In 2005 Capcom released Resident Evil 4, and blew everyone’s minds. The stationary cameras and rigid aiming of previous Resident Evil games were gone, replaced by over-the-shoulder gunplay that was revolutionary at the time. Still, eighteen years later it’s fair to say that this classic survival horror game was starting to show its age. Thankfully the wait is over and Resident Evil 4 Remake is here, so grab your shotgun and your combat knife and get ready to fight some nasties.
In case you missed it the first time around, Resident Evil 4 tells the story of everyone’s favourite floppy-haired hero Leon Kennedy after surviving the Racoon City incident. Now a full-fledged government agent, he’s tasked with rescuing the president’s daughter in rural Spain. When he gets there, the village she was last spotted in is jam-packed with members of a cult called Los Iluminados. Infected with a sinister parasite, these unfriendly folks are determined to deal with Leon and use the kidnapped Ashley to further their devious plans.
Although not technically zombies, the residents of the village aren’t too far removed from the horror monsters the series is famous for. They certainly have a one-track mind when it comes to killing Leon, which means you’ll need to start popping heads pronto. The over-the-shoulder shooting is as satisfying as ever, but this isn’t the same old combat you enjoyed eighteen years ago.
The biggest upgrades are melee based. Enemies could be stunned in the original game with a few cheeky headshots which could be followed up with a kick, which is still true, and you can shoot them in the legs to knock them to their knees for an additional up close opening. Your combat knife has had a big overhaul too, with the ridiculously satisfying ability to parry almost any incoming attack, finish off tougher foes on the ground, and even initiate stealth kills. You’ll need to keep an eye on its durability though (or at least gather a selection of blades) to use these helpful abilities.
Outside of the knives, there’s a whole host of weapons to collect and upgrade to deal with the bug cult. All your favourite pistols, shotguns, and rifles are back again, and finding a gun you love and upgrading it into a serious powerhouse is incredibly satisfying. Switching up your arsenal is important, though, be it for sniping villagers with crossbows from a distance, or keeping a crowd at bay with an Uzi.
Surviving hordes of the semi-undead isn’t easy, especially when they’ve got mutant bugs living inside them. The variety of enemies is really impressive in Resident Evil 4 Remake, with baddies ranging from farmers wielding axes, to suits of armour packed full of tentacles. Whereas some enemies are over the top and slightly silly, there are some genuinely horrific monsters waiting for you in the depths of this game. One in particular actively caused me to scream when I first encountered it, so look forward to that.
If you’re going to defeat the evil lurking around every corner you’ll have to keep your inventory well-stocked. Fortunately, the iconic merchant returns with his wares, and his new voice and deeper character make him a wonderful part of the game. There are a few major characters who feel really different this time around, like the president’s daughter herself Ashley who’s really bubbly and likable. You see and hear much more from a lot of those fan favourites, especially as the story has had a shuffle and more narrative has been added to the remake.
Our friend the merchant does more than just sell and upgrade weapons now. He also gives you requests to complete like the blue medallion hunting you might remember, as well as asking for specific items like chicken eggs you can find in the world. For completing these requests you’ll be rewarded with Spinels that you can exchange for a variety of items from guns to new attaché cases at his store. There are some really interesting side quests throughout the story, which often require you to do some backtracking and deal with some tricky situations.
Especially on tougher difficulties, taking advantage of some of the new small perks on offer is really important. You can buy and earn different coloured inventory cases that change the drop rates of items to suit your style, and can also obtain adorable little charms to add to it for crafting bonuses and other handy buffs.
I needed every bit of help I could get to make it through the sections of the game which require you to survive waves of nasty cult heads. Compared to the GameCube classic the sheer amount of enemies is wild (in large part thanks to how helpful the parry mechanic is) and makes every one of these sequences pretty darn challenging and a whole lot of fun.
Perhaps the thing I like most about Resident Evil 4 Remake is just how tense the entire game is. You’ll finish one ridiculously high-octane sequence against a new enemy or a massive boss, only to be expected to take on dozens of basic enemies surrounded by traps moments later. The difficulty feels just right on Standard mode too, with enough healing items and bullets to manage what’s thrown at you but plenty of ways to die along the way.
Some of the only times you’ll get a chance to breathe in the game come in the form of the cutscenes, which are as campy and delightful as ever. Leon himself is a factory of one-liners, saying some of the dumbest things you could possibly imagine to massive murderous mutants. The story of Resident Evil 4 encapsulates everything I love about the series’ narrative, and does so without overloading you with ridiculous lore about various viruses.
Playing Resident Evil 4 Remake on the PS5 was a wonderful experience for a whole host of reasons. The load times are lightning fast, the visuals are stunning (especially the weather effects and lighting), and the haptics and other DualSense features are probably the best since Astro’s Playroom. The rumbling as you ride a motorboat over water and the clicking of a reloading pistol coming from the controller brings the game to life, the immersion is truly impressive.
One aspect of Resident Evil 4 that kept fans playing the game for a lot longer were all the extra features that unlocked after completing the game. The remake does include the new game plus at launch, but you’ll have to wait for a post-launch update to get stuck into the Mercenaries mode and all the arcade fun it provides. My first playthrough of the game clocked in at over 17 hours though, and with plenty of difficulty options, challenges, and collectibles to scour the world for it’s hard to feel short-changed.
If I really had to find something to complain about in Resident Evil 4 Remake, I’d have to mention a couple of sections of the game that are a little underwhelming. In particular, there’s a moment involving catapults in the castle that was shown in recent trailers, which features a whole lot of frustrating fireballs that are a pain to dodge. It’s an incredibly small portion of the game though, and one I ended up enjoying more once I knew what to expect from it.
Resident Evil 4 Remake has done the impossible and made arguably the best game in the series significantly better. All we really needed to was for the remake to tighten up the controls and update the visuals, but instead Capcom added a whole host of new mechanics, made every boss fight significantly more epic, and fleshed out a lot of beloved characters with an improved story and tons more voice lines. Resident Evil 4 Remake is simply the best video game remake I’ve ever played, and might just mean that 2005 and 2023 share the same Game of the Year.
Loads of new, fresh mechanics and ideas
The DualSense features are some of the best ever
A couple of sections can be a little frustrating