Resident Evil 4 remake review: Barmy action horror is a must-play
Get ready to karate kick the entire population of a sleepy European village.
Capcom's Resident Evil 4 remake is launching this week, with a reimagined version of the action-horror classic due to arrive this Friday on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X (weirdly, the Xbox One has been left out of the equation altogether).
Whether you're a relative newcomer to the franchise or a hardcore fan that has already played the Resident Evil games in order, you've likely already heard that 2005's original Resident Evil 4 is widely considered a fan favourite. In retrospect, it's easy to pinpoint this as the point in the franchise when the developers really started upping the ante in terms of action, and that spirit is very much alive in the 2023 remake.
If you've already played the Resident Evil 4 remake demo, you'll know that some elements of the original game have been reproduced very faithfully here, including the memorable moment near the start where you first stumble into a bizarre village filled with violent locals. The village layout will feel eerily familiar to returning fans, as will some of the dialogue, but now the graphics are vastly better and the combat is much more modern.
That is, generally, the vibe you're going to get with this remake. The developers at Capcom clearly hold the original in high regard, but they've pushed the boat out to reimagine the game as a current-gen experience. Combat has been vastly improved, for instance, meaning that you can now move about while using your guns (rather than being rooted to the spot while firing like you were in the original).
Once again, you play as Leon S Kennedy, the returning hero of Resident Evil 2 (which got its own fantastic remake a few years ago). No longer a cop, Leon is now a special forces agent who has been sent to rural Europe to rescue Ashley Graham, the kidnapped daughter of the United States' president.
If you've enjoyed the Resi 2 remake at any point over the last couple of years, you'll feel a certain thrill as you step back into the shoes of Leon. And with those shoes you'll be doing a number of karate kicks, thanks to Leon's post-RE2 training, which makes him more of an action hero than he was last time out. The game's generous collection of guns and other weaponry also help with that power fantasy feeling, although the degrading knives and limited ammo does force you to focus on survival and inventory management as well as kicking ass.
One thing we noticed right from the off is that Leon's bouncy hair looks distractingly fake a lot of time, especially if you have the brightness pumped up (which is a must if you're trying to play during daylight hours). This might seem like an odd note, considering that the whole game is obviously a fabrication, but something about his luscious and highly reflective barnet just didn't seem to match up with the rest of the world for some reason.
More like this
This isn't the only visual wrinkle that grabbed our attention, either. There were also occasions where textures would pop into scenes and locations a little bit late, which does unfortunately break the immersion a bit. We were swapping between Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S while playing, and it was normally on the less-powerful S model where we noticed those glitches.
Both of those visual niggles are minor, though, and your brain will soon learn to ignore them. Certainly, gamers in this day and age are used to such things, especially when playing a brand new game that hasn't had its day-one patch or post-launch updates yet. Compared to some rival releases in recent years, the Resi 4 remake feels a lot more polished where it counts.
In terms of gameplay, which is definitely where it counts, the Resident Evil 4 remake feels great to play. The quality of life improvements, including the aforementioned free movement, make combat feel like a thrilling challenge throughout. The game offers lots of different routes through combat situations, including some stealthy options, and players are encouraged to tweak their loadout and upgrade their weapons to suit their own needs.
Like the original game, the Resident Evil 4 remake lives and dies on its action, and in this field it really delivers. With a number of difficulty levels to choose from, and optional weapons that let you essentially skip through boss battles, the game can be tailored to your own style of play.
If you want that action hero feeling without too much stress, the Assisted mode is not to be scoffed at. Or if you want to ramp up the challenge, you can do that too. There's even a New Game Plus equivalent that lets you make your second playthrough even harder, if you're into that sort of thing.
In terms of level design and enemy variety, there's lots to love here. Leon has to work his way through several different areas on his mission to save Ashley, each of which represents its own unique challenges, and it gradually becomes clear that a mysterious plague is controlling humans, animals and massively creepy creatures alike. You will slowly learn how best to overcome each of these groaning foes, with crowd control often being of vital importance.
Fans of the original game will remember that, once you find Ashley, Leon's job shifts into protection and extraction. This is reflected in the gameplay, where you now must keep an eye on Ashley as well as giving her basic commands. She can help you solve puzzles, for example, but she can also be killed at any time during combat. This really ramps up the emotional stakes and gives the game a whole other dimension during those sections.
The atmosphere is tense throughout (shoutout to the creepy sound design) and the story is pulpy and fun, never taking itself too seriously as Leon karate kicks his way through an increasingly barmy series of baddies. The boss battles are largely memorable and enjoyable, so we'd recommend not taking the option to skip them if you can. The performances are also strong, with Nick Apostolides and Genevieve Buechner breathing life winningly into Leon and Ashley's growing partnership.
One thing we would've liked to see more from is the puzzles. This was always a more action-focused instalment, of course. But if you'd been hoping that Capcom would use this opportunity to splice in some trickier puzzles akin to the Resi 2 remake, you'll be disappointed by the simplicity here. Nine times out of 10, all you need to do is read a nearby note or wander around for a bit before the solution becomes obvious. We did get stuck once or twice, but normally because we were overthinking it.
All in all, it feels like the developers at Capcom understood the assignment with the Resident Evil 4 remake. This game was already a fan favourite in the franchise, and they've done a solid job of bringing it up to modern standards while baking in a few new scares and surprises. If you're a fan of both action and horror, this is a must-play game that could've done with a tiny bit more polish.
Read more on Resident Evil:
- Resident Evil 4 remake cast - all actors listed
- Resident Evil 4 remake chapters - how many levels do you have left?
- Resident Evil 4 remake weapons - get every gun
- Resident Evil 4 remake trophies - achievements to unlock
- Resident Evil 4 remake church puzzle - fix the stained glass window
- Resident Evil 4 remake grandfather clock puzzle - right time revealed
- How to play the Resident Evil games in order
- How to watch the Resident Evil movies
- How did the Resident Evil games impact the Netflix series?
Hungry for more gaming? Visit our video game release schedule, or swing by our hubs for more Gaming and Technology news.
Looking for something to watch? Check out our TV Guide or Streaming Guide.
Try Radio Times magazine today and get 12 issues for only £1 with delivery to your home — subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.