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Resident Evil 4 Remake | Critical Consensus

When Resident Evil 4 launched on Nintendo GameCube, it was a revelation.

The title jettisoned the gameplay that the franchise had become known for – no more fixed camera angles, and goodbye the older ‘tank’ controls – and in its place was a new third-person action horror experience. It not only re-defined the Resident Evil franchise, but most of the third-person action games that followed.

Fourteen years later and Capcom decided to start remaking some of its classic Resident Evil games. Yet with Resident Evil 2 and 3, the developer didn’t just improve the visuals and tweak the controls, it took the story and characters and changed the gameplay into something decidedly more modern. They basically gave those two games the ‘Resident Evil 4 treatment’, and it worked.

This week, Capcom launches its Resident Evil 4 Remake. But how do you give Resident Evil 4 the ‘Resident Evil 4 treatment’?

The answer is you don’t. You make far subtler changes that may not be as surprising as those from the other remakes, but still results in yet another terrifying Resident Evil adventure.

“[It’s] a game that incorporates evolutions of the original’s template, rather than attempting to recapture lighting in a bottle,” writes Andy Robinson in his five-star review on VGC. “2023’s Resi 4 sticks incredibly close to the format laid out by the original – more so than any of Capcom’s previous REmakes, which themselves felt far more dated by today’s standards (partly set by Resident Evil 4 itself).”

Eurogamer’s Aoife Wilson says that although it may not look like a lot has changed, the Remake has actually done a thorough job of being faithful for old school fans, but updating things enough to make it more than appealing to newcomers.

“It’s that funny thing about remakes and remasters; done right, the new and improved version tends to look exactly like the original does – in your head,” Wilson details. “But having gone back to the 2005 iteration since completing the RE4 Remake, I can decisively say it has aged far more than you probably realise, and the Remake does an incredible job of capturing all of the details, moments and mechanics that matter, while bringing everything else up to a standard modern players will enjoy.”

So what has exactly changed? Well, there are the abilities to crouch and stealth past enemies, offering more variety to the combat, alongside a new silent ‘bolt thrower’ weapon. And the Quick Time Events, which were used frequently in the original, have been all-but removed.

“The ‘action button system’ was implemented to ensure players didn’t get bored during cutscenes and, though praised at release, is very much a product of its time,” Wilson says. “The development team for RE4 Remake are aware of this, which led to one of the biggest mechanical changes in the game – the knife parry system.”

As well as parrying, knives also have limited durability and can break. This has resulted in one significantly improved boss fight. “The original’s gimmicky, quicktime-event-heavy knife battle against Major Krauser has been transformed into a gripping blend of parries and counter-attack,” types Tristan Ogilvie, in IGN’s 10/10 review.

In fact, there are numerous changes throughout the game. The lake area can now be fully explored – it’s not just a location for a boss fight. And the famous Resident Evil 4 merchant, still a cockney (albeit one with a different voice), now has some challenges for you to complete, from finding golden eggs to hunting down fierce enemies.

“These side missions don’t feel like chores or checklists to complete, as the requests are naturally paced along with the game’s narrative and given a little story flavour to ground them in the world,” insists Kurt Indovina from GameSpot. “I welcomed them, as they only prolonged my chance to wander around in a world I love spending time in, even if that meant trudging through decrepit villages or the fog-covered floors of a gothic horror castle again.”

The Resident Evil 4 story remains largely the same – Leon S Kennedy has been tasked to find and rescue the President’s kidnapped daughter Ashley. The story beats are all intact, but there have some significant improvements to characterisation.

“The two characters to benefit the most from the remake treatment are Luis and Ashley, Leon’s two main side characters in the story,” explains GamesBeat’s Rachel Kaser. “Leon spends more time outside of cutscenes talking with them, and they have more interactions with him than they did in the original. This also helps make Leon a bit more interesting by association, as this version is more stoic and less willing to banter with his enemies.”

Kelsey Raynor at VG247 agrees: “Ashley looks, sounds, and functions so much better as a companion. She has the personality of an actual daughter of the elite; fully fleshed-out, no longer accompanying us to simply scream, belligerently, at Leon. She’s even quite badass this time around, with witty quips and a personality that makes her character feel more human.”

There have been some moments trimmed from the game, the critics say, although they avoided spoiling too much. But even these changes seem to make sense.

“Where it has trimmed content, it feels appropriate for pacing reasons – the stress or excitement some moments feels elevated underneath 2023 visuals, so some adjustments were always going to be needed,” Robinson notes.

Of course, the new visuals are an important selling point for this remake. The original Resident Evil 4 was created for the GameCube and intended for standard definition TVs. The game has been given the HD treatment since, but the art wasn’t intended for such resolution, and the deliberate ‘muddy’ design of the original has looked washed out on modern consoles. Now is the chance to change all that, and the critics seem genuinely impressed.

“Capcom’s RE engine continues to deliver incredible amounts of detail,” types Leon Hurley in his four-and-a-half star review for GamesRadar+, “and I’ve easily lost hours just looking at things – from animal jaw bones dangling from strings to dusty, moonbeam riddled castles and lab benches scattered with equipment – it’s always a beautiful thing to look at, and Capcom uses these impressive visuals well to craft and develop a series of creepy, unsettling atmospheres as you gradually progress.”

Tom Hoggins from The Telegraph agrees: “The muck and blood of the village farms, creaking wooden walkways leading down to a monster-infested lake, a resplendent castle with lavish dining rooms and twisting corridors hiding any manner of slithering ghouls in its light and shadow. It looks as terrific as you might expect, but also help enhance that sense of pace and variety and each environmental shift brings a change in tone and bestiary.”

Ultimately, almost all critics were unanimous. We may not be looking at the seismic change that made 2019’s Resident Evil 2 remake such a success, but Capcom has got the balance right with the Resident Evil 4 Remake.

Wilson concludes: “There are a few sequences that fall flat, particularly late game, but overall this is as good as remakes get.”

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