Thursday, March 02, 2023
I've played Resident Evil 4 more times than I can count. And yet, somehow, Resident Evil 4 remake feels to me like an entirely new game. If you're someone intimately acquainted with the original game, then you'll immediately recognise the various key elements and locations, but they're fleshed out, expanded, and, thanks to the unbridled power of Capcom's miraculous RE Engine, they're dripping in grisly detail. This is a remake that looks fresh, though not fresh in the traditional sense – RE4's rendition of a remote Spanish village and its surroundings is still every bit the fetid place it's always been, draped in an all-pervading aura of death and decay. What's not to love?
Our latest look at the Resident Evil 4 remake picks up at the beginning of Chapter 4, following Leon and Ashley's departure from the church, beating a path through a dense forest filled with ominous, faintly growling whispers. It's not long before Leon stumbles upon a gang of Ganado, and a few well-aimed headshots birth hideous Las Plagas parasites from the resulting neck holes – a fleshy mass of thrashing tendrils and orange eyeballs. All of this elicits an incredulous “what the fuck?!” from our floppy-haired protagonist – clearly Leon doesn't like to mince words, and, to be fair, it's an entirely warranted reaction.
Caverns and wooden structures ensconced therein lead to the merchant, who returns in Resident Evil 4 as a cockney geezer with a sunny disposition. As ever, you can use accumulated currency to modify weapons and purchase valuable resources, trading treasures you've found for even more pesetas. “Don't get yourself killed now, haha”, he cheerily remarks upon finishing your trade – sound advice, with the Los Illuminados' castle but a heartbeat away. Within the caverns, Leon can get around via motorboat, and there are new puzzles to discover, as well as merchant objectives to take on, like finding a rare gold chicken egg, then trading it for three shiny spinels.
Upon reaching the castle, breaching the entrance is just the beginning, as cultists attempt to repel you with ballista fire, and any who get close enough to Ashley snatch her up and attempt to carry her away. Ashley might still be vulnerable, but she's also more capable than she was in the 2005 version of RE4, and Leon can instruct her to stay close or give him space when encounters get heated. And things can get intense pretty quickly. Thankfully, you can deflect projectiles with your combat knife, dismember enemies, and hobble them with shots to the legs.
This being the castle, the inevitable meeting with Ramón Salazar ensues, and he remains just as campy a pantomime villain as ever, with the removal of his tricorn hat revealing a powdery white shock of hair, like Christopher Walken's Max Shreck from Batman Returns. Lurking in the castle dungeon is the fearsome Garrador, a sightless monster fitted with gigantic metal claws, who swings wildly when prompted by even the slightest sound. Happily, Leon can now duck to evade his flailing, lest he be carved asunder.
Other things to look forward to in Resident Evil 4 include the always-satisfying activity of organising the attaché case, and, now, being able to customise and hang charms – like a spiffy chicken keyring – from it. That late-game knife fight with Leon's old military buddy, Jack Krauser, looks promising too, no longer taking the form of a lengthy QTE, but rather a real-time duel with parries and dodges, requiring skill rather than perfect button presses. It's changes like these that ought to ensure that Resident Evil 4 is a markedly different experience to the 18-year-old original, and something that will have the capacity to surprise all over again. Just don't go getting yourself killed now.
Resident Evil 4 launches for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, and PC on 24th March.
Friday, March 03, 2023 @ 11:51 AM