In 2005, Capcom released a video game that would have a long-lasting impact on the games industry. This was the 4th major installment in a little survival horror franchise known as Resident Evil. Since its release, Resident Evil 4 has been considered by many as not only one of the best games of the series, but one of the most influential games of all time, influencing games like The Last of Us, Dead Space, and a whole slew of other popular action-oriented survival horror games that would come after it. Now, 17 years after its initial release, Capcom has rebuilt Resident Evil 4 from the ground up with a full-on remake of the cult classic game. In an age full of video game remakes and remasters being released each year, and the added pressure of having to top an already excellent original game, Resident Evil 4 Remake delivers an experience that undoubtedly justifies its existence, and adds to the original experience with a much darker and scarier tone.
Resident Evil 4 Remake (which I will now refer to as just Resident Evil 4 or RE4 for simplicity) takes the traditional horror of the Resident Evil games and amps up the action in a way that creates the perfect balance of intense fun and dreadful scares. All of this action takes place on the remote Spanish island “Valdelobos,” where former Raccoon City police officer Leon S. Kennedy is on a top-secret government mission to rescue the president’s kidnapped daughter, Ashley Graham. While the original game was a predominantly action-focused experience, Capcom has put a significant emphasis on the horror elements for the remake, which is shown very clearly through the game’s incredibly strong opening sequence.
Resident Evil 4 features beautifully-shot cutscenes, an interesting cast of characters that I consistently felt compelled to learn more about, and an intriguing story about the mysterious happenings of the island of Valdelobos, all of which kept me engaged and unable to put the controller down.
As you make your way through the island, you’ll have to fight through hordes of enemies ranging from simple crazed humans to absolute monstrosities. Some of these action sequences can be quite daunting, as RE4 won’t hesitate to throw countless enemies your way, all with different attack styles. While challenging, these moments are where the game is the most fun, as you’ll have plenty of creative ways to annihilate your adversaries both inside and outside of your loadout. For example, there were plenty of moments in my playthrough where I started to become overwhelmed with enemies, and in the heat of the moment, noticed there was an explosive barrel, a lantern, or dynamite that I could shoot down to catch enemies off guard. There are plenty of weapons to play with as you progress through the story, ranging from rifles to shotguns, pistols, and even the classic RPG.
Alongside shooting and blowing things up, Leon shows off his action hero swag with some of the coolest melee attacks I’ve seen in a Resident Evil game – I’m talking roundhouse kicks, suplexes, and stylish knife parries and counters. Melee attacks are oftentimes one-hit kills, sometimes you’ll even kick someone’s head off. These different combat styles gives Leon a coolness reminiscent of Dante from the Devil May Cry games. It was these moment-to-moment combat encounters that kept me engaged because of the sheer amount of freedom and creativity I had when it came to how I wanted to fight and progress through each chapter.
Resident Evil 4’s Boss fights are intense and fun. They still have the feel of traditional Resident Evil boss fights in their mechanics, just with a modernized approach. Every boss was intimidating the first time around, presenting a challenge that had me using my entire arsenal of weapons, making these fights constantly feel fresh and exciting. Bosses felt adequately balanced for each of RE4’s difficulties. I did my main playthrough on Standard mode and while my deaths were very few and far between, I still felt like I was fighting an uphill battle, and bosses were a major threat that had me screaming “Let’s go!” whenever I’d manage to take them out.
As I mentioned earlier, horror is a major component of Resident Evil 4. There were several moments during my playthrough where I had to pause the game to collect myself due to how scared I was. The use of darkness, eerie sounds, scarce ammo, and not knowing what lied ahead made moving forward in some sections feel as scary as Resident Evil 7, a game that is commonly regarded as not only the scariest Resident Evil, but one of the scariest video games in general. There’s a specific sequence where I was trapped in a dark dungeon with a beast that could hear my every move that had me clenching the entire time – and I may have called my girlfriend over to help push me through it.
Aside from combat, Resident Evil 4 is, while a linear experience, an exploration-heavy game. Exploring the island was both rewarding and tense, as I didn’t know what I was going to come across, but there were also plenty of treasures and items to find that I just couldn’t pass up. In addition, the game consists of a plethora of clever puzzles that feel genuinely rewarding to solve. I actually felt smart when I’d figure out the solution to a puzzle because they were just clear enough to get the wheels turning in my brain, but still vague enough to not be easy, and thankfully this game doesn’t suffer from the constant puzzle hints that plagued titles like 2022’s God of War Ragnarok.
Around the map, you’ll find pages of books, letters, and memos that tell bits and pieces of the history behind the island and just what peculiarities are brewing under your feet. Reading these got me more invested in the lore and overall story while also providing context to some of the monsters that I came across, in turn, making some sequences even scarier due to me knowing that I’d be in store for something dangerous.
Early on in the story, you’ll meet the Merchant, a peculiarly friendly character that will show up periodically throughout each chapter providing a shop where you can buy or trade for new weapons and items, upgrade your current weapons, and sell treasures and things you no longer need. The Merchant’s Shop also acts as a safe zone, where like in traditional Resident Evil fashion, you’ll find a typewriter that you can use to save your game. While this is the only point that you can save your game, there are some specific points in the story, usually before and after a big fight, where the game, fortunately, does autosave.
The Merchant proved to be a very useful tool for me, upgrading weapons felt like it made a difference in how effectively I was able to manage combat situations, and selling treasures I’d find laying around the map was a surefire way to increase my riches and have enough money to buy those new weapons and upgrades that I’d need to have just enough edge over the opponents I’d run into moving forward. Sometimes I even felt like, had I not upgraded the specific weapon I upgraded right before a boss fight, it would have been five times as hard to complete, making purchases and decisions at the Merchant’s Shop dire and necessary every time I arrived at one. The Merchant’s Shop is located at specific areas on the map and he stays there the entire time, so you can (sometimes) backtrack to save or make any purchases if you feel it’s necessary, but I tended to just keep moving forward and found that when I really wanted to see the Merchant, I’d be on the cusp of running into him.
Visually, Resident Evil 4 is a joy to look at. It’s not just Leon’s hair that’s been updated, although that looks gorgeous, too. The world has been beautifully imagined. I found myself taking the time to look at the buildings and scenery that surrounded me and was continuously in awe by just how detailed and stunning the views were. Tall buildings towered over Leon and the lighting was beautiful, especially in darker areas with torches or lamps that lit up rooms. The graphical fidelity immersed me in the world, and that was thankfully coupled with near-perfect technical performance. Playing on PC with the recommended specs and the game running on high settings, it stayed hovering around 100 fps. With ray tracing on, the frame rate ranged from 65-80 fps depending on the graphical intensity of the area I was in. On the Steam Deck, the frame rate stayed at a consistent 40 fps. RE Engine continues to provide one of the best-optimized experiences for PC gaming.
Resident Evil 4 Remake is one of the most influential video games of all time reimagined for modern hardware. There are plenty of quality-of-life updates alongside a scarier and even more action-packed experience than the 2005 original. Resident Evil 4 Remake is an addictively fun game with an interesting and cohesive story, and down-right beautiful visuals that made me, as someone who’s never played through the full original game, fall in love with it. As a remake, Resident Evil 4 knocks it out of the park, and in 2023, this is the best way to play through the story that gamers around the globe fell in love with 18 years ago.