Okay, I’ll admit it. When I first heard the legendary Resident Evil 4 was being given the same treatment as the second and third games in the series, I was a little concerned. Actually, I was very concerned. I played the original multiple times from start to finish, and was absolutely blown away by its brilliance. Resident Evil 4 is up there with the best games of all time for me, so revisiting the adventure seems very risky indeed.
Slowly but surely, we saw more of what Capcom had in store and with each fresh look, my nerves started to ease. I allowed myself to become cautiously excited by dipping back into Leon’s legendary encounters with the Los Illuminados, with a new spin on the events of the game. It’s a testament to how well made the original is as it only seems like yesterday when it was released, but it’s actually been eighteen years.
And on the subject of time moving quickly, I can’t quite believe that the remake will be available in a matter of days. Despite this, it was still very welcome to be able to play a demo (The free Chainsaw Demo on Xbox) to get a true impression of what the newest entry in the Resident Evil universe is like.
As a die hard fan of the original, I spent the whole half hour scouring the environments and trying to spot what was different from the original, and what remained. What struck me at first was how detailed the Resident Evil 4 remake is. It feels much more gloomy and is packed with dense foliage for Leon to wade through, giving an increased sense of claustrophobia. The colour palette looks much darker too, often with pops of blood red breaking it up.
Leon himself feels closer to the version we saw years ago in early gameplay footage for the original game, right down to his style of jacket. Although he isn’t quite as hunched, he’s certainly a chunkier, slower mover in this newest edition. This fits the tone well however, shifting things away from the action/adventure style of the original, and moving the needle back towards survival horror. That’s how the demo feels and it will be interesting to see how this tracks throughout the game.
An increased sense of foreboding is also created here which is closely linked to the layouts of the houses in the village and the scarcity of resources such as ammo. Crafting makes a return from the newer strand of games, with gunpowder and resources being added to the drop list.
It’s only when you stumble upon the main part of the village where the blueprint matches almost exactly to the original, right down to one of the Ganados raking hay behind a barn. As expected, as soon as your presence is made known all hell breaks loose and seemingly the entire population of the village take up arms to help you meet a grizzly end.
And it wouldn’t be Resident Evil 4 without Dr. Salvador himself, or Baghead to his fans. He makes his entrance with the usual chainsaw revving fanfare, and looks just as gruesome as before, although his eyes seem to pop out of his hood as if they belong to a crab. As with the original’s opening sequence, the demo ends with the classic line from Leon as the church bells ring. I do wish it was cut off halfway through for us all to automatically fill in the gap in our minds, but hey ho.
As I mentioned before, Leon feels slightly less agile here which is clearly on purpose, to ratchet up the horror and prevent you being able to run rings around your enemies quite so easily. This becomes apparent in the main village area, as you’re being chased by countless Ganandos with little ammo and nowhere to hide. The original had a few survival horror segments, however most of the time you had a small arsenal of weapons to hand which gave a feeling of safety in the face of danger. Something tells me things will be different this time around.
I welcome any reason to return to Resident Evil 4, and it’s looking like there’ll be plenty here to experience for the first time, wrapped up in the familiar elements that proved such a hit eighteen years ago. The biggest missed opportunity in the original was Saddler, especially given how much of an anti climax the final battle was. There’s loads of space to develop him further, and make him a truly terrifying and memorable villain who isn’t upstaged by all of his subordinates. Hopefully, this time he is done justice.
The demo is only a glimpse of how Capcom’s intent to deepen the original experience has been realised. There’s so much more for them to draw on, and all of it should have a place in this remake. The early signs point to how a healthy balance of what made Resident Evil 4 so special the first time around and the new elements from the “REmake” series has been struck. Oh, and can we have Code: Veronica next please Capcom.
Resident Evil is releasing on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PC come March 24th 2023. You can get pre-ordering the game from the Xbox Store – it’s in Standard and Deluxe Edition flavours.