Game Review: Resident Evil 4 returns in the form of a masterful remake

If previous remakes of Resident Evil games taught us anything, it’s that you can in fact teach an old dog new tricks. But unlike older games that experienced newer visuals and revamped gameplay, Resident Evil 4’s more recent tropes and mechanics bring it closer to what many expect from both the broader franchise and aforementioned remakes. 

So what can be done with a remake of Resident Evil 4, particularly to top what is already heralded as one of the best survival horror games of all time? The answer certainly lies somewhere within this remake. It manages to revamp all that feels necessary, from gorgeous visuals to solid performance, standing as an absolute must-play for both new and old fans alike, even if it clings tightly to its narrative and action-based roots.

A Stroll Through Town

For those of you that have never played 2005’s original, things remain mostly intact, albeit for a few cinematic deviations which generally come down to the lack of quick-time events. The third act has also been tightened considerably, making for a more consistent sense of pace where no moment ever feels wasted or stagnant. The 15-hour runtime can feel a little snappy, but in no way disappointingly short, as whatever pacing issues had remained have indeed been addressed. 

Leon is tasked with rescuing the President’s daughter Ashley Graham. But as you would expect, things never seem as simple as they are made out to be. The mystery that soon transcends the initial rescue is an interesting one, to say the least, making for one of the more direct and engrossing narratives in the franchise. For the most part, this first act plays out how you would expect, but thanks to Ashley’s newer AI and command system, the story presses forward at a smoother rate, bogged down less by frustration caused by Ashley’s strange incompetence in the original. Leon can now tell Ashley to either hang tight or stay close, only having to revive her when downed in combat. Much like the Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 remakes, Resident Evil 4 isn’t necessarily set in telling a new or remained story, but manages to throw a few unique twists that I would rather not spoil, which I feel fans of the original will appreciate. 

Still Got the Moves

Resident Evil 4’s gameplay has always steered towards explosive action more so than traditional survival horror, but it’s also why I enjoyed it more than most entries. The tension here comes from the uphill battle that the masses of villagers present, more so than traditional jump scares and constant low ammunition levels. When compared to the original, general gameplay feels incredibly smooth and responsive. The over-the-shoulder camera returns, but Leon can now aim and move at the same time. Yes, I totally understand that this is normal by today’s standards, but back in 2005, it was quite literally picking between one or the other. 

The knife has also been radically redefined to be used as a valuable tool of defence in multiple situations, as opposed to a last resort. By tapping the left shoulder button at the last second, Leon can now counter enemy attacks, with a perfect parry leaving them open to a spinning kick to the face. As quick-time events have also been scrapped, encounters with the knife feel incredibly tense in their own right (Major Krauser we’re looking at you), sparking a frantic battle between desperation and preservation. That being said, knives now act as temporary items which take damage over time and need to be found out in the environment. Leon’s own trusty knife will need to be repaired at a merchant’s shop, but kitchen knives can be found and stored for later use. The knife can also be used for stealth, as Leon can sneak up behind enemies for the killing blow. 

Beyond combat, Leon’s ability to explore environments for goodies and trinkets has been expanded. Resident Evil 4 rarely allowed players to explore off the beaten path, but this time around, small deviations and detours provide something worth exploring for, be it ammo or valuable items of trade. The merchant has also been tweaked to provide better value for trade-in items, making it easier to acquire new weapons and upgrade existing favourites. Cases used to store items feel and behave as they did, but can now be utilised in line with new perks, in which certain cases directly affect gameplay. For example, the silver attaché case looks slick, but also provides a higher chance of ammunition drops out in the environment. The merchant also provides much of the game’s side content, as he can give Leon bounties, or simply task him with taking out medallions for bonus rewards. While I wish we got more of this littered throughout the 15-hour story, I am eagerly awaiting the Mercenaries mode, which is set to launch as a free update sometime in the future. For now, hardcore fans can take advantage of a New Game + mode for a second run and additional in-game challenges to unlock new costumes, weapons, and concept art. 

Visually, Resident Evil 4’s remake is a winner. While facial animations and character models looked arguably sharper in Resident Evil 2’s remake, environments still pop with impressive lighting and a variety of detailed textures. To top it all off, the experience rarely dropped a frame, only dipping slightly in some of the more chaotic moments; although we conducted the majority of our review on next-gen consoles with both overall performance and frame rates in mind. 

Final Thoughts

2023’s Resident Evil 4 feels like a confident recreation of a game that admittedly still holds up. But while it looks and plays better than it ever has, it’s still very much that same Resident Evil 4 at its core. I can appreciate the new combat additions like knife parries and Ashley’s AI for the sake of gameplay,  even if I simply enjoyed returning to one of the most solid horror action games of all time. This remake certainly clings to that sentiment, adding only where it feels necessary. As a result, there’s simply no reason why you shouldn’t jump into this masterpiece again.


Highlights: New layer of polish; Refined combat mechanics; Ashley’s new AI
Lowlights: Very much the same story presented to fans in 2005
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Windows PC
Available: Now

Review conducted on PlayStation 5 with a pre-release code provided by the publisher.

Matthew Arcari

Matthew Arcari is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. You can find him on Twitter at @sirchunkee, or at the Dagobah System, chilling with Luke and Yoda.