An atmospheric score by Kota Suzuki and superb sound design by Hiroshi Tamura ensure that the RE4 remake sounds suitably eerie. Voice acting is great, too, Leon's English language voice actor, Nick Apostolides, delivering one-liners with glee.
The RE Engine delivers once again, with rich, detailed imagery and gorgeous lighting. Some mild texture pop-in notwithstanding, Resident Evil 4 looks stunning, whether it's the gloopy look of las plagas mutants, the various shadowy interiors, or mist-shrouded vistas.
Capcom has done another bang-up job here. This is the familiar RE4 experience you know and love, but with tight gunplay, new stealth mechanics and knife-based parrying that feel like a natural fit, and just the right amount of survival horror challenge.
The changes here are, by and large, for the better, although the absence of Ada's Separate Ways mission hints at possible DLC. Mercenaries is set to be added post-launch, too, but there's masses of replay value and loads of new content in the base game.
Most of RE4's list is realistically doable, but a lot of the tasks here rely on a number of repeat runs and horrible limitations, like not being able to talk to the Merchant once during a playthrough or use a single recovery item. No, thanks.
March 17, 2023
Capcom is fast becoming a master of the remake. And while you might question the need for a remake of Resident Evil 4 - which still holds up rather well, eighteen years on – playing this new version of what is widely considered to be one of the series' finest outings, puts to bed any nagging doubts that a remake might have proven to be a superfluous exercise. To veteran players, Resident Evil 4 may seem immediately familiar, but from the outset, it's clear that this is a stellar remake in the same vein as 2019's Resident Evil 2 redo – a remix of the key events and set pieces that retains the spirit and feel of the original.
Having survived one ordeal, in Resident Evil 2, Leon S. Kennedy returns for another in RE4, sent on an assignment to rescue Ashley Graham, the daughter of the US President. His mission takes him to a mysterious village, where things inevitably go from bad to worse, and soon Leon finds himself embroiled in a whole lot of mess surrounding an infection known as 'las plagas'; a brain-mangling parasite that transforms its hosts into mindless drones called Ganado (quite literally human ‘cattle’). The deeper you venture down into Resident Evil 4's rabbit hole, the weirder and more intense it gets – this is a game that's been rearranged to be as relentlessly unnerving as possible, keeping you permanently on edge throughout.
Some parts of the game have been fleshed out and expanded, while a few judicious cuts have been made to sequences that some might consider memorable. But when all is said and done, the edits that Capcom has made are entirely warranted – Resident Evil 4 is all the leaner and more efficient for it, and, ultimately, these feel like carefully considered trims to certain fatty bits of the old game. You probably won't miss the absence of certain scenes, and the wealth of new content on offer more than makes up for the chunks that have been nixed. To go into specifics would be veering dangerously close to spoiler territory, but most of the changes work in the game's favour.
Elements from newer Resident Evil games and remakes have also been implemented for RE4, so you can craft ammunition and grenades using tins of gunpowder and bags of resources found scattered hither and thither. Managing Leon's attaché case is also far simpler, as you can send weapons to storage to free up space, or click in the left thumbstick to automatically sort the items in your inventory. While we'll miss whiling away time spinning a first aid spray and box of handgun bullets into the perfect position, it's nice to play a Resident Evil in which fussing with your inventory isn't a persistent concern. Again, it's an effort to pare back anything unnecessary or surplus to requirements.
Once again, Capcom's proprietary RE Engine works wonders, too, staining every inch of Resident Evil 4's oppressive environments with disgusting grime and vile decrepitude. Gunplay is wonderfully crunchy, every bullet that thumps into flesh imbued with real impact, as enemies react realistically, or as realistically as a creature with eyeballs and tentacles all over its body possibly can. RE4's infected also attack in greater numbers, making the ability to parry using Leon's combat knife a real boon during some of the game's more fraught encounters. And there are plenty of those. Thankfully, Ashley is far less of a liability, and can be instructed to give you space when things get heated, or come in tighter when you need her to follow closely.
Some sequences can prove somewhat overwhelming, even at the game's 'Standard' difficulty, which is recommended for newer players. Hardcore mode, meanwhile, is supposedly for anyone who played the original eighteen years ago – I've played RE4 through on multiple occasions, and managed to scrape through the remake in just under twenty hours, frequently scrabbling for ammunition and health items. Hardcore is perhaps a little beyond me.
Saving up pesetas to spend at the Merchant (yes, he's back, and he's issued a few optional requests for you to complete) certainly helps to ease the burden, as he furnishes you with new and better weapons at a steady cadence throughout the game. Treasures, some outfitted with gemstones, can be sold for extra cash, and being able to repair your combat knife's durability and upgrade your weapons via the tune up option at the Merchant, keeps you striving to hoard currency in order to enhance Leon's survivability and weapon efficacy.
Managing to make it through a particularly challenging section unscathed feels like a real achievement – Resident Evil 4’s challenging difficulty, and the regularity with which it punishes you, ensures the experience still thrums with the pulse of old-school survival horror, despite its action trappings. Even having an abundance of ammo at your disposal fails to ever engender a sense of comfort. It can all quite easily be rinsed during your next encounter, leaving you vulnerable. You’re often on the back foot.
By the time you've reached the end of Resident Evil 4, in all probability you'll feel utterly exhausted. But you'll be exhausted while wearing a big smile on your face, more than prepared to embark upon a New Game+ run, possibly at a higher difficulty, shooting for a better rank and completion time. RE4 can be stressful, uncompromisingly intense, occasionally a tad egregious (Salazar being able to gobble up Leon in one fell swoop being one such example), but it's never anything less than an unbridled pleasure. This is further evidence that Capcom is the master of the remake, and Resident Evil 4 exemplifies how they should be done.