Resident Evil 4 (Remake) Review – The Perfect Mix of Action and Horror
Title: Resident Evil 4
Release Date: March 24, 2023
Reviewed On: PS5
Genre: Survival Horror/Action
Throughout the Resident Evil series, no entry is as polarizing as Resident Evil 4 was when it was first released. On the one hand, you had fans in awe of its graphical updates and over-the-shoulder gunplay, but on the other, the focus on action took away from the tension of the previous entries. Being Capcom’s newest release in their journey to remake the series’ mainline entries, I believe Resident Evil 4 Remake will have that same effect. However, it’s drastically different from its predecessors regarding gameplay. While it doesn’t alter the experience of the original in terms of environmental beats, it does clear up many of the loose plot points, surprisingly, without affecting the integrity of the original narrative.
Resident Evil 4 stars Leon Kennedy. The opening has our hero reflecting on his days in Raccoon City during a nightmarish outbreak. Now, he works with the government, which has led him on a mission to save the President’s kidnapped daughter. It’s an interesting start to what will become one of Leon’s strangest missions yet. When he arrives, something is off with the villagers as they appear to be in some trance. What’s worse is that they are highly aggressive.
Leon’s rescue mission gets more and more complicated with each passing hour. However, he does end up meeting some familiar faces along the way. Regarding the President’s daughter, Ashley, I will say that I never liked the dynamic she brought to the original. Her dialogue with Leon always came off as overly cringy, and her helpless attitude hurt the overall Resident Evil experience I was expecting.
However, this remade effort has Ashely taking on a much more central role in the narrative. Of course, she needs Leon to survive, but their dynamic and teamwork were improved significantly. While still cheesy, the duo’s one-liners are still present but flow much nicer with the overall tone of what’s going on. I will say this is found in every character of the game. Whether they’re an antagonist or partner, the character writing this time is much easier to follow, delivering an incredible narrative that flows exceptionally well.
Gameplay will be familiar to returning players of the series. Resident Evil 4 Remake borrows a lot from the previous remakes but with more options to take down enemies. Playing on Standard difficulty provided some challenge, but if you have any history with the series, you’ll likely find more fun playing on the highest difficulty. Throughout Standard, I never had to worry too much about ammo or dying unless I made a terrible mistake. The game wants you to focus on progression more than hold you back with a challenging encounter.
I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing, but this is a vast difference compared to the previous remakes. You’re going to be up against more enemies than ever, giving the experience a more arcadey feel. Paired with the point system that rates your progress during each chapter, you will likely draw that same comparison. The game’s progression also seems to be divided as you begin in a village filled with scary set pieces and make your way to a facility that gives off a more 90’s action movie setting, complete with explosions and waves of enemies.
Much of the progress in Resident Evil 4 Remake has remained untouched. While it may be reworked for modern players, returning players will go through the entire game with a familiarity with each setting and moment. I’d hate to spoil it for new players, so I’ll keep it at that, but the most significant change is to the overall narrative, and I can say that it works incredibly well.
The emphasis on narrative and character writing has been wildly improved in this release. The character’s personalities are still there, but their delivery is easier to follow, and the tasks ahead of them make sense. Various liberties made by the player had to be taken in the original to really follow what’s going on, but this time around, you’ll have a reason to push forward at all times without confusion or the feeling that you’re left in the dark. Further information is found in the texts around each level, setting the tone for what’s going on.
Gameplay has players navigate environments to get through each section of the game. Every local is typically packed with enemies that can sometimes be taken down with a stealth approach. Other actions include jumping through windows, blocking doors, and utilizing the knife for parrying attacks. On that note, Knives do have durability. You’ll often pick up usable knives in the field, but the primary knife can be upgraded to last a bit longer. I don’t know if I liked this system, but it makes sense, given how powerful the knife can be. I mean, with well-timed button presses, you can take down a group of enemies using the tool, which looks really cool in execution.
Ammo and weapons are organized in a briefcase, which can be upgraded in later hours. There’s an auto organization option and an option to equip charms to the case for bonuses in gameplay. It keeps you more or less in the action, but the added customization gives you some reasons to focus on menuing.
Weapons and ammo can be purchased from the Merchant, who is always ready to buy your treasures and provide equipment for the battles ahead. Treasures can be acquired throughout the game and are hidden across levels. I don’t think they are tough to find, but there are some behind puzzles or locked doors that require you to collect other items and return later. Yes, as you progress, it’s possible to return to previous areas within a level to collect items, but there are moments of no return. However, strong enemies do reappear, so making your back should come with a bit of caution.
When it comes to selling treasure, there’s an excellent balance of progression in this system where you won’t have enough to buy everything you want, but managing the guns you have to upgrade other weapons will keep you well-equipped to handle late-game encounters.
The level design in Resident Evil 4 Remake is stellar. Every environment delivers memorable areas, encounters, and atmosphere. However, I will say that the opening area leading up to the final encounter is dull in comparison as it’s simply caves and military-like structures, which don’t compare to the village or castle.
Regardless, I enjoyed every moment spent playing. Outside of a few scary moments, I’d say Resident Evil 4 is more of a thrill ride in an amusement park of things that can kill you. Its sense of progression keeps players moving forward, hoping that the next enemy they meet isn’t one that transforms because ammo is running low. One run, mainly collecting all the treasure, took me 16 hours, but the game retains a runtime of about 10 hours, which aligns with the original.
Resident Evil 4 remains a divisive entry in the series as it caters to fans of survival horror and action within a well-crafted gaming experience. The updated narrative, by far, makes this a solid entry as it fills in plot holes and provides character growth that wasn’t present before. The atmosphere and level design only enhance the enjoyment, but the popcorn action structure of the final area hurts the overall pacing. Still, this is undeniably a stellar remake of an already fantastic game.
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