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Resident Evil 4 Review: Impeccable Action Horror

Resident Evil 4 is a masterfully streamlined reimagining of Leon and Ashley's 18 years old adventure that once again cements itself as the greatest action horror game of all time.
Resident Evil 4 Review: Impeccable Action Horror

The original Resident Evil 4 is a trailblazer in the AAA action-horror space of video games. After all, its perfectly executed gameplay and structural ideas paved the way for future iconic franchises like Dead Space and The Last of Us.

 So when Capcom announced that it was reimagining Resident Evil 4 for modern platforms, I had two major concerns going into this release. First, could it recapitulate the sentiments that it did 18 years ago? And second, could someone who grew up playing games like The Last of Us would be able to appreciate and enjoy the video game that set the benchmark for these kinds of experiences?

After spending 27 hours with this modern-day reimagining of Resident Evil  4, I can confidently say that this is still Capcom's magnum opus which, courtesy of several nuances and necessary tweaks, has been masterfully streamlined for newcomers and veterans alike, making this the best version of the game to this date. 

RE4 is Technically and Visually Stunning 

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Resident Evil 4 is easily one of the best-looking games of this generation. (Picture: Capcom)

Every RE Engine game since Resident Evil 7 has been a looker, and Resident Evil 4 is easily the best-looking game of them all. I'm someone who wasn't entirely sold on the visuals of RE Village. On the one hand, the details on the photo-realistic interiors and character models were staggering. On the other hand, some of the exterior environments felt like they were rushed off to ship the game on time.

That doesn't happen here. Resident Evil 4 looks incredible through and through, except for the weird rain effects, which Capcom said it would fix with a day one patch. 

The opening hours where Leon traverses through the hauntingly beautiful Europen Village, had me slack-jawed the entire time. From the way the light shimmers through the spooky lush-ridden branches of trees to every strand in Leon's golden hair, everything reeks of high-production values, and I'm all in for it. 

Equal attention has been given to the game's enemies, be it the standard Ganados or the bosses. The Garradors are all set to terrify a new generation of gamers with their Wolverine-style claws and Dragonborne-style head armor.

The regular enemies are just as intricately crafted. They also react to your shots. It's not just about aimlessly aiming for their heads but rather looking for opportunities to deal more damage. You can shoot someone's hands to knock off the dynamite from their fingers and cause an explosion. If someone's approaching you with a sickle, knock that thing out of their hands, for goodness' sake. 

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The Ganados are more terrifying than ever. (Picture: Capcom)

Resident Evil 4 isn't just one of the best-looking games of all time; it's also one of the most technically sound ones that offer some surprisingly meaningful graphical options on PS5 and Xbox Series X.

From the outside, it doesn't look much fancy. There's just a Resolution mode and Frame Rate mode. The caveat is that you can enable ray tracing in both the Resolution and Frame Rate modes. I don't recall when the last time a  current-gen AAA game offered raytracing support at 60 FPS.

Oh, and that isn't even the best part. Resident Evil 4 also targets 6O FPS in its Resolution mode, with 4K and raytracing enabled. Once I found out I could play this game at 60 FPS without sacrificing the resolution on my PS5, there was no going back.

Of course, there were a few notable dips in crowded areas, especially when I switched between weapons and zoomed in on a tentacle-spawned enemy with my action-bolt rifle, but nothing that could break immersion. A quality mode that targets 60 FPS is absolutely the gold standard now, and I wish more AAA games would attempt this in the future. 

Masterfully Streamlined for Veterans and Newcomers

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RE 4 consistently puts you in unique, fast, and frantic situations with only a handful of ammunition and resources to get you by. (Picture: Capcom)

It would be unwise to call Resident Evil 4 a survival horror game or an action game since it's a combination of both and truly one of its kind. It consistently puts you in unique, fast, and frantic situations with only a handful of ammunition and resources to get you by. Unlike Resident Evil 1,2, and even 7, there aren't any horrifying jump scares to send your heart racing. Instead, it often shoves overwhelming nail-biting encounters that will consistently send you into a state of frenzy. 

Throughout its 20+ hours of the meaty campaign, not once did I come across a situation that made me feel déjà vu. It's awe-inspiring how Resident Evil 4 continues to feel uniquely intimidating in every combat scenario it puts you in, even to someone like me who has played the original game multiple times in the past. 

But how exactly does Resident Evil 4 keeps itself fresh for veteran players and adhere to a new generation of gamers? By completely flipping the fundamentals of the original. In the Shinji Mikami version of RE 4, you couldn't run and gun simultaneously. In this new modern-day reimagining, you can run, crouch, and even deflect enemy attacks with your knife. 
Capcom has injected agility in RE 4's every encounter the same way Saddler injected the Las Plagas parasite into every living soul in the village, castle, and island regions.

You're consistently encouraged to move, whether to avoid an enemy's upcoming RPG missile, to deal a melee final blow, or to rescue Ashley (your not-so-helpful AI companion) from perverted Zealots. 

Like previous Resident Evil games, RE 4 features a handful of weapons ranging from handguns to magnums and heavy hitters like shotguns and rocket launchers. My favorite of them all is the Bolt Thrower, Ada Wong's Bow Gun from the original game's Separate Ways DLC. Thanks to the option to add detonable mines, it quickly became my go-to weapon for crowd clearing. 

Capcom has significantly amped the feel and control of weapons in Resident Evil games post-RE 7, and RE 4 is no different in this regard. It's easily the best of them all, with shotguns being more satisfying to use here than they were in RE Village. 

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Capcom has significantly amped the feel and control of weapons in Resident Evil 4. (Picture: Capcom)

Resident Evil 4 also has the best DualSense adaptation of any modern Resident Evil game. I didn't like the haptics in Resident Evil Village because they felt over-implemented. Shotguns and Snipers felt so heavy to aim and fire I had sore fingers halfway through the campaign. Ultimately, I ended up turning off DualSense functionalities in that game. That doesn't happen in RE 4, and I was surprised at how subtle the implementations are. Every weapon feels unique to wield, but not enough to make them too realistic and painful for your fingers.

Perhaps the biggest gameplay change from the original is the addition of deflecting the enemy's attack with a knife. In my hands-off preview of the game, I expressed my concern about this new mechanic, which, although satisfying to use, had the potential to rob the vulnerability factor of the original. 

Now after playing through the new RE 4 campaign at the highest difficulty, I can happily report this is a diligent addition that takes away nothing from the game experience but adds so much more to it.

Your knife has a meter that depletes the more you deflect an enemy's attack. The rate of depletion depends on the actions you perform. For instance, it depletes more when you use it to escape an enemy's grapple attack, and it depletes significantly less when you use it to stealthily stab someone from behind. 

Deflecting an enemy's melee or ranged attack is immensely satisfying, though, unlike games like Sekiro and Wo Long, you don't get a huge red warning symbol on the screen to tell you when to deflect. This adds more tension to every encounter since successfully deflecting an enemy's attack in RE 4 isn't as easy as it looks. Moreover, since knives are a rare resource, deflection is more of a necessity than a luxury. 

Capcom wasn't lying when it discussed how overhauling knife mechanics would open up more player options. You can use your knife to craft mines for your Bolt Thrower. On paper, this seems like an out-of-context implementation, but in reality, it's such an ingenious move. Would you rather play safe and preserve your knife to defend yourself, or would you rather use it to craft mines and go berserk? The choice is yours. 

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Deflecting an enemy's melee or ranged attack is immensely satisfying. (Picture: Capcom)

The knives are smartly integrated into almost every boss battle in the game as well. Some bosses have maneuvers that you can deflect using your knife. However, you're better off saving them for dealing melee critical blows when they are stunned. These deal massive damage and are a great way to take down foes quickly. 

Aside from deflections, most boss battles play out the same way they did in the original. Also, not every boss has been reimagined in this new version of the game, and while I don't have any complaints in this department, since they are plenty of incredible new and old enemy encounters in the game, not every veteran fan is going to find this amusing. However, unlike the Resident Evil 3 Remake, Capcom hasn't scrapped something incredibly substantial from the original, so there's not much to worry about. 

Fiddling around with your inventory to combine mysterious herbs and move around your weapons during high-octane boss battles remains a pivotal part of the gameplay in Resident Evil 4. Capcom has gracefully improved that experience by adding the option to customize your case. 

You can trade different color attaché cases from the enigmatic merchant. Each case also comes with a unique perk, giving you all the more reason to invest in it. It's a subtle yet noteworthy addition that I want Capcom to improvise in future RE games. 

Resident Evil 4 stands the test of time because Capcom has smartly evolved several aspects of the game, which makes it more relevant for the modern audience. Another great example of this is the addition of Weapon Charms. 

These are cute little artifacts that you can attach to your case. Each also comes with a unique perk. For example, the Chicken Charm increases the health recovery for all egg types by 100%. It's a quality-of-life addition, and chasing down Weapon Charms to find something better suited to you is a fun experience. 

Resident Evil 4 Remake Just Works

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Resident Evil 4 knows how to toy with your expectations. (Picture: Capcom)

The Resident Evil franchise is a mixture of many absurd things, and Resident Evil 4 is probably the only entry in the franchise in which every one of these absurdities comes together to create an experience that inexplicably just works. 

It begins as an intense survival horror experience with a war-torn protagonist coming to terms with past tragedies. An hour later, that same protagonist is suplexing crazy Spanish villagers, making Bingo jokes and fiddling around with gemstones in his pocket.

Resident Evil 4 knows how to toy with your expectations. When the gameplay starts, it becomes an intense affair. Soon after, it says, "Well, let's hold up a minute and goof around," and it does that by delivering cheesy one-liners and introducing silly-looking characters ranting about world domination, and as I said, everything just works. 

My only biggest complaint from Resident Evil 4 as a fan of the original is the new voice work of several of the characters. Ada Wong, in particular, didn't click with me because Lily Gao's tone failed to capture the sassiness of Sally Cahill from the original.

I missed the flamboyant Leon that Paul Mercier effortlessly brought to life in the original. Make no mistake, Nick Apostolides' version of Leon in this new reimagining is a more grounded depiction of the character that grew up on me by the end. However, some of the one-liners from the original in this game felt forced and didn't exactly suit this new Leon. 

Resident Evil 4 Review Verdict (5/5)

resident evil 4 review
Resident Evil 4 is a masterfully streamlined reimagining of Leon and Ashley's 18 years old adventure that once again cements itself as the greatest action horror game of all time. (Picture: Capcom)

Resident Evil 4 is a masterfully streamlined reimagining of Leon and Ashley's 18 years of the original adventure. It smartly evolves several aspects of that game to make it more exciting to the modern audience. By doing all this, it once again cements itself as the greatest action horror game of all time. 

Reviewed on PS5

Review Code provided by Capcom