Hasta Luego

HIGH Leon’s highly expanded moveset leads to tons of ways to approach each encounter

LOW It’s all so darn dour

WTF Am I the only one on Earth who actually likes well-done QTEs?

Darren, in his excellent review of the recent Resident Evil 4 Remake, labeled the game a “compliment” to the original release. I agree with his meaning, but disagree with that being a positive. Heads up, as this is a Second Opinion, readers looking for a thorough breakdown of the game’s nuts & bolts should click the link above and read our Main Review.

Successful remakes fall into two categories — games that make the original completely obsolete (IE: Mafia: Definitive Edition, Shadow of the Colossus, Yakuza: Kiwami 1 & 2), and remakes that completely reinvent the game, which may keep the original release relevant to those chasing nostalgia but are generally usurped by the newer, definitive version made available to a wide audience. Capcom is familiar with the latter approach, as they’ve done that successfully with the remakes of Resident Evil 1-3.

Resident Evil 4 (2023) does not accomplish either of these positions. The thing I kept thinking of while playing the RE4 remake was Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. Both titles significantly improved graphical fidelity. Both added modern controls and mechanics. Both have worse music and voice acting. Both have strange shifts in tone that compare poorly to the original. Neither have the spark of the title it’s based on.

The biggest problem, though? The original RE4 is still awesome.

Sure, it’s not what anyone would call modern, but the 2005 release is still infinitely playable and doesn’t feel anywhere near as dated as, say, 1998’s Resident Evil 2 did compared to its remake. For an 18-year-old effort, the first Resident Evil 4 is still an outstanding thrill ride that anyone can pick up and have a good time with. It just didn’t need a remake in the same way Resident Evil 2 or 3 did, and we still haven’t gotten an update for Code Veronica. A remaster that enhanced resolution, cleaned up a few assets, and made a few necessary quality-of-life enhancements like the recent Metroid Prime: Remastered would have been a perfectly serviceable and well-regarded release.

To be fair, there are plenty of legitimate improvements here. The parrying mechanic is fantastic and helps make up for the nerfing of the roundhouse kick. It’s also legitimately inspiring how Capcom was able to take the knife-fight QTE cutscene with Krauser and seamlessly integrate it into actual gameplay.

Also, the graphics are tremendous. Capcom’s proprietary RE Engine has been an exceptional canvas for their developers, and it shows its versatility again here. The character models are outstanding, weather effects are well implemented, the lighting is sharp, and it’s an exceptionally good looking game.

On the other hand, there are changes that don’t enhance things.

Yes, it was frustrating that Leon couldn’t walk while shooting in the original release, but that was a mechanic that added so much tension. There were constant split-second decisions being made as the player was either going to stand their ground or stop shooting and regroup elsewhere. This lack of mobility also factored into the level design perfectly. Now Leon is a full-on action hero far more capable of acrobatics, and the devs made the enemies more annoying to compensate for this. There were multiple situations where I was stun-locked into oblivion, and there seems to be a significant increase of enemies sneaking up behind the player with no explanation as to how they got there. The original was a difficult title, but I was never as frustrated as I was here.

Other attempts at ‘improving’ from the original land with a thud.

For the record, I never found Ashley’s presence annoying in the original release. It’s easy to tell her to stay put or hide at the start of an area, then go wreck fools and call her back. Now she has two settings — stay right behind Leon or… just kinda meander around the vicinity? This is unpredictable and led to Ashley frequently getting captured because she was somewhere I didn’t want her to be. Otherwise, keeping her close means she’s often fodder for various explosives.

In regards to Ashely hiding, she can only take cover in a few lockers strewn about. This is hardly a mechanic, as I counted three lockers in the entire game. If I saw the locker, I knew to stuff her in there because I knew some jerk with a chainsaw was coming, and it took all tension out because it was so obviously telegraphed.

The one thing I legitimately hated about the new release was the removal of laser sights on the guns. This, to me, was such an integral part of the original and how it felt to play. Yes they do have a laser sight attachment that one can buy, but it’s both expensive and only available for a couple of the starting pistols (it does come standard on one of the late level magnums). I find this fairly antithetical to the idea of a faithful remaster to Resident Evil 4.

Much has been made of the cut content in this release. Certain setpieces (and even a boss!) have been removed, but they were supplanted with bombastic moments of their own and I never thought I was missing anything integral. The Mercenaries mode came soon enough so that its omission at launch wasn’t bothersome, but the inevitability of Ada’s campaign being paid DLC is disappointing.

With that said, there is one thing from the original I miss that nobody else on the internet might agree with, but I miss the Quick Time Events. QTEs are something I’ve never hated, and they can be a fine addition when implemented well. Resident Evil 4 had awesome QTEs, and while the previously-mentioned Krauser knife fight is now better from a gameplay perspective, it also makes deciphering its exposition dump significantly more difficult because players will be too busy parrying to pay attention to what’s being said.

It’s easy to see that QTEs were likely removed because they’re associated with the goofier parts of RE4, like untying Leon’s leg from Del Lago, backflipping through motion sensors, or running away from a giant mechanical Ramon statue.

Of course, removing these bits brings us to the issue of a more serious tone, which now lines up better with the remakes (as well as the modern Resident Evil games), but it just isn’t the slap-happy good time the original is.

Leon has gone from quippy action hero to brooding and overly serious. It sticks out like a sore thumb from the start — the developers kept the absurd “Where’s everybody going? Bingo?” line as a nod to the original, but it now comes off as very out-of-place. I also miss the bad guys hijacking the radio signal to start a smack-talk session with Leon on occasion. Some characters do improve on their original iterations, though. Ashley’s mannerisms and tone better match someone who has been held hostage by bug-infested, backwater Spaniards, and they’ve given Luis a bit more screen time to better flesh out his motivations while toning him down from being a total perv. He’s still a perv, but not a total perv. Progress, I guess?

I want to stress that I didn’t hate my time with Resident Evil 4 (2023). Quite the contrary, actually, as I had a good time re-experiencing a true classic with a modern sheen. However, I don’t find it as impressive as any of Capcom’s previous RE remakes. The revised versions of Resident Evil 1-3 all took big swings and weren’t concerned with how they compared to the original. However, it feels like the devs played it safe here, and that’s disappointing. It’s not so disappointing that I wouldn’t recommend it, but seeing so many people call it the best remake ever compelled me to write this.

At the end of the day, ten years from now when I’m feeding on memberberries and looking to replay Resident Evil 4, there’s a good chance I’ll choose the original. That, to me, makes this remake not as successful as it could have been.

RATING: 7.5 Out Of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Capcom. It is currently available on XBX/S, PS4/5 and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via purchase and reviewed on the PS5. Approximately 19 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated and contains Blood and Gore, Intense Violence and Strong Language. The official description reads as follows: This is a survival-horror game in which players assume the role of a government agent (Leon Kennedy) sent to rescue a character from a religious cult. From a third-person perspective, players explore a rural environment while searching for clues and fighting zombies and mutated creatures. Players use pistols, machine guns, shotguns, and explosives to kill enemy creatures in frenetic combat. Some weapons/attacks result in decapitation and/or dismemberment of enemies, along with large splatters of blood. Enemy attacks (e.g., chainsaws, tentacles) can also result in Leon being decapitated, blown apart, or impaled. Eviscerated animals and mutilated corpses are depicted in some environments. The words “f**k” and “sh*t” appear in the game.

Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are present.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles can be altered and/or resized. Furthermore, Capcom have gone above and beyond to make this game accessible to as many players as possible, with closed captioning often warning of nearby sounds such as beeping explosives, squeaking collectibles or the demented mutterings of nearby villagers. Excellent job, Capcom.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls. Well, at least on Keyboard and Mouse. Controller support has various presets available.

Jarrod Johnston
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