Capcom Offers Superb Survival Horror in Resident Evil 4 2023 Remake

Resident Evil 4 (2023)
Reviewed On
Steam (PC)
Available For

Resident Evil 4, depending on who you ask, is either one of the best games in the franchise, or is single-handedly responsible for destroying Resident Evil, as a whole. As someone who has always enjoyed every aspect of the franchise, Resident Evil 4 was a high point in the series for me, personally, and encouraged multiple runs with its variety of post-game unlockables and extremely fun side content. So, can a remake dare to live up to such a legacy? Is Resident Evil 4 (2023) a Broken Butterfly, or is this a title you’ll be singing the praises of on your Chicago Typewriter for years to come? Let’s find out.

Resident Evil 4 begins with Leon S. Kennedy traveling to a remote Spanish village to rescue Ashley Graham, the daughter of the President of the United States. Shortly after stopping for a bathroom break, both of Leon’s escorts mysteriously disappear, and Leon discovers them gruesomely murdered by denizens of a nearby village. These villagers attack outsiders indiscriminately and don’t even seem to die when their necks are broken, with their weird, parasitic tentacles pouring out of their wounds. Leon’s goal, to save the President’s daughter, has to be accomplished while fighting off all sorts of horrors, escalating in both size and scope.

Resident Evil 4 is primarily split into three major sections for Leon to fight his way through: the village, the castle, and the island. The village area is comprised of a lot of classic survival horror elements and introduces the player to the sheer amount of action that they’re going to be subjected to across the course of the game. After the introduction, it’s not long before players arrive to the destitute Spanish farming village and have to fight off the hordes of parasite-infested villagers. Resident Evil 4 by no means eases you into the action- in as little as two minutes from pressing new game, you’ll be accosted by dozens of villagers, including one wielding a chainsaw, more than happy to separate Leon’s head from his shoulders.

Editor’s Note: We had to go all the way back to 2006 to find our original Resident Evil 4 review on the PlayStation 2, so enjoy it if you want to see what the core game was really like.

After the extremely impactful introduction, exploration through the village largely serves to introduce the player to what’s expected of them. You’ll find ammunition, healing herbs, frag and flash grenades, as well as all sorts of treasures you can sell to a mysterious merchant to upgrade your firearms or knife. Speaking of, you’ll need to pay to perform maintenance on your knife, as it now actually has durability in this remake. One of the easiest ways to conserve ammo in Resident Evil 4 is to knock enemies down and slash at them with your knife, though with the new knife parry mechanic, you may always want to have some durability left over, just in case.

Even with limited durability, the knife is still one of your most invaluable tools- you can sneak up behind enemies and stealth kill lesser foes with it. New to this Resident Evil 4 remake is the ability to parry enemy attacks and crossbow bolts, sacrificing some of your knife’s durability to maintain your health. Parrying on Normal or Hardcore modes is actually very easy and is a great way to use all the kitchen and boot knives you’ll find littering the environments. Parrying on Professional mode, which unlocks after clearing the game once, is substantially more challenging- only perfectly timed parries work in that mode, so you might need a fair bit of practice to pull that off in the highest difficulty. I cleared Professional with an S+, and I’m still not able to reliably parry several enemies!

The castle section of Resident Evil 4 is where the game really ramps up and marries more of its action to survival horror. More in line with Gothic themed horror, the parasite-infested enemies that Leon has to fight against in the castle utilize much more complex tools. Some use shields, armor, crossbows with fiery bolts; they even manually manipulate siege weapons like catapults. The volume of secret passages, introductions of varieties of parasite-controlled non-human vertebrates, and everything about the castle screams Gothic horror tropes and mixes them together extremely well with the added stress of needing to defend Ashley, a non-combatant.

The island portion of Resident Evil 4 comes in the final third of the game, after you’ve already gotten quite invested in everything happening so far. This is where it shifts pretty hard into having more action, and what happens is so interesting that you’ll hardly care that the title subtly shifted genres from survival horror to a straight up action game. The island is probably the most changed section of the remake, and it could easily be argued that it’s much better paced now, and substantially more action packed. Ammo is a lot more plentiful in this segment of the game, by far, and the enemies you’ll encounter use even more advanced tools like rocket launchers, mini-guns, and new forms of explosives to keep you from rescuing Ashley.

One of the most interesting things Resident Evil 4 ever did was that it took the Escort Mission trope very seriously. Ashley isn’t a combatant- she’s just a college student who wouldn’t know the first thing about fighting off hordes of parasite-controlled beings. This primarily means that when you need to separate from Ashley for whatever reason, you’ll need to give her cover fire in order to prevent her from being captured or killed by a wide variety of enemies.

There are some pretty reasonably-sized differences in Resident Evil 4’s remake when compared to its earlier releases on the Gamecube, Wii, or other versions. The Quick Time Events that the original Resident Evil 4 popularized are actually gone in the remake- that’s a change some may be happier about than others. Due to the lack of QTEs, some infamous areas like the laser room are inspired by the critically-panned Resident Evil movie from 2002. There are still moments where you need to dodge something quickly while venturing through corridors, so the evade command will pop up onscreen, but you’re now completely safe during cutscenes so you won’t have to rewatch a knife fighting cutscene 12 times.

Despite these changes, Resident Evil 4’s remake improves upon the original in many, many ways. As with Capcom’s other Resident Evil remakes, 4 had many of its rooms changed or entire sections streamlined to provide a better flow from one location to another. They also cut at least one entire boss fight, which, to memory, was one of the worst boss fights of the original game. A lot of the dialogue was changed, with a lot of Leon’s rampant quipping getting cut entirely or replaced with more serious dialogue. Leon’s constant and humorous quipping is sorely missed, but there’s more useful and believable dialogue for Luis and Ashley which really helps sell their characterization to the player.

The sound effects for Resident Evil 4 (2023) are top notch. The sounds and impacts of gunfire are extremely satisfying, and the grotesque, flesh-twisting horrors that the parasites inflict upon bodies have terribly recognizable squishing, snapping, and popping sounds that let you know precisely what’s happening… even if your back is turned. The music in the remake is a fair deal weaker and more subdued than the original game, but thankfully there’s always the option to use the original soundtrack.

One thing that many Resident Evil titles are known for is new game plus unlockables. While there’s no gatling gun with infinite ammo like the original Resident Evil 2, there’s a bunch of special weapons and cosmetics with special functions in Resident Evil 4’s remake. Clearing the game once on any difficulty, for example, will unlock a rocket launcher with infinite ammo to use on any subsequent playthroughs.

More challenging runs of Resident Evil 4, however, unlock even more special rewards, like a special tommy gun or hand cannon that can have infinite ammo, a suit of armor for Ashley that makes her impervious to damage, or a chicken head costume for Leon that makes him take less damage. Resident Evil 4 is a title that doesn’t just want you to experience it once- it wants you to take that experience, learn how to do it again quickly, and then beat the game with an S+ ranking to unlock adorable cat ears for Leon. In terms of replayability, Resident Evil 4 (2023) scores quite highly due to its challenging unlockables, though it did release without the Mercenaries mode or Separate Ways story campaign, both of which were present in the original.

Fortunately, a more slimmed down version of Mercenaries was added as a free DLC recently, which is a score attack horde mode where you fend off a wide number of enemies utilizing your weapons and the environment. The remake’s Mercenaries mode is much, much easier than the original Resident Evil 4’s, for some reason, and there’s a hard limit of 150 enemies killed before the horde mode ends. This mode is also missing a stage and some playable characters, to boot. As it currently stands at the time of this review, the short side campaign featuring Ada Wong called Separate Ways is due to be released sometime soon.

All in all, Resident Evil 4 received a superb remake in this title. The characters are more realistic and subdued, and almost all of the most interesting and classic encounters from the original version are included and revamped to be even more interesting or challenging. Some changes to mechanics, like knife durability or the removal of incendiary grenades, may be turnoffs to some Resident Evil purists, but this is probably the most faithful remake in the series that Capcom has made thus far.

If you’re a fan of survival horror, or are fine with horror elements such as scares and limited resources for ammo or healing in your action games, then you’ll find a lot to love in this Resident Evil 4 remake as it’s one of the finest this entire genre has to offer.

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