Best of 2023: why we’re looking forward to Resident Evil 4 remake

At first it seemed like a bad idea and now it’s poised to be one of the games of the year but what exactly has changed about Resident Evil 4?

As rumours emerged that Capcom was planning to remake 2005 classic Resident Evil 4, we were loud amongst the chorus of disapproval. The arguments against a remake were sound, as Resident Evil 4 was very much a game of its time, a bridge between the early and modern eras of 3D gaming, that popularised the concept of the third person shooter and paved the way for Gears Of War and all that has followed.

The game used a control system that would never be accepted today and yet to change it would fundamentally alter the nature of the game, which was carefully designed with the knowledge that you couldn’t walk and run at the same time. We had graves fears, especially as Resident Evil 3 started to make the Resident Evil 2 remake seem like a fluke. But then we played a preview and suddenly it became one of our most anticipated games of 2023.

Resident Evil 3 was by a completely different studio to its predecessor, with a much lower budget, so concerns based on that should be immediately discounted. The wider worry, that Resident Evil is abandoning the cheesy tone for which the earlier games were so famous can also be dismissed as, surprisingly, Resident Evil 4 still uses a lot of the same dialogue as the original.

It’s still hard to tell whether the few remnants of cheesy dialogue, in the last two remakes, were on purpose or just because the writing still wasn’t very good. With Resident Evil 4 though there is no ambiguity, as it fully embraces the absurdity of the original. It features hero Leon S. Kennedy openly pondering whether everyone has gone to bingo, as bad guys mysteriously shuffle off towards a nearby castle, while you run around the small village from the opening shooting chickens and setting a cow on fire.

Anyone’s that played the original will know the game gets a lot sillier, and weirder after that, and while there are signs that the remake will play things a little more seriously – weirdly the dog from the beginning of the game wasn’t in the demo we played, but had apparently be killed beforehand – Capcom are insistent that the entirely of the original game will be recreated.

That’s a bold claim, as the game wasn’t short, at around 16 hours with no dawdling, but Capcom claim the new version will be roughly the same and twice the length of the other two remakes. Inevitably, some things will be cut but it is already confirmed that Ada Wang is in the game, so elements of her DLC, if not the whole of her side story, are presumably included.

Everything about the Resident Evil 4 remake so far seems perfect, from the excellent visuals to the very clever compromise over the controls. Obviously, you can now move and shoot, but when you zoom in to aim your movement becomes considerably slower, so while you’re not standing still it does almost feel that way, without seeming too artificial. It’s genuinely useful too, as Resident Evil 4 is all about sharpshooting and having a more stable platform to do so is a great help.

The Resident Evil 2 remake was a success not just because it appealed to those that remembered the original but because when updated with modern visuals the gameplay of the early era Resident Evil games aren’t quite like anything else around today, including more modern entries in the franchise. Resident Evil 4 was old-fashioned in a different way, thanks to its control system, but it’s also the sort of game that would be a lot more open world if it were made today.

Set pieces such as the siege in the village are the open world equivalent of their time but it still takes place over a very small area. And yet the freedom it offers you, in terms of when and how to tackle the enemies still feels refreshing. In the intervening 18 years most games have learnt little from Resident Evil 4 and still tend to be overly linear, with very controlled ways to complete your goals.

Resident Evil 4 and its remake are the polar opposites of the virtual puppetry seen in games such as Red Dead Redemption 2. Even though Capcom’s game is made up of a series of linear map areas what you do in those locations feels much more like playing in a sandbox, rather than being told when to shoot and where.

There are changes to the remakes but while you can now switch weapons on the fly the famous briefcase inventory is still part of the game. We’re a bit worried about Capcom’s commitment to reduce the number of quick time events though, as not only did the original not have that many but it includes arguably the best QTE of all time during the Krauser knife fight.

We’re also worried about the promise to expand the characterisation of secondary characters Ashley and Luis, but if the game’s intent on taking itself too seriously we’ve seen little evidence of that so far. Surprisingly, there also doesn’t seem to be any attempt to try and make it scarier, as while the original remains one of the best games of all time the non-stop action means it had to give up most attempts at being a true horror game.

There were some exceptions, such as the encounters with the Regenerators, which we expect the remake will have some fun with, but Resident Evil 4 was at heart a shlockly action film in video game form, not a horror movie. Perhaps the remake will alter that balance but regardless of that, everything we’ve seen and heard so far suggests it will be another classic.

Resident Evil 4 will be released on March 24 for PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC.

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