A bold remake that stands on its own: NPR
Almost two decades ago, I saw Leon Kennedy’s head sawed off at my local Gamestop.
It was 2005, and I was standing above the demo booth for Resident Evil 4. Special Agent Kennedy was on a mission to rescue the President’s daughter from a remote village in Spain, but it’s not long before he’s beset by hostile townspeople and a chainsaw-wielding maniac. While many games slowly teach you their mechanics, Resident Evil 4 begins with exposition therapy, overwhelming the player with immediate challenge.
I was hooked. I had never seen anything so horrible in a video game, I had never felt my muscles tense up like this. It was something new, something radical and exciting.
It’s hard to overstate the noise Resident Evil 4 made at the exit. While a small minority of detractors thought it strayed too far from its survival horror roots, it sold over 10 million copies and earned superlatives from critics. Gamespot’s Greg Kasavin called it “probably the greatest horror-themed action game ever made”.
Over the past few years, Capcom has remade both Resident Evil 2 And Resident Evil 3, the first with great success. We all knew a Resident Evil 4 the remake was on the table. But when it was announced last year, I was skeptical. How? And above all, why? Resident Evil 4 Still plays like a dream, has plenty of great ports, and even recently got a facelift thanks to a brilliantly done fan project.
So this remake had to do the impossible: please fans of one of the most famous games of all time, while standing on its own merits.
For the most part, it does just that. Resident Evil 4 is a victory lap for what has been called Capcom’s new “golden age”. They succeeded not by playing it safe, but by making big design changes that make it feel like a whole new game.
Fix what ain’t broke
It was clear a Resident Evil 4 the remake would modernize the revolutionary (but now dated) control scheme of the original game. In 2005, he popularized the over-the-shoulder perspective later seen in classics like armament of war And Dead space. But unlike those games, Leon can’t move while aiming. While this limitation has never bothered me, it has become a sticking point for newer players.
In this remake, Leon is much faster and more agile, but so are his enemies. They will rush to corner you, forcing you to always be on the move. Aiming itself also feels heavier and more difficult. It almost reminds The last of us part 2, where realistic animations make combat dense and heavy, yet still responsive when mastered.
Leon gets a new parry mechanic to even out the odds, allowing you to block almost any attack with the press of a button at the right time. Using a knife to deflect the same chainsaw that chopped off my head in 2005 looks and feels ridiculous, as it should. Despite his new emo look, Leon certainly feels more like an outrageous action hero than ever before.
With the old, with the new
The magic of the original Resident Evil 4 lies in its rhythm. The game is packed with inventive ideas, enemies, and storylines, and rolls them out relentlessly for roughly 15 hours.
I was worried that the remake would dilute this delicate alchemy. When the original Resident Evil 4 out, the games didn’t feel as padded as they do today. The remake is much bigger, stitching together a world that feels more connected and organic. Adding fog and darker lighting gives the game a more direct horror feel. You may not even remember what is new and what is not: it is This transparent.
Outside of some very specific gameplay additions and changes, which I certainly won’t spoil, this remake is pure fan service. The developers draw on knowledge of the rhythms from the original game to surprise and delight. While the first half of the adventure plays out mostly straight, the back half takes a chance with tweaked enemy designs, reworked boss encounters (or, in one case, a boss that’s been removed entirely), and completely new. The designers also moved away from the original’s reliance on quick events.
THE resident Evil The series has always skillfully balanced combat, survival, and puzzle solving. 4 reduced the puzzles so far that they were sometimes insultingly simple. The remake makes them more rewarding, requiring the environmental deduction the series is famous for.
But I have my complaints. Some additions to the Village section felt like padding. The original game only had a small gap between the first and second bosses, creating a sense of breathless tension. This time around, that stretch is lengthened by an uninteresting fetch quest. Additionally, the game’s new “side quests” are primarily collect-a-thons. They’re fun diversions, but it’s weird how many useful items the game locks behind them, and they slow down progress considerably.
“Where is everyone going…bingo?”
There is no doubt about the writing in the original Resident Evil 4 was bad, but it’s also loved. The characters constantly drop jokes and one-liners. Plot details emerge through ridiculously on-the-nose game documents (one letter left suspiciously out in the open is titled “Our Plan”).
So what? Isn’t there something fantastic about one of the best video games ever made – packed with great design choices – having no better dialogue than a straight-to-DVD Leprechaun movie?
But in recent years, prestigious games like God of the war And The last of us told moving epics by exploring the dynamic between two central characters. While Resident Evil 4 doesn’t attempt such lofty storytelling, it’s hard not to fault the way the original portrays Leon and Ashley’s relationship. Ashley comes across as a reactionary companion, a “distressed president’s daughter” lacking in depth and individuality. In the remake, she has new agency and utility, but her characterization remains thin.
Still, the reworked narrative is a clear upgrade. Some characters stick around longer than the first time around, which benefits gameplay and plot. Capcom also tried to weave the disparate elements of the game’s story into something cohesive.
More importantly, the remake preserves the game’s signature camp, with iconic lines (“Where’s everybody going? Bingo?”) and a handful of new zingers. Unfortunately, they don’t come with quite as much charm: the voice acting from the original game surpasses that of the remake.
Redo the irreparable
Listen: am I tired of everything I loved as a child, everything that was sacred to me, being regurgitated and “modernized”? Well yeah. Perhaps the biggest problem with this remake is its very existence. Part of the reason Resident Evil 4 was so effective all those years ago because there was nothing else like it. But the remake can’t feel that fresh no matter how swaying it is because it’s so grounded in the original game.
But what is Capcom To done here is to create something that feels self-conscious. It’s an ode and companion to a classic rather than a faithful recreation. It’s a bold but smart move.
Since 2005, many developers have set out to emulate Resident Evil 4frenetic and bombastic rhythm. But nothing was like this. So perhaps it’s only fitting that, all these years later, Capcom turned out to be the only company capable of completely repackaging that magic.
Resident Evil 4 out on PC, PlayStation and Xbox on March 24.
James Perkins Mastromarino and Andy Bickerton contributed to this story.