Date Posted: 12/11/23
Amazingly Resident Evil 4 Remake is a remake of the 2005 game with the same name (minus the word “remake” obviously) that was originally released on the GameCube before being ported to basically every console that has ever existed. It sees one of the protagonists of Resident Evil 2 namely Leon S Kennedy being sent to remote Spanish village to recover the President’s daughter Ashley Graham (voiced by Genevieve Buechner). Not surprisingly not long after he arrives the mission goes awry with Leon forced to face off against mutated creatures that want to tear him limb from limb and the village’s sinister leader who has his sights set on global conquest.
I have to admit something before we go on, and that is that I have never actually played Resident Evil 4, it has been sitting on my game library for months but I haven’t ever really had the desire to play it. As I have said before the Resident Evil series basically passed me by until I got into the Resident Evil VII back in 2018. I knew of the original RE 4 game and the infamous and eardrum bleeding cries of “Help! Leon!” that Ashley would utter whenever an enemy got within coughing distance of her. But I knew very little about the game itself, its plot, or its gameplay. Similarly to RE3 Remake I made a point of not watching any walkthroughs or too much game play footage because I wanted to come into the game as a newbie without knowing what was going to happen. So without further ado, let’s get into it…
The game opens up with a monologue from Leon (once again voiced by Nick Apostolides reprising his role from the RE2 remake) explaining that after the destruction of Racoon City he became a government agent for the United States being trained by Major Jack Krauser. Six years later in 2004 he was dispatched to rescue the President’s daughter Ashley Graham from a remote and rural Spanish village with the assistance of Ingrid Hunnigan. Leon is driven to the outskirts of the village by two police officers, one of which heads off into the bushes to relieve himself. After being gone for a long time, Leon ventures out after him, and quickly finds the officers body as well as murderous villagers that act in a distinctly in-human manner, being able to shrug off bullets, and seem filled with a fanatical desire to destroy any intruders in the village.
Leon is ambushed in the town square soon afterwards after witnessing the second officer being burned alive. Fighting off an seemingly endless army of villagers, things seem hopeless when a bell rings causing the villagers to simply cease their attack and walk away. Leon continues his mission to find Ashley and learns that the villagers are under the influence of a parasite named Las Plagas which robs them of their freewill, turning them into the puppets of the Los Illuminados cult.
The leader of the cult Lord Saddler plans to use the parasites to turn the world leaders into his servants, and both Leon and Ashley have been infected. With time running out to remove the parasites before they succumb to the infection the pair must travel deeper into the bowels of the island and face off against the masters of the cult who can mutate into terrifying monsters at will…
Okay, now I am aware that my opinion of this game is going to be influenced by the fact that whilst the original was a groundbreaking title that influenced the way games were designed to this day, as I never played it, those revelations passed me by. I guess you could compare RE4 Vs RE4 Remake to my opinions of Dead Space Vs Dead Space Remake because I adored the original and was absolutely delighted by the remake which took the first game and improved it in basically every way. As far as the RE4 Remake is concerned it had elements of the remakes I have already played and the original game’s sequels like Resident Evil VII and most notably Resident Evil Village. I commented in my RE Village review that the opening sequence in which you fight off werewolf-like creatures until they decide to just bugger off was similar to how I had heard RE4 started. The paradox that I have is that RE4 influenced RE Village and likely the RE2 and RE3 Remakes and now I am comparing its remake to the games that took influence from it in the first place. I know that this remake is getting 10/10 and Game of the Year awards left right and centre but for me there were times when it exceeded and fell short of the games that have come before it.
Allow me to explain…
First off the game was in all honesty pretty harrowing most of the time, able to go from dead quiet to panic action, and back again in seconds. It kept the tension high because I had no idea when I was about to get mobbed by legions of hard to kill enemies. Most of the time I was scraping through with minimal health and ammunition quite often hoping that I’d kick open a barrel and find a green herb to restore my dwindling health. In both a good and bad thing you don’t get health back when a new chapter begins so if you scraped through a boss fight, don’t expect to have a full health bar when you resume. Bear traps litter the ground and whilst they don’t remove any health, they incapacitate you for a few seconds allowing any enemies to close in on you. You get mobbed a lot leading to panic firing and frantically switching between weapons to keep the monsters at bay. The original was apparently pretty campy but this was anything but and I was saving at every opportunity not knowing if I was going to make it through the next section.
The graphics were very high quality and made the most of the power of the PS5. A lot of the enemies look more human with their only distinguishing feature being the colour of their eyes or the inhuman way they stumble around. Fighting more human-like enemies is in a way more terrifying than battling zombies or werewolves. The plaga parasites themselves also look like huge bugs, and during the game you must fight them in various forms.
The Duke from Resident Evil Village has been replaced by The Merchant (who inspired the Duke in the first place) and functions to enhance your equipment, purchase new weapons or body armour, upgrade your storage space, and buy the treasures that you discover as you explore the various environments. It is not generally very hard to find enough money to purchase whatever you want, and if you have upgraded weapons then wish to sell them you get a significant portion of the money you invested back so you don’t need to worry about upgrading early weapons then losing the funds you invested in them. There is also a gun range mini game, and you can find various tokens which enable you to unlock charms which grant bonuses when fixed to your attaché case. The Merchant will also give you extra tasks to complete which unlock other rewards. The three main sections of the game function as mini-sandboxes which allow you to go anywhere within them, and if you haven’t completed his tasks before the game is due to move to a different location he prompts you to maybe go back and find them because you won’t be able to do it later.
I always like it when characters are voiced by the same people from previous games (I was very happy that Gunner Wright returned to voice Isaac Clarke in the Dead Space Remake having voiced him from the second game onwards) and Leon is once again voiced by Nick Apostolides from RE2 Remake. However another returning character is voiced by someone different from the previous person (I don’t want to spoil who the character is if you don’t know they appear). I couldn’t find any reason why the original actor did not return but in all honesty it did not really bother me too much.
The game is also a lot longer than RE3 was and I’m pretty sure longer than any of the previous games I have played through. There is certainly value for money and the game is designed to be played over and over again allowing your previous inventory, weapons, and unlocks to transfer from playthrough to playthrough.
Ashley’s AI is also pretty good and she has the awareness to generally stay out of trouble. It is pretty easy for her to get picked up and if you don’t kill the person trying to take her away then you get a game over. Generally through you can rely on her to stay out of the way whilst you are doing the hard work. There is a chapter in which you play as her which could have caused the game to grind to a halt but it returned the game to the more horror element because she is virtually defenceless. On that point, I do wonder why Leon doesn’t give Ashley a gun or a knife. Leon starts the game with a gun and has the same one in cutscenes regardless of whether you have sold it so perhaps within the context of the game Leon only has a single gun so can’t give it to Ashley. But if that is true then he definitely has a knife too so he could give that to Ashley to give her some means of defending herself. It would make cultists think twice about grabbing her if she could stab them in the throat the moment they slung her over their shoulder.
The AI of the enemies is also decent enough with them mobbing you, or throwing grenades or Molotov cocktails at you, or firing flaming crossbow bolts at you. It isn’t amazing because the ones throwing the grenades will do so regardless of whether you are on your own or surrounded by a crowd of their chums. It is perfectly viable strategy to let them throw something then get out of the way so the explosive takes out the enemies. There was also blind monsters that have wolverine claws who attack anything that makes a sound which includes other cultists if they are around, which works in your favour if you can make full use of the opportunity.
There are plaga bugs which can camouflage themselves which I only learned after my second playthrough can be made visible if you use the thermal scope that you get late in the game the first time around.
All of these things help to create a game play loop that is challenging whilst walking the line between being frustrating and tedious. Admittedly though the guys that shoot flaming crossbow bolts at you from half a mile away are more annoying than anything else. There is a particular turn of phrase that I like curtsey of an episode of Star Trek Voyager that I always think about at times like this “it is like being pecked to death my ducks”, and it is true. These guys pick away at your health from half a map away, stagger you allowing other enemies to attack you, and take off just enough health to be a massive pain in the arse. Naturally they have prefect accuracy and can hit you if one square millimetre of you is poking out from behind cover.
In my first playthrough I finished the game with a fully upgraded pistol, and magnum. As I played I kept unlocking completion points for getting through levels or completing various challenges. You may recall from my RE3 Remake playthrough that after you complete the game you gain the ability to unlock unlimited new weapons with unlimited ammo if you had the necessary points. This feature was carried over into RE Village but had been tweaked slightly so only weapons that had been fully upgraded during the game could be unlocked to unlimited ammunition. I was therefore working through the game thinking that once the game was completed I was immediately investing some of my CP rewards in unlimited pistol and magnum ammo for my second playthrough. Unfortunately once the credits rolled and I was back to the main menu I went into the Extras section only to find the unlimited ammo options for the weapons conspicuous by its absence. I had made a point of not looking up any info on the game lest it spoil my playthrough and discovered that there were only one way of getting unlimited ammunition for your weapons. This methods tasks you with playing the game on a brand new save file (so no upgrades from any previous playthroughs) on Professional (the hardest difficulty), with no bonus weapons, and get an S+ rank which means completing the game in under 4 and a half hours, whilst only saving the game 15 times. It is one of those tasks that die-hard fans play which unlocks a set of Cat Ears that when worn give all your weapons unlimited ammo. Of course, if you have done Professional difficulty, and got an S+ rank then you probably don’t need unlimited ammo in the first place.
There is one weapon in the game that has unlimited ammo which is available after your first playthrough, and this is a rocket launcher. It doesn’t require CP rewards to unlock; instead it is available for purchase from the Merchant for $2,000,000 pesetas. Money is relatively easy to acquire during the game with treasures you can find having gemstone slots which enable you to increase their value by putting different gems into them. I was a third of the way through my second playthrough by the time I had enough money to buy the rocket launcher (after I sold everything else I owned) and once it was in my possession the enemies in the game might as well have bent over and asked for it gentle. The rocket launcher will one-kill everything, and I do mean anything, from lowly grunts to bosses. The cut scenes for bosses barely had time to finish before I fired a single shot and their death animation was rattling off which turned the latter two thirds of the game into an easy jaunt. Admittedly the rocket launcher does have one major drawback and that is that its damage will affect Leon as well as enemies, so if you fire it off at your feet then you will get hurt. As a result I repurchased a pistol and used that if anyone got too close for comfort. I have unlocked unlimited rocket launchers in previous games and yes they were powerful by were not instant boss killers. Having it was a mixed blessing because whilst nothing could challenge me after I purchased it; nothing could challenge me after I purchased it. So the last few hours of the game were an easy stroll through the tulips.
It is a pity because the enemies are varied; with you facing off against humans that later have body armour and metal shields, to bugs that can camouflage, to the guys with wolverine claws, but none of them can withstand a blast from the rocket launcher. Mr X or Nemesis in RE2 and RE3 Remake could be slowed down by heavy weapon fire but it only slowed them down, and in their boss fights (with the exception of the final sequence on the elevator with Mr X) took multiple hits to take them out.
I played through RE3 Remake and RE Village numerous times completing various challenges because unlock CP rewards that in turn allowed me to gain more weapons with unlimited ammo. I even S ranked RE3 Remake in every difficulty. In RE4 Remake CP rewards can unlock different outfits for the characters to wear, something that means precisely squat to me. The only possible exception to this statement being that one of the unlockables I know about from the original game was a suit of armour for Ashley which meant she could not be picked up, and it is available if you complete the game on Hardcore or above with an A rating. That is possibly the only thing I might want to unlock because if she cannot be picked up then it would make the gameplay a bit easier. But again a blast with the rocket launcher will obliterate anyone holding her whilst leaving her unharmed.
Basically everything that I have commented on was a bit meh but nothing I have talked about was that irritating. However, by far the most annoying thing in the game was the fact that the Evade prompt was the same as the Crouch button. Now there are moments when you need to evade an enemy’s attack, and a prompt will pop up. If you are quick you then avoid the attack. The original was notorious for Quick Time Events so perhaps it is a call back to that, unfortunately, if you miss the timing on the prompt then Leon crouches instead. If you are trying to Evade an attack then the last thing you want to do is crouch because you are going to get hit. It was soooo annoying to watch Leon crouching next to an enemy when I was shouting at him to dodge. After Jill had a dodge option in RE3 I am amazed that Leon, who I remind you has had some form of special forces training, is unable to do a dodge roll to get out of trouble, especially when he can back flip like Spider-Man if you time the evade command correctly.
So now comes the part when I must rate the game, now it is by no means bad, and I can understand why fans of the original would be reaping it which such high praise (as I did with the Dead Space Remake). However, I was disappointed by the fact that the CP rewards are basically pointless when I was so looking forward to having unlimited shotguns, pistols, machine guns and magnums with which to blast my way through the enemies on subsequent playthroughs. When it comes down to it I played through twice, jumping immediately into my second game as soon as I finished the first. I have also started on my third playthrough in which I am planning on getting some of the stuff I missed on my first two goes. I think that RE4 Remake is perhaps a culmination of the Resident Evil games I have played before. RE VII and RE2 Remake were survival horror. RE3 Remake was more action. RE Village was trying to be both and ended up being an action game with horror elements. Resident Evil 4 Remake is what RE Village was trying to be. In my first playthrough I was scraping from one encounter to another always wondering if I’d have enough ammo and health to get through, but I was also looking forward to unlocking unlimited ammo for my upgraded weapons. Something that proved to be pointless in the end and without the promise of unlocking anything other than different costumes there isn’t enough to keep me coming back over and over again as the previous games did.
The game is obviously getting a Thumbs Up because it is a great game that does manage to blend harrowing fights with sequences of action that don’t feel like one exists to give you a break from the other.
9/10 – I think describing this as the game Resident Evil Village wanted to be is quite appropriate, however, unlike that game this one does manage to walk the line to between scares and action. This isn’t about survival horror but it is harrowing. It keeps the tension high and knows when to focus on action and when to focus on the series’ scarier roots.