Published on March 17th, 2023 | by Nathan Misa
Resident Evil 4 Remake PS5 Review: Not a stranger
Summary: Resident Evil 4 Remake is a faithful reimagining that brings the beloved survival-horror classic into the modern era with a host of new features, content tweaks and graphical updates.
When it comes to video game remakes, there’s nobody doing it better than Capcom. With three remakes of their storied Resident Evil franchise under their belt, the team has proven it knows how to balance fan-service with modern enhancements, compelling new content and faithful re-imaginings of iconic characters and stories we know and love.
Resident Evil 4 is a bona fide classic, though, one that brought RE into the new millennium with dramatic changes to its survival-horror gameplay loop, and is arguably a tough one to reinterpret. Would they keep the campiness and action-oriented gunplay? Is Leon still better with the ladies?
After 59+ hours of gameplay, I have found the end-result to be another excellent, faithful re-imagining that breathes new life into every aspect of what made the original Resident Evil 4 so entertaining.
Resident Evil 4 is a fully-fledged remake, but it’s still appropriately anchored to the original story of the 2005 game. You take on the role of Leon S. Kennedy, a US special forces agent sent on a shady mission to rural Spain on account of his unique survival experience from Resident Evil 2. His objective is to rescue Ashley Graham, the daughter of the President, though things quickly go south when the Los Illuminados, an enigmatic cult, are revealed as the captors. As Leon, you’re forced to fight your way through a hostile village against a deranged community infected and controlled by parasites to save Ashley, and solve the mystery behind the enigmatic cult’s aims.
Now, this might be considered blasphemy by Saddler, but the story of OG Resident Evil 4 was my least favourite in the series due to its goofier, B-movie tone. It was a masterclass in gameplay and art design, but Leon’s cheesy dialogue created a tonal clash with the stakes at hand. The remake deftly tweaks several core story elements to establish a balanced tone of unsettling body horror with a touch of campiness. The atmosphere is tenser, the dialogue sharper, and the story now feels like a proper continuation of Resident Evil 2 as a result, subtly expanding upon Leon’s lingering trauma from the events of zombie-ravaged Raccoon City while showing his unique capability in dealing with biological terrors. The rookie cop is all grown up!
The cinematic cutscenes and general storytelling, as in RE2 Remake, are a leading example of how to respect the original lineage and evoke fan nostalgia while introducing a newer, modern direction. The game presents every plot point with a somber, unsettling tone, which goes a long way into making the way Leon reacts to Las Plagas and interacts with his companions feel more believable as a result. But don’t worry, OG fans, things don’t get too dark and gritty. Leon still says most of his iconic lines (“Where’s everyone going?”) while fighting monsters and talking with Ashley, Hunnigan and Luis, but the convincing recontextualization of his quips as a coping mechanism from his trauma makes the narrative and voice acting more compelling as a result.
The supporting cast are also provided better opportunities to act out their scenes with nuance; I found myself connecting to Luis’s shadiness and Ashley’s abject terror of the situation far easier, while enigmatic Ada Wong smoulders in higher fidelity and Hunnigan is as dependable as ever. I found the various antagonists across the game (Mendez, Saddler, Krauser) to be even more menacing, mysterious, and terrifying. Not to mention the random, unnamed infected villagers.
2004’s Resident Evil 4 introduced a major paradigm shift with its third-person, over-the-shoulder camera and action-oriented combat system. While it has held up incredibly well, the controls for aiming and general movement feel clunky by today’s standards. 2023’s Resident Evil 4 modernises the well-aged formula by using the tight controls and shooting mechanics from the recent Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes, while continuing to refine the series’ enduring loop of combat, exploration, puzzle-solving and resource management. You’ll be sneaking around, solving puzzles and shooting Ganado far easier than in the original thanks to precise aiming and gunplay, and a camera that snaps to position when you need it to. Not to mention agonizing over what weapons and items to keep in your limited inventory space.
After a haunting opening montage that recaps Leon’s RE2 nightmares, you’re let loose to rush, sneak or kill your way through the Las Plagas threat in a linear map with plenty of back-tracking encouraged to find valuable side distractions. The village is a more open setting than the labyrinthe that was Resident Evil 2’s Raccoon City Police Department, and as a result provides a satisfying mix of secrets to discover, resources to gather, intense firefights to survive, and isolated jump scares to dread. Each bit of ground won feels well earned, unpredictable and entertaining thanks to the many new ways both you and your enemies can kill each other.
This wouldn’t be a proper remake without the introduction of new combat options. Instead of QTE events, knives are used as an instant takedown and defensive crutch against handsy Ganado, and you can use it to parry otherwise fatal blows via a well-timed button press (even chainsaws, to my great surprise and amusement), though this usually degrades your knife far faster than through regular use in combat. The new Bolt Thrower weapon is my personal favourite addition, empowering Leon to stealthily shoot crossbow bolts into infected heads and save on precious ammunition.
Of course, you can still go loud; in a test save, I bought the SMG early to spray hordes of infected with glee, and attached mines to my Bolt Thrower to turn them into explosive projectiles capable of major damage. Being a survival-horror game, however, ammo and crafting materials remain scarce, and a durability meter for your knives puts a limit on how much you can rely on killing to progress. Sometimes, you have to run to conserve health and resources and fight another day.
Remember having to babysit Ashley in the original? One great change in the remake is the ability to have Ashley (who also no longer has health but now gets incapacitated) switch between following you closely or hanging back with the click of a button, helping greatly with keeping track of where she is.
Though of course, with how unpredictable the Ganado are, your timing of the command needs to be sharp. True to the series, every fight is a puzzle, and each enemy an obstacle which you must keep track of and weigh the worth of killing.
Like Resident Evil 2 Remake before it, the new Resident Evil 4 elevates the presentation and threat of the Las Plagas parasite into something that truly conveys its alien grotesqueness and terrifying presence. Los Ganado relentlessly run after you, open doors, and duck and weave to force you to take decisive action. They stalk Leon and Ashley with zero sense of self-preservation, often killing each other during close-quarters combat just to get to the front of the pack (which can be used to your advantage). Some bum-rush Leon with pitchforks, others throw axes from afar, and even more hold Leon down to help others finish him off. The amount of ways they can attack and even kill Leon provides an adrenaline inducing challenge to dispatch foes without being overwhelmed.
Most of this behaviour was conveyed in the original game, but now when the Plagas transform or die, the full extent of the parasite is much more exposed, wriggling around on the ground or breaching their way through human heads and torsos in the most disturbing way possible. The Plagas are bloody scary to face down, and the improved graphical detail in the remake adds to the feeling of Leon’s utter loss for words at what kind of threat he’s dealing with.
Speaking of value, the Merchant returns from the original, with the same iconic lines but with a new voice actor that may or may not annoy you. Every enemy felled means more cash to spend and items to sell to upgrade your guns, repair your knife and purchase new weapons and items, of which there are several (that RPG still looks damn good come boss time) while hearing the mysterious Ganado’s distinctive drawl.
While upgrading your gear isn’t a new mechanic, Resident Evil 4 adds customization in the form of different equippable cases and charms that provide additional bonuses, such as increased drop-rates for ammo. Overall, I found the remake to demand a conservative balancing act on Hardcore difficulty, and never felt like I could farm every area to buy the best weapons possible – some hard choices have to be made.
A new side quest system, called requests, does introduce a new stream of goodies. You’ll find blue flyers scattered throughout the world with tasks from the Merchant to complete in exchange for rarer items, such as maps which reveal all the treasure in the world map, unique weapons, gun attachments and more. Most of the tasks can be done as you progress through the map, and amount to shooting hidden stones or gathering hard-to-spot items like a golden egg or fish. Some tasks are quite obscure and feel like busywork, but you can ignore them if you aren’t an obsessive completionist – just know you won’t be able to unlock some of the game’s best items.
In terms of graphics and performance, Resident Evil 4 is a technical marvel on the PlayStation 5 – with some small let downs. Capcom’s RE Engine is put to extremely good use here, producing photorealistic character models and environments, motion-captured facial animations, and dynamic lighting and shadows. The updated visuals truly bring the horrors of the village and beyond to life, from the decaying architecture to the grotesque Plagas enemies lurking around every corner. PS5 and Xbox Series consoles get several graphical options, including a Quality (favour resolution) and Performance (favour frame-rate) mode, HDR support, ray-tracing, and even a toggle for the quality of Leon’s hair strands. I played the game in Performance with ray-tracing off, and the game mostly kept to its 60fps target, with occasional stuttering.
Where the visuals falter is the rain effects (set to be fixed in a day one patch) and the low quality of certain environmental textures when viewed up close. It’s clear, as a cross generation title, that any potential technical leaps for the remake were tempered by the need to cater to the older CPUs on the near 10 year-old PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles. I get a sense that Resident Evil 4 Remake could have gone even further in its many changes, especially in the graphics department, though these minor complaints pale in comparison to the polished AAA quality of the overall package.
The Final Verdict
It took 59 hours to complete my first playthrough on Hardcore difficulty, and it is abundantly clear Resident Evil 4 Remake is both content-packed and astonishingly faithful in its promise to recreate the entirety of Leon’s harrowing journey. Capcom has succeeded in ensuring the moment-to-moment gameplay of its latest re-imagining feels tense, terrifying and appropriately challenging for a modern survival-horror title in 2023.
With the addition of The Mercenaries mode in a post-launch patch and more DLC on its way, It’s easy for me to recommend the game as a day one purchase for super-fans and gamers looking to experience one of the most polished triple AAA survival-horror experiences available to play
Primary Format – Games – Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One
Game Genre – Survival-horror
Rating – R18+
Game Developer – Capcom R&D Division 1
Game Publisher – Capcom