Resident Evil 4 (2023) Review | The Remake We Deserve

The 2023 remake of Resident Evil 4 checks all the right boxes, and then some, making it a must-play for any and every fan of the series.

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After almost two decades, the installment to the storied Resident Evil franchise that marked a shift from pure survival horror to horrific, borderline-campy action got its much-awaited remake.

The original Resident Evil 4 arguably revolutionized the tense, over-the-shoulder, action-oriented “zombie shooter.” This, in turn, led to a variety of succeeding games to follow in its path. While a few would disagree with “RE4” being one of the best games off all time, which is fair, you’d be remiss to deny its influence.

After the releases of Resident Evil 2 (RE2) and 3’s (RE3) remakes in rather quick succession, another surprise in the same vein was to be expected. RE2 and 3 had both their improvements and nitpicks, so the Resident Evil 4 remake was in a rather precarious position. While a complete overhaul in graphics was expected, just how much would it deviate from the OG? I’ll do what I can not to give too much away.

This review comes a bit later than one would expect, as there was much to explore, unpack, and most of all, experience. After about twenty hours in-game, yet far from a 100% completion, it’s safe to say that Capcom were able to strike that much-needed balance between preserving a classic–and keeping things modern and fresh.

Rural horror revisited

Resident Evil 4 switched things up quite a bit. However, in terms of the overall story, they kept a bulk of the classic’s plot intact. Yes, unlike RE3, this one actually kept the Clock Tower. You follow rookie cop-turned-super soldier Leon S. Kennedy as he wages a one-man war against Los Illuminados, a mysterious cult who’ve managed to kidnap the president’s daughter, Ashley Graham.

Along the way, you meet the original gang with a completely new voice cast. In this aspect, you might find it hit or miss, as some characters didn’t really suit their voices or, in my opinion, could’ve done a few more takes in the recording booth. Regardless, this didn’t really take anything away from my enjoyment.

 

Of course, we can’t forget our best friend: The Merchant. He’s back with his gravely Aussie accent and weaponized wares. I won’t deny how much he’s been missed–and how relieved I am every time I see a purple torch. He’s gone through a few changes as well, which I’ll touch on in a bit.

The settings and stages stay the same, but they’ve all undergone a gorgeous overhaul. Of course, a few parts in the map were either omitted or modified, but you wouldn’t feel like there’s anything huge missing from what you can explore. In terms of a reimagining, things were handled quite well to suit the game’s goal for realism. In terms of building tension and horror, things were spot-on.

If you’re familiar with how the plot progressed in the original RE4, then you won’t be too surprised. You’ll enjoy the slight changes and little twists in the plot. It’s a grittier, more horror-focused take on the over-the-top classic, but doesn’t go full nihilist either. Let’s just say Leon knows what he’s gotten himself into, but copes with it rather well.

You’re no superhero

This is where things take a massive swerve from the classic. You become very much aware from the beginning that you’re a stranger in a strange land. Unfortunately, this land doesn’t take too kindly to strangers. You’re one man with a loaded gun and a knife. It’s an uphill battle.

Gone are the excessively flashy feats of action, over-the-top cheekiness, and comical villains. This is a Leon who’s seen things and experienced a lot since Raccoon City. You still crack one-liners, but not as cheesy. While you might not appreciate the lack of jokes, you might find the realistic character development refreshing.

The original enemies make a return, and they’ve brought a few new members to their ranks. Needless to say, they’re as vicious and grotesque as ever. You don’t get bumbling idiots running around, you get a relentless, bloodthirsty mob who’ll take advantage of any mistakes you commit. The bosses make their horrifying presence felt, and they can murder you in equally horrifying ways. It’s pretty great, to be honest.

 

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. While Leon’s toned down the corniness and superhuman abilities, he’s definitely come well-equipped to handle himself. The knife will be your life partner, and you’ll definitely treat it as such. Unlike before, both your blade and body armor degrade, needing consistent repairs from the merchant. You can’t be careless anymore, and you definitely can’t wave it around willy-nilly. It’s a nice touch, if not a bit stressful early on.

Movement-wise, you’re no longer as agile as 2005. I can only describe it as a combination of the slight sluggishness of RE2 and 3, but with acrobatics and martial arts. Your body jerks a a bit when you quick turn or pivot. It takes a second for you to recover from attacks, and trust me, you will get attacked–a lot. In exchange for quick time events, you get parrying and evasion mechanics to complement your melee prompts. Mixing this up with your gunplay will be vital throughout your run. Otherwise, you’re gonna go muerto, pronto.

(Re)making good decisions

When it comes to recreating any game from the ground up, there’s a variety of things that could go wrong. It’s easy for game studios to commit mistakes such as neglecting releases for different devices, leaving out a chunk of original content, cutting corners in gameplay mechanics, and worst of all, straying too far from its roots that it becomes unrecognizable from the original. Capcom did its homework for Resident Evil 4, and they passed with flying colors.

Ashley is a prime example. Long story short, she went from annoying to awesome. You’ll genuinely miss her when she’s not around. I’m willing to bet that in the original, everyone felt like it was such a drag to pry her from would-be captors as she screamed, “LEON! HELP!” at the top of her lungs. This time around, you’ll feel genuinely pissed if anyone dared to lay a finger on her. I don’t care if I have to unload an entire magazine.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. She climbs and jumps down by herself, she banters enthusiastically with you on your journey, and most of all, there are moments when she actually helps out in combat. Honestly, we just wanted her to pipe down, but instead, we got an actual partner.

As mentioned earlier, The Merchant also has a few new tricks and treats up his sleeve–or massive overcoat. The Shooting Gallery mini game rewards you with literal gacha tokens that you can use in a machine. From there you can get “Charms” which give certain buffs when attached to your briefcase. It’s a nice piece of additional content that eases the tension while simultaneously rewarding you. Oh, and Ashley will cheer you on if you bring her along.

I did my run on PC, and with a low-end graphics card. Things still look pretty good on medium settings. If you’re on PS5, well, I got news. You’ll be pleased to know that on framerate mode, you’ll get relatively smooth performance at the cost of some texture quality which may be noticeable in some cutscenes. 

There’s a decent amount of customizable settings, giving options to turn on enhanced hair physics and Ray Tracing for both framerate and resolution mode. The RE engine really gets things done. Loading times are snappy, from checkpoints, menu to game, and even saving.

That being said, Ray Tracing on PS5 offers limited visual improvements and “enhanced hair” sometimes lessens the depth of character models. You’ll also spot a number of low-res textures in the environments on framerate mode. Still, the game runs relatively well with barely any major bugs. even when the action gets thick, the framerate remains stable and smooth without any noticeable massive dips.

Final verdict – 9.5/10

The 2023 remake of Resident Evil 4 checks all the right boxes, and then some. In my humble opinion, if you felt like RE2 deviated a bit from the original, and RE3 left too much out, then this remake has exactly what you’re looking for. Hopefully, Capcom keeps this kind of consistency if they’re planning to remake Code Veronica–or even Outbreak. Fingers crossed.

Hopefully, I didn’t give away too much. I’m really looking forward to the additional game modes, like Separate Ways and The Mercenaries–which might be coming out next. Even if they do come out as DLC, the performance of the RE4 Remake provides a compelling argument to acquire ’em. Either way, I can barely wait.

This review was made via a PC game code provided by the publisher.