Resident Evil 4 feels like Capcom's boldest remake so far

Resident Evil 4 remake
(Image credit: Capcom)

There is a surprising mix of completely new stuff and faithful reproduction in Resident Evil 4 that makes it really hard for me to get a read on how this remake is going to play out. I enjoyed the brief half hour I played, and seeing that world recreated in the RE Engine is a trip, but there's a lot to process, and how it will affect the whole game is hard to tell at this point. 

For example, parts of the initial opening are completely unrecognisable in an exciting way after a total rework. I literally had no idea where I was in the story initially until some key things happened. I won't spoil things here but there's far more of a horror feel now right up front, compared to the original. In the old game you're basically offing murderous Euro hillbillies for a few hours before there's even a hint of anything monstrous. Now, there's an almost immediate veer into obvious folk horror and a slight revision of the Las Plagas parasite behind it all that I really liked. I'll say no more because the unexpected bits completely reinvigorated an opening I've played multiple times but it ties in with rumours that this remake would incorporate darker ideas cut from the original.

Village people 

Resident Evil 4 remake

(Image credit: Capcom)

On the more familiar front, however, the village area where you first meet an angry horde of locals is identical to the original Resident Evil 4, with every building, door and barn exactly where you remembered it. This opening battle for survival sees you facing off against a seemingly endless assault (which might sound familiar to anyone who's survived the lycan attack at the start of Resident Evil Village) – with the Los Ganados enemies constantly pressing and forcing you to backtrack and run away; in a fight that's as much about space as it is survival, as you wait out the clock.

If you've played the original, you'll appreciate how well this recaptures the pressured feel of that moment, with updated controls and visuals. In doing so, you're constantly trying to hold the closest opponents back, while outliers throw axes or cross the distance fast with thrusting pitchforks – it's all about snatching hasty reloads, prioritising targets and dashing to open spaces to avoid getting hemmed in. The remake seems to be sticking to the original's corny tone in places too – Leon's "where's everyone going? Bingo?" line is still there when all the Ganados first run away. As well as zingers like "I'll let myself out", just before jumping through a window. Hannigan's also back – Leon's field support now upgraded from a talking profile pic to a fully rendered desk hopping character with her own cutscene presence this time. 

Into this, however, have been added significant new features like stealth kills and the ability to parry attacks with your knife. How these will affect the feel of the game overall will be interesting. There's a woman on the left half of the village for example, separated from the mob, that I always used to take out first in the original game as a relatively easy 'free' kill to help tip the odds in my favour. It used to trigger the mob attack, but in an area that gave you room to prepare and shelter, feeling like the slightest of advantages. Now, however, I can stealth anyone and move on undetected. I managed a few unseen kills before it all kicked off in the remake, and it's a big change in the power dynamic. I've no idea if it's possible to stealth the entire village but I'm sure people will try. 

Killer quips

Another huge change is the knife parry. Where before you could, if you were lucky, shoot a thrown axe out of the air, you can now deflect anything with a well timed tap of L1. It's a satisfying trick to twang an incoming blow to one side but I do wonder, again, how that will change the original game's strong focus on not letting anyone get too close. In a game originally all about lethal protection of personal space, enemy proximity feels less threatening when you can counter attacks point blank. You can even parry Dr. Salvador's chainsaw, which I do feel changes the fundamental point of that character's purpose – which is to be a lumbering unstoppable force applying a constant encroaching pressure on your crowd control attempts. He's still dangerous, but obviously being able to block one of gaming's most famous insta-kills is a brave move on Capcom's part.

Resident Evil 4 remake

(Image credit: Capcom)

Balancing out the knife's power in the remake is a degradation system where it can break and then need repairing before you can use it again. Parrying weakens it a little, whereas using it to escape a grapple damages it a lot, so you're encouraged to parry in order to conserve it. The idea being that this is another form of resource management, inline with conserving ammo and herbs, or knowing when to use crucial items. 

I do wish Capcom had provided a longer, more substantial play through to see how all these new ideas settle. I'm cautiously excited to see more and what I played was good – it's Resident Evil 4 in a shiny new engine. Although it's hard to tell if this is more in line with Resi 2's excellent rebirth, or Resi 3's slightly woolier return. That familiar village opening still feels like a scrabbling fight for survival while the reworked opening I mentioned adds a genuine layer of surprise and uncertainty to familiar elements I really enjoyed. So that at least bodes well for revisiting something I've played countless times over numerous platforms. 

Leon Hurley
Managing editor for guides

I'm GamesRadar's Managing Editor for guides, which means I run GamesRadar's guides and tips content. I also write reviews, previews and features, largely about horror, action adventure, FPS and open world games. I previously worked on Kotaku, and the Official PlayStation Magazine and website.