By Marisa Alexander / April 28th, 2023
|Title||Resident Evil 4 (2023)|
|Release Date||March 23rd, 2023|
|Genre||Action, Survival Horror|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Xbox Series X|S|
|Age Rating||Rated M for Mature|
It’s honestly a special time to be alive. Resident Evil as a franchise was such a cultural phenomenon back in the day that it is extremely difficult to really detail its influence. While a mixture of themes and implementations of classic horror movies, Sweet Home, and Alone in the Dark, it made a massive impact on how horror games would be developed for the following decade following the original 1996 release. Here, there was so many new developments on how to develop a horror game. Normally, franchises only do this once in their lifespan. Yet somehow, in 2005, Capcom did it again with Resident Evil 4, perhaps the most well-known game in the series. While focused on moment to moment decision making over thinking for the long haul in previous titles, it led to new development strategies for more action-oriented horror games. After all, it influenced a genre favorite, Dead Space. In some way, it’s extremely funny that both games received their respective remakes this year, with Dead Space coming out first. I haven’t play Dead Space’s remake, but I heard marvelous things about it. What I did play is, of course, the remake of Resident Evil 4.
It’s interesting since right after the original game’s release, the series sort of went into a bit of a lull considering the reception and decisions made in Resident Evil 5 and 6. Even with decently regarded releases like both Revelations games, the series never really hit that peak it did before. Even Resident Evil 7 didn’t have that same staying power for ages to come, despite the switch to first person. All of that changed when the Resident Evil 2 remake launched. To this day, that game is one of the most well-regarded horror games of the modern era. While it has shifted fixed camera angles to over the shoulder, it did so with the intention to spruce up the detail of many areas in the game as well as make enemy encounters more dynamic. If anything, it was to fully realize many of the concepts of the original. Mr. X is much more of the pursuer he always was meant to be and the “zapping mechanic”, where doing things in one scenario would affect the other, was much more clearly present, albeit at the cost of less deliberation. It is just a shame that the original game isn’t readily available on modern systems.
That said, there came a new question. If they were going to remake the later Resident Evil titles, how were they going to do so? The third game’s remake had a scuffle particularly due to being a different development team and more aggressive corporate management, despite still solid fundamental game mechanics. The game’s design was much more setpiece to setpiece with less time for the player to relax, especially since Nemesis became more like Mr. X from the original second game – ironic, considering his purpose to begin with. However, there were rumors and talks about Resident Evil 4’s remake coming along for years. Even going by release dates, the remakes for the second and third game were 2019 and 2020 respectively. So having a three year gap did alleviate some concern. Interviews before release also helped, talking about how they were trying to keep as much in as they reasonably could. Things were looking more and more astonishing by the moment. With that preamble over with, since I am starting to be late for bingo, I suppose it is time to really get into grips what makes both the original and honestly the remake such stellar experiences.
First things first, the premise of the original is well known by now. US Secret Agent goes to a remote part of Spain to find the US President’s daughter, where he encounters people infected by a parasite who really want him to join their cult. That is essentially the premise and the original relished in it. The idea would make for a banal horror novel or movie, but the context of a video game makes it extremely memorable. Seeing infected come right for you neither like a zombie or regular person really expanded on the capabilities of the moment to moment gameplay. Once night comes over, the las plagas parasite occasionally bursting out of an otherwise defeated enemy added a new layer to the general experience, with both scripted and random plagas making one prepare for the potential at all times.
It’s interesting since a lot of people don’t really call the original game scary at all. There is truth to it, after all. The game is full of utter nonsensical scenarios with voice delivery that really chews into the situation at hand. Yet that small amount of tenseness remained, though not because of long term decision making. Managing your positioning, resources usage during the given moment, handling Ashley when she was around, and trying to adapt to changing circumstances gave the game a new kind of tenseness that wasn’t in previous titles. While the previous games always gave you plenty of ammo, managing your restrictive inventory space and having to plan ahead can make one wary during the journey to the next part of the game. Here, due to the mixture of a less restrictive inventory but without the storage box, you always were making decisions moment to moment, which in turn adds a sort of mental stack that can pile very quickly. Dread quickly seeps in as you make more and more bad decisions. It’s unique and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As such, the remake takes this into mind and dials it up to 11. Also implementing a couple aspects of previous remakes such as weapon bloom, free movement, and knife durability, the moment to moment gameplay captures so much of what made the original stellar to begin with. Ganados are much more aggressive as well as have a much higher pain tolerance, especially on higher difficulties, no longer always staggered by a single shot even to the head. This makes combating enemies even more frantic, compared to before.
However, this brings forth a new defensive option in the form of parrying. New to the franchise to my knowledge, you can now deflect attacks via timing your melee attack. In some way, this seems to be an expansion of something you can technically do in the original, where you can swing your knife and stop hatchets and crossbow bolts. There are two versions of parrying: a normal one and a perfect one. A normal one simply stops the attack but sometimes an enemy will continue their assault once more, as well as damage your knife. A perfect parry, however, can stagger enemies, allowing you to melee QTE them like normal. A well-timed parry also damages your knife less. The fact that a perfect parry still decreases the knife’s durability still means you don’t want to go around and parry everything, especially since certain attacks like Dr. Salvador’s chainsaw damages the knife heavily. As such, it’s still encouraged to just get out of the way or interrupt attacks.
There is another way to defend yourself against attacks – normally it applies to grabs – and that is to duck. That said, I found this method to be unreliable and still opens you up for further attacks. The fact that unarmed ganados can both punch you and grab you to either choke or restrain doesn’t help matters. In fact, they can even chain from a punch into a grab. Thankfully, you can pull out your knife in order to quickly escape. That is, with the sole exception of when a ganado restrains you from behind. Truth be told, this easily makes unarmed ganados the most dangerous enemy in the game, especially when a boss-type enemy such as Dr. Salvador is around who can instantly kill you. Since the village is filled with this type of ganado by default, it can make the beginning up to the castle surprisingly perilous on higher difficulties, where knife and ammo conservation really comes into play. Once at the castle, however, the amount of unarmed ganados decreases substantially.
Speaking of ammo, it’s noticeably tighter than the original. Unless you are doing certain challenge runs or speedrunning, even on professional you can have an extremely large amount of grenade, shotgun shells, and rifle rounds. As such, the better and more thorough you were, the less stringent ammo conservation was. In the remake, the amount of shotgun shells, grenades, and rifle rounds especially on hardcore and higher feels much more scarce while just plentiful enough with both the added simple crafting system and normal drops to get you by. I remember I could have like five to six flash grenades at once during playthroughs of the original, whereas I never went above three to four in the remake. As such, this creates a lot of focus on getting the most you can out of resources.
It’s a nice contrast compared to the original, truth be told, that helps the remake stand on its own. It’s two ways to make a very challenging experience that rewards playing into all of the mechanics of the game rather than relying on one at a time. Sure, weapon bloom isn’t as precise as the laser sight and ganados not always staggering via headshots can be a hurdle to overcome for fans of the original. The laser sight method in the original rewards mastery of both positioning and getting very quick shots in a timely manner to stagger enemies for a melee QTE that in turn gets crowd control and invincibility frames to get out of a bind.
Realistically, the reason why there is weapon bloom and not every headshot causes stagger is perhaps to allow those who played the previous remakes to transition well into the much faster, moment to moment decision making that is Resident Evil 4’s gameplay loop. You can always stand still to allow your handgun crosshair to become smaller to allow those same long distances shot that could be done in place of the rifle. It just takes longer to do, compared to before where you can take crack shots swiftly if you mastered the laser sight even with the Red9 without the stock. Thankfully, via the merchant using spinels, you can get the laser sight for the starting handgun and punisher pretty early, allowing those who really want the laser sight to fulfill that desire to make swift and precise handgun shots at long distances. As such, this makes it both an actual upgrade and a game style change, while still allowing differences between those two handguns and the other handguns. The fact it is gained via the merchant also allows the Red9 to have a place in the no merchant challenge for the game.
Even las plagas received changes, where the mechanic of them taking over the host in a last ditch effort of survival is introduced at the very beginning of the game. The first ganado Leon kills is taken out during the cutscene but right before leaving the basement, he comes back down with the plaga barely taking over via a small gap in the neck. Later on, you can see bodies squirm, indicating the plaga is taking control, yet also allowing you to finish it off either with a knife prompt or just shooting the head a couple more times. The fact this happens during combat, as well as the normal plaga types sprouting spontaneously once it becomes night like before, really makes one pay attention to what it is going on at all times. It also serves as a neat way to introduce the concept during the initial day time chapters. Graphically speaking, it’s fantastic that blown off limbs and torsos shows parasite strands protruding out, really selling the idea that these people are infected with a hive mind of a parasite.
Take a deep dive into graphics and gameplay on Page 2.
Pages: 1 2ActionCapcomGame ReviewPCResident EvilResident Evil 4ReviewsSurvival Horror