Resident Evil 4 Remake Review

Welcome to Suplex City

By Paul Hunter

Capcom actually did it. The Resident Evil 4 remake improves upon the original, the highest-rated Resident Evil game of all time, in nearly every way. And yet, with so many changes to the characters, gameplay, boss battles, maps, lore and tone, this new iteration feels just as fresh as familiar. The end result is a game that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the GameCube and PS2 classic, yet doesn't attempt to overshadow it. Both games represent the pinnacle of the Resident Evil franchise and prove yet again that Capcom is the gaming industry's leader in reimagining games for a modern audience.

Let's head on into the remote Spanish village of El Pueblo to see what the Resident Evil 4 remake has to offer, here are four things I liked about the game...and one I didn't.

Liked: The Darker Tone

It's obvious right from the beginning that Capcom wasn't looking to recreate the entire game scene-by-scene and wanted to shake things up in fundamental ways. The first major change you'll immediately notice is instead of Leon S. Kennedy arriving at the village during the daytime, the remake has him setting foot at nighttime, and the entire game occurs over one evening.

It's a massive tonal shift that reverberates throughout the entire campaign, particularly the opening Village chapter that takes place primarily outside. The shadows and lighting are impressive and greatly elevate the tension of outdoor scenes since you can often notice the torches or shadows of Ganado villagers, those infected by the Las Plagas parasite, before you can actually see them.

The incredible sound design also amplifies the terror in significant ways, such as how the 3D audio lets you hear Ganados all around you repeating strange cultish phrases mentioning 'Las Plagas' or 'Saddler'. It's sometimes not clear exactly where the enemies are, too—are they in the house, on the rooftop, or in the nearby dark forest?—so it can make approaching areas feel pretty intense. Most of the stronger enemies make noises before you see them as well, like hearing the chainsaw motor rumbling, the deep grunts of the El Gigante, or the blade sharpening of the Garrador. When you combine dark environments that make it hard to know where enemies are, plus loud audio cues indicating fearsome foes are very close, it's the perfect recipe for heart-pounding moments.

I thoroughly enjoyed the darker tone of Resident Evil 4 which gives it a horror vibe similar to the first two games in the series (two of the best entries!). And what's cool is its huge tonal shift means that it doesn't step on the toes of the original RE4, which has a much greater emphasis on campy moments and is action heavy. That's not to say the remake doesn't have action moments (it does, and some great ones at that), but as I'll explain in the next section there's a major focus on stealth which dramatically ups the risk/reward factor, adding even more terror to the already tense situations.

Liked: Gameplay Improvements

In every way imaginable, the Resident Evil 4 remake improves upon the gameplay of the original. Examples that come to mind right away are the tighter camera that better follows Leon's movement and no longer has a camera snap back to the centre, plus you can now equip up to eight weapons at a time and reducing the number of times you'll need to open up your Attache case.

Speaking of Leon's iconic Attache case, you can now buy different cases from the Merchant that grant you special perks that provide welcome, general benefits or can really help specific playstyles. Not only that, but you can acquire Charms and attach up to three of them to your storage case, every one giving you new benefits. I've only unlocked eight of the 30 or so available Charms and can't wait to see what other perks I'll eventually unlock.

One of the biggest gameplay enhancements is how useful Luis Serra is as an A.I. buddy this time around. His shots are always on point and he'll regularly pop the heads of attacking enemies. But even better, he loves to shoot and stun enemies so you can run up for a roundhouse kick finish—and he'll shout words of encouragement to egg you on. Moreover, he has amazing situational awareness and can tell when you walk out of his eyesight: When you do return he'll make an 'oh there you are' comment that always got me totally immersed in the moment. In a bold move, Capcom has added several new sections where Luis accompanies you and it's so much fun. I'll just leave it at that.

The A.I. improvements extend to Ashley as well, who is far less helpless this time around and much easier to command. A simple tap of the right stick will instruct her to stay close to you or back away, and in general, I found that she did a good job avoiding the pesky Genado trying to abduct her. She also no longer has a health bar and instead, one attack 'downs' her, with one more blow in this state doing her in. As long as you stick close to Ashley it's fairly easy to help her back up and over two playthroughs she only died on me once. There's also an extended section where you take control of her and it's awesome to see how brave she is (especially compared to how fearful she was in the original), plus her limited offence makes it one of the scariest segments in the game.

Another huge gameplay improvement is Leon can now parry using his knife and perfect parries set your adversaries up for a powerful counterattack. To offset this welcome new ability your knives now have durability and can break, but thankfully your main knife can be repaired by paying the Merchant a modest sum. There are also kitchen knives and other knives you can pick up as items that serve as emergency weapons if your main knife breaks, but be careful because they have very limited durability. Keep in mind that different moves affect the amount of durability loss, for example, a quick stealth kill barely impacts its durability, whereas parrying a chainsaw attack saps a much bigger durability chunk.

As I touched upon earlier, a big change in the remake is the addition of stealth. Leon can now crouch, which has the double benefit of letting you hide behind small objects and reducing your footstep noise. I was genuinely surprised by how many battles were designed for stealth, including the very first massive brawl in the village centre. Before the carnage began I was able to take out quite a few of Genados, which was pretty cool. I used stealth a lot during my first run to conserve ammo, plus I enjoyed the challenge of trying to take out an entire area full of enemies without alerting the group.

There are so many more gameplay improvements, like the new Bolt Thrower that can launch grenades and the easier-to-use map, but suffice it to say everything has been improved and it's a major upgrade. The controls are snappy, weapons have punch and each enemy encounter is thrilling as a result. If you're playing the game on PlayStation 5 you'll also benefit from the excellent implementation of the DualSense features such as 'feeling' the rumble of your feet as you run or the weighty blast of a one-shot kill from the end of your shotgun or magnum.

Liked: Character and Lore Changes

To avoid spoilers, I'm going to have to heavily restrict what I want to say about the many character and story changes in the Resident Evil 4 Remake. But the bottom line is this is almost a completely new story given the extensive alterations in how events play out, including large dialogue changes. Hardcore Resident Evil fans will surely be discussing the numerous changes for years to come, and I'm sure many will say the sequel's sequence of events is better while many others will say nothing tops the original. But no matter which camp you ultimately land on, it's hard to deny how amazing this new story is.

The best part about the remixed story is while you may know what mission comes next, you'll also be on edge not knowing who will join you on the mission—or who will unexpectantly show up next. This constant sense of wonder made this a delightful story to experience, even if I ultimately expected how it would end.

One character that I can touch upon is the Merchant and I'm happy to report the new voice actor plays his role extremely well. The Merchant is as funny as ever with all-new one-liners and jokes that never fail to make me laugh. Plus it's great to see that the Merchant has so many side mission quests this time around, including shooting blue medallions that are much more plentiful in this iteration. That's about all I can say on the character and story front, but do expect to be surprised in many new and exciting ways over the game's 20-hour adventure.

Liked: Remixed Boss Battles

This is another area where I need to rein in what I want to say to avoid spoilers but let me just say this: Wow are these reimagined boss fights awesome. Capcom has changed nearly everything about certain bosses, including where you fight them, the layout of the battle arena, who is fighting alongside you and even the sequence of events. If you've played the original game you'll know which boss is coming next, but when you discover the boss isn't where you expect, you then get the sinking feeling of where could they be? And then just as awesome, when you finally meet the boss you'll wonder how the battle will play out and what changes have been made.

This sense of being new yet familiar carries through the entire campaign and gives the Resident Evil 4 remake such a feeling of freshness. The amount of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking put into this remake is truly impressive and really does set a new high bar that other 'reimagining' game projects should strive to meet. Capcom absolutely nailed reenvisioning this classic title, giving gamers a nostalgic trip that feels intimately familiar yet totally fresh at the same time. It's such a huge accomplishment.

Didn't Like: Missing Content

While the vast majority of content from the original Resident Evil 4 made it into this game (plus a ton of new content), it is a bit disappointing to see that some choice content has been cut, including one of my favourite boss battles. I don't think the story suffers too much because of the lost content; plainly put the RE4 remake campaign is awesome end-to-end. Still, it's hard not to think the story could have been even more epic if the handful of cut sections were brought into this modern adventure.

It's also a downer that Separate Ways and Assignment: Ada are nowhere to be found, but hopefully, they arrive later as DLC. The Mercenaries is also missing at launch but has been confirmed to be a free download at some point down the road. On the bright side, New Game Plus is available from launch and beating the game unlocks Professional Mode, the hardest mode where enemies deal more damage and are more aggressive. Resident Evil 4 is a highly replayable game since you can unlock new weapons and your existing weapons' special perks, plus there are dozens of challenges to complete netting you currency to buy new costumes, artwork or character models. If you're a completionist it'll likely take you at minimum three playthroughs to grab that coveted platinum trophy.

The Verdict

The Resident Evil 4 remake is a phenomenal experience that simply has to be played by everyone that has a PlayStation, Xbox or PC. Quality is through the roof, whether it's the snappy gameplay, gorgeous graphics, smartly remixed campaign or the many quality-of-life improvements. The game sits next to the original RE4 as the two greatest entries of this storied franchise. 2023's first masterpiece has officially arrived.

Final Score: 10/10 - Masterpiece

Resident Evil 4 Remake details

Platform: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Survival Horror
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

A key was provided by the publisher.