In 2005, Capcom reinvented the third-person shooter and horror genre with Resident Evil 4.
Now, 18 years and three console generations of innovation later, the question remains, can Capcom breathe new life into this nearly two-decade-old game through modern touches, or will they rely solely on nostalgia as a selling point for this new interpretation of their masterpiece?
WON’T FALL FOR THIS OLD TRICK
While the core of what made the 2005 iteration of Resident Evil 4 is here, the improvements made to the gameplay and set pieces help to make it more than a simple graphical upgrade with a few modern amenities.
Former cop and now special forces member Leon Scott Kennedy is sent out to rescue the president’s daughter Ashley from a swarm of virus-infected cult worshipers. This time, though, he’s not just tagging along to sing kumbaya at some bonfire. He leaps into his task with military precision and showcases some of his new moves. Leon can now perform stealth takedowns by sneaking up on enemies from behind and parry specific incoming attacks with his knife.
There are a few interesting references to the original in the story and gameplay. Particularly one moment when I climbed a tower with only one ladder to make my way up, hoping to pick off the enemies one by one from the top like in the original, only to have the floor collapse beneath me and send me into the horde gathering around the ground.
Leon’s knife now has a durability meter. If you parry too many attacks or use it to attack enemies too many times, it will break, requiring you to find a merchant and pay him to fix it.
While I liked this feature, for the most part, the knife is Leon’s only means of melee combat. There was this one area later on in the game where I was fighting a swarm of tentacle monsters using knight armor. I managed to defeat five of them, however, once I got to the final one, I ran out of ammo for all my guns, and my knife was broken. I was required to defeat him to progress the story, however, I had no means to fight back. I ran around the area like an idiot, desperately trying to find some ammo but to no avail. This required me to restart the game from a previous checkpoint or save state.
HANG ON SWEETHEART
Our damsel in distress, Ashley, is slightly less annoying this time.
In the original game, you had to escort her around and keep her safe, as she had no offensive capabilities. You also had to keep track of her health and occasionally give her herbs to increase her base health. Here she no longer has a health bar. If she gets hit too many times, she will curl up in a fetal position, and you have to snap her out of it by getting into physical contact with her. She can also be abducted and carried away, causing a game over if you can’t get her back.
One thing I thought was odd was one of my favorite moments from the original, where Ashley drove a large construction truck with you on the back, fending off Zombies as they followed you, was absent from this remake.
If the developers wanted to make her more than just a damsel in distress, why not keep one of the few events that proved she could be helpful?
TALK ABOUT A NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE
Some of the early parts of the game may feel a tad drawn out. It also felt as though there were some cheap deaths. There was the clock tower I mentioned earlier. You also have to return to certain areas to complete quests or find specific items, though nothing hurt my experience that much. The inventory system from the original Resident Evil 4 makes its return now, though, you can assign up to eight different weapons to slots to switch to in real-time instead of pausing every time to switch to a new weapon.
Other things that have been added to the formula to spruce it up a bit are new types of enemies, particularly a minitour, which is essentially a bullet sponge that deals heavy damage.
There are also many set pieces early on that have been drastically altered to keep this re-imagining from feeling like a retread of the original with a new coat of paint.
There are new weapons added to the mix to allow for more creativity with how enemies are dispatched, and the crafting system from the 2019 Resident Evil 2 remake makes a return here, allowing you to craft ammo. You can also store the weapons you aren’t using inside a case for later, like in Resident Evil 2.
Some of the action set pieces have been cranked up to 11 as the ability to move and shoot at the same time allows for a more smooth flow to the combat.
Bombastic set pieces are a plenty later in the game, with explosions and massive firefights.
SADDLER, YOU’RE SMALL TIME
As much praise as I give to the gameplay and well-paced action and horror set pieces, the characters didn’t do much to make me care about them. Leon doesn’t have many quips or snarky remarks whenever something interesting happens. I can understand that the devs wanted to go for a more serious tone in this age of gruff and rough action heroes by turning him into a more seasoned war veteran rather than an edge lord, but by doing so, they’ve robbed him of some of his uniqueness.
Also, unlike in the original game, where about halfway through the adventure, Leon’s communications link gets hacked, and he is constantly taunted by the villains, giving him more opportunity to make small talk and berate them, here, that never happens.
Key story points from the original, such as the main enemy Saddler killing one of your friends and taunting you whenever something terrible happens, have been reworked to exclude him. In this interpretation of the story, he barely even shows up. I know I’m comparing a lot to the original, but that’s what you do when it’s a remake.
GOT A SELECTION OF GOOD THINGS ON SALE STRANGER
The merchant has also received an upgrade. Mind you, not in terms of character, but in terms of how obnoxiously high-priced his wares are. The Rocket Launcher, which cost 30,000 Pesetas in the original now costs 100,000 ( 160,000 on higher difficulties).
And there are now two forms of currency, Pesetas and Spinels. Spinels can be traded for more valuable essential items, while your base currency is used to purchase weapons and health items. Spinels are more challenging to find in the game this time around. However, the merchant will also reward you with Spinels by completing quests for him.
You can also increase your gun’s stats, making them more powerful and increasing the amount of ammo and reload speed for them with Pesetas.
BETTER TRY A NEW TRICK CAUSE THAT ONE’S GETTING OLD
As much as I loved fighting the hordes of infected, towards the end of the game, it can feel a little stale. The game is roughly 25 to 35 hours long, depending on what difficulty you play it on and how many side quests you wish to accomplish.
There were parts where it could be a bit more focused, but I felt this game hit all the right beats.
Nitpicks aside, Capcom’s 2023 Resident Evil 4 is a behemoth of a game with loads of replayability. The game is beautiful, the characters are likable, and the gunplay is challenging and fun.
I’m sure that naysayers and die-hard fans of the 2005 iteration will find things to complain about, but viewed as its own entry, this game will no doubt leave its unique mark on the video game landscape as a truly remarkable achievement made by passionate developers.