Going into a review of the remake of Resident Evil 4 may have been one of the most difficult projects that I’ve worked on in my career as a reviewer.
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The original is a classic; one of the best games ever made, and one of the highest rated titles ever released. It’s had nearly 20 years to build its reputation as one of the best experiences in the Resident Evil franchise — being one of the games that got many people, myself included, into the series in the first place.
Having finished it multiple times, Resident Evil 4 (2005) is one of my favorite games. I’ve played it on every available console; from Nintendo GameCube to Oculus Quest 2. In fact, in order to prepare myself for the release of the remake, I did one final playthrough of the original on Xbox Series X to get the last achievements I missed the day before release. So, in many ways, I’m a fan going into this review with a bias.
I know this review would be extreme in one of two ways due to how much I love the source material. I knew that I was going to either hate or love this remake with very little room in between. There was no room for mediocrity in the world of Resident Evil 4. Sure, the Resident Evil 3 remake was mediocre, but the original RE3 never measured up to THE Resident Evil 4; a game that couldn’t have a remake that was more than just alright.
So how does the remake stand up to the original? I’m happy to say that it is better in every way.
The story of the remake, hence forth referred to as Resident Evil 4 (2023), is more or less identical to the original. Leon S. Kennedy, now a special agent for the US Government has been sent to a rural area in Spain to rescue Ashley Graham, the missing daughter of the US President.
However, as soon as Leon gets into the village, he quickly realizes that something is incredibly wrong, as the population appears to be in a cult of some sort; walking around mumbling prayers to themselves and reacting with hostility and violence to outsiders. Leon embarks on a journey to several of the original game’s iconic locations, looking to find Ashley and put an end to the cult all together.
While the story itself may not have changed, many of the story beats have been adjusted. Several sequences have been altered in order to create a better, more thorough experience.
Ashley’s playable segment during the Castle arc is now a journey to rescue Leon rather than the aftermath of Leon rescuing Ashley, for example. Another change is the character of Krauser being introduced earlier than in the original.
But perhaps the character who benefits the most from the retelling of Resident Evil 4 is Luis, a Spanish scientist who had been working on the Las Plagas, and now seeks atonement for his past sins. Luis’s character gets much more time to shine as a charming, roguish dork who styles himself as a modern-day Don Quixote.
Leaving enough of the original charm in place, the story tweaks make Resident Evil 4 (2023) feel fresh and new. Returning fans will be happily surprised.
One of the only aspects of Resident Evil 4 (2023) remake that I struggled with at the beginning was the changes made to Ashley’s character. In the original, Ashley was a cute, dorky idiot who existed to be pretty much useless. The best things about her character were her physical attributes or — as the original Luis would say — her “ballistics.”
Despite all her issues, I always found her dumb nature to be a fun contrast to Leon’s more suave personality.
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Luckily, the new Ashley Graham grew on me quickly. By the end of the game, she felt like a perfect, well-rounded character. In an age where female characters are often being written as flawless, Ashley still feels like a capable character without crossing that line into unbelievability.
Her failures come at the hands of the villain rather than her own shortcomings, which helps to aviate any frustration she may illicit from the audience. Ashley definitely is the most improved character and I’m happy to be able to count her among the rest of the awesome female characters in the Resident Evil franchise.
The gameplay is where Resident Evil 4 (2023) shifts from being a good game to a perfect one. The gunplay has never felt more responsive than it does in this remake. Fights against hordes of enemies always can feel intense and often will force the player onto the backfoot as they try to readjust to enemy pressure.
Now that Leon can move freely while firing his gun, Capcom smartly decided to make enemies far more agile as well. They will now bull rush you, crouch, attempt to dodge bullets, and swarm you. If you are not careful, you can easily be overwhelmed and beaten down.
One of the new additions to the remake is the expansion of the knife as a universal tool — which can be used to accomplish a multitude of tasks in the remake. Knives allow you to stealthily take down unsuspecting enemies, break grapples, deliver killing blows to enemies on the ground, and even block attacks with them.
I can not count how many times during my first playthrough that I survived what would have otherwise been a fatal encounter thanks to the quick use of my knife to block an enemy’s attack.
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All the fan favorite weapons return as well, the Riot Gun, Red 9, Broken Butterfly, and more all make their return and can be upgraded to deliver devastating and gory devastation to any enemy who makes the mistake of standing in your way.
I finished my first run with a Blacktail piston and the Striker shotgun easily being my two most used weapons, but there are many options to choose from. Currently, I’m doing my second playthrough as a knife-and-pistol-only run for one of the game’s 39 achievements/Trophies.
The visuals of the remake far surpass the original as well. Every environment feels handcrafted with attentions to detail often giving me pause. The Castle and Island sections of the game in particular really benefitted from the rework as they are the best looking sections of the game by far. The use of fire for low-lighting really transforms the visual experience of Resident Evil 4 (2023).
Each character looks great as well, Leon has kept the look that he had for the Resident Evil 2 remake along with the same voice actor. Ada Wong also keeps her design from Resident Evil 2 (2019) — unlike Leon, however, her voice actress has been changed.
Lily Gao, who played Ada in the live-action Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City film is the new voice actress for Ada going forward; for better or worse. Her performance is…well…not great. Every line that Ada has in the game is so lacking in emotion that almost feels as if Gao was dozing off in the recording studio; mumbling lines in her sleep.
It is such a shame because, while I hate Ada Wong as a character, Jolene Andersen breathed new life into her character in Resident Evil 2 (2019), though it may make sense for Capcom to hire an Asian actress to play the role of an Asian character. If only they chose an actress who sounded like she was putting in any effort whatsoever.
That being said, Ada Wong’s voice acting is only a minor inconvenience that doesn’t manage to ruin the experience in the slightest — given that she’s only in the game for a total of 10 minutes, Gao’s performance is only a very small hiccup in the presentation of Resident Evil 4 (2023).
Every other actor does a good job portraying their respective characters, making them feel new and exciting, while keeping intact what made them memorable in the original game.
The Resident Evil 4 remake was everything I had hoped it would be and more. It was a blast to play from start to finish, and I have already dived back in to experience it a a second time; eagerly. Everything that Capcom set out to do with this remake they have succeeded at, producing a brand-new instant classic experience and a predictable Game of the Year contender.
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- A Fresh take on an all-time Classic
- The best gunplay in the entire franchise
- The changes to the story make a 20 year old game feel fresh
- Ada's voice actress really sucks the energy out of any scene she is in
- While the new Ashley is great, I will miss the classic Ashley