It can be hard to make a great thing even better, but that has consistently been the hallmark of Capcom’s remakes of its survival horror classics. After Resident Evil 2 and 3, it’s time for a new take on the best Resident Evil game yet, and nothing quite prepares fans for Leon S. Kennedy’s adventure into rural Spain in the Resident Evil 4 remake. Make no mistake – this is one of the best remakes ever, usurping the original’s standing as the best in the series.
Everything from top to bottom has been tweaked and enhanced for modern gaming sensibilities; the drama is heightened around the central plot, controls are tightened, and the pacing is deliberate and impactful, resulting in a satisfying romp that never fails to entertain and impress. Once again, Resident Evil 4 has shot all expectations in the knees and provided yet another roundhouse kick to the naysayers critical of the franchise’s revitalisation.
Set in a Spanish village before venturing into more spectacular territory, players will step into the well-worn boots of Leon, now dispatched to save the US President’s missing daughter, Ashley. Things predictably take a turn for the worse, and it doesn’t take long for giant trolls and hulking sea monsters to join the fun. Not to mention the Las Plagas parasite and a horde of infected villagers, creatures, and bombastic bosses. It is a wild ride, and that is an understatement.
It would be hard to talk about the Resident Evil 4 remake without some historical context. The fact that its initial departure from the series formula remains an integral part of the experience is a clear indication of the foresight of Capcom back in the day.
Going from fixed cameras to the over-the-shoulder view brought the focus to up-close horror, even if the aiming required players to stand still. That nevertheless ushered in the more action-heavy sequence of Resident Evil games to come, with perhaps none coming even close to replicating the success of this particular touchstone.
However, with the Resident Evil 4 remake, Capcom has built on the strong foundations and brought those groundbreaking changes in line with what players would expect today. Being able to both aim and move at the same time feels freeing on so many levels, especially now that Leon moves much more fluently as a special agent should. Area-specific damage means you can count on more than just headshots to deal with enemies; the gore has never been more splendid.
Parrying and stealth attacks with the combat knife feel like they should have always been implemented, while the other quality-of-life changes just add to the cohesive gameplay experience that elevates everything to a whole other level. For those new to the game and not returning with rose-tinted glasses, this high-quality outing deserves a place at the top.
It is not just the players benefitting from the modernisation of Resident Evil 4, as this also applies to the enemies and how they behave. On harder difficulties, you are looking at extremely smart foes designed to overwhelm not just in numbers, but also in ingenuity. Bloodthirsty infected are usually a handful, but when you mix in bear traps, dynamite, molotovs, and throwing axes, things get hectic real fast.
Learning to read the battlefield and prioritising targets become an essential life skill in Resident Evil 4, as does making full use of the environment to Leon’s advantage. Oil lamps can help burn the horde to a crisp, explosive barrels are always a delight, and livestock can become a weapon of destruction in the right circumstances. The game is never too shy to throw various combinations of foes from all angles, and it works really well with the improved controls for both movement and aiming, upping the tension and players’ ability to fight back alike.
Capcom doesn’t just stop there. As a companion, Ashley no longer figures as much of a burden as before, with her behaviour less likely to lead her into the clutches of the enemy. Removing her health bar also takes away a frustrating component of escort sections. The previous quicktime-heavy knife fight with Krauser has also given way to a more involved boss fight, making full use of the parry system in the Resident Evil 4 remake wonderfully.
Locations and layouts have also been changed for the better, with the lake being the most obvious beneficiary. Gone is its position as just a backdrop for a boss fight, and in its place comes a fully explorable area chocked full of treasure, puzzles, and more scares around the corner.
And although the narrative isn’t exactly the strongest there is, Resident Evil 4 is paced quite splendidly, blending action, stealth, and scary moments in an unrelenting wave of enjoyable gameplay that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The return of everyone’s favourite mysterious merchant, along with new side quests to pursue, is but the cherry on top.
All of these memorable encounters and story developments are delivered with an excellent level of visual and audio fidelity, with the RE Engine once again showing its might. The atmosphere and worldbuilding help set the mood perfectly, turning the countryside into a rural nightmare full of monstrosities and unpleasant surprises.
The audio design, in particular, deserves mention in the Resident Evil 4 remake. There’s nothing quite like hearing the roar of a chainsaw in the distance, the chanting of cultists, or the blow of the wind to build tension, and when things kick off, it gets even better as bullets fly and bodies get blown apart.
Capcom has included plenty of reasons for replayability as well, with New Game+ and the seemingly never ending list of challenges to complete an incentive with veterans to jump back in and relive the horror over and over again. The upcoming addition of The Mercenaries mode will likely ignite renewed interest as well, together with any planned DLC. In fact, having such a strong base game will only leave players wanting more, and that is an achievement already.
At the end of the day, the Resident Evil 4 remake sets out to reimagine one of the best survival horror games of all time, and succeeds in every area, big and small. The combat is the smoothest it has ever been, the monsters are disgustingly delightful, and this world has never been more inviting for those that love the dark side. The sheer breadth of the improvements made means that a new bar has been set yet again, and it is a no-brainer for anyone hoping to enjoy the best the genre has to offer.
Resident Evil 4 is available on the PSN Store for S$81.76.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
A remake that is worth every single second put into it, the 2023 version of Resident Evil 4 is now the standard bearer for all of Capcom’s survival horror hits.
Gameplay - 10/10
Story - 9/10
Presentation - 10/10
Value - 10/10