Resident Evil 4 is a remake of the 2005 game originally released on the Nintendo GameCube.
The classic version of the game has been ported to almost every gaming platform available since the original release. A high-definition remaster of the game was also released on Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. This new version is, however, a completely rebuilt and reimagined game.
Resident Evil 4 is one of the few games in Capcom’s long-running zombie series that I’ve never played. So, unlike the Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 remakes, it was nice to go into this one fresh.
The game starts with Leon S. Kennedy being recruited by the US Government following the events of Resident Evil 2. The US President’s daughter, Ashley Graham, has been kidnapped and is held by cultists that have overrun a Spanish village. As you’d expect, it’s up to Leon to rescue her.
The first thing that struck me about the game is how it seems to have been the template for the likes of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and Resident Evil Village. It’s a departure from the urban zombie gameplay of the previous games and moves the player away from the Raccoon City setting. The franchise would return to a more traditional zombie setting for the fifth entry, but this one has the feel of the two most recent games.
The game is played with an over-the-shoulder view rather than the first-person view of RE7 and RE8. This will be familiar to long-time fans of the series and rather a step up from the cumbersome controls of the first few original games.
The overall story takes a bit of a backseat to the exploration and puzzle-solving. The plot has that typically Japanese almost soapy drama to it. This is accompanied by dialogue that sometimes sounds a bit off as is often the case with translated works.
In leaving Raccoon City and the spooky mansion behind, Resident Evil 4 gives the player some more imaginative and spooky locations to explore. The run-down Spanish village looks like the prototype of the village from RE8 mixed with some put-together hillbilly wooden structures. The environments are designed, and lit accordingly, to unnerve the player.
With the villagers seemingly possessed, and prone to attacking Leon on sight, they often need to be dispatched to proceed unimpeded. The optimal method is with a knife from behind or using the stealthy bolt launcher. Avoiding them altogether is a better strategy, conserving scarce ammo for when you really need it. Unfortunately, some areas have a lot of bad guys and things can easily get out of control once you fire your first round. Shooting your way out of a situation should be a last resort, but in some areas, I had little choice but to cause a bit of mayhem. With grenades and explosive barrels, things can start to look like a Michael Bay movie.
Menacing groans are heard long before you see your assailants, increasing anticipation to the point that it’s easy to get a fright when the enemy still manages to creep up on you. More than a few times I ended up instinctively firing my gun in the general direction of the menacing and hostile villagers wasting, precious ammo.
The tension during encounters isn’t helped by the way some of the villagers just won’t stay down (and something mutate if not finished off). But Leon, being the hero that he is, can melee attack stunned attackers, flooring them with a few stabs off a knife or a roundhouse kick. What a guy.
The Resident Evil DNA is very much present in the game. As with the other games in the franchise, Resident Evil 4 is more of a puzzle game than a shooter. Whilst some enemies need to be dispatched, the player’s progress is usually blocked with a puzzle rather than a formidable foe. Expect to hunt for lots of ornate keys and peculiar objects that trigger hidden mechanisms.
Resident Evil staples such as green, red, and yellow plants are scattered around, along with ammo and resources. Many items can be combined to make them more useful. You can also pick up Pesetas for buying items from the enigmatic vendor that is seemingly, and handily, always one step ahead of you.
The game does a good job of giving players enough of a challenge without overwhelming them. The environment is fairly open, but each puzzle tends to be confined to an area. This avoids the need for boring backtracking or getting lost, as I continuously did with the previous games. The game may feel a bit linear compared to other open-world games, but this more focused design makes for a better experience in my mind. In saying that, there is a section with a boat that opens things up considerably- very much reminding me of the God of War reboot.
The Resident Evil 4 remake is a polished, modern game that is indistinguishable in quality from any other recent triple-A game. The visuals are stunning, although the menus do look dated, but Capcom hasn’t revised the clunky menu design used across all its games since the 90s.
The game is a perfect continuation of the story from the previous remade games in the series. This version of Resident Evil 4 not only allows new players to enjoy a modern take on a classic entry in the long-running franchise but is also perfect for older fans that want to revisit this instalment.
Released: March 2023
Platforms reviewed: PlayStation 5