When Capcom revealed Resident Evil 4 Remake, my instinctual response was to sigh. While I acknowledged that it would probably be a great game if RE2 Remake was anything to go by, I couldn’t quite get over the company’s decision to tackle that title in particular. Resident Evil 4 Remake? Really?
Out of all things a phenomenal team of inspired artists could be assigned to, these developers were put on the path towards recreating a title that is already in third person and still holds up well to modern standards. This same team could remake another Resident Evil title, or perhaps even a novel entry in the series (or dare to dream even a whole new IP). “What’s the point of remaking this,” I frequently said with pretentious superiority. The obvious reason was “money,” which is typically why sequels and remakes get made to begin with, but this still bothered me.
Resident Evil 4 Remake’s initial trailer didn’t convince me, either. It wasn’t until its third trailer (alongside early claims the game would actually be different, attempting to conjure the feeling of some of the original discarded demos) that I started to believe this game had potential.
But potential was an understatement. Resident Evil 4 Remake takes one of my favorite games of all time and disintegrates its greatest flaws. While some new issues surface along the way, they’re far less egregious and nowhere near as painful to reminisce upon.
Ashley is actually a character now
Capcom’s changes to Ashley are no secret. Her full-on facial redesign based off of Instagram model Ella Freya makes her look more mature (which is appropriate considering the character is supposed to be 20), whereas she was childlike in appearance and behavior back in 2005. This was especially uncomfortable in the original as she suffered constant sexualization, with a few lines of dialogue between her and Leon being hard to sit through.
Resident Evil 4 remake’s Ashley might as well be a new character. With a fresh face, new outfit, and a wildly different relationship with Leon, it is significantly more mature. The two begin the game as proper strangers, yet at the end of it there’s a sort of silent supportive bond that isn’t there in the original. Yes, you can still tell Ashley probably has a bit of a crush on Leon, but his responses to it are mature. You can feel that being trapped in this terrible situation has forced them to become actual friends.
One line as Leon and Ashley descend into deep brown murky waters still sticks with me. Leon asks if she’s okay, with Ashley responding with something along the lines of “yeah I’m fine, but this would’ve killed me before.” That growth we see from her, shifting from sheltered to hardened by the events around her, was enough to be sold on her character. A believable dynamic between the two is something the original game never delivered.
Resident Evil 4’s helicopter section is easily the worst aspect of the original. Beyond being an obnoxious mess of loud explosions, bombastic music, annoying enemies and simple level design, it lacks the subtle tension that makes these games shine. I wasn’t looking forward to the remake’s rendition of it, and I had no reason to believe it would shatter expectations.
I was completely wrong. The tension I felt running around this section, unloading every last clip and bullet into enemies was far more thrilling than I had expected. Beyond that, I genuinely enjoyed exploring this section, goading enemies into their own traps, and finding alternate ways to reach my objectives. Capcom also made a great choice getting rid of the enemies with mini-guns on this island, as fighting them always felt awkward.
A proper narrative
I know, this one’s a hot take. Resident Evil 4 is endlessly praised for its ridiculous narrative, slew of cheesy one-liners, and complete lack of thoughtfulness throughout the script. It’s often compared to a B-movie, and while I understand some people love this, I can’t relate. I found it absolutely dreadful, with Ashley being annoying, Leon seeming like too much of a joke, and the events themselves not being taken seriously enough.
Resident Evil 4 Remake opens in a way that immediately suggests things are changing, but it doesn’t quite get rid of Leon’s snarkiness. We see him struggling from the events of Raccoon City, haunted by the mistakes he made that day. And instead of the narrative being treated like a joke, Leon himself seems to use his sense of humor as a coping mechanism to combat the trauma he’s endured.
And one of the most prominent side-characters, Luis Sera, is given importance in the story. Similarly haunted by the mistakes of his past, there are several phenomenal conversations Leon has with him detailing his regrets and lack of action up until now. Capcom didn’t shy away from revisiting each character and making them appeal to modern standards. Whereas Resident Evil 4’s story is a massive weight holding down a great game, the Remake offers a solid narrative that bolsters the dark atmosphere of its world.
But I have one nitpick: Where’s my dragon?
Okay, yes, Resident Evil 4 Remake is better in many ways than the original, but it’s not perfect. We could talk about how some of the side objectives feel a little tacked on, yet what bothers me the most is the omission of one of the original’s most exhilarating sections. This portion of the game has Leon ride a gondola into a hidden part of the Castle where he goes to battle with enemies perched upon sniper towers within the confines of a massive underground city. The major set piece here: A stone dragon breathing fire.
Okay, yeah, it’s probably a little too silly to make sense in this Remake, but considering there’s a goofy shooting range where Ashley will scream and shout in excitement as if you’re at a carnival even though you’re both in massive danger, Capcom could have remade this section without too much of a fuss.
Bonus: An amazing PC port
It’s sad that I need to even say this, but Resident Evil 4 Remake having a phenomenal port is sort of a miracle nowadays. With games like Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, The Last of Us Part 1 and Redfall launching just this year and being absolute dumpster fires in performance, we’re starting to believe that the whole idea of a high quality port is pure fiction.
So yes, while this isn’t necessarily in comparison with the original Resident Evil 4 (which also runs great on PC), it’s still a point in its favor. Launching a game that plays great day one is something that rarely happens nowadays, even with the best PC games, so I’m glad Capcom didn’t let bugs consume it.
Rarely does a remake justify its existence. Even Demon’s Souls (2020), an experience I wholeheartedly adored due to its phenomenal spectacle, was unnecessary. After all, it’s essentially the same game just with modern graphics. (And you know how I feel about the dangers of modern video game graphics.) Resident Evil 4 Remake is the perfect companion piece to an already amazing title, but it also takes the experience to new heights and perfects many of the original’s greatest flaws.
Not only am I comfortable definitively stating Resident Evil 4 Remake is superior to the original, but it proves that even recreations of games that hold up to modern standards aren’t superfluous. This is what a true reimagining looks like, giving us a whole new side of beloved environments and characters. I will never scoff at Capcom’s ideas for a remake again.