“Stranger! Stranger! I’ll buy it at a high price…”

Following a hype train like no other, the long-anticipated remake for Capcom’s beloved: Resident Evil 4 is finally here, seventeen years after the release of the original. When RE4 released in 2005, it shook the classic RE formula up in favour of action-horror, which would set the trend for the franchise for the next two instalments. Featuring a more grounded narrative with a keen emphasis on atmosphere this time around, Resident Evil 4 is more harrowing than ever before, opting for a more horror-focused experience whilst still retaining the core identity of the original. Having released for all major platforms on 24th March 2023, I’ll be covering my time spent with the game since launch; detailing the good, deconstructing the bad, whilst ultimately discussing whether the game is worth the £54.99 asking price.

(UK PSN Store – £64.99 for the deluxe edition).

If I’ve made one thing clear in my years writing for Game Hype, it’s that I’ve had a very up and down relationship with the Resident Evil franchise. I used to pine for the days of the OG trilogy; B-movie horror corniness, tank controls and fixed camera angles were the foundations of my childhood, and when Resident Evil 4 came knocking in 2005, all of the recognisable tropes of the franchise was turned on its head. Before I continue, I should clarify that I absolutely adored RE4 at launch, but later began to loathe it for being the catalyst of the franchises’ direction into generic action games (action-horror at a stretch) with the subsequent releases of Resident Evil 5 and 6. Thankfully Capcom was able to see the light and brought the franchise back to its roots with the release of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (or Biohazard 7: Resident Evil if you reside within Japan) and has been riding the high ever since, with Resident Evil Village and the stellar remake for Resident Evil 2, only letting themselves down somewhat with the outsourced remake for Resident Evil 3 (my reviews/thoughts on these three titles can be found here, here and here). Naturally I assumed that the remake treatment would be afforded to Resident Evil: Code Veronica X next, but Capcom has instead opted for a remake of Resident Evil 4, which is arguably one of the franchise’s most popular entries.

The narrative for Resident Evil 4 is one that certainly doesn’t need an introduction, as the core story remains largely intact from the original game. Following the events of Racoon City in 1998, Leon S. Kennedy was headhunted for a top-secret military task force under direct supervision from the President of the United States; the training and missions hardened him into one of the programme’s top agents, despite the horrors of Raccoon City haunting his every move. Fast-forward 6 years later, Leon is tasked with the rescue of the daughter of the president: Ashley Graham, who has been kidnapped by mysterious forces and taken to a remote area of rural Spain. Upon arrival, it becomes quickly apparent that Leon’s demons aren’t far behind him, as the residents of the local populace are induced with a homicidal rage, under control by a cult known as Los Iluminados, and their mysterious leader known only as Lord Saddler. Following the rescue of Baby Eagle, what follows is a breakneck paced rush for survival for Leon and Ashley against a formidable force that also resides in their very veins, without a clue for the horrors that lay in wait for them. As aforementioned, the core narrative remains mostly untouched from the original game, albeit losing its b-movie corniness in favour of a more grounded and atmospheric experience (the game still has its goofy moments) closer in scope to the original vision of RE4, dubbed RE 3.5 which had more of an emphasis on atmosphere and horror (early footage of the build can be seen here). The game’s characters have also been fleshed out significantly, with Luis being the most obvious in getting more screen time and a meatier presence throughout, albeit at a loss of some of his classic phrases (no ballistics to be commented on this time around).

Game Hype - Resident Evil 4

Unwavering Devotion: Resident Evil 4 has traded in the b-movie goof in favour of a more grounded experience steeped in atmosphere and horror this time around.

When the original game launched in 2005, Resident Evil 4 was a move into action-horror that I (and many others) began to loathe, especially with the iterations that followed; the remake on the other hand has gone back to the drawing board in regards to the OG formula, opting for a deep injection of horror elements whilst retaining the soul of the original experience. For starters are the changes to the games pacing and environment design, which are close in scope to that of 2021’s Resident Evil: Village. Resident Evil 4 offers both open-ended sections alongside tight claustrophobic interiors that keep the experience both simultaneously familiar and fresh in both the eyes of returning and new fans alike. One of the biggest changes (aside from the initial segments of the village) the vast majority of the game now takes place at night, allowing the game’s stellar lighting and eerie ambient soundscape to get to work in creating an atmosphere that the series is known for. At its core, Resident Evil 4 is arguably still more action heavy than its predecessors, but these sections are nicely segmented up with areas that bring the pacing and atmosphere back in line with the likes of the RE2 remake. The crowning section that doubles down on the horror is by far the second act, which takes place in Salazar Castle (squeaky midget Napoleon returns for the remake, albeit looking like Peggy Mitchell somewhat). One particular segment that I was a massive fan of, was the section where you play as Ashley, which throws her into an oppressively dark, claustrophobic game of cat and mouse with emphasis on non-lethal means of defence (akin to the likes of Alien: Isolation); whilst brief, the section definitely highlighted the work that Capcom has put into the remake to ground it in horror this time around, keeping the original creative direction alive, whilst bringing it in line with the spirit on the franchise. In addition, encounters with some of the OG game’s more memorable enemies (namely the Verdugo and Regeneradores) have had their sections ramped up x1000 for the remake; taking the time to let you know what’s coming, but also not being afraid to use the environment to let you know something is stalking you in the darkness. The Regeneradores are by far one of the most terrifying creatures in the franchise, and despite looking like they’ve been on the Atkins diet a bit too long, they absolutely do not disappoint in the horror department (It’s been a long time since my mouth dried up and my heart started racing in a video game).

Fanboying about the horror aspects aside, the entirety of Resident Evil 4 has been revamped to bring the gameplay systems up to the modern standard. For starters, the signature OTS perspective remains intact, with familiar systems in place from both the RE2 and RE3 remakes. Gunplay feels more fluid and weightier than ever before, made all the punchier by the PS5’s Dualsense controller and its excellent haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, which simulate trigger pull for the various weapons perfectly. In addition is the amount of gore that’s been added; the original was a bloody game, but the variation of tissue damage and dismemberment on the table this time around is impressive (using the riot gun to blast a Ganado in half at the waist, with guts flying everywhere never gets old). In addition to the stellar gunplay is the game’s new stealth and parry system, which sees the return of knife degradation from RE2 (Leon still has the knife that Marvin Branagh gave him in 1998, despite me burying it in a zombie’s skull very early on in RE2). The inclusion of stealth kills is something that both adds tactics and tension to the game, allowing you to silently take down villagers without alerting the general populace, giving you time to survey the area, before you go in all guns blazing. Leon can now parry most melee attacks in the game if timed correctly, offering another layer of risk vs. reward (although it does get a bit silly when Leon is able to parry a chainsaw without breaking a sweat). The game itself is broken up into three sections: the village, castle and island, with a first run through being somewhat longer than the original (my first playthrough was 18.5 hours). Fan-favourite features such as the attaché case (with a new excellent auto-sort button) and the merchant make a return, as well as the shooting gallery and subsequent rewards it offers (no spoilers here matey). In addition, there are also a number of side quests present that reward you with Spinels (basic treasure from the OG game) which can be traded for certain items, such as weapon mods and different cases that offer various benefits (e.g. the red leather case increases the drop rate of red herbs).

Game Hype - Resident Evil 4

I’ll give you S.T.A.R.S: The Regeneradores are by far one of the franchise’s scariest creatures, and they absolutely do not disappoint on the horror front in the RE4 remake.

From a performance perspective, Resident Evil 4 runs like an absolute dream on the PlayStation 5, truly showcasing the power of the RE Engine in all it’s glory. HDR is can be calibrated to perfection with deep blacks and colour-correct vibrancy (obviously dependant on your display options too) and there are the usual settings between performance and fidelity. The beauty of playing on the PlayStation 5 however means you don’t need to worry about these options, as playing in Fidelity mode with Ray-Tracing and Hair FX (more realistic looking hair) turned on still performs at a near-perfect 60fps at native 4K (3840x2160p) making the game an absolute dream to play. In terms of replay value, RE4 offers the usual cheese board of activities, through additional difficulties and in-game challenges which unlock various items and weapons for performing certain feats in game, so there is enough to keep you going far beyond your first playthrough. In addition (and making it into this review as I’ve been plagued with Laptop issues, causing a delay in getting this review out) is the Mercenaries mode, which released on April 7th as a free DLC. The mode retains the core identity of how it played in the original, opting for Leon, Luis, Krauser and Hunk (all more OP than the last) in place of Ada and Wesker (DLC maybe?) in an effort to get as many kills and combos to attain the highest score possible. Getting an S rank on all three stages will unlock the Handcannon, a beast of a revolver returning from the original game. Whilst it’s nice to see the Mercenaries return (it’s a series staple at this point) I was a bit disappointed at how easy it was to get an S rank, as doing so in the OG game was a genuine achievement, which I was able to do this time round in the space of 20 minutes without breaking a sweat. For the climbers out there is the inclusion of an online leaderboard, which allows you to register your score with the aim of getting close to the top (I maxed out at 480k-ish with Hunk, with the top players easily hitting over 1.5mil). In addition, the Separate Ways campaign is absent this time around, but may be coming soon as DLC if the leaks are to be believed (although take it with a pinch of salt until confirmed directly from Capcom).

Overall, Resident Evil 4 is once again a crowning achievement for Capcom, showcasing the love they have for one of their biggest franchises and solidifying their place as the king of survival horror. I can’t recommend Resident Evil 4 enough, and that’s coming from someone who was jaded on the original game; the attention to preserving the original experience whilst not being afraid to take some creative risks has paid off in dividends for Capcom, and is an essential experience for any horror fans out there. Without giving too much away, it’s clear where the franchise is heading next (post credits scenes are always sequel bait) but with Capcom’s track record in recent years, I’m confident that whatever comes next will continue to be both a critical and commercial success; just be sure to keep it in house and don’t outsource like you did with Resident Evil 3.

A PlayStation 5 review code was provided by Capcom Europe.

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