Resident Evil 4 remake is a modern blockbuster with an old-school heart

The up to date model seems unimaginable, performs nicely, and has a stage of focus that’s uncommon in fashionable video games. Additionally, there are many explosive barrels.

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A screenshot of Leon in the remake of Resident Evil 4.

We is likely to be approaching a degree the place there are, actually, too many online game remakes and remasters. Off the highest of my head, there’s The Last of Us Part I, Demon’s Souls, Shadow of the Colossus, Metroid Prime, Dead Space, and shortly, Silent Hill 2. However nobody has gone as arduous into this pattern as Capcom. A part of the resurgence of Resident Evil has concerned bottom-up remakes of video games like Resident Evil 2 and 3. These made lots of sense, translating the clunky early PlayStation gameplay for contemporary audiences and leading to a number of the finest video games in all the franchise.

With the remake of Resident Evil 4, the advantages of a remake aren’t so apparent. The unique recreation nonetheless holds up nicely, a mixture of high-octane motion and traditional survival horror, and it’s not prefer it’s inaccessible in 2023. RE4 launched on the GameCube and, since then, has been ported to an enormous vary of platforms, even virtual reality. So a big-budget remake doesn’t want to exist in any respect — and but, I’m so glad it does. RE4 stays a trademark of motion recreation design, and this new facelift updates it simply sufficient to show it into a contemporary blockbuster — however one which retains its old-school soul.

Earlier than we get into the remake, a bit of historical past lesson is so as. It’s necessary to understand how a lot of a turning level RE4 was for the collection. The unique trio of Resident Evil video games helped pioneer survival horror as we all know it at the moment, with gradual methodical gameplay that was accompanied by a management scheme lovingly — and generally decidedly not lovingly — known as “tank controls.” It could possibly be irritating, but it surely additionally added to the phobia, as you struggled to get away from gradual, shambling hordes of the undead.

The fourth entry takes most of the franchise’s hallmarks — intricate stage design, creepy environments, puzzles that require ornate keys, restricted assets, bosses that remodel with numerous glowing eyeballs, a totally nonsensical story — and infuses them with the DNA of a full-out motion recreation. As an alternative of standing there in terror whereas firing off a flimsy pistol at shuffling zombies, you would now run, dodge, and wield every kind of weapons with out having to additionally battle in opposition to the controls. It modified the path of Resident Evil for years, shifting the stability from scares to capturing. It wasn’t till Resident Evil 7 that it obtained again to traditional survival horror (however from a terrifying new perspective).

This shift in tone and elegance is obvious from the very starting. Resident Evil 4 places you within the position of federal agent Leon Kennedy, tasked with rescuing the president’s daughter from a distant Spanish village, the place you’ll ultimately encounter a murderous cult, monsters with too many tentacles, and loads of different issues to shoot at. Very early on within the recreation — like, earlier than you’ve even fired a bullet — you’re thrown into the city sq., which is crammed with residents who need to homicide you for some motive. One among them has a chainsaw. You haven’t any selection however to battle.

This daring opening sequence is necessary for just a few causes. It exhibits simply how action-oriented the gameplay is; you may’t survive with out operating, hiding, and getting off lots of headshots. It additionally makes it clear that the enemies aren’t the gradual zombies from the earlier video games. They’re quick, they usually can assume. One among my strongest reminiscences of enjoying for the primary time in 2005 was pulling down a ladder so the villagers couldn’t climb as much as get me, solely to see them decide it up and put it again in place. I needed to put my controller down for a bit.

Within the remake, that village sequence is way more terrifying than I bear in mind. At its core — narrative, gameplay, and design — the remake is similar as the unique. However it has a lot of upgrades, primarily by way of visuals and controls, that elevate the expertise and make issues just like the acquainted opening battle extra intense and dynamic.

It seems unimaginable, for one factor. The environments are filled with small particulars that make the world really feel alive, from the nauseating, glistening trails of blood to the brushstroke textures on the oil work. In the course of the quiet moments, it’s lots of enjoyable to soak within the environment and simply go searching. The extra life like visuals naturally make issues rather a lot scarier, significantly in relation to the enemy designs. Basic creatures, just like the towering giants or pesky bugs, now look actually terrifying. Even the usual villagers and cult members have a way more unsettling edge to them.

These scares are balanced out by the truth that you are feeling extra highly effective than in nearly every other Resident Evil recreation. Leon is quick and powerful, and the controls really feel streamlined to the purpose that, even towards the tip of the sport after I had six completely different firearms to swap between, I by no means had a tough time switching within the midst of a firefight. Once I died, it was often as a result of I did one thing foolish, not as a result of I hit a mistaken button. It’s arduous to place into phrases, however the Resident Evil 4 remake simply feels good: the motion, the capturing, the spectacular set items. All of it gels right into a recreation that, regardless of being practically 20 years previous, performs like a largely fashionable expertise.

A screenshot from the Resident Evil 4 remake.

A screenshot from the Resident Evil 4 remake.

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There are just a few locations the place the remake of Resident Evil 4 exhibits its age — however I imply that in a great way. For one factor, that is such a online game. Fashionable blockbusters love to cover their inherent gaminess beneath the veneer of immersion, however RE4 harbors no such illusions. This can be a recreation the place you kick crates slathered in yellow paint to collect ammo and herbs, and explosive pink barrels are in all places. There’s even a mine cart sequence (with loads of explosive barrels).

Leon makes goofy B-movie quips consistently, and characters seem not when it makes essentially the most sense however when the plot calls for it. Maybe one of the best instance of that is the ever-present shopkeeper, who has storefronts all around the deserted, ravaged city, regardless of seemingly solely having a single buyer. These decisions often don’t make lots of sense narratively, however they’re enjoyable. They make the sport extra easy to play, and general, the expertise is healthier off for them. I don’t need to smash up all the surroundings to get these shotgun shells. Simply inform me the place to go along with some vivid yellow paint.

Equally, Resident Evil 4 has a stage of focus that has develop into more and more uncommon. Whereas the remake expands on some issues, significantly with extra elaborate boss fights, it’s nonetheless a reasonably easy expertise. There are not any open-world components. (There are some non-compulsory quests, largely carried over from the unique, but it surely’s easy stuff like killing rats and capturing blue targets.) For essentially the most half, RE4 pushes you down tight hallways that join bigger areas the place you’ll do all the combating; you’ll know once you attain a battle sequence due to all the cowl and exploding barrels. Its world nonetheless feels massive and complicated, but it surely’s not the sort of place you get misplaced in. I solely ever discovered myself misplaced misplaced as soon as because of a really well-hidden wrench that halted my progress. It additionally adjustments issues up occasionally in order that it doesn’t really feel overly repetitive. You play a lot of the sport solo, however there are numerous factors the place, very similar to within the authentic, AI companions be a part of you for a time, including a pleasant change of tempo, together with a really scary sequence with the primary daughter.

Whenever you actually give it some thought, the Resident Evil 4 remake is a wierd mixture of issues. Full-blown motion merged with survival horror; fashionable controls and graphics with old-school stage design. It’s a contradiction at occasions. However all of these components are balanced in a means that makes them work collectively. The enjoyable moments offset the scares, like once you’re strolling down a creepy, darkish cave solely to see the welcoming purple glow of the shopkeeper’s torch. And the brand new visuals and streamlined motion make the thrilling set items stand out much more. It’s significantly spectacular once you examine this remake to one thing like Resident Evil Village, which tried to mash RE4-style motion with the collection’ new first-person perspective, and notice simply how a lot better the unique nonetheless is.

When Resident Evil 4 first got here out, it was a recreation in contrast to something Capcom had made earlier than. And it seems that, nearly 20 years later, it’s nonetheless as refreshing as ever — even when it’s one more remake.

Resident Evil 4 launches on March twenty fourth on the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Sequence X / S, and Steam.


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