Resident Evil 4 Remake

Another chance at history

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Remakes are a very thin line to walk. On the one hand, if one is working with a beloved property, one has a built in audience, with everything that entails. Do it right, respect the source material and satisfy the prior fans of the work, and your creation can equal or even surpass the original. Do it wrong, however, and those same fans will tear you apart, and your effort will become little more than a sad footnote in the history of the work.

I don’t envy the creators of Resident Evil 4 Remake, to be honest. The original game has been considered to be one of the most important horror titles of all time. It not only revitalized the series, but also pushed forward horror games in general, injecting new life into a genre that had grown stale by that time. Even today, with the HD remasters fresh in people’s minds, Resident Evil 4’s original incarnation remains one of the most beloved titles of all time.

How does one top that? How does one improve upon what many considered to be perfection? It’s a tough act.

Capcom absolutely gave it a valiant try.

The amount of effort that was put into this ground up remake is evident from the first moment that the game starts. They used their versatile RE Engine for it, and that means visuals that are absolutely jaw dropping. The RE4 remake uses ray tracing, and every environment, every leaf and bush shows just how much Capcom cares about this historically important title. This isn’t a slap-dash, quick and dirty thing here. In other words- it’s not a Silent Hill HD Collection affair.

The company has somehow managed to keep the feel of every area you go in, while at the same time changing things up so that you never get that feeling like you’re just retreading old ground. You’ll recognize places, paths, areas… except that despite giving heavy nostalgia and being recognizable, they’re still different, enough to be filled with surprises for even someone who has traveled through the original countless times. You’ll enter an area and think you know how it lays out, only to suddenly realize that some things are moved around, some things are just flat out improved, and others have been added.

These changes amount to more than just environments at their most base level. The game itself feels like it flows better. The original RE4 had times where the pace just suddenly would slow down and become a slog- you knew where to go but you would have to just waft through a gauntlet of Ganados (the game’s version of the classic RE4 zombie) and you would just mutter to yourself before forcing yourself to get through it. Going through the entire game and while there were many things that ran through my head, the game never got boring.

Mercenaries is back!

One of the ways the game accomplishes this is with the enemies themselves. While the Ganados are just as bafflingly dumb as they’ve always been, Capcom has made them much, much harder to dispatch. These are not the same shambling, slow villagers and cultists you’re used to from the original title. They’re much more resistant to many of the original tactics players of RE4 might have grown accustomed to- and that much is evident from the very first enemy you’ll encounter in the game. While the fellow in the original title merely approaches you, axe in hand, ready to be dispatched with a shot to the knee and a few knife swipes, the new game’s opening enemy runs straight at you with his hands outstretched. There’s almost no time to react, and your pistol won’t knock him over. There’s a high probability that new players will find themselves having their necks being squeezed- which is where Capcom introduces a new mechanic that is both good and is also incredibly divisive.

Leon’s knife tactics.

In the original game, Leon’s knife made for a pretty go-to kind of backup weapon. You would use it frequently to open crates, and if you managed to get an enemy on the ground, some quick flailing could dispatch your foe without much trouble. If you found yourself at the mercy of a group of a enemies near a ladder, you could climb to the top of the ladder and just swing your knife repeatedly; the enemies would climb the ladder one by one, and one by one they would be knocked off the ladder and eventually die.

In this game, Leon’s trusty knife has a health bar. Unlike every other steel knife in the history of existence, simply slashing through the soft, squishy Ganados will damage the thing. Once the health bar is depleted, Leon’s knife will break, requiring a very expensive trip to the merchant to go fix it.

Yes, there are new mechanics that accompany Leon’s new balsa-wood-esque knife, namely a parry mechanic. If an enemy gets the jump on you then you can defend against it with a quick button press, but still… the fact that non-parry attacks will also damage the knife is really quite a horrible decision on Capcom’s part. The only way to get a knife that isn’t made out of plastic is to complete a particular sidequest, one that you won’t finish until literally the very last moments of the game- so don’t expect to get much relief from the breaking knives on a first runthrough.

On top of that, they’ve changed the way Ashley responds to you, when she’s around. In the original, if you knew you were going to be facing danger, you could ask her to hold still. In this game, they ripped that command out and replaced it with basically nothing, so now she’ll ALWAYS be following you around like a puppy, ready to get right in the way of whatever you need to be shooting, ready to die at a moment’s notice, since she no longer has a visible health bar.

Gun rhymes with Fun for a REASON, strangah!

On the bright side, the other weapons the game gives you are both fun to play around with and versatile. Everything just feels right, from the ammo-saving Bolt Thrower weapon (a sort of crossbow gun that lets you pick up the bolts you just shot) to the ultra satisfying shotgun. Just make sure to conserve your resources! Despite having the same emphasis on action as the original game, the game is quite stingy with what it gives you, and you can’t buy more from the merchant.

You’re going to need it, especially against the bosses. This game is significantly more difficult than the original. Outside of the standard Ganados you’ll face, everything else has also received an upgrade and been made far more dangerous. I won’t spoil anything, but everything you think you know about the most dangerous creatures is now much, much worse.

Even the chickens attack you now.

When you start the game, it’ll give you a difficulty option, with Standard being offered for “those who have not played Resident Evil 4” and higher difficulties for those who have played the old game. IGNORE THAT. No matter how many times you have played the original, do your first runthrough on Standard. Without the experience that comes from getting used to the game, anything higher is a pathway to little more than endless aggravation.

To go along with the newly implemented difficulty, the new graphics and sound comes changes to the story… some far more divisive than others. The original RE4 was campy, playful and cracked jokes while Leon took on his quest. This game doesn’t do that. While a few iconic lines are still there (such as the “bingo” joke at the end of the opening), the vast majority of the game is far more deliberate and serious. Salazar no longer hacks into Leon’s communication system to taunt him or stomps around. There’s no “your right hand comes off” lines. The tone is far darker this time around- much more visceral and depressing. This is also reflected in the new lines the characters have. Leon and Ada no longer flirt with each other; their interaction comes across as much more antagonistic. Ashley wears a skort now (no more instances of her calling Leon a pervert when he looks up a ladder) and she no longer propositions him at the end of the game- and conversely, Leon no longer propositions Hunnigan at the end of the game, either. Basically, everything even remotely flirty has been rinsed out of the game’s dialogue. It’s all somewhat strangely stale, especially with the final villain; in the original he frequently taunted you over the comm, but in the new version he’s barely there at all up until the very end.

Perhaps the new tone might be a result of the fact that Capcom decided to recast every voice actor. The performances run the gamut, from passable (Leon and Ashley) to absolutely hideous. While one can understand the necessity of having a character like Saddler be more reserved and less of the cartoon villain he came across as in the original, others fare far worse. Ada’s voice actress, for instance, turns in one of the absolutely worst performances I’ve ever had the displeasure of bumping into while playing a game. In the original, she was sultry, playful, full of secrets and mischief, and her vocals showed it. The new actress completely fails in every single aspect of that. She comes across as simultaneously tired, bored, fidgety, and aggravating. If they had hired a fifth grade drama teacher from a random spot somewhere in the Midwest and got her to read the lines, it would have still been better than the absolute trash that came from Ada’s actress. Considering how essential the character is to the storyline, it’s an anchor that drags down an otherwise decent plot.

Hire me as Ada’s voice actress or I’ll shoot!

Krauser just sounds like someone took the original and pitched it up to the level of Scrappy-Doo. It’s not as bad as Ada’s performance, it just seems a bit silly to have such a high, squeaky voice come from this massive body builder type of a character.

In any case, the vast majority of the time Leon will be sprinting through impeccably improved versions of familiar places, and it’s absolutely amazing. Capcom has added numerous things to break up Leon’s trek- including the addition of requests! These are found around the places he’ll be visiting, denoted by a paper that describes what he need to do. These requests can be anything from killing rats to finding a particular fish, and they’ll give you a new special kind of currency. In the original game, you would find spinels as a sellable treasure. This time around spinels are rewards, and you trade them for unique, one of a kind items. It’s a great way to increase the replay value of each area, beyond hunting for treasures themselves. You’ll want to nab as many of these as you can, because the upgrade system in the game is both necessary AND expensive. This time around though, the treasures are in many instances more fun to play around with. In the last game, certain treasures could be combined to make more valuable items- now, the majority of the treasures have that option. Not only that, but instead of having to put certain specific gems into an item, you can mix and match and combine the colored gemstones you’ll find in the game with the treasures to make more valuable combinations.

Pretty boring, to be honest. I ended up shooting the sailors on purpose

Not every instance of these minigames has improved, however. The shooting gallery has been strongly downgraded, with the varied environments from the last one turned into basically just a generic pirate ship theme. The prizes from the game are even worse, however.

Completing shooting gallery challenges will award Leon with “Tokens”. These tokens come in silver and gold varieties, with the gold ones being much harder to get. Once you’ve gotten at least three tokens, you can exchange them in an old-style vending machine near the gallery for… completely random charms. These charms attach to your attaché case and can range from being absolutely worthless and common to being astoundingly useful. However, the big problem is that the prizes for each combination are decided at the very start of the game, and cannot be changed without a restart. So you could be lucky and have two silver and a gold token give you a rare charm, or be completely screwed with the game denying you anything at all except common ones, with no way to get a different random set unless you completely restart the entire game. In the end, I eventually gave up at the shooting game and moved on, which really is a shame, because someone put time and effort into drawing all those cardboard pirates.

In the end, really, whether to purchase this came comes down to a player’s individual tastes. Are they willing to deal with Krauser’s Smurf voice and Ada’s “I need coffee” dialogue? Can they brave the faster enemies, who will get up and sprint at you while their heads loll off their broken necks? That is really up to individual tastes. I will say that, at the end of it, getting through this game was, by and large, a very enjoyable experience and it serves as a worthy addendum to one of the most important horror titles in history.


A worthy title held down by a few bizarre choices

I obtained this game The game was purchased by me. I played Played through the entire game twice, start to finish.