IT was eighteen years ago. We joined Leon S Kennedy on his ride into town. He was being escorted by two local Spanish police officers, laughing back and forth with a bit of banter. That was the starting of the reign of one of the Resident Evil franchises’ most beloved games.
The original Resident Evil 4 game was a significant turning point for the franchise when it opted to lose the tank controls for the over-the-shoulder approach, and focus more on action than horror. The Resident Evil 4 Remake has kept its action, but still, with our ever-expanding advancements in technology and gaming in general, it pulls more on the horror that has reinvigorated recent entries and remakes, as well as the darker tone that was in OG Resident Evil 4’s scrapped earlier iterations.
In my demo review here, I went over the opening cutscene. Not much is different from the demo to the full game besides one thing that made me happy to see a return – we get our banter between the local police and Leon.
The opening chapter plays out as it did in the demo, but you start Chapter 2, and the first thing I noticed was the expansion in the details of the farm area. Of course, the area itself isn’t bigger; if anything, I feel it is more claustrophobic. But it was at this point I realised this definitely wasn’t late teens Gabe’s Resident Evil 4 but much more.
Gone are the gates used for loading screens as each map flows into the other with modifications from the settings we once knew. You can fall into a sense of comfort if you’ve played the original when you find enemies in the places you remember them to have been in the past iteration. But don’t be fooled; there are usually an extra few hiding or some in unexpected places to catch you off guard.
Suppose that wasn’t enough to get the heart pumping after your failed attempt to save Luis Sera. You come to, and it’s now dark out. You now backtracking in the dark with low visibility, and it keeps you on your toes.
The Merchant Returns, of course, and he is ever helpful. He does complain a bit at times, but he is getting old.
OG Resident Evil 4 was the significant change for the Resident Evil franchise back in the day, in particular the switch from the tank controls of the first three Resident Evil games on the original PlayStation to an over-the-shoulder perspective. Though by today’s standards, the controls are still tanky, they were a BIG deal back in 2005. You couldn’t walk and be aiming your gun in the OG, or switch your weapons on the fly – so we have come a long way in the past 18 years.
So the fact that controls in this remake keep the feel of the OG Resident Evil 4 but with the modern flow that we are used to now. The overall playability is smooth from a keyboard and mouse perspective but also from a controller, as I used both during my playthrough. I feel that Capcom has put extra work into the mechanics for Resident Evil 4 instead of just doing a copy-and-paste job from Resident Evil Village. And don’t get me wrong, I love the controls for Village, but it really just feels like Resident Evil 4 has something extra.
A new mechanic brought into Resident Evil 4 is being able to stealth. It’s not unique to Resident Evil games as a whole. Technically, Ashley had a stealth section in the OG Resident Evil game, but that was a scripted section as Ashley had no way to defend herself. The same applies to Sherry in Resident Evil 2 Remake, orphanage segment and other Resident Evil titles. Now, you can opt for stealth when you want to avoid encounters. And it’s not like when trying to avoid the Bakers in Resident Evil 7, where you are essentially being stalked.
As I am a lover of anything stealth, I spent most of the village stealthing my way around, as well as a good chunk of the early island section. There is a good amount of areas where you can use the mechanic. This eased my worries that it would just be an early game-only mechanic.
One of the things that made the OG Resident Evil 4 stand out, besides its change to the formula in survival horror, was its sound design. You could usually hear the Ganados around you, but after a bit can see them. With the remake, after the first encounter, the sense of tension ramps up as you can hear Ganados all around you, but you can’t see them, and it feels like they are up on the hills, in the trees or just on the other side of the flimsy wooden walls, waiting to jump at you at any moment.
There is also the general squelching sound as you walk through the mud and the crackling of dry shrubbery as you brush past or step on it. But, again, the attention to detail in the audio helps keep you rooted in the environment no matter where you’re at in the game.
Blue Medallions make their return across all stages. They become relatively easy to find when you come across the notice to destroy them due to their locations appearing on the map. But the same applies to finding more treasure by purchasing treasure maps from the merchant.
The uses for spinel (gems) have changed since the original game. Where they used to be just sellable treasures, now they can only be acquired by completing side missions and are used to get rare goods from the Merchant.
The changes to the game only enhance what is already loved about the game. And yes, they did cut some content from the game. But, again, significantly reworking particular dialogue that just really doesn’t fit in today’s climate. Something about the President’s daughter and ballistics, for one.
One of the small touches I love is that when you take damage in-game, it’s reflected in Leon’s clothes. So, for example, an axe to the shoulder reflects with the cut in his clothes and the blood surrounding it. It doesn’t stay permanent, of course. Otherwise, Leon would be somewhat in the buff by the end of the game. But it’s the small details that only reinforce the attention to detail that Capcom put into this remake.
Unfortunately, no game is perfect. Though the game’s shortcomings aren’t deal breakers, some of them can’t be fixed with a simple patch. For example, during my playthrough on PC, I encountered some minor texture popping in the early stages of the village.
And as mentioned earlier, some of the quippy one lines have been removed due to changes made to the cutscenes. Which I can’t, unfortunately, go into as that is hitting spoiler territory. But the biggest detractor for me in the game is sadly, some of the voice acting.
Leon is great, and I even give my hat off to Ashley’s voice actor. Ashley is no longer that really annoying girl with the painful screams for help. However, as many have mentioned so far, we do unfortunately lose our sultry seductress, Ada Wong. Ada’s voice falls flat, and that alone really changes the ‘will they-won’t they?’ that we have all come to love between Leon and Ada.
But Ada isn’t the only one lacking in the voice acting department. Krauser has gone from sounding like a battle-hardened military man to a whining Saturday morning cartoon villain. As a result, it’s hard to take him seriously and feel he has any real impact as a character.
Last but not least, in the rogues of less-than-stellar voice acting for major characters is Sadler. Unfortunately, he falls under the flat vocal range, and as to what accent they were trying to achieve, it is hard to tell.
Though the game has these setbacks, Resident Evil 4 is by far one of the truest to the original remakes while still feeling like it’s new and more than what we could have expected. Resident Evil 4 Remake is a game that will leave you on the edge of your seat in anticipation and fear.
My first playthrough took 15.5 hours without even getting through half the side quests. I look forward to replaying this over and over to get that time down to ⅓ and perfecting my skills to get that infinite ammo.