Resident Evil 4 Review: A Classic Redefined for a Modern Generation

Resident Evil 4 is a great dive into madness that’s perfectly paced with crisp gunplay and a moody tone that makes for an effective journey, resulting in a masterpiece that shouldn’t be missed at all.

Over the last few years, Capcom’s output in gaming has been absurd. Reviving the Resident Evil franchise with Resident Evil VII: Biohazard and then keeping you occupied between the release of their mainline entries with remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3, the developers have done their best in putting out consistent titles that have delivered big time.

However, the announcement for the remake of Resident Evil 4 did fuel me with a lot of scepticism. How do you improve upon a game that’s already considered perfect by many while making sure you don’t alienate the already passionate fanbase by going in a bold new direction? For a good while after the release of the RE2 remake, I thought that maybe we don’t need a remake for RE4, but it wasn’t until I replayed it did I realise that a finer vision is very much needed.

Now after rolling the credits on the game and being a few hours in into my second playthrough, I can confidently say that not only did Capcom nail this remake, but they have raised the bar by making a game that shoots Resident Evil to new heights. It’s a brand-new take that not only keeps the charm of the past but refines everything to be pitch-perfect to the point there is no fluff here. It’s a continuous dive into madness, and by far, is one of the most memorable gaming experiences I have had this year.

Resident Evil 4’s Story is a Masterclass in Escalation

RE4’s story begins six years after the events of Raccoon City. Leon, who is now a hardened veteran of the game, goes from being a rookie cop having the worst first day ever to becoming an agent of the US Government specialising in the anti-Umbrella task force. Tasked with going to a remote Spanish village to rescue the president’s daughter, Ashley, Leon quickly finds out that it is inhabited by infected people and monstrous creatures. Strapping in for another experience that will push him to his limits, Leon must find Ashley before it’s too late.

In the original RE4, we weren’t really given much backstory as to what Leon had been doing since the events of Raccoon City. Rather, we are just dropped into this stoic badass who throws one-line quips in the direst of situations. The REmake actually fairs in this part where Leon here feels more in tune with who he was in RE2. It’s a Leon who carries the trauma of those events with him and feels more dark and moody. He is just trying his best to save someone knowing that he couldn’t do that during the events of RE2, and it makes for a more compelling character overall.

That’s not to say Leon has lost his goofy charm, though. If Leon was someone who was a quippy action hero in the original RE4, then don’t worry; that aspect of him is still kept in here. Leon will still say the “Bingo” line or upend a very serious situation with a one-liner, and the game does a great job of keeping that aspect of the original. Simply put, he is an action hero with depth this time around.

Ashley, too feels remotely improved in many ways. She has a bit more to do in the plot and doesn’t feel like a damsel in distress (which she neither did in the original). She and Leon even have a bit more chemistry, and it makes their conversations more engaging, which was something that I actually appreciated. On the other hand, villains like Ramon and Saddler have been updated greatly, while characters like Krauser are given a bit more history. Luis here also actually plays a huge role, and I was surprised to see just how much involved he felt in the plot. Seeing the return of Ada Wong was a treat too.

The story for RE4 is also something that feels more expanded upon. It has a fairly standard setup with you going into a village and encountering mutated monstrosities, but it quickly divulges into a never-ending drop into madness, and it’s what makes the plot so much more special. You never think you’ll finish an RE game by fighting a two-story eldritch monster, but they somehow pull it off every time and even more so over here.

Even though the length of the story in the REmake is similar to that of the original RE4, there was never a moment that I felt bored. It keeps on throwing set piece after set piece to you that just makes for some of the most exhilarating sequences you’ll ever play, and mix that in with Kota Suzuki’s thunderous score — you have a recipe for a delight here. It also captures that classic goofiness of it, and Capcom somehow manages to make it seem all the more entertaining. I loved that aspect of it. It’s so in tune with everything you loved about the original while fine-tuning the fluffed-up aspects. Hell, even the island section was entertaining, and I thought that wouldn’t be possible. A true masterclass in escalation.

RE4’s Gameplay is its Most Satisfying Aspect

The gameplay for the original RE4 was nothing short of revolutionary. Ditching the series’ tanky controls and opting for an over-the-shoulder third-person view, it created a more intense and in-your-face experience that has inspired games for so many generations now (just take a look at The Last of Us). While, for the time, it was revolutionary, it wasn’t until I re-played it recently did I realise there was actually a lot of room for improvement, given the advancements in modern gaming.

You couldn’t move while aiming in the original RE4, and inventory management surely was a tedious task that made for some frustrating encounters (not knocking on the game, but some of the mechanics surely haven’t aged well). The REmake completely improves upon that. It takes the groundwork from the RE2 remake and gives it more verticality. It’s as if RE4 felt like Doom, and the experience feels even better.

Leon handles like a charm. If in RE2 he was that scared rookie making sure he was careful with every step he took, then in RE4, he is like a force of nature. The combat is one of the most satisfying aspects of the game. Playing on the PlayStation 5 with the haptics and adaptive triggers of the DualSense controller gave a satisfying feel of the guns — each hit was a treat to behold. Mix that in with animation and detail put in here, and you have an absolute winner. One of my favourite details, in particular, is how Leon would go into a centre axis relock when an enemy came up close to him, and it just creates for an immersive experience that puts you right into the heat of the battle. The roundhouse kick returns too, and it instantly became one of my favourite things to do in the game: delivering a suplex to an enemy just got a huge smile on my face. To compensate for that verticality, the areas feel bigger too. The village section has some updated locations that felt fleshed out, while the Castle and the Island were updated too in a surprising way.

From a gameplay standpoint, many of Resident Evil: Village’s gameplay mechanics feel directly incorporated here. It genuinely feels like that title laid down the groundwork for RE4 because a lot of elements like the briefcase, locations and much more feel similar. In the same way RE8 was inspired by RE4, we see the opposite happen here. So if you have played that title already, you will feel right at home here.

The enemy variety is something that feels amped up too. You have your disposable Ganados, who are easy to take out but can swarm you up if you’re not careful, and then you have returning classics like the Regenerador and the chainsaw-wielding villagers that present a more threatening challenge. There is a nice difficulty curve here that you keep adapting to as the game goes on, and it presents a nice challenge that I was always up for. It feels rewarding in the best way possible.

The boss fights have also been updated. The original had a lot of fights that relied on quick-time events (something which has been completely omitted from this game), but here you feel more involved. The Krauser boss fight, in particular, was a highlight that was just presented as a good old-fashioned knife fight, and I can’t describe it in any way other than saying that it was completely badass.

Talking about knives, they return in a big way too. Your trusty knife is a very crucial part of your weapon kit. You can find other knives splattered through the area as well, but it’s a helpful tool that can actually help you escape from a few situations. The developers have added in here a parry button that helps you deflects incoming attacks, and it adds another layer of gameplay that you always need to keep in the back of your mind. However, be careful because your knife can break (but then again, it’s worth breaking it just to see the chainsaw parry, which is fucking awesome). You can still repair it at the merchant’s shop, though, and upgrade your stuff there.

The merchant also offers a sleuth of upgrades to your weapons, and you can buy new stuff from him as well. He will also have challenges posted across the map, which will reward you with spinels, which you can use to trade in with him. While watching the Merchant return was a treat, I just wish his voice had more of that goofiness that was present in the original. But overall, the gameplay is a great, rewarding experience that made me fall in love with RE4 all over again.

RE4 Does Falter in Its Performance (PlayStation 5)

Being developed on the juggernaut of the engine that’s known as the RE engine, Capcom delivers another looker that’s extremely pleasant on the eyes. The game looks great with areas from the original being updated with modern visual fidelity that brushed a whole lot of nostalgia over me. Walking through the brownish hues of the village to the more shiny interiors of the castle, to the run-down and industrial look of the island, I loved the variety offered in environments presented here. So it did disappoint me a bit when the performance at times wasn’t really up to the mark.

Resident Evil 4 presents you with two mainline graphical options on the PS5:

  • Resolution Mode: 3840x2160 with checkerboarding
  • Framerate Mode: 3456x1944p (source: Digital Foundry)

Both modes target 60fps and offer a toggle for ray tracing to spice things up. Other graphical options include togglable hair strands, chromatic aberration and more that offers a wide variety of options. However, they don’t really work as well as they intend to. For the resolution mode, the game, of course, targets a 4K resolution that flattens out many of the rough visual edges. It definitely looks great with the added effects of ray tracing and more too, but it, unfortunately, comes at the sacrifice of the framerate. Occasionally dipping into the mid-50s and the higher 40s, the game does have a bit of a stutter to it that I honestly didn’t find worth it. I would suggest only playing the game in the resolution mode, with ray tracing turned on, if you have a VRR display.

Then comes the framerate mode, which just dips into the higher 50s very rarely, but that again comes at the cost of visual fidelity. Rough edges and shimmering are present on many objects (especially the foliage), and it does take away a bit of the visual quality of the game. The game also has a blurry effect at the initial opening village level, but honestly, I didn’t mind compromising some of the visuals for a better frame rate.

Also, on a note, while the hair strand effect presents realistic hair, it just has a very weird lighting effect to it. As a matter of fact, I would recommend keeping that option completely off because you could be in a dark scene, and Leon’s hair would be shining like a gold ingot. In an almost-perfect game, this was the only thing that bothered me the most.

Verdict

Topping the original RE4 was no simple task, and yet Capcom makes it look effortless. A great dive into madness that’s perfectly paced with crisp gunplay and a moody tone that makes for an effective journey, Resident Evil 4 is a masterpiece that shouldn’t be missed at all.

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