Resident Evil 4 Remake - a wee review
Where's everyone going? Bingo?
Howdy folks, I decided to try doing little reviews on my Substack - don’t worry, these won’t be going out as newsletters to your inbox - they’re just something fun if you want to check them out. I won’t do these often, just for fun when I feel like it.
I used to be a full time games journalist between 2009-2014 for gaming news sites NowGamer and VG247, and I’ve always dipped back in to freelance here and there ever since. I used to write for the likes of gamesTM, Retro Gamer, Vice, Buzzfeed, NME, Play Magazine, X360 and many more - so I like to review games from time to time for fun to flex the old critical brain a little.
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Currently, I’m a staff writer for quarterly gaming journal Lock.On, doing big interview, deep dive, making-of features each quarter with some of gaming’s most iconic names. My first piece drops in their next issue soon - big Ninja Turtles retrospective that goes from the comics, to the TV show, to the games, including interviews with Kevin Eastman, Digital Eclipse (TMNT: Cowabunga Collection) and Tribute Games (TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge)
Anyways, I hope you dig my first ‘wee review’ of Resident Evil 4 Remake (which also contains SPOILERS!!!!)
So straight up, I love the original Resident Evil 4. I first played the game when it launched on PlayStation 2 and was immediately hooked in from that very first opening village fight. Everything was aligned perfectly - the tension of being set upon by dozens of crazed villagers at once, the stress of the slow tank controls that somehow heightened the sense of fear, and the satisfying gunplay that defined every third-person shooter that would follow.
In my opinion, the original Resident Evil 4 is a flawless masterpiece.
So, while I was excited about Capcom’s 2023 remake, in the back of my brain I was thinking “could they actually make this game better?” - as if I couldn’t possibly conceive that one of the greatest games of all time could be improved upon.
Well, they actually went and did it. Resident Evil 4 Remake is a showcase of how to take a beloved game and - with a lot of care and attention - elevate it while still being respectful of what went before. This in no way cheapens the impact and quality of the original - they’re both masterpieces in their own right.
But let’s back up and start at the beginning…
Resident Evil 4 takes place many years after rookie cop, Leon S. Kennedy survived the T-Virus outbreak in Racoon City. He’s now a battle hardened special agent who has gunplay and melee skills to rival John Wick.
After the president’s daughter, Ashley Graham, is kidnapped and whisked away to some unspecified backwater region in Spain, Leon is dispatched to investigate and bring her home safely. I always thought that if the president’s daughter was kidnapped for real, they would dispatch a whole army to save her - not just one guy - but anyways…
After Leon’s police escort is ambushed, Leon finds himself alone, under-equipped and trapped in a village full of crazed residents (who might be evil - sorry!) They’re all infected by the Las Plagas parasite, which places them under the mind control of the shadowy Los Illuminados cult. The cult wants to use the parasite for some vague attempt at world domination, but Leon’s on the case and he won’t let that happen without a fight.
With the remake, Capcom has wisely decided to build upon what went before, instead of changing things drastically. The things that have changed, have been changed for the better - such as Leon’s ability to walk while aiming, the removal of insta-death quick-time button prompts in cutscenes, and some quality of life improvements like checkpoints (instead of only being able to save at typewriters).
The core game is still intact, and you’ll recognise many of the of locations from the original - from the icky decay of the village and the claustrophobic grandeur of the castle area, to the industrial, war-like chaos of the third act’s island. But even these areas have been altered with new locations, new enemies, sub-quests (that thankfully don’t feel like a chore) and deeper lore that gives the game’s environments a tangible, lived-in quality.
Even the beloved weapon merchant has been upgraded. He still has his croaky, English accent, but he has way more dialogue now that gives you more insight into who this guy is and what he’s all about. The sub-quests I mentioned can be cashed in at the vendor for Spinel gems that you can trade for special items Leon can’t buy with Pesetas alone - like attache case upgrades that give you buffs, such as increasing the likelihood of enemies dropping red herb. All of these new systems are clever, engaging and actively make you want to explore every nook of Resident Evil 4 Remake’s grimy, dangerous world.
Eventually, Leon does find Ashley and the game then becomes something of an elongated escort mission - which are usually a massive pain in the butt. But in the original Resident Evil 4, Ashley never felt like much of a hinderance - in fact, I always thought her inclusion just cranked the tension up further, as you fight to protect her and stop the Los Illuminados infected from dragging her away (which always led to an instant game over).
Capcom changed Ashley’s mechanics in the remake, so you can’t just make her hide in a filthy dumpster or locker any more (although some sections do allow for this). Leon can either order her to stay close behind him, or hang back a little to give him space. Either way, Ashley is almost always with you and this just heightens the frantic tension of each battle even further. I wasn’t sure about the change at first, but over time I grew to appreciate how it made me so much more engaged in every fight.
Speaking of fights, the gunplay is simply sublime once again. Every weapon is useful in various situations, so you’ll find yourself swapping between pistols, shotguns, long-range rifles, bolt throwers, magums, sub-machines and more rapidly, as you fight to hold back the encroaching horde of cultists and monstrosities. Land a headshot and you’ll stun an enemy, leaving them open for a sweet roundhouse kick or brutal suplex, which feel even more badass than they did in the original game.
If you’ve never played Resident Evil 4 before, and your only frame of reference for the series are the slower, less action-orientated entries, you might find all this talk of gunplay and suplexes a tad worrying - as action tends to water down the horror elements of games.
That’s not the case here. Capcom has used its gorgeous new visuals to make every area feel dank, dangerous and in many cases, downright gross. Some sequences deliver horror in spaces - of the jump scare, gross-out and psychological varieties. There’s a section later on in the game where you get to control Ashley, who has no weapons and only a torch to defend herself. This chapter was scary in the original but it’s downright heart-stopping in the remake - a masterclass in horror that you have to experience.
Resident Evil 4 and its Remake offered a new type of horror. It’s that sense of being alone in an unfamiliar and threatening place, with limited resources, trapped with countless crazed humans who cannot be reasoned with, whose only goal is to kill you in the most violent ways imaginable. It’s stressful it’s intense, it’s still very, very scary.
I’m still blown away at what Capcom has achieved with this remake. It will never replace the original Resident Evil 4, but it stands tall along side it as one of the greatest modern games (and remakes) ever released - and maybe, depending on how I look at it - it might even be better.
Check it out!
Have you played Resident Evil 4 Remake? Did you like it? Dislike it? Leave a comment below - I’d love to hear what you thought of the game!
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