There was a time when I personally believed that Resident Evil 4 never needed a remake. The original game that was released in 2005 has held up fantastically over the years and become such an influence on third-person action and horror games. Hell, we’re still seeing that influence in the series today as the exceptional remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3 ditched the traditional style fixed camera angles in favor of the over-the-shoulder view that Resident Evil 4 popularized.
So when Capcom announced that a remake of their seminal masterpiece was in production, I was initially hesitant. How do you improve upon perfection? How do you update a game that holds up so well, even to this day? Well. I got my answers and more than I could have ever imagined with a remake that absolutely knocked my socks off.
Right from its opening moments, Resident Evil 4 wants you to know that you are indeed the same Leon S. Kennedy from Resident Evil 2. For players that don’t know, you play as Leon, who’s now a member of the Secret Service. In this particular tale, he’s sent to Spain to rescue the President’s kidnapped daughter by any means necessary. Along the course of his journey he’ll encounter some of the most messed up things you can ever imagine; because this is a Resident Evil game, after all. This remake establishes its world in greater detail that helps it slot into the overarching Resident Evil story even more, and it’s filled with little story touch-ups and flourishes that helped me appreciate the story of the game far more than I ever have before – no easy task.
The overall success of the Resident Evil 4 remake is thanks in no small part to Nick Apostolides’ voice work as Leon, who brings an action-hero heft to his performance while remaining true to his performance in Resident Evil 2. In fact, most of the characters you meet in this remake have received an overhaul for the better. Most notably Ashley Graham, the daughter of the President, who was an annoying glorified escort mission in the original. Here she’s fully fleshed out to a character all her own with far better writing this time around and exceptional voice work by Nicole Thompkins (who also voiced Jill in the Resident Evil 3 remake). Leon and Ashley now make for a dynamic pair that I found myself rooting for even more than the original game.
Leon’s arsenal is expanded and he’s an absolute blast to play as. With the update to controls that modern Resident Evil has seen over the years, Resident Evil 4 plays far more fast paced and brutal than it ever did before. I know that the original game already has a reputation for feeling like an action movie in its gameplay but this remake elevates it to a whole new level of insane. Being able to move while aiming, unlike the originals, adds a new dynamic layer of strategy to encounters and Leon is able to sprint now, making the age-old combo of “stun & melee” a fast and ferocious option. It’s wildly satisfying to stun a single enemy in a crowd in the shin from a distance and sprint up to them and roundhouse all of them, resulting in a cloud of flying bodies.
Leon’s also got some new tricks in his arsenal as he’s now able to stab enemies on the ground with his knife with a quick jab to the neck and he’s even able to parry enemies. As a Dark Souls fan I found myself having loads of fun just experimenting with the parry mechanic, taking the time to learn and memorize enemies’ parry windows to the point I would walk into an encounter and parry most common enemies and unleash a hail of gunfire onto them. Though be warned, if you use the knife too much it will break and you’ll have to find a new one. Take it from someone who played without a knife for a large chunk, you’re going to always want to have a knife on hand for countering enemy grabs.
The trademark Resident Evil power creep is still here and it’s perfected for 2023. Leon is able to customize and upgrade his weapons and pretty soon you’ll go from his tiny trademark pistol to rifles that bring absolute destruction to the poor soul that happens to be on the receiving end of the barrel. All the upgrading plays out at the iconic Merchant’s shop (who I’m very happy is still in the game), where you’ll also be able to sell treasures you find along your journey. It’s here at safe havens where Leon will also be able to swap out his inventory cases that still feature the “Tetris” formatting last seen in Resident Evil 7, and in a new spin, cases can be equipped with charms that provide passive buffs to him to make your vacation to Spain just a bit more enjoyable. Boss fights have also received massive reworkings for the better, as encounters that I found hugely frustrating in the original were an absolute joy to play in this remake. Resident Evil 4’s gameplay components fit together like clockwork and I’ll be surprised if we get another Resident Evil game that plays as good as this one.
The world of Resident Evil 4 is brought to life in immaculate detail in this fresh new upgrade. Using Capcom’s proprietary RE Engine, the environments feature a painstaking amount of detail in a photorealistic art style. It’s cliched to say but this remake looks how you thought the original game looked all the way back in 2005. It also features a more gothic horror art direction that brings a new level of fear to the experience, with an impressive as hell lighting and shadow system that brings environments to life and ups the horror factor overall. Environments also feel bigger and more explorable with all new side content and puzzles rounding out the Resident Evil experience and bringing it more in line with other entries in the series. Performance on PS5 was also exceptional as I never experienced any crashes or framedrops in my time playing the game.
Like a fine vodka that has been filtered numerous times, Resident Evil 4 has been polished to a bright sheen.
I can go on and on about Resident Evil 4 and the smart decisions it makes in updating a legitimate masterpiece for the modern era. It was a remake I never asked for but I am very happy that we got. Capcom has proven time and time again that they understand what makes a great modern Resident Evil game, and their remakes have also proven they know how to update beloved classics in a modern context – which is not an easy thing to do. I can comfortably say that the remake of Resident Evil 4 is not only the best Resident Evil game that Capcom has ever delivered, it’s also personally one of the best games I’ve ever played. Rejoice, Resident Evil fans. Survival Horror has been perfected.
Resident Evil 4 will release on March 24, 2023.
Review code provided by the publisher.