Unlike other forms of art, excellence in games is fleeting and subject to aging. No one would dare to suggest an improvement on Mozart Eine Kleine Nachtmusikor Michelangelo’s Pieta; The very idea of remaking Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea would be heretical, wouldn’t it? What about legendary games? The general consensus is that Resident Evil 4 is the gaming equivalent of Pulp Fiction, Tarantino’s genre-defining/defying cinematic masterpiece. RE4 introduced so many new ideas and systems that it almost single-handedly drove trends in game development. And yet, in 2023, the original game and its subsequent HD remasters seem to be a thing of the past. Even the most devoted fans have to admit that.
Capcom, which has never shied away from a challenge, decided to walk the tightrope and completely remake the beloved original. Resident Evil 4 (2023) follows the principle implemented in the 2019 remake of Resident Evil 2, stepping further into the realm of complete transformation. Capcom has reimagined a much bigger and more impressive game with titanic skill, vision and effort. This remake is possibly the best remake of any game.
Banal, terrible and exciting, as always
For long-time fans, one of the most important improvements will be a broad overhaul of most of the characters. Leon S. Kennedy, Ashley Graham, Luis Serra and others have deepened and strengthened their roles in several important areas. Their motivations are better explored and the emotional baggage they carry seems more meaningful. The overall plot is still pure corny fiction with horrible overtones, but things feel so much more… would I be wrong to say “real”? It definitely feels more cinematic, thanks in part to the new engine and the masterful handling of each scene. As Resident Evil 4 is not only the best, but also the most extensive game in the series, the amount of work required to remaster each scene was probably staggering.
Resident Evil 4 was built on the RE engine, the same engine used in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and all Resident Evil titles since, as well as Devil May Cry 5 and Street Fighter 6. It allowed unlimited manipulation of the original RE4 chapters and resources . Some areas are expanded and reimagined, while some remain as you remember them, or at least feel them. While playing the remake on the PlayStation 5, I ran the HD version on the Switch, which I had plenty of saves for. The initial location of the village and the path leading to it, for example, are slightly different. The trail is shorter and the village is a little bigger. Almost every section has been cleverly updated in this way, some more noticeably than others.
Nimbler Leon, Better Combat
The original Resident Evil 4 abandoned the tank controls of the past and introduced a revolutionary over-the-shoulder perspective. At the time it was a breath of fresh air, but now RE4 (2005) is objectively sluggish. At least that’s how I feel after a couple of hours of playing the HD version on Switch. The remaster speeds things up considerably, making Leon much more nimble in every way. Mr. Kennedy is faster, able to change direction faster, can parry with a knife, and even crouch for a stealthy approach. Stealth is a viable strategy. Killing cultists with a knife or (recently introduced) bolt thrower/crossbow can save you a lot of trouble, not to mention precious ammo. The knife now has a strength meter, the same as in the RE2 remake, and can be repaired by the vendor for a fee.
Most of the enemies you’ll encounter and kill along the way have adjusted movement and behavior patterns. Ganados, monks, and other human mobs now move much more erratically and can charge forward unexpectedly. You can dodge some of these attacks with quick timing, move, or use a knife to break the hold. Iconic enemies like Garador are as terrifying and deadly as ever, but they’re easier to kill thanks to a more nimble protagonist. The companion aspect of the game has also benefited from an overhaul. Ashley now has no HP bar, and even though she can be knocked out easily, you can restore her just as quickly. In the original game, she was very annoying because you had to constantly worry about her; In the remake, she’s still a nuisance, but more manageable.
I know it’s still early, but let’s talk GOTY
Fierce and exciting battles are fought thanks to a powerful economy. The merchant will buy anything you pick up along the way, offering upgrades, new weapons, and resources at reasonable prices. He currently has a double inventory. For the usual, you’ll need pesetas, a well-known Spanish currency since before the glory days of the euro. For his special inventory, he accepts spinel gems, which are usually obtained during side missions such as finding and destroying the blue medallions scattered around. There are many hidden treasures in Resident Evil 4, some of which can be encrusted with “regular” gems for extra profit.
Upgrades to firepower, reload speed, clip size, and rate of fire become progressively more expensive at each level, but the game allows you to sell upgraded weapons without a loss. The game encourages you to experiment and never forces you to settle on a weapon you don’t like just because you invested a fortune in it. The same rule, to a certain extent, also applies to ammunition. In addition to specific bullets, you will collect gunpowder and other crafting mats, which will allow you to do what you need. You won’t feel forced to use a bad gun just because you don’t have any shotgun shells.
Exciting combat, many intricate puzzles, fantastic environmental design, epic length and unique tone have always distinguished Resident Evil 4 from its prequels, sequels and spin-offs. Everything that was good about the original was turned up to eleven in this remake, and everything that was less than adequate was vastly improved. In short, the best Resident Evil game just got a whole lot better. Is it too early to talk about GOTY 2023? At the beginning of last year, no one objected to using Elden Ring and GOTY in the same sentence. There’s no reason to be too reluctant now.
- Fierce battles, clever puzzles and exceptional environmental design.
- The improved control system made Leon more agile, faster and able to overcome monsters.
- Lots of quality of life improvements.
- The best Resident Evil game just got a whole lot better in every way.
- Regenerators are still more of an annoyance than a challenge.