Resident Evil 4 remake assessment: a contemporary blockbuster with an old-school coronary heart

We is likely to be approaching a degree the place there are, in reality, too many online game remakes and remasters. Off the highest of my head, there’s The Final of Us Half I, Demon’s Souls, Shadow of the Colossus, Metroid Prime, Lifeless Area, 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 basic 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 digital actuality. So a big-budget remake doesn’t want to exist in any respect — and but, I’m so glad it does. RE4 stays an indicator 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 present, with gradual methodical gameplay that was accompanied by a management scheme lovingly — and generally decidedly not lovingly — known as “tank controls.” It might be irritating, however it additionally added to the phobia, as you struggled to get away from gradual, shambling hordes of the undead.

The fourth entry takes lots of the franchise’s hallmarks — intricate stage design, creepy environments, puzzles that require ornate keys, restricted assets, bosses that rework with numerous glowing eyeballs, a very nonsensical story — and infuses them with the DNA of a full-out motion recreation. As a substitute of standing there in terror whereas firing off a flimsy pistol at shuffling zombies, you would now run, dodge, and wield all types of weapons with out having to additionally struggle in opposition to the controls. It modified the course of Resident Evil for years, shifting the steadiness from scares to capturing. It wasn’t till Resident Evil 7 that it bought again to basic survival horror (however from a terrifying new perspective).

The villagers are rather a lot scarier within the remake.

This shift in tone and magnificence is obvious from the very starting. Resident Evil 4 places you within the function of federal agent Leon Kennedy, tasked with rescuing the president’s daughter from a distant Spanish village, the place you’ll finally 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 full of residents who wish to homicide you for some motive. One among them has a chainsaw. You don’t have any alternative however to struggle.

This daring opening sequence is necessary for just a few causes. It reveals simply how action-oriented the gameplay is; you’ll be able to’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 suppose. One among my strongest recollections 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.

Regardless of being almost 20 years outdated, it appears like a largely fashionable expertise

Within the remake, that village sequence is far more terrifying than I keep in mind. At its core — narrative, gameplay, and design — the remake is similar as the unique. But it surely has a variety of upgrades, primarily when it comes to visuals and controls, that elevate the expertise and make issues just like the acquainted opening battle extra intense and dynamic.

It appears to be like unimaginable, for one factor. The environments are full of small particulars that make the world really feel alive, from the nauseating, glistening trails of blood to the brushstroke textures on the oil work. Through the quiet moments, it’s lots of enjoyable to soak within the ambiance and simply go searching. The extra real looking visuals naturally make issues rather a lot scarier, significantly on the subject of the enemy designs. Basic creatures, just like the towering giants or pesky bugs, now look really 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 some 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 totally different firearms to swap between, I by no means had a tough time switching within the midst of a firefight. After I died, it was often as a result of I did one thing foolish, not as a result of I hit a incorrect 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 almost 20 years outdated, performs like a largely fashionable expertise.

Mine carts and explosive barrels: now that could be a online game.
Picture: Capcom

There are just a few locations the place the remake of Resident Evil 4 reveals its age — however I imply that in a great way. For one factor, that is such a online game. Trendy blockbusters love to cover their inherent gaminess below 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 every single place. There’s even a mine cart sequence (with loads of explosive barrels).

Leon makes goofy B-movie quips always, 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 everywhere in the deserted, ravaged city, regardless of seemingly solely having a single buyer. These selections often don’t make lots of sense narratively, however they’re enjoyable. They make the sport extra easy to play, and total, the expertise is best off for them. I don’t wish to smash up all the surroundings to get these shotgun shells. Simply inform me the place to go together with some brilliant yellow paint.

That is such a online game

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 aren’t any open-world components. (There are some non-obligatory quests, largely carried over from the unique, however it’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 whenever you attain a struggle sequence due to all the cowl and exploding barrels. Its world nonetheless feels giant and complicated, however it’s not the form of place you get misplaced in. I solely ever discovered myself misplaced misplaced as soon as due to a really well-hidden wrench that halted my progress. It additionally adjustments issues up from time to time 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 part of you for a time, including a pleasant change of tempo, together with a really scary sequence with the primary daughter.

While you actually give it some thought, the Resident Evil 4 remake is an odd 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 whenever 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 whenever you evaluate 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 not like 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 yet 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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