Friday, October 21, 2022
Resident Evil 4 doesn't need a remake, does it? First released in 2005, it still holds up remarkably well, and it remains playable on modern consoles, in HD. Resident Evil 4 doesn't need a remake. At least, you'd be forgiven for thinking that, but, having played the Resident Evil 4 remake, we're enormously happy that Capcom is revisiting its seventeen-year-old classic, because, on the basis of a short hands-on session, there's an awful lot of new and exciting stuff to look forward to. Instantly familiar but something that feels brand new, this entirely fresh take will confound your expectations, expanding upon old favourite moments without losing anything that made Resident Evil 4 such an enduring and memorable survival-horror experience.
From the get-go, the eerie dawn twilight sucks you right into Resident Evil 4's opening, as Leon S. Kennedy trudges down a muddy path hemmed with gnarled bracken on either side, arriving at a clearing encircling a wooden shack, a flickering light inside an ominous sign of life. Cautiously pushing the door open, you step inside, and things are slightly different. Where's the fireplace? Where's the odd person cooking up his strange brew? Turns out he's downstairs in the basement – a dark and dingy subterranean dungeon, decorated with bones, lumpen chunks of unidentifiable meat, and various cutting implements, seemingly taking interior design inspiration from Leatherface. There's little ambiguity here: something is clearly amiss.
And that's before you even get to the village itself, where the night gradually gives way to daylight, and the local Ganados quietly go about their daily business, pitchforking hay, feeding the chickens, and so on. Unlike in the original game, you have options here, whether you veer off to the left of the gate, crouching to perform a spot of stealth, or go steaming in, brandishing Leon's handgun. You can creep up behind enemies and quietly dispatch them, or sneak around gathering resources, like herbs, handgun bullets and whatnot. Resident Evil 4's environments are more reactive, so you can use your knife to shatter individual panes of glass, or leap through a window, smashing the whole thing out of its frame.
Leon's combat knife has myriad other uses, too, whether it's plunging it into an enemy's jugular to break free of their grasp, or parrying an axe, pitchfork, or even Dr. Salvador's chainsaw. And although the series has dabbled with parries and counters before, this serves as another string to Leon’s bow, and it's glorious. That said, the knife is a weapon to be used sparingly - rely on it too much for parrying and escapes, and it’ll eventually break. Maybe you’ll be able to purchase a new one from your old merchant friend - I’ve heard he has a lot of good things on sale. Any concerns that such additions might render you nigh-on invulnerable are quickly cast aside once you're in the thick of the action – Ganados attack in greater numbers now, and they're quite wily, able to flank and grab you from behind, holding you in place while another gouges away at you. Of course, you can wrest yourself free by mashing a button, but you'll lose health in the process.
While the village section represents a relatively miniscule portion of Resident Evil 4, it provides a good barometer for the level of survival-horror pressure you'll be under in the remake. Even within this small area, the environment is a powder keg filled with rogue elements, whether it's chainsaw-wielding Dr. Salvador, with his terrifying glazed eyeballs peering out through the hessian sack on his head, sawing through the scenery or any Ganados unfortunate enough to get in his way; or a lantern dropping from the rafters of a barn, setting a poor lonely bull alight, sending it barrelling through the village square.
Evidently, Capcom is leaning into the potential offered by the stunning RE Engine, which powered Resident Evil Village and the remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3, creating a sandbox teeming with chaotic possibility. That doesn't mean completely dispensing with everything that made the original game so special, however – the core gunplay feels tight, but preserves the tension of carefully lining up each shot, lest you waste precious bullets, while Leon's expanded abilities are counteracted by the craftiness of the game's relentless foes.
There are nods, too, to the knockabout dialogue of the original, Leon cracking wise as everything goes to hell around him, even delivering the immortal “where's everyone going? Bingo?” line as the demo draws to a close, and the title appears tantalisingly. Fans will be relieved, too, to hear that the attache case inventory returns, alongside a new d-pad quick select, while Hunnigan also provides support from afar (during cinematic cutscenes, rather than radio exchanges) during Leon’s mission to rescue the US President’s daughter.
This is only the beginning, and already Resident Evil 4's March 2023 release feels a long way off. But, as an initial taste of what's to come, this is remarkably exciting stuff, and we can't wait to see how Capcom approaches the rest of what still stands as one of the best games of all time. Resident Evil 4 may not need a remake – and you might have hoped for a Code Veronica remake first - but on the strength of this first hands-on showing, we're delighted it's happening.
Thursday, October 20, 2022 @ 06:55 PM
Friday, October 21, 2022 @ 07:46 AM
Saturday, October 29, 2022 @ 01:44 PM