After the successful remakes of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 Nemesis, it is now the turn of the game in the series that managed to shake up the genre considerably in 2005. This was done at the time by moving from the isometric perspective to an over-the-shoulder camera in Third Person. Resident Evil 4 made many a gamer’s heart beat faster at the time, and after its original release on the GameCube, the title was ported to virtually every other console in existence. With RE4 Remake, the game has now been completely rebuilt in Capcom’s RE Engine. In addition to contemporary graphics, the game has also deepened the story in several areas. But the question, of course, is whether people who have already played the original can discover new things here and whether newcomers can easily pick up the game.
Blueprint for the series
The original Resident Evil 4 on the GameCube managed to revamp the gameplay of the Resident Evil series to such an extent that the series has actually mostly stuck to the blueprint laid down at the time ever since. Although many players of the series often see Resident Evil 5 as the turning point where the Resident Evil games made a switch from horror to action, Resident Evil 4 has been of much greater impact for the series. Gone were the chests you could store items in, something still found in the remakes of RE2 and RE3. Gone were the fixed selection of weapons that could hardly be upgraded. And gone was Umbrella’s big pharmaceutical company as the big bad guy. Not really, of course, but that certainly seemed to be the case at first glance.
What Resident Evil 4 introduced to the genre was, first of all, an extensive selection of weapons that you could upgrade through collected treasure and money. In addition, the fact that you could explore multiple large areas that were filled with hidden items such as gems, medals and often rewarded you with new upgrades to your arsenal was also a fine innovation. The good news about this remake is that those aspects once again prevail.
Gameplay has deepened a bit more in comparison to the original, as you can now move while shooting. In the original you could aim at specific body parts, but at the time you could only do so from a stationary position. In that regard, it is of course an excellent thing that the earlier remakes have already taken that game concept up a notch. In addition to the regular firearms attacks, you can also use your trusty knife in several ways. By deploying your knife at the right time, you can parry opponents’ attacks and launch a counterattack. Of course, using your knife does impact the quality of your blade. Fortunately, you can get a knife repaired at several vendors in the game, so it certainly doesn’t have to stop you from frequent use. It also happens that enemies grab you and then you have to use your knife to escape, so in addition to your firearms, you certainly shouldn’t underestimate the value of your stabbing weapon.
Gruesome graphics update
The graphical upgrade RE4 has received with this remake is atrociously well done. Capcom’s RE Engine has managed to deliver several graphical gems in the past in the likes of Devil May Cry 5 and RE 2 and 3, but the rancid locations you visit are smeared with mud, blood, entrails and other rancor that in many cases you would prefer to leave behind as soon as possible. Because the world is truly crammed with valuable items, you will often be distracted from the main story. Scattered throughout the world of RE4 you will also regularly find blue posters that give you extra missions. These include shooting blue medals hanging around a specific area, selling slain snakes, selling fish and killing specific opponents. Each of those completed missions earns you a number of gems that you can exchange at a vendor for new items and maps showing bent treasure. Sometimes you will also find small keys that you have to use to open locked drawers in cupboards. So it definitely pays to take your time and not want to rush through the story too quickly.
That story, by the way, revolves around finding Ashley Graham, the daughter of the president of America. When hero Leon S. Kennedy finds her, you will be able to control her at several points in the story to open certain doors for you. Guiding Ashley through dangerous areas can be done in two ways. By pressing the right stick, you can instruct her to stay at a distance or to stay close to you. Personally, I liked her AI a lot better than in the original because I had to look back at her much less often. This is also due to the fact that Ashley no longer has an energy bar, but when she takes too much damage she falls to the ground and you have to help her back up. It doesn’t mean you can’t go game over in such cases, because the many enemies in your path can pick her up in such cases and kidnap her until she eventually gets out of your reach.
Few gameplay changes
In terms of gameplay, not too much has changed besides the above examples. You will still visit multiple locations that are interconnected just like a game like Metroid. New keys and items regularly give you a reason to revisit previous areas, but generally Leon does not learn any new skills that give him access to new pieces. And while the story is fairly linear, thankfully you will find additional missions on your path that stretch the playtime considerably. I finished my first full playthrough after sixteen hours. That was on the normal difficulty and with completing most of the challenges the game presents you with.
Of course, you can play the game on higher difficulty levels and score better ratings at the end, but it’s worth noting that much content that was in the PS2 version, for example, is not found here. An additional mission with Ada as well as the Mercenaries mode is missing at the time of writing. In addition, of course, the recently announced PSVR2 version of Resident Evil 4 is not yet available. Fortunately, there are a huge mountain of ingame challenges to complete to earn extra points. You can then use these points in the Tools menu to unlock concept art, new weapons, costumes and other fun extra options. Many of these challenges you will be able to complete naturally as you play, but some assignments are quite specific so it pays to read through them before starting your adventure. Then you’ll know a little better what to look out for.
Resident Evil 4 Remake has turned out to be an excellent game. The gameplay fits perfectly with the RE2 and RE3 remakes and graphically the whole series has now become a lot more uniform. It also makes me curious to see how Capcom will take the series from here on out because the success of Resident Evil Village, the recent remakes AND the VR versions means that the series can really go in any direction. That said, the fantastic remakes of 2, 3 and now 4 have ensured that Resident Evil is back to its highest level.