Leon just can’t catch a break as he returns to horror once again in our Resident Evil 4 Remake review.
Since its debut in 2005 as a timed Nintendo GameCube exclusive, Resident Evil 4 has been revered among many as the peak of survival horror. So it should come as no surprise that Leon S. Kennedy’s babysitting mission has received a multitude of releases since the original. Not only has the game been ported to every console imaginable, from PlayStation to Xbox to Switch (and even iPod Touch!), but dedicated fans can immerse themselves in the horror through the 2021 VR release.
Is it called Resident Evil 4 because everyone owns 4 different copies?
Adding to its already impressive repertoire, Resident Evil 4 returns once more in its most polished and visually terrifying release yet: Resident Evil 4 Remake. Building upon the iconic gameplay, story, and characters of the original, Capcom breathes fresh life into this fan favourite through a complete overhaul on their new RE Engine. But does it offer more than just a fresh splatter of blood on Leon’s bomber jacket? And can the remake modernise the original without bastardising its source material? Read ahead and return to horror in our Resident Evil 4 Remake review.
Resident Evil 4 Remake Review – Story
Raccoon City… The night that unfolded in 1998 has left deep scars on Leon S. Kennedy’s memory. Even despite being wiped off the map without a single trace, Leon can’t help but be reminded of the horrors he faced that evening as a rookie in the Raccoon City Police Department. Now with military experience under his belt following the top secret Operation Javier, Leon continues to move forward with courage, resolve, and a distinct sense of humour.
Cheer up, Leon, you’re on a holiday in Spain!
His latest mission takes him to an isolated village in the far reaches of Spain, tasked with locating and extracting none other than the daughter of the President of the United States of America. Just another standard day for Leon, really. With nought but a trusty knife and pistol to accompany him, Leon delves into the village only to discover that its residents aren’t exactly welcoming. Known as Los Illuminados (“The Enlightened Ones”), all who dwell in the village have descended into madness, under the influence of a mystical cult.
Guess going to church doesn’t automatically make you a good person.
With the aid of his comms officer, Hunnigan, and a mysterious womaniser who goes by the name of Luis Sera, Leon at last manages to locate his target: Ashley Graham. Though escaping from the village is the least of their worries. The pair soon discover that an ancient parasite known as Las Plagas has taken a hold of not only the villagers, but Leon and Ashley themselves. With their lives on the line, the key to survival lies at the heart of Los Illuminados and its fearsome leader, Lord Saddler.
Beethoven had a rough time after his musical career ended.
Though it might not seem it on the surface, the story of the Resident Evil 4 Remake is still surprisingly full of humour. Despite its serious themes of cultic indoctrinations and murderous psychopaths, Leon can’t help but crack one-liners at any given opportunity. Its characters, both protagonists and villains, are what truly define the narrative. Fans of the series will be treated to many familiar faces, while newcomers will revel at the pure evil of characters like Ramon Salazar, whose big attitude makes up for his short stature.
Resident Evil 4 Remake – Gameplay
During its original release, the gameplay of Resident Evil 4 was seen as quite controversial. Moving away from fixed camera angles and tank controls, RE4 instead morphed into an over-the-shoulder third-person shooter with far more of an emphasis on action and gunplay. After 18 years, Capcom has truly honed this style of gameplay into their most polished and engaging entry yet. Building upon the previous remakes of RE2 and RE3, the updated gameplay of the Resident Evil 4 Remake draws upon the original and polishes it to perfection.
Gunplay and Combat
As with the original, the game is divided into numerous chapters, wherein Leon explores further into the village and its cult. Beginning with just a pistol and knife, players must fend for themselves and conserve ammunition to fend off the hostile villagers that impede your progress. But relying too heavily on gunplay can be detrimental, as Leon has a variety of melee attacks at his disposal, with updated knife skills that can more efficiently dispatch foes. Every area is also littered with traps to use to your advantage, hidden secrets, and treasure troves of shiny trinkets.
Plagas? Nah, he’s got Mad Cow disease.
Those who have played the original will well and truly be aware that the highlight of Resident Evil 4 is its horrific enemies. From the chainsaw-wielding Dr Salvador to the fear-inducing Regeneradors and Iron Maidens, RE4 is home to some of the finest enemy designs of any videogame to date. Thankfully, all these enemies return in the remake, with a blend of both familiar and updated behaviours and attacks. Facing off against the game’s grotesque and challenging bosses has never been more satisfying, and will get the adrenaline pumping even for players like myself who have faced them time and time again.
“You’re not here to trim the hedges, are you?”
Weapons and Equipment
During each chapter, you’ll be given short breathers each time you encounter a typewriter or purple flames, which signify the game’s iconic merchant. Equipped with the fan favourite “Attaché Case” (the game’s inventory system), you’ll be able to upgrade weapons, modify them to suit your playstyle, and now even be able to craft ammo and accessories when in a pinch.
The Attaché Case is inventory management at its finest.
Almost every weapon from the original makes a reappearance in the Resident Evil 4 Remake, with some added extras to spice up gameplay even further. You’ll be given access to a literal arsenal of armaments, from iconic pistols like the Red-9, powerful shotguns and magnums, through to long-range rifles equipped with useful scopes. The sheer variety in weapons allows RE4 to be as accessible as possible to players of all skills levels, especially with the addition of the new “Bolt Thrower”, which allows ammo to be crafted and re-used almost infinitely.
Images you can hear.
The game’s treasure system also returns, with gilded chalices, crowns, and statues waiting to be adorned with precious gems. Finding treasures can be a challenge in itself, often requiring you to scour environments, explore optional areas, or complete additional quests on behalf of the Merchant. Using these wisely will allow you to accrue a fortune in funds, which can then be spent on pushing your weapons to their absolute limits and shredding enemies like Las Plagas lettuce.
And yes, the shooting gallery is back, and this time it’s even better than ever. Instead of offering monetary rewards, smashing the high scores at the range will reward you with gold and silver tokens that can be exchanged for tags to hang on your Attaché Case. Each tag features a character model from the original game and confers a helpful bonus, like Green Herbs restoring more health, or the chance to craft additional ammo for certain weapons.
The shooting gallery is now rated ARRR!
Lastly, no version of Resident Evil 4 would be complete without the high-pitched screams of “HELP ME, LEON!” echoing throughout the crumbling castle corridors. That’s because throughout much of the game, you’ll be tasked with looking after Ashley Graham, the president’s daughter who is completely incapable of fending for herself. Many chapters act as “escort missions”, requiring you to defend Ashley from hordes of enemies. Failing to do so, or allowing her to be carried off, will immediately result in a game over.
Raccoon City wasn’t Leon’s biggest challenge, but babysitting sure is.
Despite being a significant part of Resident Evil 4’s gameplay, in both the original and the remake, this is the only aspect of gameplay that has aged poorly and detracts from the overall enjoyment. Although streamlined in the remake through simpler commands for Ashley, there are still moments where many players will find the babysitting far more tedious than enjoyable. Co-op puzzles require little to no thought at all, simply requiring you to pull two levers at once, or vault Ashley over walls just out of Leon’s reach.
Don’t get carried away. Literally.
Even with some very minor drawbacks, the overall gameplay of Resident Evil 4 Remake remains as true as possible to the original while adding the same level of polish that we previously were treated to in 2019’s remake of Resident Evil 2. This is without a doubt RE4 at its finest and does everything possible to please fans of the original while making the game as engaging and playable for complete newcomers.
Resident Evil 4 Remake Review – Visuals
Sporting the shiny new RE Engine, responsible for the recent remakes and Resident Evil Village, Resident Evil 4 appears even more gory and grotesque than ever before. Familiar environments are now phenomenally detailed, bringing immediately recognisable maps from the original and adding unmatched realism. Effects like accurate lighting, reflections, and fog effects confer a horror atmosphere that simply wasn’t possible on the hardware of the original.
With realistic environments, those who have played the original might wonder how the game’s exaggerated enemy designs mesh with this? Thankfully, the remake impeccably overhauls all character models while retaining the horrid (and somewhat ridiculous) designs that we all love to hate. Every single enemy has been perfectly updated, whether it’s foes with bags over their heads, gargantuan mutilated monsters, or the terrors that dwell deep within the Illuminados’ castle.
A warm welcome! Very warm.
While playing on PlayStation 5, you’ll also be given the option to choose between resolution or performance, as with many other games on the console. Resolution Mode fixes the game at 4K, aiming for 60fps but dipping in busy or graphically-intensive sequences. Performance runs at a stable 60fps, but instead utilises a dynamic resolution. I played through the entire game in Performance mode and it ran smooth as butter, while still looking brilliant with ray tracing switched on. But if you’re a stickler for screenshots, you may find yourself wanting to try out resolution mode instead.
Resident Evil 4 Remake Review – Audio
Most horror games, aside from a select few, aren’t particularly known for their soundtracks. Resident Evil 4 however is one of the exceptions. Composed by Kota Suzuki, lead composer for Devil May Cry 5 and Resident Evil Village, the music of the RE4 Remake feels hauntingly familiar. Many of the game’s iconic pieces, like the save theme, return in the remake with updated arrangements. A brand new suite of songs, particularly those that feature during boss fights, lend an incredibly bold and cinematic sound, which is perfectly fitting for the game’s huge set pieces.
Massive sound to accompany a massive boss fight in “Path to Closure”.
The “Save Theme” offers a moment of respite and serenity amongst the madness.
As with the other recent Resident Evil remakes, the game’s impressive 3D audio mix truly immerses the player in the midst of the action. Where the original game relied purely on stereo sound, playing Resident Evil 4 Remake through a compatible headset allows you to accurately pinpoint approaching enemies simply based on audio cues alone. This is also particularly helpful when tracking down the game’s hidden secrets, as many of them will give off subtle sounds to help guide you to find them.
Sorry Leon, but Luis is the real protagonist.
Nick Apostolides returns from the RE2 remake and recent animated film, Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, to reprise the voice of Leon. His delivery is absolutely spot on, capturing the lame one-liners and Leon’s jabs and odd sense of humour throughout many of the game’s most tense moments. Players will hear Genevieve Buechner as the new voice of Ashley, whose performance feels far more authentic and far less grating than the original. But the real voice acting MVP is André Peña, who plays Luis and is suave, smooth, and slightly slimy. His character is wonderfully loveable and Peña could not have done a better job in bringing this beloved Luis to life.
What’s new in the Resident Evil 4 Remake?
Besides the obvious updates like visual and audio enhancements, there are a suite of updates to gameplay, content, and balancing throughout the entire game. Some of these are designed specifically with fans of the original in mind, while others are catered towards making the game appeal more towards a modern audience. These new features include:
- Auto-save has been added to aid players in their adventure. This occurs regularly throughout missions and will take you back to your most recent auto-save upon death (but is not available in Professional difficulty).
- Shooting Range now offers updated rewards, with players able to earn tokens that are exchanged for Attaché Case trinkets in a gacha-style system. The entire gallery is now pirate themed, too!
- Clockwork Castellan Ramon figures are scattered throughout the game, much like Mr. Raccoon and Charlie Dolls in the previous remakes.
- Stealth/Crouching is now possible, meaning Leon is able to take out enemies undetected by sneaking up from behind.
- Crafting Items much like recent Resident Evil entries has been fully incorporated, allowing Leon to create ammo and grenades on the go.
- Melee Combat is far more prominent, with Leon able to use an equipped knife to deftly parry certain attacks (yes, even chainsaws).
- Side Missions through the Merchant are now more than just shooting blue medallions. These updated missions will even require you to take down tough optional enemies. Missions will now reward you with Spinel, which can be exchanged for items that can’t be purchased with cash.
- The Bolt Thrower is the game’s newest weapon and allows players to craft and re-use ammo. This can also be equipped with explosive proximity mines that can be attached to surfaces and triggered by enemies.
- Quick Time Events that plagued the original game have been completely removed!
There’s plenty of reasons to return to the Village even after the credits roll.
Once you’ve finished the game, you’ll be given access to a wide variety of post-game unlockables, including new costumes, weapons, and New Game +. Unfortunately, some content from the original game has been cut completely. Post-game campaigns “Separate Ways” and “Assignment Ada” that saw the player take on missions at the femme fatale Ada Wong have been removed entirely. The game’s Mercenaries Mode isn’t currently available either, but has recently been announced that it will be added shortly as free DLC.
Resident Evil 4 Remake Review – Conclusion
At the time of its original release in 2005, Resident Evil 4 was hailed as one of the finest horror games of all-time. Almost 20 years later, the Resident Evil 4 Remake reaffirms that claim to fame. Through a near flawless remake, Capcom reinvigorate the horror classic and add a level of polish rarely seen in remakes. By crafting the perfect blend of new gameplay while staying true to the original, the Resident Evil 4 Remake is without a doubt the definitive way to enjoy the series at its peak. So now that you’ve finished reading our review, I have one question to ask about which game you’ll be purchasing next: Whattaya buyin’?
So, why should you play Resident Evil 4 Remake?
- The definitive way to enjoy one of the finest horror games of all-time
- Retains almost all elements of the original while adding impressive polish
- Gorgeous updated updated and grotesque enemy design
- Wide variety of added gameplay for fans of the original and newcomers alike
- Love horror games? You’d be mad to miss this remake
But why shouldn’t you play Resident Evil 4 Remake?
- You prefer your horror games more slow-paced and psychological
- Horror games aren’t your cup of tea
A code on PlayStation 5 was kindly provided by Capcom Australia for the purpose of our Resident Evil 4 Remake review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to read our Resident Evil Village: Shadows of Rose review and join the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about the RE4 Remake!