Resident Evil 4 (2023) Review: A Horror Classic Mutated to Monstrous Potency

Resident Evil 4 (2023) Review: A Horror Classic Mutated to Monstrous Potency

With 2005’s Resident Evil 4, Capcom redefined gaming by popularising an over-the-shoulder perspective, which became a mainstay in third-person shooters for the years to follow. The shift from static camera angles to a free-flowing one was a risky gamble, heralding a big departure for the RE franchise, which could’ve easily ended in disaster. However, fans embraced those action-heavy changes and it paid off superbly, selling 12.3 million copies across its numerous versions. Fast forward to the present, and Capcom has another mighty task on its hands. How do you reimagine a classic that’s widely regarded as one of the greatest and near-perfect video games of all time? The pressure was certainly on for Capcom’s development team, as the vocal minority continued arguing that a remake was unnecessary. Having personally cherished their recent Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 remakes, I had enough faith in their ability to pull off Resident Evil 4 in a similar, exhilarating fashion. And oh boy, was I right!

Six years after the fallout at Raccoon City, we’re once again put in control of the brooding pretty boy special agent Leon S. Kennedy, as he straps on his work boots and pistol, and heads to Spain on a rescue mission. The target is ‘Baby Eagle’ aka Ashley Graham, the US President’s daughter, who’s been abducted and held hostage in a rural, ghoulish village. The Resident Evil 4 remake largely retains the same plot beats as the original, while beefing up the lore and its sinister tone to a new degree. All pathways scream a folkloric horror aesthetic now, be it ravens pecking at rotting carcasses, beast skulls and boney charms hoisted aloft, or the ominous cultists chanting nearby. Upon further inspection, we learn that those noises are from the villagers themselves, who’ve pledged allegiance to the neopagan Los Iluminados, known for worshipping the Plagas, a mind-controlling parasite. Gone were the familiar, slow-moving zombies from previous games, and instead, we’ve got the pitchfork-wielding Ganados, guarding every square inch of the village.

While introduced as a generic mob, their superhuman tolerance to pain gives the villagers an extra dose of adrenaline, causing them to attack in dangerously erratic ways. Fighting hordes gets increasingly stress-inducing as they gang up on Leon rather quickly, urging you to make swift decisions when picking off targets. At times, they would throw axes and Molotov cocktails from afar, scream and charge after you with a pitchfork, or even grab you by surprise before jamming their grubby thumbs into your eye sockets. Core combat is as cartoonish and over-the-top as it’s always been, where you stun enemies with a well-placed headshot, then follow it up with a spinning roundhouse kick to seal the deal. That combo never stops being fun, and the game constantly shuffles its deck of enemies to pose new challenges.

Occasionally, you might encounter the chainsaw-wielding Dr. Salvador ominously trudging towards you, or a shirtless brute wearing a bovine head for a helmet, swinging a sledgehammer around. Moments like these force you to think fast and aim for their kneecaps instead, effectively bringing the mini-bosses to a halt, before booting them into a crowd of snarling villagers who tumble down like pins at a bowling alley. Religious zealots and Ganados can also be brought down to their knees, so you can get behind them and perform a ridiculous German suplex. I vividly remember choking on my water and cackling the first time I saw it happen — it felt so bizarre, yet classic Resident Evil style.

The moment-to-moment gameplay in Resident Evil 4 remake never fails to surprise you. Some fallen enemies come back to life with a creepy parasitic growth on their necks, while others get a full-on head replacement, where the leech uses its deadly tentacles as a whip that can also impale you. Overwhelmed by their numbers on Hardcore difficulty, I constantly found myself turning heel and running away in fear into dark tunnels, hoping to stall time and slowly eliminate them one by one.

What I didn’t anticipate was the game responding to such cheap tactics with its own cunning bag of tricks. Villagers would often place rusty bear traps that blend in well with the environment, slowing Leon down upon activation and leaving him open to a chainsaw stab that ends in gory goodness. Other times, I would stumble into a tripwire and look on with shame, as my body absorbed the direct impact of the explosion. Sure, you could create some big IQ plays by baiting an enemy into the wire or simply disarming them stealthily, but once you’ve kicked the hornet’s nest, it’s all mayhem and utterly terrifying.

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Our trusty combat knife from the original game returns with some new perks and subsequent nerfs. Drawing from the RE2 remake, knives now have a durability meter which depletes with usage, making it a purely last resort option. With it, Leon can slash and stab enemies, break free from grapples or rabid wolf attacks, and most importantly, parry oncoming assaults.

I knew in my heart, the 125 hours I spent on Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice would come in handy someday, but never imagined it to be with Resident Evil, of all things. The new skill lets you deflect melee attacks by parrying them at the right moment, instantly stunning the enemy and leaving them vulnerable to heavy onslaught. And if your reflexes are on point, feel free to deflect any hatchets or torches being hurled toward you. When short on ammo, the knife always appeared as a saving grace, helping me drop a couple of bodies, as I desperately prayed they carried some life-saving loot. Creeping behind enemies and quietly stabbing their throats was also an excellent way to stack up on resources without alarming large masses.

Running into purple flames was always a sign of relief in Resident Evil 4 (2023), as we’re greeted by the sly voice of a weapons peddler to check out his wares. Dressed in a long, black coat and a mask for good measure, the merchant continuously flatters our choices, making it almost irresistible to leave his shop empty-handed. Here, you can exchange Pesetas (currency) scavenged from corpses for new firearms, healing items, or resources. Alternatively, you can sell any items taking extra space in your inventory, or trade Spinels in for treasure maps to further explore the world and scratch that Indiana Jones itch. Nestled between them is the ‘Tune Up’ option, where one could repair and upgrade their broken combat knife, or buff guns with faster reloads and increased ammunition.

resident evil 4 review shop resident evil 4 review shop

It definitely helps that the keyboard and mouse controls are more streamlined than the original, so it’s no longer a constant tussle with the tanky camera movement. The modernisation of mechanics in the RE4 remake also enables quick weapon swapping, which can now be performed with a simple tap on the numeric keys — D-pad on the controller — instead of opening the inventory each time. Similarly, conversations with field support agent Ingrid Hunnigan are now incorporated into the HUD (heads-up display) via a tiny digital window, rather than ruining the game’s flow by exiting to a codec-styled communications screen. It’s fashioned like the Batman: Arkham games, where the Dark Knight can freely walk around while simultaneously discussing mission status with Alfred.

The end of Chapter 4 sees Leon finally uniting with Ashley, but getting her out of the terrifying village is not an easy task. While still a damsel in distress, Resident Evil 4 remake gives her a tougher exterior; on their first meeting, she isn’t afraid to swing at Leon with a candle holder as a means to protect herself. The whiny girl with annoying squeals we knew in the original is nowhere to be seen, and in her place, we’ve got someone who’s capable of evading the baddies on her own accord.

She’s got no valuable field skills, but her plight of it all is more convincing through believable dialogue and lifelike facial expressions, thanks to the supreme visual fidelity we’ve come to expect from Capcom’s proprietary RE Engine. Ashley’s introduction was also crucial to me in releasing how much the writers toned down on the characters’ thirst levels and corny one-liners — a massive upgrade. Instead of sexually suggestive lines and yells, her interactions with biologist Luis Serra are now met with a far more respectable “Señorita.”

resident evil 4 review ashley resident evil 4 review ashley

Throughout the escort mission, Ashley sticks by our side, following Leon’s every move and often serving as a partner by dropping down ladders, solving puzzles, and crawling into hard-to-reach areas. In the original RE4, she could be ordered to stop tailing at a safe spot, as you went onward and cleared out enemies lying ahead. While convenient, this totally went against her character, who realistically, wouldn’t want to be left alone in a dangerous situation.

The remake corrects this by having her constantly follow you around, while you command her to either stay close or maintain some distance. Ashley also lacks a health bar now, so there’s no need to spend our healing herbs on her. Instead, upon taking too much damage, she’ll end up in a downed state, forcing us to be wary of our surroundings and revive her. Of course, she’ll still be scooped up and carried away by enemies, which we must prevent as her sole protector.

Additionally, the world of Resident Evil 4 is filled with intricate puzzles, the Blue Medallion fetch quests, and the added freedom to explore cabins and tucked-away areas by riding around in a motor boat. Scouring through pitch-black caverns is much scarier than before, as you mainly depend on torchlight and the sounds of echoing footsteps to plan out your route. The claustrophobia truly hits when facing homicidal villagers with dynamite, giving you not many options apart from blasting the red tubes before they leave their hands.

resident evil 4 review shooting gallery resident evil 4 review shooting gallery

One could also hone their aiming skills by visiting shooting galleries spread out across certain Merchant shops, or search for Gold Chicken Eggs to restore all health. It’s easy to get sidetracked into other activities or explore every nook and cranny of the secluded village, but none of it feels like a waste of time. There’s always some chest, crate, or barrel to break open for valuable loot — so you never feel bad about ‘over-exploring’.

The only gripe I had with the game was Ada Wong’s voice acting, which sounded way too deep and projected a sense of disinterest and boredom. Adding to that, Capcom hasn’t dropped any word on Assignment: Ada and the Separate Ways minigame, which gives control over the femme fatale, on her interconnected journey. Here’s to hoping they arrive as DLCs in the future.

Resident Evil 4 remake review: Verdict

While the visual upgrade alone is a good enough draw to relive one of Capcom’s all-time elites, Resident Evil 4 remake brings a wealth of new tweaks that contribute to a perfect reimagination. Even with deeper character development and extended gameplay, it still retains the original’s charm through intense scares and goofy B-movie-like scenarios that never feel too old. The new knife mechanics tighten the core gameplay by adding an element of resourceful survival horror to an otherwise frenzied action-heavy affair. With the free, wave-style Mercenaries mode dropping next week, there’s no better time for long-time fans or newcomers to jump in and experience the horrors awaiting in the claustrophobic European village setting of Resident Evil 4.


  • Looks amazing and is well-optimised
  • Massively improved controls
  • Characters are more suited to the times
  • You can parry incoming attacks now
  • Knife durability adds a sense of resourcefulness
  • Over-the-top action sequences
  • Gory combat


  • Ada Wong’s voice acting feels off
  • Shadows can get too dark
  • Some bonus modes have been scrapped

Rating (out of 10): 9

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