The year is 2010. I was (maybe still am) what the professionals would call a “pussy” when it comes to horror. I had night terrors, saw shadows lurking in the dark, and struggled to sleep most nights. The very last thing on my mind would be to play a horror game. Yet, a friend at that time persuaded me, he had simply “the best game ever” or so he had heard and wanted to experience it with me. I was 12 at the time, don’t let the authorities know, I was way too young to play the game that was restricted to 18 and above. Why would I agree? Because despite my fears there was also something so mysteriously enticing about it. And what was the brilliant game that would change my mind forever about horror games?
Resident Evil 4.
As the story might have revealed, this game holds a dear place in my heart, from the friendship constantly tested with every corner we walked around in the virtual world to reveal unsightly horrors, to the triumphs we shared as we conquered the horrors and our own fears. That’s not even to mention the brilliant gameplay, characters, and graphics.
So, imagine my delight, as Capcom announced they would remake the game that played a huge part in my childhood. And my subsequent fear that if it turned out bad, it would forever taint a wonderful memory.
I probably hate clickbaits as much as anyone else, so to subdue any worries at this point, the Resident Evil 4 Remake is every bit as fantastic, if not better in some areas, than the original, and instead of souring my memories, it has forged new ones, in the same brilliant ways the original did.
First things first, despite being a remake, this is not an identical experience to the original with upscaled graphics and some quality-of-life changes. No, think of it more like a reimagining of the original, it has the same elements but mixed with modern game design, in a way that honors what the original did, while still feeling like a fresh experience. Trust me, I have replayed the original probably 14 times, and still I found excitement and glee around every corner in the Remake. Because it so effortlessly incorporates new elements without stepping on what the original was, forging its own identity while respecting the original.
The story still follows Leon S. Kennedy as he is sent on a mission to save the president’s daughter Ashely. But a seemingly “easy” mission is quickly turned into a dark nightmare that will take you to villages, castles and laboratories. The tone this time around is more serious in comparison to the originals’ “campy” horror. And that is a direction that I adore for the game, Leon still has zingers from time to time, but they’re more infrequent, and only used when necessary. It fits the overall darker aesthetic of the game as well, creating a wonderfully coherent world. And Ashely, my God, Ashely has been reworked into a usable person who you don’t want to blast with your shotgun every time she opens her mouth. She has more backbone this time around (literally, I think she slouches less now than in the original), and her and Leon’s relationship throughout the adventure adds an extra layer to an otherwise small story. However, a few things are expanded upon, and certain other characters have larger roles now, which is great to see, as they use the screentime well and are always a delight to see. Most of them have gotten an overhaul in their appearance, but most if not all work better for the tone and setting, further enhancing this gorgeous experience that keep on giving.
But the original Resident Evil 4’s claim to fame was the brilliant gunplay you would find around every turn of the game. I’m happy to report, it is still as enjoyable and responsive as ever. Some tweaks have been added to fit modern game design like being able to run and shoot, however, the game has been balanced around this. You can feel the careful consideration brought to every encounter and fight, making this 15 – hour adventure a joy from beginning to end. Inventory management returns and for those of us (my hand is raised here) who weren’t too fond of always having to use the last few of our braincells to fit everything in, there is an “Auto-sort” button, and a good few of these quality-of-life changes are spread throughout it, making minor annoyances from the original obsolete.
The game has increased the horror elements, leaning stronger into it than the campiness, which I think is a great direction that gives the game its own distinctiveness and appeal. Some monsters and creatures are way more terrifying now, and just the lighting and atmosphere elevate this dreadful sense. Every fight you have is always an intense battle, and despite me feeling very confident in how often I landed headshots and took out enemies effectively, I always ended up with less ammunition than I thought, further elevating this feeling of tense and survival horror. Would I have enough ammo for the next fight again? Was I screwed? Yet the game never felt unfair, but it keeps you at just the edge, so you never feel comfortable with what is coming or how you will tackle it, you just have to do it.
I’ve briefly talked of the art direction, leaning more into the dark and gruesome aesthetic, but it cannot be stated enough how absolutely magnificent this game looks. Whoever is the wizarding wizard behind the glorious invention of the RE Engine deserves a raise, you know what, screw a raise, they need a dubbing into knighthood. The way the light plays off every surface, the grotesquely detailed models of the enemy, the smooth hair and body of Leon that you just want to li-.
The graphics are outstanding. They really are, every picture put into this article is either from gameplay or are the same models you will see in the game. It’s a *chef’s kiss* from me and a bit more.
As stated earlier, not every sequence you go through is an exact replica of the original, some areas have been dropped completely, and for the better in my opinion, the pacing is executed flawlessly, and you never feel like you’re walking around for the sake of just padding out the playtime. New areas are here too as a great addition without feeling misplaced, again further underscoring the great care that went into the game, preserving what worked before and forging something new and fantastic.
In an era where it feels like game companies explicitly go for the nostalgia trip with cheap and easy remakes or HD ports (yes, I am looking at you Silent Hill HD collection), it’s a breath of fresh air to see that there are still developers willing to not simply follow the status quo but put in the love and care that honors the legacy of the original. Resident Evil 4 Remake is an absolute gem of a game, continuing the standard of excellence the original set, even raising the bar. The gameplay is as tight and fun as it has ever been, with so many quality-of-life changes that only improves an otherwise fantastic experience, with added weapons to the arsenal, meaning that you will find new ways to tackle some old encounters. Additionally, the new tone is reflected in the updated story, making a more engaging tale, and the characters are as great as ever, some with additional background and lore they previously didn’t have which adds to the experience.
Resident Evil 4 Remake is everything I wanted and then some more. I may not sit with the same friend as during my childhood, instead sitting with new ones, as we forged our way through this ravishing new adventure, creating new memories while my nostalgic old ones are still encapsulated in the locket of my memory. And that is just how the perfect summarization of how this Remake feels in comparison to the original.