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The anticipation for the reshaped Resident Evil 4 is higher than ever — even moreso than the Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 remakes released over the past several years. Since changing modern gaming with its original Nintendo Gamecube release in 2005, Capcom’s fourth entry in the groundbreaking survival horror franchise has seen ports ranging from newer consoles to mobile and even virtual reality. It doesn’t hurt that many popular contemporary third-person shooters including Gears of War, The Last of Us and Dead Space all found clear inspiration from the classic entry.

Resident Evil 4 is an outstanding retelling of the 2005 original single player story for modern audiences. Everything from the upgraded combat and mobility to the striking audio and visuals go a long way in making this the definitive take on Resident Evil 4.

Despite some small changes, the story of Leon Kennedy infiltrating a rural village in Spain to save the President’s daughter from a terrorist cult looking to infect the world with a mind-controlling parasite is exactly how players of the original will remember it. Resident Evil 4 maintains a tightrope narrative balance of horror and pure camp with a unique cast of characters that newer players won’t forget.

However, how can Capcom improve on an action shooter many considered perfect without losing the white-knuckled action experience of the original? The answer is by offering refinements brought by the last few remakes while introducing some clever gameplay tweaks, all backed by the RE Engine that allows for new audio and visual peaks that up the tension in satisfying ways.

Resident Evil 4 is out on March 24 for PlayStation 4/5, Xbox Series X|S and PC, and we completed a playthrough on the PS5 version. For those interested in diving back into Mr. Kennedy’s standout adventure, here are our thoughts after a 15-hour playthrough.

Editor’s Note: This review contains some minor spoilers for Resident Evil 4.

What we liked about it

Phenomenal visual and audio updates

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When Resident Evil 4 was released nearly two decades ago, it was seen as a technical marvel in addition to its fantastic art design. The entry left the destroyed remains of fictional midwest town Raccoon City behind, introducing a completely new setting in the form of an unnamed Spanish village. The game’s early portions shifted the action to the daytime for the first time in the series, while still managing to be scary. And once nighttime comes into play, things manage to get even more horrifying.

All of that is enhanced significantly in the remake thanks to the capabilities of current hardware. The opening set piece against the horde of infected villagers and a chainsaw-wielding maniac is as terrifying as ever with the updated visuals. Character models and animations are wonderful in gameplay and cutscenes alike. Many of the characters get visual redesigns as well, such as supporting characters like Ada Wong and villains such as Ramon Salazar. The updated lighting effects are the biggest highlight, from the rusty browns of the rural village to the nighttime portions hitting all the right moods. That’s also enhanced through some clever usage of ray tracing that improves reflections.

Though your performance on PC may vary on your personal setup, the PS5 version ran wonderfully without any noticeable slowdown. Players on Sony’s console and the Xbox Series X have two visual modes available. There’s a performance mode that favors high frame rates with dynamic resolution, and a 4K resolution focused mode for better overall visuals. There’s even an ability to turn ray tracing on or off for better frame rates. Xbox Series S owners also have the same options for 1080p and 60 frames per second or 1440p at 30 fps. Regardless of which platform you choose, Resident Evil 4 looks great.

Even the sound gets notable updates with redone voice-overs, sound effects and spatial audio support. The game’s signature campy dialogue returns, but feels more believable this time. Having spatial audio goes a long way in adding immersion to the terror outside of the fantastic sound mixing. There’s just something about hearing Ganados speak in their native tongue outside as the rain pours or inside a quiet building that just feels uncomfortable. When the action ramps up, guns sound powerful and the audio of sharp objects hitting Leon sounds legitimately painful.

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Combat is updated in meaningful ways while maintaining tension

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Beyond its all-new presentation, Resident Evil 4 introduced a more action-leaning vibe to the series while maintaining tense combat. The faster pace of the original feels just as fast (if not faster) this time around, and is made more intense thanks to an increase in the number of enemies you can fight at once. Just because Leon feels like an action hero doesn’t mean one false move won’t end in a “You Are Dead” screen. Enemies hit hard and the amount of them on screen at once can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming but fair. When it comes to balancing how players of the original approach combat while introducing a more modernized feel for newer audiences, this take on Resident Evil 4 has a tougher job than the previous remakes, yet makes it work more times than not.

Leon can still make contextual combat decisions depending on where shots land on an enemy. Shooting a Ganado in the head and running up for a roundhouse kick feels better than ever. Popping a Los Illuminados priest in the knees and pulling a WWE-level suplex is still cool enough to make the 17-year-old in me smile with glee. Enemies who throw objects like dynamite and axes can still be shot beforehand or while in the air.

The two most obvious updates to the combat mechanics are the ability to shoot while moving and an overhaul to knife usage. Leon’s trusted combat knife has many purposes this time around. One of the most useful tools is the ability to parry enemy attacks for a follow-up attack. Downed foes can be quickly dispatched with a knife finisher, which helps conserve ammo and prevents them from mutating. Parries come at the cost of eventually breaking the knife, which can only be repaired through The Merchant. Basic enemy attacks can be parried several times before breaking, but larger foes like the chainsaw-wielding ones can destroy the knife in one attack. Players can even perform stealth attacks that’ll kill Ganados in one hit. And like other weapons (as well as your item case), the knife can be upgraded through The Merchant.

All in all, Resident Evil 4 makes enough changes to make combat even more versatile and visceral than before through smart refinements to an already solid foundation.

Clever updates to enemies, boss battles and set pieces

Capcom does a good job of modernizing enemy types both small and large. The biggest update to the Ganados is that they can mutate into a more powerful version during the early daytime section. Thankfully, they can be killed beforehand with the trusty combat knife. There are also some new enemy types, including one that wields a large hammer that’s just as frightening as the chainsaw enemies. Beyond that, most of the classic types from the Colmillos to Novistadors and Regenerators all make a return with different takes. The Los Illuminados priests get an interesting refinement that plays into the story once Leon gets infected with the Los Plagas parasite that makes them even more dangerous this time around.

Even the game’s most memorable set pieces are enhanced, including the house defense and minecart moments with charismatic side character Luis Sera. There’s also a new segment where Leon has to protect Ashley while she operates a wrecking ball that’s pretty fun.

The biggest pleasure are the new takes on all of the boss fights. Whether it’s the classic lake confrontation with the Del Lago or multiple encounters with El Gigantes, they’re all exciting. Without spoiling, the final battle against main antagonist Lord Saddler is miles beyond the original in terms of scope. Two of the biggest standout boss fights in the Resident Evil 4 remake are the ones against a redesigned Ramon Salazar and multilayered fights against Leon’s former friend turned enemy Jack Krauser.

In the original, the first knife fight against Krauser was a long quicktime event that would end with one false button press. Quicktime events are kept to an absolute minimum this time around. Now, the updated knife mechanics have players reenact the battle in real time. There’s also a clear inspiration from The Last of Us’ sniper segment before the final confrontation. That’s not the only inspiration from Sony’s ultra-popular first-party franchise-turned-hit-HBO-show, but more on that later.

What we didn’t like about it

Stealth capabilities are completely underbaked

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One of the strangest additions to Resident Evil 4’s modernized reintroduction is the inclusion of a crouch button for getting under obstacles and stealth purposes. Outside of a short earlier moment where Leon loses all of his equipment and has to silently kill a handful of foes, it’s fairly useless for several reasons. The most obvious is that the enemy AI isn’t that dynamic enough outside of flanking tactics.

There really aren’t many options if players want to play more stealthily, distract enemies or set up traps. Once foes spot Leon, they’ll know where he is at all times, so there’s no way to play a cat-and-mouse game like players can in games like The Last of Us — which took a lot of inspiration from the original Resident Evil 4. Despite a light crafting system, players can’t craft traps and the only ways to kill enemies silently are solely through the knife or bolt gun.

Considering how much care went into updating the core combat of Resident Evil 4, it’s a shame the stealth options are so limited. Thankfully, it doesn’t break the game or take away from the exciting action.

Partner and solo moments with Ashley get the least refinements

As with the original game, Ashley sticks closely to Leon for a large majority of Resident Evil 4. The good thing is that this time around, she doesn’t have a separate health meter. If she’s attacked and immobilized, Leon can get Ashley back on her feet before a game-ending fatal blow. Outside of that, there are still two commands to have her wait or follow depending on the situation. There are even a handful of moments where she can hide in places like lockers and assist Leon with obstacles including climbing over openings to unlock a gate from the other side. If foes capture Ashley and carry her to the nearest exit, it’s still game over as well.

It would have been nice to have Ashley be more dynamic as an AI partner this time around. Outside of the sequence mentioned previously, the president’s daughter comes off as a nuisance sometimes and gets in the way enough to be frustrating when the action heats up. It doesn’t help that one accidental shot to her is also game-ending. In a time where The Last of Us set standards for AI partners, it would have been nice for Ashley to be more than someone players have to babysit.

There are some serious changes to the moment where players control Ashley directly. It’s pretty much a complete rework. Unlike the original, she doesn’t have any offensive capabilities like lantern-throwing as her section is solely based around hiding, running and simple puzzle-solving. Ashley’s portion isn’t that long or frustrating and has some frightening moments, but it’s nowhere as good as the original.

No Mercenaries Mode or Separate Ways at launch

You can expect a total playthrough to be somewhere in the ballpark of 15 to 20 hours. That playtime can scale up around an extra five or so for completionists. There’s a New Game+ mode to replay the game with all the equipment from the initial playthrough alongside harder difficulty settings. Throughout the game, players will receive CP points for completing various challenges that can be spent on everything from new costumes and various models to in-game weaponry. Outside of that, there isn’t very much available after finishing the single player at launch.

Though Mercenaries Mode has been promised by Capcom to eventually come as a downloadable update, not having a version at launch does diminish replay value at the moment. Meanwhile, Capcom hasn’t said anything about whether or not the Resident Evil 4 remake will get an update to the Ada Wong-focused Separate Ways story mode. For those out of the loop, the additional story mode campaign focuses on Wong’s parallel mission during the main single-player campaign that has her interacting with Leon on several occasions. If The Last of Us Part 1 included an update to the Left Behind DLC for free, adding Separate Ways should have been a no-brainer.

It is worth noting that PS5 owners with a PlayStation VR 2 headset will eventually get the opportunity to play the game in VR through a free update in the future.

Bottom line

Out of all the Resident Evil remakes Capcom has done, the updated take on Resident Evil 4 matters the most due to how groundbreaking the original was when it released nearly two decades ago. The sheer spectacle of the combat, horror-leaning moments, boss battles and set pieces are enhanced remarkably this time around on top of a gorgeous audio/visual presentation.

Despite some issues with the added stealth elements and annoying segments with Ashley, the same over-the-shoulder combat gets some sensible modernized updates that introduce one of the greatest action-horror games ever to a newer generation.