| Los Plagas Redefined |
When Resident Evil 4 originally launched back in 2005 for the GameCube, I was eagerly anticipating its release – losing sleep the closer it came to me. It redefined the action genre by changing its perspective to over-the-shoulder, bringing the horror closer to the players like never before. Despite its excellence in gameplay, cinematography and graphical feats, Resident Evil 4’s characters and plot were gut wrenchingly terrible – from Leons out-of-character cocky attitude, Luis and Ada’s uselessness to its cheesy one-liners and out-of-touch pacing. This is coupled by the disjointed decision to allow the infected to fight back with shields, maces and crossbows. I would usually replay RE games multiple times, but I couldn’t with the original Resident Evil 4.
Now it’s nearly 20 years after and thankfully, not only is the remake several leagues better than the original, but Capcom also refines and expands RE4’s plot in meaningful ways, having it sit comfortably as the best remake ever made.
Tenemos que ir…
You play as Leon S. Kennedy, the rookie cop who survived the incident of Raccoon City 6 years prior. In the original, we were thrown into this story with little effort to Leons backstory and how he got there – this time, we learn that he was forced into the military undergoing rigorous training to become an elite soldier. This expands on the notion that Leon is still suffering from the events of Raccoon City, which would show well through his struggles in this campaign. Leon is no longer the cocky sonuvabitch he tried so hard in being, instead he takes his job seriously with a mature tone and a sense of duty. Additionally, his heroics are much more grounded, leaning more on the supporting cast rather than his ego; it’s still pretty anime-like, which takes away from the overall quality, but it is clear that character development was taken into consideration. Speaking of secondary characters, Luis and Ashley takes center stage in regard to expanding their development. Ashley is still very much the damsel in distress, but unlike the original, she grows throughout the story with meaningful progression, such as taking initiative in certain situations. Same can be said about Luis; his self-proclaimed ladies’ man persona is pretty much thrown out the window, and all of RE4’s hyper-sexualized innuendos are absent as well, thankfully. RE4 can now grow to be a lot less perverted this time around. Even Leon’s effort to flirt with Hunnigan and Ashley throughout the story has been redacted.
Key segments of the original are still present here, all expanded in ways that enriches the experience. The Village is still delipidated and filled with cultist aesthetics. The Castle still gives the medieval haunted vibe, and the Island still holds true to its militaristic ways. However, every facet of these segments has not only been expanded in terms of content, but also in storytelling. You will find new areas filled with environmental storytelling as well as files that reveals a deeper story, especially to Los Illuminados and the origin of Los Plagas.
All of the enemies you came to love is here as well, with great effort in varied designs and aesthetics; the villagers will look vastly different to the cultist in the castle and same can be said with the infected on the Island. Additionally, monsters and bosses has been reworked in design as well as encounters; Jack Krauser for example has a section inside a dark area where he stalks you, or how Chief Mendez isn’t as one-sided as the original with deeper mechanics. It can feel familiar at times, which is a good thing, but with the upgrades in regard to tech and gameplay – it will mostly feel very new. However, with all these effort in fleshing out the story – the additions of talking infected wielding ancient weapons still doesn’t sit well with me.
Content has also been altered and stripped for the better. The original often times had sections where it overstood – and thankfully that’s not the case here. For example, when Leon is exploring the mining area and he would have to take a cart down a very sketchy railway alone – well this time he has company. In the original, you are given the ability to walk inside the cart as it’s moving – very videogame’y. In the remake, Leon is seated realistically and adjust the weight upon deep turns, which helps the grounded nature of the game a bit. Capcom made a subconscious effort to cut content that were fillers to the plot, such as the section where you and Ashley would sit on turrets to shoot some Los Gigantes or when you fought a random monster before meeting Jack.
But one content I am sort of confused as to why it wasn’t added is the story with Ada Wong; just like the original, she is still as useless that serves no purpose to Leon or the overarching story, except at the very end. Soon after, a segment was added on the PS2 version of RE4, which helped with her character development. It would have also benefitted in the remake, but for some reason Capcom didn’t implement it. Probably coming in a form of a DLC or something. Regardless, many of the expansions and pacing changes really brought Resident Evil 4 to new heights.
RE Engine Excellence
Resident Evil 4 is using Capcom’s updated RE Engine, their proprietary engine that’s been powering RE games since RE7. RE4’s fidelity is of a level that, for me, is outstanding. I absolutely love graphics, and I yearn for more evolution to it as games progress – but what RE4 does so well is marry it with amazing animations and combat. I love that the next-gen hardware allows for VRR, it really helps with the overall experience when the hardware has a little bit more room to work with in regard to performance. Resident Evil 4 takes advantage of VRR, and it looks absolutely gorgeous; on Resolution mode, RE4’s performance with frametime is stable at a sub 60fps when you enable RT and Hair Tech. Seeing it all blend in native 4K is a treat for people like me, and I’m glad Capcom went the extra mile. Even if you don’t have a VRR enabled monitor/TV, the game looks absolutely gorgeous when running on Performance + RT + Hair Tech.
Couple that with the level of detail put into RE4 – physical based rendering across the board makes all matter of material look identical to real life. The character models in the game are a blend of artistic and realism designs, though I find Leon to look a bit odd in his facial structure; something about his jawline is not connecting well to his neck? It’s odd. Environmental design is not only layered for players, but absolutely littered with immense attention to detail from rubble, dilapidated buildings, bedrocks and more. It’s close to the efforts put into Naughty Dog games, which is great compliment, I think. Lighting and shadows has had the biggest impact to the overall VFX with perfect color grading, realistic shadows, and reflections. It truly grounds the game and pretty much flips the familiar environment to next-gen caliber that we al come to expect.
But Capcom, please fix these rain textures! Atrocious!
Leon’s All Caught Up
Resident Evil 4 stays true to its roots; playable as an over-the-shoulder shooter but this time with amazing industry-standard changes that eliminates the original. Strafing is present as well as crouch with the ability to stealth kill. Additionally, those who love doing Knife-only playthroughs will find that the system has been reworked exponentially; countering is key with durability to your knives as being a key factor to your survivability. You will find that there’s a great deal of new animations to work with as you play; Leon will periodically adjust his stance as you move through the world, making him feel more alive than the original. His rigging system has been reworked, allowing him to slither through a crowd of infected much more responsive. Turning tight corners also has the effect of Leon bumping into corners and reacting to it. This is coupled with the weighted feel on his overall movement. I love all of this because it gives the impression of further immersion to the world.
There are other significant changes to the way your inventory works too. Crafting is a big one, something that was present since RE7, is now a core gameplay mechanic for RE4. You will find small and large resource items scattered around, which is combined with gunpower to craft ammo and bombs. The usual green, red and yellow herbs are present and combining them would help restore your health, but yellow now increase your overall gauge as opposed to healing you from ailments. Perhaps the biggest addition to gameplay is the ability to get passive perks from charms and briefcases. These can be earned by completing side quest, another new element to RE4, and shooting range challenges, when upon completion you turn in tokens for new charms. It’s an excellent way to distract players if they’re running the game on Standard difficulty as I found I did not need it during my playthrough – though I can see this being something that would benefit the Professional difficulty.
Enemy behavior has been improved on, but not by much – other than boss encounters. They will flank you as often as possible, and your shots has more reaction to each impact placed on them, but for the most part, they will still stand stationary as they toss axes at you and try to hit you with their pike and shields; it’s all really the same, just easier given the gameplay improvement. I did find that in most cases during my playthrough, enemies would just spawn behind me – rather annoying and I can see this being a problem at higher difficulty. Boss encounters are extremely fun however, probably best in all of Resident Evil. I don’t remember the last time I had a blast fighting bosses at the caliber of Chief Mendez, or even Ramon. Each fight felt almost Dark Souls level in design, and I loved it. Gone with the stationary shoot out, and in with the maneuvering.
REVIEW SCORE: 9/10
Resident Evil 4 is a nearly perfect experience, and probably the best in the franchise since Resident Evil 7. From its overall engine makeup to the effort made in expanding the plot and characters, Resident Evil 4 sets a new benchmark for remakes, like how the original did for gameplay.
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