Resident Evil 4 (2023) – Game Review


Resident Evil 4 (2023)

(available for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and S, and PC- Steamdeck compatibility included. PlayStation 5 version used for this review)

Resident Evil 4 Remake rounds out the trilogy of the remakes of the classic Resident Evil games, though ever since the announcement it’s been wondered what this version would add considering that the original version updated to HD and was available on most modern platforms and holds up remarkably. In fact, I actually replayed it on Switch during lockdown and it is really good! Honestly, everything about it kind of works. I do have my issues with it and it’s debatable whether that or 2 Remake is my favourite in the franchise, but overall it is a great game and deserves all the praise it gets.

Resident Evil 4 Remake was met with some trepidation, but it has done well with recent trailer outputs, which have really highlighted the ability to remake the game in this engine. It’s fundamentally the same game that you would have played on the GameCube or PlayStation 2 as well as the modern consoles. There aren’t so many fundamental changes as there were with the 2 and 3 remakes. That being said, considering how long it has been since the release of the original, I’ll be writing this under the assumption that most people will have played the original, and as a result, you shouldn’t expect it to be much of a shake-up plot-wise or even gameplay wise compared to the previous two remakes. You will still pretty much do everything in order, though there will be some slight differences along the way, which I won’t give away too much.

Capcom is pretty much assuming with this entry that most of us have played the original, and I know for a fact that this will be many people’s first experience playing. If you haven’t played any of the other Resident Evil games but you want to jump into this one, you absolutely can, it’s not really tied into any of the other storylines other than a brief mention at the beginning of the Raccoon City incident that takes place during Resident Evil 2 and 3, and there’s also the relationship between Leon and Ada which doesn’t really get much of an explanation in this game.

Like before, you will be playing as Federal Agent Leon Kennedy travelling to a remote Spanish village to rescue the president’s daughter Ashley, who is being held by the villagers who have been infected by a parasite bioweapon brought on by a cult.

PROS

  • Gameplay

While it is mostly Resident Evil 4’s gameplay brought onto a modern system, this remake does bring in a few elements of the 2 & 3 remakes. But for the most part, it does feel like the game has maintained a lot of what made the original great- you still have excellent melee combat and very precise shooting. This time, the game gives you a lot more to do with it, for example, shooting oil lamps can now cause massive fires to deal with large waves of enemies (take note, when you get into that initial encounter in the village where you’re being swarmed, do that in the cow pen like in the trailers! The developers gave you that as a hint to survive a little bit longer.).

I think that the game suits being on the PlayStation 5 really well. I initially bought this version because of the VR2 content that’s coming later down the line- no fixed release date at this point, though, and we haven’t even seen a showcase of gameplay with this feature. But considering how much I’ve been enjoying VR2 since getting one, this has been a no-brainer.

I actually felt that the PlayStation version does have some good features that make it an excellent version to get. The haptic triggers are actually well handled this time, but if you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy those you can turn it off in the settings. One of the best features of the gameplay is the fact it makes very good use of the DualSense controller’s internal speakers, which add an extra level of inversion for walkie-talkie conversations and sound effects for gun reloading.

It definitely brought over improved AI from the 2 & 3 remakes, which is a lot smarter. The difficulty levels aren’t really in terms of health and damage, but in how aggressive the enemies will be. Even in normal difficulty, these enemies are way more aggressive! The initial village encounter took me way more attempts than it usually would because I’ve become very complacent. What’s more, the enemies have more ways to deal damage to you – not only do they have those weird decapitation buzzsaw head things (which I never learnt the name of), but they also can get back up even if you get a kill shot but having the parasite break their own necks. If the prompt comes up to stab a corpse with a knife, take the advice!

If anything, the remake feels more like a survival horror game than the action game that the original was. The action elements are certainly still there, but because the enemies are now bullet sponges, I found myself running out of ammo way sooner than I usually would. Ammo and healing item consumption is something you really need to take into account.

It also should be noted that the Ashley escort section is severely improved. She is a little more vulnerable and she can still die if you’re too overzealous, but for one thing, she doesn’t have a health bar anymore. She can be temporarily incapacitated and can die if not brought back up, but she’s a lot more durable this time and she also doesn’t make really dumb decisions.

The gameplay is also very interesting in the sense that it adds some extra sequences and takes some out, for example, the cable car sniper sequence has been removed, and it plays around with some familiar sequences also. The mine cart sequence is now one of the best moments in the game, and I won’t dare spoil how good it is. If you enjoyed the gameplay of the original, it’s still great and trust me, newcomers are going to love this!

  • Aesthetics

I’m never surprised by how good the RE Engine makes games look, and this game is no exception. Character design-wise, not much has changed, obviously, everyone has new voice actors, but they all look the same. If anything, Ashley has probably had the biggest overhaul in character design, but as a whole, the team didn’t really change up much. Because all of the environments look and feel the same in many ways, it made navigation and finding hidden items a lot easier this time around. The benefit from the new engine means that the loading screens are quicker and fewer this time around, so navigating areas like the castle is much quicker.

I played the PS5 version and I’ve been told the Xbox Series X version looks better, but looking at videos comparing the two, I don’t think that there’s a noticeable difference. Either way, you’re getting an excellent-looking game. This is definitely setting a high standard for AAA releases coming out this year.

MIXED

  • Story

It does maintain the story from the original, and I thought that that story was fine. It works well, and I like that Ashley doesn’t get kidnapped that often this time around, and they did a good job giving her a character arc. Thankfully, some of the more creepy dialogue has been removed, as a whole I thought that this dialogue was pretty good – they kept a lot of the good one-liners in and added new ones too.

However, there are a few issues that I found with the storyline. I feel like the villains don’t have much of a presence here. I feel like they weren’t quite sure how to handle some of these villains in the modern era considering that some of their personalities feel a little drained. Ramon Salazar isn’t really in the game as much, but I will say that the voice actor who is playing him does an excellent job. But he doesn’t have much of an interaction with Leon in this game so he doesn’t get as much time to shine. During the boss fight they actually try to give him a bit more character but it all feels a bit weird and too little too late.

Saddler is definitely the most interesting change – I’m not sure how I feel about him at this point considering that his motivation is a little different. His plan is about the same as why he kidnaps Ashley, but he doesn’t really have a lot of the same motivations from the original. I think that the issue with Saddler was that by modern standards he kind of comes off feeling like a pro-wrestling character that does the whole ‘I don’t like America’ gimmick.. I think that the team wanted to give him a bit more substance this time around, but by trying that they ended up removing a lot more of his personality. I don’t really learn that much about him this time, and it doesn’t help that he just isn’t in the game that much compared to the original.

The best thing about the story is the expansion of Luis, and to a lesser extent I would say Major Krauser getting an extended motivation is good too, but they kind of turn their back on that by the time you get to the boss fight which is annoying. Luis, however, does get excellent character motivation and is probably one of my favourite parts of this version.

The last thing I want to mention in terms of the story is some of the changes made. In the case of 2 & 3, they did make changes to the storyline, but those changes felt like you could still get to the recent Resident Evil games, plot-wise. The remakes could easily still lead to the events of Resident Evil 7 and Village. 4 has at least one change that makes me wonder where this series is going, I won’t spoil it but I feel like this is their way of getting out of some plot decisions made by other games for future games going forwards, and I’m not sure how it’s going to be handled yet. I’m curious but cautious.

CONS

  • Unnecessary microtransactions

This was added post launch and isn’t terrible but is unnecessary. You can spend real world money to access weapon upgrade tickets needed to finish a weapon upgrade with the Merchant. Now  it’s not as if these are completely blocked behind the micro transactions since upgrade tickets can be purchased by grinding for rewards from side quests and only 1 achievement is locked behind it if you’re going for 100 % but introducing them after launch feels completely unneeded.

  • Lack of Ada Content

I wish that this had more content in the post-game because right now it’s lacking. If you get the old version, when you beat the old game you get access to the Mercenaries and Operation Ada, a smaller campaign which gives you the ability to play as Ada and find out what she was getting up to in the events of Leon’s campaign.

Admittedly, I would have liked that to come back. It could easily be future DLC down the line and I suspect it will be, but it just makes the post-game feel rather lacking. You do get access to New Game Plus which lets you overhaul your upgrades, and you can purchase new costumes of the characters and this was helped further when mercenaries were added as free dlc shortly after the review was finished requiring an edit, but I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something here, especially considering that if you don’t want to play the villages mercenaries, this isn’t of use to you and the lack of Ada’s campaign at launch only to be potentially charged for it later feels a bit off.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Resident 4 Remake is a really good remake of the original game, and it’s excellent in every regard. The thing that holds me back slightly is that it doesn’t feel like much is different this time. I certainly prefer it to the 3 remake that I felt took away from the great elements of the original, but that being said, it doesn’t go all the way to justify its existence. The gameplay improvements do a great deal in proving its existence, and if you want to play Resident Evil 4, this is a great way to get into the game. It is still one of the best Resident Evil games to date- I think that is does some elements better than the original, like the Ashley escort sections.

If you want to get into Resident Evil, this is a great one to play, but the 2 & 3 remakes also go on sale often so you could pick up those ones if you feel it’s necessary to play those before this one.

This game is still highly recommended, even with the issues that I pointed out. As a whole, it was an excellent playthrough. In terms of the horror elements, this one made me more nervous than the original did in many parts, while it didn’t really scare me, I will say it did those elements better.

Final Score: 9.3/10

Calvin
Director of Axia ASD Ltd.
Self-proclaimed Nerd Consultant
and Head of Axia’s Film Society.

And now Elliot’s review

If you’ve been playing video games for a while, especially during the early to mid 2000s, there’s no doubt that you’ve played Resident Evil 4. Not only does it stand side by side with Silent Hill 2 and Amnesia: The Dark Descent as an icon of Horror games, it’s arguably one of the most iconic video games of all time, and seeing how it practically revolutionised third-person shooters and still holds up really well today, you can definitely see why. So with Capcom going on a spree of remaking Resident Evil games, it was only a matter of time before they decided to give this game the same treatment. This did admittedly lead to some scepticism, with a lot of people (including myself) saying they would have much preferred to get a remake of Code Veronica instead, as well as arguments that a remake of this game is unnecessary. But now that it’s out it leads to questions: What’s changed? What’s remained the same? And how does it hold up to the original? Resident Evil 4 Remake was developed and published by Capcom on the 24th March 2023 and was released for PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox Series X/S and Windows.

For the most part the story of the original Resident Evil 4 remains untampered with. The game takes place six years after the events of Resident Evil 2. You take on the role of Leon S. Kennedy, the once rookie cop now a government agent, on a mission to save the President’s daughter, Ashley Graham, who’s been kidnapped by the Los Iluminados cult and taken to a small village in rural Spain. Shortly after arriving, Leon gets attacked by the village locals who have all been infected and taken over by a parasite called Las Plagas, thus swearing their allegiance to the cult. After finding and almost rescuing a stranger called Luis Serra, Leon gets knocked out and wakes up to find himself infected with the Las Plagas parasite. Now, trapped in a village full of crazy people, it is up to him to find Ashley, kill this parasite and get the hell out of there. 

As I said the story for the most part remains the same, but there are a few differences. For starters, the dialog isn’t nearly as quippy or cheesy as the original. While there are still a few quips (the most notable one being Leon’s “Where’s everyone going? Bingo?”), even some new ones that weren’t in the original game, we no longer have any of the more outwardly silly ones, so no Leon commenting on how boredom kills him or Luis commenting on Ashley’s “ballistas” as those have been erased from the script. The dialog as a whole is now more serious with a hint of self-awareness to it. Personally I don’t mind this change, this game feels like it’s trying to take itself a bit more seriously than the original and it fits more with the times and makes the game feel more realistic – plus let’s be honest, those quips in the original were never actually good, they were just so crap that they ended up being amazing. On top of that characters have been greatly expanded as well, with some of them getting more development, whether it’s in character development such as with Luis, or with their relationships as a whole such as Leon and Ashley’s. Once again this is greatly appreciated as it enhances the story even more and makes me care all the more about these characters. 

Resident Evil 4 Remake, just like the last few Capcom games, continues to show just how much of a powerhouse the RE Engine is. This game looks absolutely amazing, the level of detail is just insane, from the characters models to the environment to the excessive gore. In fact this game feels like it’s going more for horror than the original did. Outside of a few enemies this game isn’t particularly scary, but it has a much more gritty atmosphere and the game as a whole looks much darker. The character models have also been updated, looking a lot better not only in presentation but in design as well, with some characters like Luis having their design looking mostly the same, while others like Ashley have had a major glow-up and, in my opinion, look better than they ever had. One thing that should probably have been expected is that pretty much everyone in this game has been recast, that being said though I think they do a very good job at playing their roles. While not all of them are perfect, for example Michael Adamthwaite as the Merchant does sound a bit off, most of them do really match how their character was sound, with the best one in my opinion being Marcio Moreno as Ramon Salazar. The soundtrack, I can happily say, is insanely good. The atmospheric pieces are incredibly eerie, meanwhile the heavier songs make the small skirmishes feel more tense and the boss battles feel much grander. I do admittedly prefer the original games soundtrack as I think it works better for a horror game, but that’s not me discrediting this games’ any less, it’s still great. 

As to be expected, Resident Evil 4 Remake plays a fair bit differently from the original. While the core aspects of gameplay remain intact, they have been modified a bit to match more with the other Resident Evil remakes. For example, probably the one everyone would have picked up on the most, you can now move while aiming. In the original when you aimed your gun you were forced to remain in place and couldn’t move unless you stopped doing so. Despite how insignificant of a change this seems it may lead to mixed results, some people may like it more as it’s the standard for modern third-person shooters and because it’s less awkward to control, meanwhile others would argue that not being able to move helped to heighten the tension and would make you think more critically. Personally, while I can see why people would think either, this is a change I don’t mind too much as it doesn’t really make the game less tense as it is entirely possible to back up into an enemy and it’s not as if it completely breaks the game. 

One thing I was not expecting was how much they expanded upon the knife gameplay. In the original game, you likely didn’t really use your knife for much, in all likelihood you only really used it for breaking locks or boxes, or hitting enemies that got a little too close for comfort. This game on the other hand not only added more to knife combat, but also improved upon it in a number of ways. For starters, it’s now entirely possible for you to parry an attack coming from an enemy, just bring your knife up as they strike and you won’t take any damage; you’ll even stagger them or even sever an appendage if you get your timing right. If you don’t want to go into a battle with guns blazing you can even stealth your way up to an enemy and if you haven’t been noticed you can use your knife to kill them with one stab to the neck. This may sound a bit broken, so to make up for that your knife now has an endurance bar, so if you use your knife a little too much you’ll find it broken and unusable until you get it fixed by the Merchant for a small price. Don’t worry though as knives can be gathered by exploring and will be dropped by enemies frequently enough that you won’t be afraid to use them, but not too frequently so you’ll still want to use them sparingly. I cannot stress how much I love this change, it adds another layer of gameplay that wasn’t in the original and can add to the stress at times with me possibly not having that last line of defence that I had previously. #

Something that you’ll notice very early on is that level design is not exactly how you remember it. While at first the level layout will feel familiar, you’ll notice the slight changes to the design that weren’t present in the original, some slight, others quite substantial. Even in the first chapter you’ll notice some sections that have been expanded or a puzzle added where there previously wasn’t one. This is another thing that may lead to mixed thoughts, as some people will like the change and be grateful that they’re not playing the exact same game they did before, while others may be disappointed that it’s not exactly the same. Personally, my opinions lead more towards the former, as I think that the changes are a welcome addition and makes the game feel a bit more fresh. 

Of course, like most games nowadays, this game has a crafting system… not that that’s a bad thing, as there was one in the original game and this one is very simple and well expanded upon. Just like in the previous games, you can combine herbs (this games’ primary healing item) to create more powerful concoctions that greatly increase the amount of health regained when used. In fact, after going back to the original game for a little bit, it turns out that you can actually create combinations that weren’t originally possible, which is greatly appreciated. On top of that, you can now craft bullets for your guns as well, and it just requires some gunpowder and resources, which are easily found throughout the game. Once again, this is an addition that I greatly appreciate, the ammo that you find throughout the game tends to be very random, therefore you won’t always find the ammo type you want, so being able to craft them makes it less of a headache. It could also lead to more critical thinking, as you could be low on ammo for your pistol, as an example, but you know that a section coming up would be much easier if you used the rifle, so you can either craft some handgun ammo now to help your current predicament, or you can wait to get more gunpowder and craft some for your rifle. 

You’ll be happy to know that enemies are still just as scary in this game as they were in the last. Like with all other Resident Evil games, you’ll find yourself running into a mast variety of deranged foes and monsters to slay. Some obviously being scarier than others, from the Spanish cries of the regular villagers to the dreadful hum of a chainsaw, and the less said about the Regeneradores the better. On top of that, this game expands the variety and behaviour of some of the enemies. The main addition being the Brutes – people donning cow heads and swinging giants mallets that can hit you for a significant amount of damage, or a new type of Plagas that can attach itself to an enemy and make them go completely ballistic, and if the enemy they’re attached to dies they’ll just hop onto the next one. 

With the significant additions to this game there was one major mechanic that they removed, that being the quick time events. These events were spread all throughout the original that kept the players on their toes at all times, hell there was even a boss fight that was just QTE’s. This game however decided to remove them, the closest thing to them we have now is a prompt to avoid enemies doing certain attacks. Personally I don’t mind this change, the QTE’s in the original game felt more like they were there just to make sure the players were paying attention more than anything else, so their removal isn’t something I’ll begrudge. 

Speaking of boss fights, they’ve made their grand return and, despite what our lead nerd consultant would tell you (seriously, Calvin will not stop complaining about the Salazar one), I think they’re a lot of fun. They all require you to keep an eye out for indications of what attack they’re about to perform and to take any chance you can to shoot them, with them punishing you if you get too greedy. Some of them have changed as well, with some getting new attacks and phases, and some of them getting changed entirely. 

Of course the Resident Evil series, like all horror games of the 2000s, are well known for having a number of puzzles to test the brain, and admittedly I found them to be pretty easy. Most of them involved you just hunting around for a key item or a clue that basically gives you the answer. Don’t get me wrong, I do like these as they give you a break from the combat and there are some that require you to go through some genuinely tense situations. But yeah, if you’re expecting Silent Hill levels of difficulty, you’re probably gonna be disappointed. 

Just like in the original game, Resident Evil 4 Remake has a vast amount of treasure for you to find, with their only real purpose being to be sold to the Merchant for some cash. There is one major difference now that wasn’t a feature before though, and was no doubt brought in because of the more recent games, if you find small gemstones you can inlay  them into the much bigger pieces of treasure that you find and can increase their value depending on what combination of gems you use. 

The last new addition to this remake is the Merchants requests. Spread throughout the game are blue posters that if found will give you small requests, like killing a certain number of rats or snakes, or having you find a part of the level to interact with. Doing so will reward you with a small bundle of Spinels that you can trade with the Merchant for some exclusive items. I’m not gonna lie, these are kinda lame. I would have much preferred it if they added quests that made you do something much bigger than just simple pest control. I guess they’re not too awful and the Spinels are definitely worth it, but I do wish they did more with them. 

As for flaws, outside of the gripes already mentioned and a couple of moments where I started to lose patience with the game, I can’t really think of any. I find this to be a very solid game with little to complain about. Yeah there are some moments of frustration, but that’s to be expected in any survival horror, but they really didn’t ruin the experience that I had with this game. 

Finally, while I’ve been working on this review, Capcom released some free DLC with the iconic Mercenaries mode. This mode is pretty simple, as one of four characters, you fight a continuous wave of enemies while a timer slowly ticks down. You can increase the timer by finding green orbs spread randomly in predetermined spots throughout the level or by pulling off headshots or blowing up your enemies. Each character enters with their own set of starting equipment as well as a special ability called Mayhem Mode that’s unique only to them. The round ends when you either run out of time or die, and you get a ranking depending on how many points you accumulated. I cannot stress how much fun I had with this mode. Going through a multitude of enemies, trying to get a higher score than last time is super addicting to the point where what was meant to be a small session could easily last a couple of hours – which is a testament to just how good the combat of this game is.

To say that I really like Resident Evil 4 would be an understatement. This game has not only been extremely entertaining, but has pretty much been my main obsession for the past couple of weeks, to the point where it’s made me want to go for the platinum trophy. I absolutely recommend getting this game, whether you’ve never played a Resident Evil game or have been a veteran since the beginning, this is a must play for you. 

9.5/10

Elliot Chapman
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant

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The Next Axia6th March 2024
12:00 pm to 2:00 pm

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