Review: ‘Resident Evil 4’ A campy horror adventure I can’t put down

In 2005, Capcom released an exclusive for the Nintendo GameCube called “Resident Evil 4.” As the first numbered title to release for the newer console generation, fans of the series were excited to see fan-favorite Leon Kennedy venturing through Spain. At the same time, they were rightfully skeptical after seeing its complete shift in gameplay. 

After all, it was the pioneer of the over-the-shoulder, third-person action that many games use to this day. Before then, every "Resident Evil" title had fixed camera angles and a focus on puzzles rather than action.

Once the game was released, however, all of those worries went away. To this day, many consider “Resident Evil 4” a masterpiece of the medium and is often looked at as a revolutionary title for the industry.

Just like in 2005, the remake of “Resident Evil 4” was met with skepticism on its March 24 release date. Fans were divided on their decision to remake such a definitive game. Some fans said it was unnecessary while others argued that its dated gameplay warranted a reiteration.

And just like its 2005 release, the remake came out as a major success.

“Resident Evil 4” (2023) is a game that truly lives up to its legacy, and then some. From its campy dialogue and phenomenal gunplay to its terrifying creatures and wacky suplexes, it’s a game that I can’t put down, even after 20 hours of playing.

Like the original game, “Resident Evil 4” (2023) sets the player as Leon Kennedy, who is going out into the rural outskirts of Spain to find the President of the United States’ daughter, Ashley Graham. After things go awry with a few violent locals, players come face-to-face with a countryside filled with a hive-minded horde of villagers and cult-leaders.

Before players are even given time to practice their aiming and shooting, their skills are put to the test as they fight what is essentially a sea of pitchforks, scythes and chainsaws. Things may go well at first, as you fight your way through the hordes.

But they can get bad really quick. 

In this iteration of the game, enemy AI is built to compliment Leon’s quicker fighting capabilities and creates scenarios where players can easily get flanked and pinned down. This first major skirmish sees Leon getting stabbed with knives, pierced with pitchforks, and every now and then a villager may hold Leon's arms back as the chainsaw man targets his stomach for an instant-death.

“Resident Evil 4” (2023) never hides its intentions and is very transparent in what it wants the player to do. In this game your only purpose is to get Ashley and get out. As the plot derails into a sea of chaos, your basic mechanics are constantly put in a trial-by-fire and you’re meant to experiment with each ability. So many guns and ammunition are handed out that it’s okay to waste a few bullets to try something new.

The best part about these fights? Hearing Leon say cheesy one-liners as he takes down another enemy. One of "Resident Evil’s" main staples that made me fall in love with the series back in 2016 was its blend of intense horror elements and B-grade action and dialogue. 

It’s what made the original “Resident Evil 4” so great for fans. Many can still recall Leon saying really lame lines such as “No thanks, bro” and “Where’s everyone going? Bingo?” The best part is that most of these lines remain in the game, but this time around combat and story are refined to fit in with some of the series’ other remakes. 

In 2019, “Resident Evil 2” was remade masterfully, with many players introduced to the series with this entry. It brought 4’s over-the-shoulder action back in a better way and doubled down on the horror and humor of the situations that fans adore. On top of that, character backgrounds were more fleshed out and some of the original’s set pieces were fully realized with the RE Engine.

In short, it was a success for the series.

“Resident Evil 2” was followed by a remake of the third mainline game, which used much of 2’s core elements to create a connected feeling of gameplay. Since these games had such a strong relation to the 4th game, Capcom decided to give some of these improvements to what started this revolutionary gameplay.

Just like 2 and 3, “Resident Evil 4” (2023)’s characters, environments, and gameplay are untouched in some aspects, and in others they’re completely altered to try and fit with what the source material wanted to do.

Everything has a personality now, including its enemies. As you fight the parasitic hivemind that’s burrowed into the bodies around this rural landscape, Leon learns more and more about what happened and how many leaders used their power to corrupt the masses surrounding them. 

It’s a feeling of true claustrophobia that was never truly shown in the original. Now, it really seems like there’s no escape from this nightmare, as everybody within 100 miles has been infected. 

Well, mostly everyone.

There are some friendly faces that you’ll meet along the way. Take Luis, a local man who’s shrouded in mystery. He’s managed to get around without a swarm taking him in to get a parasitic booster. In the original game, he never really had a backstory and remained a mystery, which makes sense when looking at the original’s shaky development history. 

There were lots of plans for different storylines, but they all felt dry and not as fun. So, director Shinji Mikami made the ultimate decision to scrap any ideas for stories until the team found a combat system that felt good. Once they created the gameplay seen in the original “Resident Evil 4”, most of the plot and original characters were made quickly so they could release the game on time.

Now, “Resident Evil 4” (2023) had the time to fully flesh out these characters. Luis is given a backstory that works really well and, overall, made me appreciate his character and lines even more. Everybody in Resident Evil has some dark story behind them, but their cheesy dialogue would never give you that impression.

The only downsides I encountered were two moments where I felt overwhelmed and frustrated with the amount of attacks that were incoming. While I was ready to mark it down for these gripes, I decided to go back to the game in a new file and see if I had as much trouble as I did in my first run. Because I knew about these moments and already had a game plan to get through, it barely posed as an issue. 

And that’s what makes this remake a true success: So many great moments in the original were tarnished with dated combat and thin storylines, and I could never truly love it like the other titles. While it may be a masterpiece in others’ eyes, it was just a good game in mine. 

The remake changes everything. It’s like redoing a paper that may have already achieved a 90%, but the changes turn it into the 100% it was always meant to be.