Building upon the expectations set by 2019’s Resident Evil 2 and the legacy of its source material, the Resident Evil 4 remake is a triumph on every level, and one that I recommend not only to fans of the series but also any gamers who are remotely interested in horror, action and engrossing storytelling.
- Gameplay tweaks help to elevate the original game
- The revamped story feels more cohesive
- A much stronger link with Resident Evil 2
- Tons of replayability
- Minor performance issues in Resolution mode
- Updated graphics:Improved characters models and more realistic lighting
- Gameplay tweaks:You can now run while aiming
- Mercenaries mode:Fight off against waves of enemies in timed battles
The latest entry in Capcom’s ongoing series of remakes, Resident Evil 4 does itself proud with great new features and plenty of nods to the original 2005 classic.
Given that Resident Evil 4 is widely recognised as one of the greatest games of the series and an important title that popularised over-the-shoulder gameplay, I couldn’t wait to see how Capcom would tweak the game for modern consoles such as the PS5 and Xbox Series X.
After becoming completely absorbed by Resident Evil 4 for a second time, I can confirm that Capcom has managed to raise the bar for what a remake can be.
Graphics and performance
- More realistic character models and environments
- The improved lighting system amps up the horror
- The game runs well on PS5
The most obvious change for the Resident Evil 4 Remake over the original is in the graphics department. Even though the original title’s character design has held up quite well over the years, it’s easy enough to look at it now and feel as if the game’s backdrop is comprised of just different shades of beige, courtesy of the hardware limitations of the era.
With the full grunt of modern consoles and Capcom’s incredibly versatile RE Engine which has fuelled the company’s previous remakes, as well as first-person entries like Resident Evil Village, Resident Evil 4 is now a stunning game to look at.
For starters, the lighting has been given a complete overhaul. There are now sections that require Leon to utilise a torch in order to see what’s in front of him and it’s a lot more effective this time around for helping to build the tension within the game. Moments when you can’t exactly see where an enemy is but you can hear them muttering to themselves in the distance are very effective.
Without spoiling too much, there’s a portion later in the game where a humble oil lamp is your only means of navigating a near pitch black library filled with monsters just waiting to pounce. It’s been adapted from a segment found in the original title, but this time around it’s almost impossible to see what’s lurking in the darkness without pointing your lamp in the right direction, which only amps up the tension ever further.
The characters have also seen a significant leap in presentation with far more realistic designs and an attention to detail that just wasn’t possible during development of the original. For example, Leon’s iconic leather jacket makes a return here but it’s given so much more flair as you can clearly see the individual strands of fur in its collar. There’s even an option in the settings to activate more realistic hair physics in the game, although I have no idea why this isn’t switched on by default as it looks great.
Beyond the immense graphical upheaval, the game never struggles under the weight of its newer coat of paint. I didn’t encounter any moments of slowdown or even any identifiable glitches during my entire playthrough, which feels increasingly rare these days and shows just how much effort Capcom has put into fine-tuning the experience.
With that said, the game does give you the option to play with either a focus on ‘frame rate’ or ‘resolution’. I kept the entire of my playthrough with the former toggled, but in a second playthrough I moved over to the resolution mode to and under these circumstances the game does struggle to keep up under the weight of its engine and any chaos happening on screen, so I’d definitely recommend prioritising the frame rate.
Story and gameplay
- The game blends more seamlessly with the events of Resident Evil 2
- Sections of the plot of have been tightened up to improve pacing
- Combat has been revamped for a modern audience
One of the issues I had with the original Resident Evil 4 is that it felt a tad too disconnected from the rest of the series. I can appreciate that this is unavoidable to a certain extent given the game’s jump from an American setting to a European one, but it didn’t take the time to develop Leon as a character and detail exactly what he’d been up to since his debut in Resident Evil 2.
Luckily, Capcom has made a concerted effort this time around to make RE4 feel a lot more connected to 2019’s Resident Evil 2 remake.
Right off the bat, the game features a revamped opening scene that shows how the events of Racoon City have left a lasting effect on Leon – he’s no longer the naive rookie cop we once knew. It’s a very emotional moment that revisits several cutscenes from Resident Evil 2, so fans who played the remake will feel the connection instantly.
The story itself has also been given a retouch to iron out some of the plot holes and inconsistencies that plagued the original title. For instance, the mysterious Luis Serra, who only appeared in a handful of cutscenes back in the day, is now given a lot more time to shine and his motivations are more fully realised within the narrative.
There are also tons of documents to be found throughout the game that further flesh out the backstory of the area prior to Leon’s arrival. It all adds up to a far more compelling story that’ll have you engrossed right up until the very end, but let’s be honest, the real component that sets Resident Evil 4 apart from its predecessors is the combat.
Given that the original RE4 took the series in a whole new, more action-oriented direction, while popularising the over-the-shoulder style that is now commonplace, I was intrigued to see if Capcom could capture that lightning in a bottle for a second time.
Just like in the original, the game fools you slightly in its earliest stages into thinking that it’s similar to Resident Evil 2 with tight-space encounters against a small handful of enemies. Once you hit the main village however, the gloves come off and the game throws an army of enraged locals at you, as you try desperately to survive the encounter, only this time there are more skills at your disposal.
Because Leon has learned from his experiences in the previous game he’s now a more adept fighter, and you can now parry incoming attacks with your knife, which is a huge help in dealing with moments where you risk getting boxed in. There’s a durability meter that means you only have a limited amount of parries available until you need to repair your knife however, so you have to keep that in mind when deciding when to use it.
The player now also has the ability to crouch, which can be used to dodge incoming projectiles when timed correctly, and you even have the option to stealth kill any wandering enemies to help minimise the threat before a larger battle.
It all works incredibly well, and the new quick-select menu (which is very similar to The Last of Us Part 1) encourages players to swap between weapons in real time and to make full use of Leon’s arsenal. Everyone’s favourite cockney salesman, the Merchant, also makes a grand return to offer Leon new weapons as he progresses through the story, as well as the ability to upgrade any weapons that you’ve become attached to.
This time around, however, the Merchant will set up side quests for the player to attempt, which can include taking down mini bosses or ridding an area of rats, in exchange for exclusive items and treasures. For those who want to max out their favourite weapons, these requests are well worth taking on as they offer up a moment of reprieve from the chaos of the main story.
The Merchant’s shooting gallery has also been given an overhaul, this time letting the player win trinkets that can bestow Leon with several buffs. When combined with weapon upgrades, these buffs can really help you to delve into your own personal playstyle – for instance, I equipped a trinket that increased the rate of handgun ammo drops, while also investing heavily into the firepower and reload speed of Leon’s handgun.
There are some items and costumes that can’t be unlocked until after multiple playthroughs, and when paired with the various difficulty levels available (four in total), there’s plenty here to keep gamers coming back for more. But if you ever fancy a break from the campaign you can always dive into The Mercenaries mode.
Doing away with any sense of horror, the Mercenaries mode leans heavily into RE4’s gunplay as you frantically try to take down as many enemies as possible as a large timer counts down. You can add to your allotted time by kicking enemies while they’re stunned, leading to a fast-paced game of crowd control as you try and build up your score with each playthrough. It sounds a tad absurd in contrast with the seriousness of the main campaign, but it’s still a blast that just ensures the game will stay firmly in your console of choice long after the credits roll.
Should you buy it?
You’re a fan of horror/action games:
If you love Resident Evil, fast-paced action titles or even being scared out of your wits then you’ll absolutely love what’s on offer here.
You’re not a fan of Resident Evil remakes:
The only reason why I could think of anyone not enjoying this game is if they haven’t enjoyed the recent Resident Evil remakes.
Resident Evil 4 Remake not only does right by its original source of inspiration, but it also sets a high bar for what modern day remakes can be. All components of the story have been finetuned into a more well-thought out package, and that’s before mentioning the game’s full use of today’s graphical prowess to deliver a more terrifying interpretation of rural Spain.
The core gameplay also retains what made it so great back in the day, but with modern amenities such as a parrying system, quick-select for weapons and the ability to run. And despite the new improvements, the increased aggressiveness of the enemies ensures that the game never feels like a cakewalk. I don’t know who still needs to be convinced at this point, but Resident Evil 4 is a masterpiece that I cannot recommend enough. Check out our Best Games of 2023 list for more great options.
How we test
We play every game we review through to the end, outside of certain exceptions where getting 100% completion, like Skyrim, is close to impossible to do. When we don’t fully finish a game before reviewing it we will always alert the reader.
Tested on PS5
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There is no dedicated online mode in Resident Evil 4, but you can share your accomplishments in The Mercenaries mode to online leaderboards.
Resident Evil 4 is only available to play on Xbox Series X and Series S consoles, as well as the PS4 and PS5.