The 2005 original Resident Evil 4 is a great game. Uncontroversial statement, I know, but it bears repeating now and then. It's fun to play, ratchets up the tension well, isn't mired in all the tedious franchise lore, and still has a clear sense of identity – both within the series and in gaming as a whole.
The RE4 Remake is… a little different. It's definitely a good time, no doubt about it, as we ourselves highlighted in our Resident Evil 4 Remake review, but to me it's also a more sedate and sensible affair than the original. And those are two words I don't want anywhere near Resident Evil 4. Moreover, it makes me wonder about how Capcom sees this franchise, and where it's going next.
Your right hand comes off?!
I used the word "identity" earlier, and for good reason. The original RE4, as a game, is almost more of a character than any of the humans you meet within it – an absurd, flamboyant, bizarre and boisterous character who delights in throwing around B-movie ideas like sea monsters and giant robot statues and minecart chases, never caring about how much sense any of it makes. A short walk down a forest path to connect two gunfights is unacceptably boring – no, we must have the villagers roll a giant boulder at you, Indiana Jones-style, which Leon then comically flees from in fast-forward like he's on the Benny Hill Show. If you told me that the writing staff was on a foaming sugar high throughout the development process, I'd not only believe you, you'd have to work quite hard to convince me that wasn't the case. Not that I disapprove - it's part of what makes the game so fun!
But the Resident Evil 4 Remake pulls on the leash hard when it comes to all the ridiculousness, and as somebody who said "the sillier, the better" when discussing it in our most anticipated games of 2023 feature, it irks me to see it so restrained. Sure, there's goofy stuff in the Remake, but not much of it, and what's there is largely just select elements of the original that Capcom seemed to feel like they couldn't get away with cutting out, like the stupid "Bingo" line and the pirate-voiced Merchant – both of which now just feel a bit out of place in a game that's trying to be more straight-faced.
It's almost some strange off-shoot of sequelitis that, for want of its own term, we could think of as "Remakeleosis": remaking a game while being too "respectful to the original", cutting out everything unique or weird about it for fear that somebody might point and laugh at our precious baby. The games we love usually have some weirdness to them and more than a couple of flaws - the telltale sign of a creative force experimenting on the edge of what's considered acceptable. But because Remakes aren't usually big on creativity (especially big budget ones less willing to risk money and the ire of fans), you'll get an experience that's far more polished, and far less risky. The original Resident Evil 4 stood out from the series like a gloriously sore thumb, but the Remake doesn't feel hugely distinct from the two remakes before it – or the current state of survival horror as a whole.
Playing through the RE4 Remake yourself? Find everything you need to know about it at our dedicated Resident Evil 4 Remake page, including tips, secrets and more besides.