Ahead of its original release in 2005, Capcom was refreshingly – and publicly – clear about its intentions Resident evil 4. With the classic top-down formula that made the series thriving in the 90s obsolete, this sequel was meant to be a complete reimagining of the survival horror concept. Something fresh. Dynamic. Exciting. The board was completely wiped clean, and out of that blank canvas came something exceptional. A game that changed not only the franchise, but also the third-person game action games in general.

For eighteen tumultuous years, Capcom struggled to top the success of Resident Evil 4. The fifth and sixth entries doubled down on the action to mixed results, while the seventh and eighth focused on first-person scares. Meanwhile, 2019 Resident evil 2 The remake looked to the past for inspiration, delivering a masterful remastered version that combined responsive third-person combat with the refined production values ​​of more modern titles in the series. But with the release of the Resident Evil 4 remake, Resident Evil has finally come full circle. While the original release was a throwback to the previous games, this remake is instead a celebration of where the series went next. Action-focused combat. Photorealistic environment. Sticky monsters, funny characters, funny storylines. What better way to remake the pinnacle of the series than to build it around the games it inspired? Resident Evil 4 is a whirlwind thrill ride that’s just as good—if not, dare I say it, a little better—than the original game.

Six years after the events of Raccoon City, government agent and lover of cute jackets, Leon S. Kennedy, is sent to the Spanish countryside to investigate the disappearance of the president’s daughter, Ashley Graham. Cursed to never have a day at the office that doesn’t add another decade to his time in treatment, Leon quickly discovers that the local population is infected with a parasite run by a sinister cult that causes their bowels to churn. With Ashley in danger, Leon must fight off mobs of violent locals to make sure she gets home safely.

Resi 4 is extremely stupid. Dumbest in the franchise that says something. Kapom made no attempt to ground Leon’s Spanish adventure with realism, opting instead to revel in its absurdity with the awe that only comes from re-watching something so well-loved. Leon is a handsome fool who responds to unfathomable horror with a quick wit and a flick of his flawless bangs. Both the enigmatic cult leader Osmund Saddler and the Thatcher impersonator Ramon Salazar have the same stage presence as pantomime villains, albeit ones that might at any moment explode into a slithering ball of slime-covered tentacles, injuring a bunch of kids in the process.

A desolate European village is being destroyed in Resident Evil 4
An early fight in a dilapidated village is every bit as good here as it was in the original, and serves as both a guide for what’s to come and a heavy blow against the seemingly endless waves of very angry middle-aged farmers.

Balancing it all is Ashley, a drop of sincerity in an ocean of weirdness. This Ashley is a far cry from her interpretation in the original game, kind, competent and likable. It stumbles upon old tropes once or twice, but mostly it’s a reliable hook for the game to cling to as it wildly wobbles in a dozen nonsensical directions.

With a tone that soars above the clouds, the battle is firmly anchored on the ground. Resident Evil 4 has an amazing sense of gunplay weight. Leon is not necessarily slow, but he is definitely not fast in the draw. Its scope drags a bit when you position your weapon. A slight wobble in his position can cause a precious orb to fly over the head of an approaching villager. The blows hit hard. He is viscous and moves like a human capable of causing damage.

Enemies, on the contrary, do not have such disadvantages. They are fast. Dangerously. They pounce on you the moment you enter their domain, eyes wide and arms outstretched. They are a flurry of flesh and steel, ax blows, lunges and fists. Combat is frantic and intense, an exercise in crowd control as you desperately try to prioritize the most immediate threat to ensure your continued survival. More intelligent than the undead enemies from previous games, these Ganados are smarter and more capable than before. They will cut you off. Turn away from the barrel of the weapon. They are a formidable and exciting challenge to overcome, even on the game’s default difficulty.

Blades, bolts and even chainsaws can now be parried with your knife, with a perfectly timed deflection, leaving space for the next melee attack to push the crowd back for a moment of brief respite. But be careful: parry too often (or use it to finish off downed enemies before they become a stronger, dribbler, parasite-infested monster) and your knife will break, leaving you open to those close range attacks. There is an intoxicating ebb and flow to combat. Rhythm. Shot in the face. A further blow. A shotgun blast knocks the group back. An invading sickle flies from the flash of your knife. Pitchforks dig into your back. You keep fighting. Blood. metal. Skin. bone. It’s visceral. This is brilliant.

Headshots are the most effective way to take down an enemy, but it risks exposing the parasite monster hiding in their skulls. Plagas add an extra wrinkle to the fight, forcing you to keep your distance if you want to avoid a situation like this.

Fortunately, the sections involving Ashley’s escort have been changed to accommodate this rising tension. Ash no longer has her own health bar, and while she may be incapacitated, she can be brought back to her feet with a simple press of a button. Her behavior has also improved significantly. Instead of asking her to wait, Leon can now ask her to “give him space”, which forces her to run to safety and out of reach of enemies who want to kidnap her.

Interestingly, this is only a small evolution of the combat presented in the remake of Resident Evil 2. It is immediately familiar. Leon’s weight. Heavy Power. It’s a system that was originally designed for shooting smaller numbers of slower moving enemies, but works surprisingly well for the more dynamic groups of Resi 4. It’s really exciting to feel that pedigree in every trigger pull and kick to the teeth. After all, Resi 2 adapted Resi 6’s combat to work in the claustrophobic corridors of the RPD, while Resi 6 did the same to the original Resi 4 to make it feel more fluid and cinematic. This remake feels different then, but it’s much richer and more organic thanks to the previous eighteen years of refinement leading up to this point.

Other than that, it’s an incredibly beautiful remake. It probably goes without saying given the RE Engine’s reputation, but this game is particularly good. Resident Evil has quietly become the industry leader when it comes to vividly rendered weathered rural villages and lavish European castles, to the point where you have to wonder if all that work was in preparation for this exact use case. Soggy dirt pollutes the ground of a quietly smoldering village square. Cave systems drip with drops of moisture. There is a palpable coldness in the empty halls of the castle. All of this is enhanced by a lighting system that softens everything, adding warmth to a world that doesn’t necessarily deserve it.

A group of angry, weathered men rush towards the camera
Tell you what, Resident Evil 4 has some decent grumpy old faces. Weathering. filtered Covered with fine facial hair and deep wrinkles. They look great.

It’s just a pity that some areas are not so zero. Rain is particularly terrible, its strongest form drowning the screen in thick white patches that can politely be described as “Bad-GTA-Remaster-Like“. And while the RE Engine is usually capable of producing exceptional looking faces, Leon in particular looks plasticky and empty in a way that his counterparts don’t. It is very strange.

But of course, for the returning players, the biggest questions are about similarities. As a remake, Resident Evil 4 proves once again that Capcom understands the balance between old and new better than anyone else. Every major set piece you remember from the original game is here polished to a shine and, if not reimagined in some way, recreated exactly as it was before. But the fragments in between are more fascinating. When playing Resi 4, you can imagine designers in their offices writing down moments from the original on slips of paper and having great fun mixing up their order and filling in the gaps with a new sense of excitement. It’s a more cohesive adventure, less linear than the original, and has a stronger sense of place than I expected.

There is one glaring omission, but by the time I got to this point I suspected it would still feel unnecessary given how much has been added elsewhere in the game. There is basically no bloat here. It’s flawlessly paced—even better than the original, and I know that’s no small claim—throwing players from one exciting part to the next at breakneck speed. The addition of side quests provide a little respite from the rollercoaster of the main story, but aside from giving you a reason to linger in familiar places, they’re mostly a wasted effort.

A young woman is sitting in a dirty place
Fortunately, the computer port is indestructible. My time with the game was smooth and stutter-free, which is rare when it comes to AAA games on PC this year. The game ran without lag, and the large number of video options should hopefully make the setup less difficult for those playing on slightly older systems.

Kindness. Then how exciting this game is. A luxurious remake, in turn, at the same time a complete rethinking and conscientious modernization. The scale of Capcom’s achievements here is impressive. It’s almost as if the team responsible were well aware of the mammoth task they set themselves in remaking a beloved game like Resident Evil 4.

And it turns out that the only way to do that is to create something separate. Something unique. A remake that reinterprets the source material with the same artistic license as the previous Resident Evil 2 remake, even if the 2005 release was more complete in terms of combat, visuals and scale than the PS1 game its predecessor sought to recreate. It’s very much the Resident Evil 4 that would exist if it were first released today, a game that comfortably exists among its siblings like the original game just doesn’t exist. Silly, bold and daring – sure – but not ashamed of his past and happily reveling in its inspirations. He is of course aware that this is a restored tread and will occasionally wink at the player in a way that is fine with me, but he chooses to be himself.

It works. This is not a replacement for the original game. Far from it. In my opinion, it takes up as much space as its (exclusive) VR version. A retelling of the classics, created on its own terms. A great action movie, big, cunning and brilliant. When asked what my favorite development game of all time is, I’ll answer the same, only richer and more complex as a result of this wonderful remake. Resident Evil 4, I will say, and whatever interpretation they come up with will be perfectly correct.