As the year winds down, we are looking at some of the great games we missed. We thought Resident Evil 4 Remake is the perfect story for the Halloween season.
By Ronald Gordon
Game remakes used to be a little hit or miss. Yet recently they’ve begun to vastly improve on the experience of the original. Just look at the renowned Dead Space Remake, which has gained a lot of love from various sources because of its handling of the original’s interstellar horror. But Resident Evil 4 may be even scarier. If they’re all handled as well as these two, the future is bright for looking at an old game though a new light.
Resident Evil 4 Remake‘s upgrade on the 2005 offering let’s you, once again, play as Leon S. Kennedy, who’s left scarred and cold after the events of Resident Evil 2 made him one of the few survivors of Raccoon City. That doesn’t stop him from going into hostile territory to save Ashley Graham, the President’s daughter, from the cult of parasitic monsters holding her hostage. The remake carefully preserves the original story, and it brings much more than just a fresh coat of 4K paint, with new mechanics that drive the overall experience higher than ever. It also makes Leon even more of a badass, which you might not have thought possible.
Aside from the obvious improvements to the graphics, movement and camera control, RE4 Remake allows players a lot of versatility in terms of their arsenal, particularly the knife, which in previous Resident Evil games seemed like an unnecessary secondary weapon. Here, the knife is basically the ultimate trump card: it can parry enemy attacks and leave foes open for counterattacks, it can save you from grapples, and it can even save you from a chainsaw blow, as seen in the trailers. It’s not indestructible, though. Knives can snap and break if used for too long, but the shop can repair special ones, like Leon’s Combat Knife, for a fee. Leon’s arsenal grows larger as you play, with bigger guns, harder-hitting pistols – you can even have a rocket launcher if you’ve saved up enough money for it. But all that won’t save you from the terrifying number of enemies this game throws at you.
While the previous Resident Evil remakes had tyrants like Mr. X from RE2 or Nemesis from RE3, RE4 Remake has more enemies than you have bullets. As with most of my RE playthroughs, I found myself scrambling to keep bullets in one of my last guns near the middle (thanks to enemies becoming smarter and tougher), and end parts, mainly because of the savagery of the enemies and their ever-increasing numbers. And in some segments, Ashley follows you, which may seem simple enough but is actually quite difficult. Ashley has three states: her normal state, where she’s fine; an incapacitated state, where she needs to be picked up after taking damage; and a captured state, where enemies will try to take her with them from the area. The first two are manageable, more or less, but when Ashley is captured the game quickly becomes a scramble to try and save her from being kidnapped. At this point, you might feel like you’d have better luck stealing a lump of sugar from a nest of fire ants.
I haven’t stopped playing the game since I first picked it up, and I’ve only just managed to finish it as I write this review. Not only do the graphics look amazing on the Xbox Series S, which I purchased solely for this review, but the game handles so well that it remained enjoyable for me throughout. What I love the most about this new version is its sound design. Certain enemies have their own audio queues to indicate that they’re nearby, most notably the Garrador, the blind enemy. With eyes sewn shut and giant metal claws attached to its arms, the Garrador is more than equipped to rip you to shreds if you’re not careful and quiet. Each time it hears a sound and rushes towards it at full speed, a long, booming scratch echoes through the music like the sound of a train grinding to a halt. The sounds of the game kept me on the edge of my seat for most of my playthrough. Even the quiet segments offered no respite, because at any moment something could come out of nowhere and shatter the silence.
Resident Evil 4 Remake makes me feel like I’m playing a horror game masked as an action game. I’m shooting enemies, kicking them, suplexing them into the dirt, and all the while feeling powerful, unstoppable even. But then I turn around and realize I’m down to 10 bullets and facing 11 enemies, or that the game is throwing the various forms of the Las Plagas parasite at me, and I’m reminded that Resident Evil isn’t an action game. It’s a masterful hybrid of action and survival horror that lets you feel cool for a moment before it throws you into the jaws of an unholy beast and expects you to claw your way out. Yet each time it did, I got a little better at handling what it could throw at me and felt a little more at home with its terror aspects. Like Leon, I too became familiar with the horrors I’d have to face and swallowed my fears in order to complete his mission. Proving that, with enough tenacity and healing herbs, you really can take on the world to save the girl if you aim at the right spots to shoot.
Ronald Gordon is a New York Videogame Critics Circle Senior Intern & Mentor. He was the first of our writers – or any intern anywhere – to complete an internship at Rockstar Games.
Over 95% of the reviews and essays on NYGameCritics.com are created by our paid student interns and mentors who have taken our classes. Donations help support our incredible student writers.