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Resident Evil 4 remake overview: a contemporary blockbuster with an old-school coronary heart

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We could be approaching a degree the place there are, in reality, too many online game remakes and remasters. Off the highest of my head, there’s The Last of Us Part I, Demon’s Souls, Shadow of the Colossus, Metroid Prime, Dead Space, and shortly, Silent Hill 2. However nobody has gone as arduous into this pattern as Capcom. A part of the resurgence of Resident Evil has concerned bottom-up remakes of video games like Resident Evil 2 and 3. These made lots of sense, translating the clunky early PlayStation gameplay for contemporary audiences and leading to a number of the greatest video games in the complete franchise.

With the remake of Resident Evil 4, the advantages of a remake aren’t so apparent. The unique recreation nonetheless holds up effectively, a mixture of high-octane motion and basic survival horror, and it’s not prefer it’s inaccessible in 2023. RE4 launched on the GameCube and, since then, has been ported to an enormous vary of platforms, even virtual reality. So a big-budget remake doesn’t want to exist in any respect — and but, I’m so glad it does. RE4 stays an indicator of motion recreation design, and this new facelift updates it simply sufficient to show it into a contemporary blockbuster — however one which retains its old-school soul.

Earlier than we get into the remake, a bit of historical past lesson is so as. It’s necessary to understand how a lot of a turning level RE4 was for the sequence. The unique trio of Resident Evil video games helped pioneer survival horror as we all know it at the moment, with sluggish methodical gameplay that was accompanied by a management scheme lovingly — and typically decidedly not lovingly — known as “tank controls.” It might be irritating, however it additionally added to the fear, as you struggled to get away from sluggish, shambling hordes of the undead.

The fourth entry takes lots of the franchise’s hallmarks — intricate stage design, creepy environments, puzzles that require ornate keys, restricted sources, bosses that remodel with plenty of glowing eyeballs, a totally nonsensical story — and infuses them with the DNA of a full-out motion recreation. As an alternative of standing there in terror whereas firing off a flimsy pistol at shuffling zombies, you could possibly now run, dodge, and wield all types of weapons with out having to additionally struggle towards the controls. It modified the route of Resident Evil for years, shifting the steadiness from scares to capturing. It wasn’t till Resident Evil 7 that it received again to basic survival horror (however from a terrifying new perspective).

The villagers are rather a lot scarier within the remake.

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This shift in tone and magnificence is obvious from the very starting. Resident Evil 4 places you within the function of federal agent Leon Kennedy, tasked with rescuing the president’s daughter from a distant Spanish village, the place you’ll finally encounter a murderous cult, monsters with too many tentacles, and loads of different issues to shoot at. Very early on within the recreation — like, earlier than you’ve even fired a bullet — you’re thrown into the city sq., which is full of residents who wish to homicide you for some cause. One in every of them has a chainsaw. You haven’t any alternative however to struggle.

This daring opening sequence is necessary for just a few causes. It exhibits simply how action-oriented the gameplay is; you may’t survive with out working, hiding, and getting off lots of headshots. It additionally makes it clear that the enemies aren’t the sluggish zombies from the earlier video games. They’re quick, and so they can assume. One in every of my strongest recollections of taking part in for the primary time in 2005 was flattening a ladder so the villagers couldn’t climb as much as get me, solely to see them decide it up and put it again in place. I needed to put my controller down for a bit.

Regardless of being almost twenty years {old}, it looks like a largely trendy expertise

Within the remake, that village sequence is far more terrifying than I bear in mind. At its core — narrative, gameplay, and design — the remake is identical as the unique. Nevertheless it has a lot of upgrades, primarily when it comes to visuals and controls, that elevate the expertise and make issues just like the acquainted opening battle extra intense and dynamic.

It appears to be like unbelievable, for one factor. The environments are filled with small particulars that make the world really feel alive, from the nauseating, glistening trails of blood to the brushstroke textures on the oil work. Throughout the quiet moments, it’s lots of enjoyable to soak within the ambiance and simply go searching. The extra real looking visuals naturally make issues rather a lot scarier, significantly on the subject of the enemy designs. Traditional creatures, just like the towering giants or pesky bugs, now look actually terrifying. Even the usual villagers and cult members have a way more unsettling edge to them.

These scares are balanced out by the truth that you’re feeling extra highly effective than in virtually every other Resident Evil recreation. Leon is quick and robust, and the controls really feel streamlined to the purpose that, even towards the tip of the sport after I had six completely different firearms to swap between, I by no means had a tough time switching within the midst of a firefight. Once I died, it was normally as a result of I did one thing foolish, not as a result of I hit a unsuitable button. It’s arduous to place into phrases, however the Resident Evil 4 remake simply feels good: the motion, the capturing, the spectacular set items. All of it gels right into a recreation that, regardless of being almost twenty years {old}, performs like a largely trendy expertise.

Mine carts and explosive barrels: now that may be a online game.
Picture: Capcom

There are just a few locations the place the remake of Resident Evil 4 exhibits its age — however I imply that in a great way. For one factor, that is such a online game. Trendy blockbusters love to cover their inherent gaminess underneath the veneer of immersion, however RE4 harbors no such illusions. It is a recreation the place you kick crates slathered in yellow paint to collect ammo and herbs, and explosive pink barrels are all over the place. There’s even a mine cart sequence (with loads of explosive barrels).

Leon makes goofy B-movie quips continuously, and characters seem not when it makes probably the most sense however when the plot calls for it. Maybe the most effective instance of that is the ever-present shopkeeper, who has storefronts all around the deserted, ravaged city, regardless of seemingly solely having a single buyer. These selections normally don’t make lots of sense narratively, however they’re enjoyable. They make the sport extra easy to play, and total, the expertise is best off for them. I don’t wish to smash up the entire surroundings to get these shotgun shells. Simply inform me the place to go along with some shiny yellow paint.

That is such a online game

Equally, Resident Evil 4 has a stage of focus that has grow to be more and more uncommon. Whereas the remake expands on some issues, significantly with extra elaborate boss fights, it’s nonetheless a reasonably easy expertise. There aren’t any open-world components. (There are some elective quests, largely carried over from the unique, however it’s easy stuff like killing rats and capturing blue targets.) For probably the most half, RE4 pushes you down tight hallways that join bigger areas the place you’ll do the entire combating; you’ll know while you attain a struggle sequence due to the entire cowl and exploding barrels. Its world nonetheless feels giant and sophisticated, however it’s not the type of place you get misplaced in. I solely ever discovered myself misplaced misplaced as soon as due to a really well-hidden wrench that halted my progress. It additionally modifications issues up once in a while in order that it doesn’t really feel overly repetitive. You play a lot of the sport solo, however there are numerous factors the place, very like within the authentic, AI companions be part of you for a time, including a pleasant change of tempo, together with a really scary sequence with the primary daughter.

If you actually give it some thought, the Resident Evil 4 remake is an odd mixture of issues. Full-blown motion merged with survival horror; trendy controls and graphics with old-school stage design. It’s a contradiction at occasions. However all of these components are balanced in a manner that makes them work collectively. The enjoyable moments offset the scares, like while you’re strolling down a creepy, darkish cave solely to see the welcoming purple glow of the shopkeeper’s torch. And the brand new visuals and streamlined motion make the thrilling set items stand out much more. It’s significantly spectacular while you evaluate this remake to one thing like Resident Evil Village, which tried to mash RE4-style motion with the sequence’ new first-person perspective, and notice simply how significantly better the unique nonetheless is.

When Resident Evil 4 first got here out, it was a recreation not like something Capcom had made earlier than. And it seems that, virtually 20 years later, it’s nonetheless as refreshing as ever — even when it’s yet one more remake.

Resident Evil 4 launches on March twenty fourth on the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Collection X / S, and Steam.

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