Resident Evil 4 Remake is a significant improvement over the original game, but not in the ways Resident Evil fans might expect.
With its over-the-shoulder camera and precision aiming, Resident Evil 4 revolutionized not only survival horror but the shooter genre as a whole when it was released in 2005. With this remake, developer Capcom included a slew of enhancements and optimizations that make this once revolutionary game even better.
With its previous remakes of Resident Evil, Capcom mainly focused improvements on three areas: controls, presentation and mechanics. This time around, the control and presentation advancements are a little less dramatic, mainly because Capcom is updating a newer video game.
Improvements to presentation in RE4 Remake focus mostly on mood. One issue I and many other Resident Evil fans had with the original RE4 was simple: It wasn't that scary. This remake, however, addresses that. Capcom ups the fear factor with several improvements to the mood and setting, from the horrific-looking monsters to nerve-wracking areas where Leon's flashlight is the only light source. These enhancements make RE4 Remake a wonderfully horrific experience for any Resident Evil fan.
The biggest advancements in RE4 Remake are in the game's mechanics. Capcom has fixed the "Ashley problem." For those unfamiliar with RE4, Leon from Resident Evil 2 returns to the series. He's on a mission to rescue Ashley, the president's daughter, from a cult in rural Spain. After he finds her, Ashley becomes his partner, adding an escort mechanic to the game. In the original, Ashley was controlled by AI and there were many frustrating moments when she'd get in the way of Leon's shots or be quickly snapped up by enemies, leading to a game-over screen.
In RE4 Remake, Leon can now order Ashley to stay further behind him so she rarely gets caught in the crossfire. She also does a good job of avoiding enemies, making it less likely for her to get abducted. The improvements to Ashley transformed a character who was disdained by fans of the game into someone who's both charming and endearing.
Capcom also beefed up the backstory and motivations of other characters in RE4 Remake. New documents and files from the villagers and others make them more sympathetic. In turn, the bosses who took advantage of those people feel even more evil than originally depicted. These compelling characters made for a more emotional playing experience, unlike the original, where they came off as campy and hokey.
I had developed a distaste for the original RE4 because it led the series down a path that took horror out of the franchise. The remake revitalized my fondness for the game, taking me back to 2005, when I first played the original. Back then, seeing a game play so differently from the older Resident Evil titles was mind-blowing. Now this remake creating a true horror vibe with interesting characters is giving me a lot of that same joy.
RE4 Remake comes out on Friday for $60 on PC, PS4, PS5 and Xbox Series X|S.