 4 is easily my Game of the Year thus far, and I can't wait to see what additional content awaits in the near future.

Geek to Geek Rating: 5 out of 5

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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