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Resident Evil 4 Review


“Leon… Help!”

If, like me, you played the original Resident Evil 4 to death you’ll be able to hear these words ring in your ears even after all these years. Despite being almost as irritating as the little navigation fairy from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it marked just one of numerous ways that new ground was broken for the survival horror franchise. So, one question remains – should we go back?

Well, the short answer is yes. I’ll admit, when the project was first announced I was incredibly nervous because I hold Resident Evil 4 up as one of the finest games I have ever played. I loved it that much, and still do. Given how the Resident Evil 3 remake turned out, I feel my anxiety was justified at the time. The last thing I wanted to see was whole segments of the original cut out in the remake.

Thankfully, it seems Capcom has listened to the feedback as pretty much everything remains present and correct here (bar one boss I can think of), albeit with plenty of twists along the way. If you’ve played the original, this version of Resident Evil 4 on Xbox Series X|S often plays up to what you expect to happen, and then throws a curveball in. 

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For example, there’s a moment early on in the village area which caught me totally by surprise, but I loved it. If you’re new to the game, you’re covered as you’ll most likely still jump out of your skin thanks to many genuinely shocking moments. It’s clear Capcom are trying to appeal to those familiar with Resident Evil 4, as well as the folks who aren’t. It even seems that occasionally, the characters reference the fact that it all somehow feels familiar…

Oh hang on, look at me getting carried away. Let me backtrack a little. In Resident Evil 4 you play as Leon S. Kennedy, a legend of the series who has been promoted to a government agent. The survivor of the destruction of Raccoon City is tasked with finding the president’s daughter, who has been kidnapped by a shady cult named the Los Illuminados. Your search takes you to a strange village in Europe, and so begins your descent into a hellish nightmare and battle for survival against the Las Plagas parasite. 

The tone has shifted slightly when compared to the original too. It’s more straight edged, a little less camp and feels grittier. It draws more on the cult themselves, which works really well, with much more iconography and a sharper focus on the sacrificial rituals they undertake. This vibe is also reflected in how Resident Evil 4 looks. It’s more claustrophobic this time around, and the colour palette is muddier which makes better use of the light (when you’re lucky enough to have some). But every so often it is juxtaposed by scenes of grandeur and swathes of colour, in areas such as the castle. You can choose between performance and quality modes too, depending on which area of graphical fidelity you value most. 

In Resident Evil 4 I really enjoyed revisiting many moments from the original, as well as the changes that came with the remake. One big difference is how the events of the game have been more closely linked with the other entries in the series, which even includes the fleshing out of a certain character from the original (no spoilers here). 

My small criticism of the original was how the big bad cult leader Osmund Saddler felt like a missed opportunity, and the final battle was something of an anti-climax. This time around there has certainly been an improvement. He feels much more menacing and threatening, both in how he acts and looks. 

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There is another significant change too, in regards to Ashley. The passage where you play as her has been completely overhauled, and is utterly thrilling. Suddenly, having your weapons stripped away plunges you right back into the horror of it all, and flips the game on its head.

The final element in the theme shift comes with the gameplay. Leon is clunkier, and less agile meaning you are pretty much always in danger. There’s no outrunning your enemies here, instead a mixture of evasion and good, old fashioned firepower is needed to survive.

Ammo feels more scarce, so it’s a good job Leon is handy with his trusty knife. If you find yourself with a Ganado’s hands around your neck, a quick press of the right trigger will plunge it straight into the neck of your assailant. The only twist is that a durability mechanic has been introduced, and defensive moves such as this will compromise your knife significantly.

As before, Leon can build himself an impressive arsenal of weapons, which all feel uniquely brilliant, both in design and application. Each handles differently, but pleasingly, and their character will prompt you to adopt favourite weapons to accompany you on your mission. I found my trusty Punisher handgun to be my most valued piece. What’s also handy is the ability to assign them to directions on the D-Pad in order for you to swap between them at speed. 

The crafting system also returns from the newer strand of games, which feels like a natural addition to the combat system. At times you’ll run out of ammo, so crafting rounds is the only way forward. Resources are also limited, which keeps a good balance and the threat real. 

Leon would be long gone if it wasn’t for his good friend the Merchant, who is very much back in business. Popping up along the way, he will offer you new items, tune up opportunities and even the ability to trade. Spinels you earn from requests (such as shooting those pesky blue medallions) can now be exchanged for a variety of items rather than simply being sold.

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The Merchant will also beef up weapons for you, as well as repair the durability of items such as knives. You can also sell absolutely everything to him in what is a neat touch. This includes mission critical items which are no longer needed, such as keys, which before would have simply been discarded. 

If you fancy a breather, or just want to hone your skills, then rejoice as the shooting ranges have also returned. These challenges see you trying to gun down as many pirates as possible in pursuit of those high scores, and tokens. These new rewards can be spent at the range in exchange for charms. The little trinkets are dished out at random in exchange for your hard earned tokens, and offer all sorts of benefits such as bonus ammo when crafting, the ability to sprint faster and more. This is another subtle compliment to the combat strategy, deepening the gameplay without fundamentally changing how it works. 

Of course, your trusty attache case keeps everything safe and you can indulge in a little inventory management if you wish. Or, a quick press of the thumbstick will sort it all for you. Oh how times have changed.

Despite Leon having access to numerous weapons, there is a greater focus on dodging and parrying enemy attacks this time around. He still has the ability to quick turn, but isn’t quite as light footed whereas your enemies don’t suffer from the same issue. This is where I encountered my only real issue whilst playing Resident Evil 4.

Now, it may be because I fancied myself as a bit of a “Billy Big Potatoes” and went straight in on the hardcore difficulty (having played the original umpteen times therefore following the game’s advice), but there were countless occasions where I couldn’t avoid an enemy attack. Whether this was a pitchfork to the chest, a throwing axe to the head or a stick grenade to the face, Leon just wouldn’t shift his backside fast enough. 

It seems I’d been experiencing “deadzone” issues, as many others had on the Xbox. This is essentially where there is a lack of recognition in slight movements of the thumbsticks. I also found this when aiming, even when equipped with laser sights, baddies would seemingly walk through my bullets. 

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As well as this, most of the time LB or B flashes up so you can escape imminent danger, but there were many times where I was certain I’d bashed the button in time, only to see Leon get floored. Again, it could just be me or the difficulty (the professional difficulty does state you need to time parries perfectly so maybe there’s a bit of that in hardcore mode) but the responsiveness felt a little off.

I didn’t find the issue to be a game breaker; it’s nothing as dramatic as that. A recent patch has also improved things, although the controls still aren’t quite as tight as they could be. It just caused frustration at times, and a few unnecessary deaths. If you’re going after more specialist achievements however, I can see it being problematic. 

That update I mentioned also brought the classic arcade mode, The Mercenaries, blasting back as a free add on. This little gem is a high scoring, time attack challenge which pits you against waves of enemies across different locations from the main campaign. 

The arenas are fairly large, but there are plenty of tight spaces and corners where you can easily become overwhelmed. Every so often a boss will pop up too, just to complicate things a little more. However, after so many kills you will be able to enter “mayhem mode” granting your character a short period where they gain a considerable advantage. Oh and this time there are online leaderboards too.

My highlight was being able to play as Luis this time around, but there are a couple of characters who are notably absent. My spider sense tells me they may make an appearance under the (er hem) umbrella, of paid DLC somewhere down the line…

Resident Evil 4 does offer a substantial challenge, especially on the higher difficulties. Early on, in a valley on the edge of the village area, I did find it really hard to stay alive. I was beset by enemies on all sides who were flinging grandes and fire arrows at me, and as a result it took me many attempts to clear the area. In the end I resorted to hiding in a house and waiting for them to come to me. Thankfully, this flash of early difficulty wasn’t a sign of things to come and I settled into things pretty quickly after that obstacle. Apart from this, the difficulty curve was pretty logical.

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Given the many changes, Resident Evil 4 feels more like a survival horror game than before. This has been achieved without stripping away everything that took the original in a bold new direction, which was my initial concern. The alterations work well for me, as I feel less safe hiding behind my shotgun this time around, for example, because ammo is scarce and enemies are harder to take down.

There is also lots more to unlock through completion points, that are earned by ticking off in game challenges. Whether its weapons, character models or artwork, the adventure is supported by lots of supplementary material which is a real treat for players.

I could go on and on, but to wrap up, Resident Evil 4 is fantastic and stays faithful to the original whilst breaking new ground for the series all over again. For fans old and new, there is so much here to enjoy and crucially the game hasn’t lost any of its impact.

Small technicalities aside, Resident Evil 4 on Xbox Series X|S is a wonderfully recreated thrill ride from start to finish. Capcom have struck a perfect balance that should keep both veteran players and newbies happy. 

Resident Evil 4 is on the Xbox Store

Darren Edwards
Darren Edwards
I have been playing games since a very early age, thanks to my Dad's encouragement. I've been an Xbox gamer since the very beginning, the Master Chief is to thank for that. I'm also a big Nintendo geek, and my other half is a PlayStation nut. I'll play pretty much anything in any genre (although FIFA and COD maybe pushing it).
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