Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4

Viva Las Plagas.

Viva Las Plagas.

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Review game Resident Evil 4, Viva Las Plagas.

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It seemed likely that Capcom would rebuild Resident Evil 4 to a similarly high standard given the excellent remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3, which were released in 2019 and 2020. Even so, I was unprepared for how violently this 2023 remake of the cult classic 2005 action-horror game would knock my knees out from under me and suplex me headfirst into 16 hours of nonstop tension and excitement when I pressed the start button. This completely redesigned campaign outperforms the original in practically every way. Its pacing has been tightened to the point where almost no minute is wasted, its controls have been updated to allow its signature dynamic shooting mechanics to really shine, and its setting in the Spanish countryside is noticeably more ominous. It turns out that during the 18 years I’ve been waiting for a game to excite me as much as Resident Evil 4, I’ve actually been waiting for another Resident Evil 4.

Many people may not need an introduction to Capcom’s classic survival-horror series, but Resident Evil 4 is a standout entry. I should probably provide some context, though, as it was released during the time when we all believed that Episode III would be the final Star Wars movie and that iPhones had not even been invented. Resident Evil 4 was an action-horror epic unmatched at the time because it was a big deal for the series to abandon its traditional fixed-camera perspectives in favor of an at-the-time radical over-the-shoulder viewpoint that put the emphasis on reflexes and precise targeting and brought us uncomfortably close to the gore. Its impact has since been felt in innumerable other third-person classics, such as Dead Space, Gears of War, and The Last of Us. Now, its original DNA has been taken out, synthesized, and introduced into a cutting-edge host game, transforming it into a terrifying new creature that is both incredibly beautiful to look at and terrifying to confront.

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I played the original game for the first time in a long time in order to prepare for this review, and I was surprised by how much the original needed to be remade. Main character Leon Kennedy’s range of motion was absurdly constrained; he moves like he’s wearing an old pair of skinny jeans that haven’t fit him since police academy, and he becomes immobile whenever he pulls out his gun, as if he can’t control both of his hands and feet independently. It’s ridiculous by today’s standards and would definitely turn off a lot of new players before they could even begin to appreciate why this game is so well-regarded.

Look for Saw Boys

Fortunately, those times are behind us. This Resident Evil 4 remake plays like a game from 2023, much like the recently released Metroid Prime Remastered. Luxuries such as simultaneous twin-stick movement and targeting allow you to side-step out of the way of an approaching crossbow bolt or back cautiously away from the advancing hordes without taking your eye off your rifle’s scope. With your newfound mobility, you can take full advantage of the incredibly satisfying area-specific damage effects. For example, you can blow out an enemy’s kneecaps to expose them to a melee finisher, blast dynamite sticks out of attackers’ hands before they can throw them, or just enjoy some of the most gory headshots in video game history.

The original DNA from Resident Evil 4 has been taken out, synthesized, and inserted into a cutting-edge host game to create a terrifying new monster.

If you haven’t played the original game, none of this will surprise you, but believe me when I say that it’s a big deal to those of us returning for round two. The rough edges of several other interactions have been smoothed over, such as the ability to quickly smash crates and barrels with a button press rather than awkwardly lining up a knife swing, which makes it much faster to scurry for ammo and health pickups during a heated battle. With a single tap of the D-pad, switching between weapons is now instantaneous, eliminating the need to stop and navigate between the inventory screen and the enemy. Leon’s combat knife can also be used to deflect enemy attacks, deal a quick finish to enemies who are dazed, or eliminate enemies silently after using his newfound ability to crouch. It has to be those jeans that fit looser.

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Most importantly, though, when played on the Hardcore setting that is suggested for players who are regaining experience, this revised control scheme makes combat more enjoyable and fluid without sacrificing any of the challenge. (If you would like an easier time with it, there are “standard” and “assistant” modes available.) Because the knife sustains damage with each use, you should only use it occasionally despite its additional advantages. If you don’t, it will break like a tiny Master Sword and require repair by a merchant before you can resume stabbing.

As this is going on, enemies move in wildly unpredictable ways and tend to overwhelm in numbers, so you still have to make quick decisions about which targets to prioritize. In order to keep you on your toes while you’re busy flexing your trigger finger, the murderous villagers will occasionally set bear traps in the middle of a fight. This is just one of the crafty new tricks they’ve learned to trip you up. Even though Resident Evil 4 offers you a wider range of tools to help Leon survive, you still need to have quick reflexes and wits because losing your head in a crowd of people that are home to a deadly mind-controlling parasite can quickly lead to Leon literally losing his. Fortunately, a new checkpoint save system reduces the amount of time you’ll have to spend tediously going back to your last manual typewriter save in the event that Leon dies. However, if you prefer a more difficult run the next time around, you can remove this safety net by unlocking the Professional difficulty mode.

The fact that enemy types are constantly changing in Resident Evil 4—regardless of the difficulty you select—means you can never truly establish a one-size-fits-all strategy. They put on helmets to make you aim at their legs, just as you’re getting good at taking headshots. After breaking more kneecaps than a debt collector, they begin to resurrect with lethal whipping tendrils emerging from their shoulders. After you’ve successfully eliminated these horrifying mutations, you’re met with an apparently endless waddling tub of nightmare fuel that can regenerate every body part that has been blown off, much like a T-1000 that Clive Barker hand-sculpted. Resident Evil 4 makes every effort to guarantee that you’re leaving as little as possible in the chamber after each intense gunfight. You get an increasing variety of weapons to choose from, including submachine guns, rocket launchers, and exceptionally potent magnums.

Spanish Castle Enchantment

It’s possible that many of you under 30 don’t know what Resident Evil 4 is about; to put it simply, think of it like riding a rollercoaster that goes off the tracks and crashes through a row of amazing haunted houses. Leon is sent into a small Spanish village to search for the US President’s missing daughter, Ashley. What begins as a fairly straightforward rescue mission quickly spirals out of control and features an incredible number of action-packed scenes, including battles against towering trolls and giant sea monsters, desperate defenses against insane hordes in boarded-up cabins, outrageous assaults on a heavily fortified castle, skulking sections through shadowy laboratories, explosive minecart chases, and numerous run-ins with some truly twisted freaks infected with the mutating Las Plagas parasite. All of these scenes are brilliantly reimagined on Capcom’s RE Engine, which also powered the previous two remakes. The notoriously sloppy last third of the first RE4 has been greatly tightened up, and everything culminates in a better and truly intimidating final boss battle that required every ounce of skill and ammo I had.

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Riding Resident Evil 4 is akin to riding a rollercoaster that has gone off course and crashed through a series of amazing haunted houses.

Improvements of all sizes are made at every stage of the trip. The gimmicky, quicktime-event-heavy knife battle between Ashley and Major Krauser from the original has been replaced with a compelling mix of parries and counterattacks. Additionally, Ashley’s intelligence has improved so that she is less likely to unintentionally fall into the hands of a vicious mob, and the removal of her health bar has greatly reduced the frustration of escorting her through certain sections. Significant structural alterations elsewhere have created a more cohesive atmosphere. For example, the lake area in the original game was mainly used as the setting for a boss fight. However, you can now fully explore the lake and its surroundings by boat, docking at different inlets to search cabins and caves for more puzzles, priceless treasures, and unseen horrors that lie in wait.

The pace of Leon’s plight never becomes bogged down in the kind of storytime stroll that’s become so common in many big-budget single-player adventures. In fact, even after playing the original multiple times, there seemed to be something that surprised me around every corner. Resident Evil 4 doesn’t have time for deep and meaningful dialogue, much like The Last of Us and God of War Ragnarok, which are both fantastic games in their own right. No matter how much I had to Tetris-swap the growing assortment of guns and ammo to fit his inventory case, Leon always seemed to have plenty of room left up his sleeve for a winking one-liner to whip out after a thoroughly insane action sequence before sliding a fresh clip into his submachine gun and charging headlong into the next. His foppish haircut may scream naughty emo, but his stoic attitude is all-out ’80s action hero.

Leon’s struggle never drags on with the kind of narrative meandering that has become so popular in many high-end single-player games.

Stranger’s Property

When you do need a break, the enigmatic merchant comes back to replenish Leon’s supplies with a variety of lethal tools, such as an antique version of the Q Branch, and new recipes that let you make the precise kinds of ammunition you want while out in the field instead of depending on chance-based drops. In addition, he fulfills the bounties on the optional side missions that have been added to the campaign. These missions, which include finding a rare golden chicken egg or shooting down hidden blue medallions, are an entertaining diversion from the bloody main plot of the story. It took me a few quick quests to be able to purchase and successfully fit Leon’s iconic red dot sight, even though I was initially disappointed to see it removed from his starting pistol. These bounties are paid in spinel gemstones, which can be traded for exclusive items and upgrades outside of his standard inventory of wares.

Although it’s comforting to know that The Mercenaries mode will be released as a free update at some point, it’s unfortunate that it isn’t included at launch. I can’t wait to take on The Mercenaries mode’s hectic time attack challenges with Leon’s more flexible move set. While bonus modes Assignment Ada and Separate Ways from previous Resident Evil 4 versions appear to have been abandoned or possibly saved for DLC, there is still a New Game+ mode and a long list of in-game tasks to finish in order to unlock more weapons, costumes, and concept art. Since they were never as big of a draw as The Mercenaries, their loss isn’t as significant as it could have been, but when a campaign is consistently this fantastic, it’s difficult to resist the need for a little bit more.


Like a parasite-ridden Spaniard, Resident Evil 4 is an absolute no-brainer for anyone who enjoys action-packed horror of the highest caliber, regardless of whether they are fans of the original or newbies. Its world is full of fun and often snarling surprises; its action scenes are varied in structure but consistently unwavering in intensity; and its story swiftly moves between them. Its combat is frictionless but no less stressful because of its fierce cast of creatures. Its enhancements over the original are too numerous to mention; they range from minor adjustments to the quality of life to entirely redesigned boss fight mechanics. The Capcom team has hardly made any mistakes, save for the merchant’s sadly diminished personality. What are you purchasing? Only the most intensely thrilling Resident Evil adventure ever was completely redesigned, improved, and realized to the utmost of its immense potential. A good decision, buddy.

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