Review: Resident Evil 4 – Village People

Leon Kennedy is back, only this time he has worms.

Capcom scored gold with their remake of the cult classic Resident Evil 2, and then tarnished it by throwing out the mess that was the Resident Evil 3 remake. So, the question is: have they pulled off remaking yet another beloved entry to the Resident Evil series with the Resident Evil 4 remake?

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If there’s one thing Leon hates more than mutants, it’s elderly poor people. 

Years after the events of Resident Evil 2, Leon Kennedy, now a specially trained government agent, is sent on a rescue mission to locate the President’s daughter, Ashley Graham, who is being held captive by a mysterious cult in a rural Spanish village. Upon arriving, the police officers accompanying Leon are brutally murdered by the village’s evil residents. Without asking any questions, Leon instantly gets to work on gunning down these farm folk and roundhouse-kicking their grandmas into the next dimension.

The core difference between Resident Evil 4 and the previous entries of the Resident Evil series is that it’s primarily more action-focused with very few instances of horror. Gone are the claustrophobic, dark corridors and that helpless feeling of being a fish out of water. As an experienced agent, Leon is able to heroically hold his own against the hordes of peasants armed with pitchforks, shovels and kitchen knives. He can parry, swiftly dodge swings from larger enemies and, of course, send his elderly opponents flying into the air with the powerful force of his legs. Leon has adopted the over-the-top Jedi thought process of “why simply move out of the way of this obstacle when I can instead do a double backflip?”

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These residents sure are evil.

It’s cheesy and ridiculous, but long-term fans of the Resident Evil series will know by now that these games do not take themselves seriously and that’s why we love them so much.

Gameplay-wise, the Resident Evil 4 remake feels incredibly smooth and exciting to play. Gone is the janky, slow-moving manoeuvring that we’re so used to from previous entries in the series. Leon actually feels like he’s in a hurry to get to the places he needs to be, rather than doing a slow jog away from the mutated monstrosities chasing him down that we grew accustomed to in the Resident Evil 2 remake. Since Resident Evil 4 is so much more combat-focused than the rest of the series, it was vital that this worked well and didn’t turn out to be a half-assed effort such as the Resident Evil Biohazard DLC or the ending of Resident Evil Village.

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Little did Leon know that the villagers were simply asking “hey, why are you trespassing on my farm?” in Spanish.

Capcom delivers this with ease by introducing new combat moves to make the Resident Evil 4 remake more fast-paced as well as updating the early 2000s mechanics of the original game. Leon can now move while aiming, parry certain attacks by regular enemies, dodge swipes from larger enemies, and deal critical damage with melee attacks and backstabs. While I do wish we were able to dodge all enemy attacks rather than just the big ones (otherwise it doesn’t make sense), these introductions are a huge improvement to the series’ combat and fits in well with the genre swap. To balance out the slew of new attacks and improved combat, the regular village enemies feel more difficult than the original game – so, it still puts up a challenge.

Resident Evil 4 also has the added challenge of essentially turning into an NPC escort quest that lasts over twenty hours. Once Leon finds Ashley, the rest of the game consists of getting Ashley out of the village and back to her father in one piece. This means protecting her, as Ashley is vulnerable to both enemy attacks and friendly fire.  I actually think I accidentally killed her more times than the cultists did. In combat, cultists will often make a beeline straight for Ashley in an attempt to kidnap her while Leon is preoccupied – even going to the lengths of completely ignoring Leon to achieve this objective. When down, Ashley needs to be helped back up again before she takes anymore damage which will result in a mission fail. We can order Ashley to take cover or stay close to us depending on what our aim is, and she will also assist with exploration as Leon can lift her up to high places. This is hard to get the hang of to begin with.  I had managed to get to Ashley without dying or failing the mission, yet the moment I reached her, I ended up consistently failing because I was struggling to keep her alive. But once you get used to the mechanics, it’s just another challenge to the game.

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Ashley has been kidnapped by mysterious cultists. 

Advanced weapons and equipment are much easier to come by than previous entries in the series. There are multiple variants of the same type of weapon, such as a selection of pistols and shotguns, which can also be upgraded when visiting The Merchant as well as fitting them with add-ons. While you can buy and craft ammo and resources, this doesn’t take away from the survival elements of Resident Evil 4 as I still found myself in plenty of situations where I was needing to preserve ammo. The inventory management is another added challenge as it gets taken up pretty quickly by Leon’s arsenal. This can also be upgraded via The Merchant. 

Resident Evil 4’s currency, the Peseta, can be raised by collecting it off defeated enemies and selling items to The Merchant. As well as selling gear, Leon can collect treasures and valuables by exploring the map. Some of these treasures have slots for gems which can also be found by looting. Fitting all the slots of these items will increase their value significantly when selling them to The Merchant. On top of this, Leon can collect Spinels which are a type of gemstone that he can trade with The Merchant for special items rather than selling them for Pesetas, these can also be looted around the map and off fallen corpses, or acquired by completing side quests.

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Like most Resident Evil games, inventory management is very important.

Side quests will come in the form of blue notes pinned up around the map. They usually consist of completing a small task such as clearing the rats from the area or destroying blue medallions which are hidden around a specific location. These offer something extra for the player to do outside of the main storyline, allowing them to explore the map further and also raise some extra cash.

The expanded looting, trading and side quests system comes in partnership with a much larger map. Similar to Resident Evil Village, the Resident Evil 4 remake’s setting is a large, open area connecting to significant buildings. The player has a map so they can keep track of where they are and purchasing treasure maps from The Merchant will also reveal where treasures are located. Also like in Resident Evil Village, Leon acquires a boat midway through the game which allows him to travel around the map much faster.

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Easier said than done.

This may seem all well and good but it does present a problem: Whereas in previous entries of the Resident Evil series, it’s obvious when you’re about to reach a point of no return to continue exploring the area and completing side quests, Resident Evil 4 offers little form of this. Sometimes The Merchant will warn you that you’re about to leave an area you can’t return to, but I had no idea that the small timeframe you’re given to explore the whole map with the boat between the giant fish boss fight and the next progression in the story is the only chance you’ll get to collect everything and finish the side quests. Once you’ve progressed to the castle, you can’t go back to this area. This makes the whole semi-open world feel a little redundant when you’re given such a short chance to take advantage of it.

Resident Evil 4 oozes with wacky moments and fantastic combat to enjoy. It has a wide range of enemies that progressively get more difficult to defeat as you progress, and Leon is constantly put into strange challenges and situations that make for enjoyable moments and shows the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. Capcom has certainly created a remake that’s much improved to the original game, just like the Resident Evil 2 remake.

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When enemies often gain more armour later in games, this wasn’t what I was expecting…

Unfortunately, unlike the Resident Evil 2 remake, the Resident Evil 4 remake does have some flaws which lowered its enjoyment for me. For one, I felt like this game was far too long. It took me over 25 hours to complete, which is twice as long as even the lengthiest entries in the series. The story doesn’t seem to know where to end, which makes the third act of the game rather tiresome.

Surprisingly, Capcom has also missed a beat with the visuals. The reason why this was a shock is because the Resident Evil 2 remake was one of the best looking games for the year it came out. Unfortunately, the Resident Evil 4 remake hasn’t improved much on these graphics despite releasing four years later. It’s mainly the lighting and physics which let the otherwise fine graphics down. Resident Evil 4 has really dark lighting, which is normal for a horror game. However, I felt like it was too shadowy in certain situations and would have really benefited from just letting the player use the flashlight when they want to rather than leaving Leon to judge the lighting for himself, because he rarely turns it on unless the area is completely pitch black. This gets frustrating when trying to locate the wind-up toy collectables to shoot as they were hidden in the shadows on a number of occasions and I needed to go into photo mode to spot them.

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As expected from a horror game, Resident Evil 4 is very dark, but it would have been nice to be able to use the flashlight whenever to truly appreciate the set designs.

The atrocious weather effects were noted in reactions to the gameplay trailer released a few months before the Resident Evil 4 remake’s launch. These have since been toned down, but still don’t look great. On top of this, there’s no change to Leon’s model in the rain. His hair and clothes remain dry even when it’s pouring. It’s not a great look for a game released in 2023.

In terms of audio, Resident Evil 4’s soundtrack is great, especially during boss fights. There are some tracks that I’ll definitely pick up and listen to later on. Most of the cast do a good job with the voice acting; the best they can with the corny dialogue (which isn’t a drawback, we were all expecting cheesiness from Resident Evil 4). The only exception to this would be Ada’s voice actor, which has since been changed since the Resident Evil 2 remake. In the original Resident Evil 4, Ada was very much a femme fatale and her velvety voice reflected this. In the Resident Evil 2 remake, she sounded younger but it was easy to imagine her adopting the smoother tone later on. However, in the Resident Evil 4 remake, I just didn’t think Ada’s voice actor suited her character at all. She sounds older than Ada, more monotone, and her voice also breaks a lot which gives the impression that she lacks confidence. This really wasn’t a good casting.

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Resident Evil 4’s boss fight are creative and exciting.

Overall, the Resident Evil 4 remake is a fun adventure despite its flaws. It achieves what any remake strives to do and improves on the original while also maintaining the charm that made fans fall in love with it to begin with.

Jess played Resident Evil 4 on PlayStation 5 with her own brought copy. Resident Evil 4 is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.

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1 year ago

As a die-hard Resident Evil fan, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of Resident Evil 4 Remake, and one aspect that has me particularly excited is the revamped weapons system. Based on the information I’ve seen so far, here’s my take on the weapons tier list