Most franchises have one title that stands above the rest. The most notable example of this is Final Fantasy VII, though it also applies to Metal Gear Solid 3, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and many more. Many players consider Resident Evil 4 to be that title, with some even considering it the best survival horror game out there. This praise is well-founded, as it had an undeniable impact on the genre as a whole. While the Resident Evil 4 remake sounds like a wonderful idea; players are understandably apprehensive. Capcom was successful with Resident Evil 2 remake, though plenty thought they dropped the ball with Resident Evil 3 remake. With these concerns, and the amazing framework, is Resident Evil 4 remake a modern take on a masterpiece, or a masterclass in what not to do?
For those unfamiliar with Resident Evil 4, the narrative is an interesting take on some common tropes. Leon is sent to Spain to find the president’s daughter, who was abducted by a cult. Said cult is growing in the area, using mind-controlling parasites to control various people. Their ultimate plan is to keep spreading said parasites to take over the world. This adventure also takes place during some of the peak of the franchise, so familiar characters like Albert Wesker are still around.
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Despite being a fairly generic story, Resident Evil 4 does a lot with the situation. Since you’re largely learning about the situation along with Leon and his team, key events have a lot of intrigues. Why is the town like this? What is the significance of certain events? Even seeing the injection at the end of chapter one leaves you wanting more. The only real downside is you’ll find yourself so engrossed that it’s hard to put down.
Another thing that helps is how satisfying this feels as a survival horror experience. Instead of having a ton of resources, or more action-oriented combat, players are rewarded for tactical performance. Ammo is in that sweet spot where it’s enough, but not so much that you can blindly fire it. Instead, Resident Evil 4 wants players to plan two or three moves in advance. Instead of going for a couple of quick body shots, it’s often better to hit their head and then follow up with a powerful melee attack. Or if you’re feeling daring, a quick parry or two can be used to create an opening, minimizing your resource drain.
What helps a lot is everything has an opportunity cost. Knives will break, ammo is scarce, and you’ll need to make every health item count. This prevents players from relying on any specific tactic. Often times success comes down to using the battlefield to your advantage, while also choosing tactics that maximize efficiency. A stunned melee can hit multiple foes, parry can minimize risk, and well-timed shots can be used to stun enemies for a bit.
This style of play also rewards exploration. You’ll want to find every health, ammo, or weapon hidden throughout the world. Even if you don’t need them at the moment, it’s always better to have them when things take an unexpected turn. On more than one occasion a powerful enemy will break the routine making it extremely easy to lose.
While the core concepts help a lot, Resident Evil 4 stands out by being the full package. Levels have a lot of interesting elements hidden throughout. Maybe it’s a church you want to explore, livestock that isn’t quite alive anymore, to even locations you’ll genuinely want to explore. But, for me, what stood out the most was sound.
Unlike a lot of games, Resident Evil 4 tries to leave you with a sense of dread. Even if there is chatter to your side, that doesn’t actually mean there are enemies in that location. Instead, it will persist until all hostiles are defeated. It’s a small touch that works in this specific genre. Especially when that remaining foe appears out of seemingly nowhere to force you into a fight.
All this being said, some players might be put off by the often-dated style of play. Resident Evil 4 retains a lot of the original mechanics, some of which are good and others a bit cumbersome. This is things like having to go into your case to use health items. There are also some modern touches that some players might not like. Having the map show where everything is can be invaluable, even if some people like being rewarded for remembering. Especially when the map will also highlight resources you found, but didn’t collect.
Gameplay is also a weird mixture of slow and fast combat. Aiming, enemy attacks, along with their hostility are very slow. However, enemies will often come in hoards, with even a single mistake potentially resulting in your death. It is simply not a run-and-gun game like Resident Evil 5 was, nor does it relent in some of these concepts. It takes a level-headed approach to be successful.
Resident Evil 4 Remake Review Verdict
Resident Evil 4 remake is a worthy revisit to the beloved experience. Some of the modern details, including HDR, a stronger emphasis on sound, and graphic quality help modernize this classic. In addition to this, gameplay captures the best of the survival horror genre. These elements make it an easy choice for just about any gamer, especially those who wanted to experience a title that has remained beloved for years.
[Editor’s Note: Resident Evil 4 remake was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]