“Resident Evil 4” updates a masterpiece

I’ll buy that for a high price

The “Resident Evil 4” remake is the latest entry in the iconic “Resident Evil” video-game series. The story follows U.S. agent Leon Kennedy on a mission to rescue Ashley Graham, the president’s daughter, from the Los Illuminados cult in Spain. I have been a fan of the series since the 2019 remake of “Resident Evil 2,” which is easily the scariest game I have played in my life, and the original “Resident Evil 4” from 2005 is an awesome blend of action and campy horror that still surprisingly holds up … almost to the point where the idea of remaking it could come across as more of a cash grab and less like a passion project. That being said, I think this remake more than justifies its existence by remaining faithful to the original game while also improving the characters, story and gameplay.

One of the most successful elements of this remake is its story and characters, especially in relation to the original game. I love that we are given a bit of exposition at the beginning to show how Leon went from being a rookie cop in “Resident Evil 2” (RE2) to a special agent who answers directly to the president. I also like that Leon’s trusty knife is the same one that he was given by police chief Marvin in “RE2”; it adds some emotional connection to the item while also reinforcing Leon’s roots as a cop. This game also manages to flesh out its supporting cast in a satisfying way. Ashley has shifted from being a bratty damsel-in-distress to an intelligent and relatively competent character … who still can’t fend for herself, but the game would be way shorter if she could. Luis is also given more of a character this time around; he has a good sense of humor, some nice flair, charisma and an interesting motivation. The writers also got rid of the original’s god-awful line about Ashley’s “ballistics,” so Luis is no longer a sex pest — yay, progress!

So much of my praise has been in reference to what this remake changes about the original, but it should be noted that most of what fans loved about the original has been kept. For starters, the game is incredibly cheesy. We still have Leon shooting off one-liners as he mows down and roundhouse-kicks infected villagers. It’s even more impressive that the game manages to be intense and surprisingly scary while maintaining the franchise’s campiness.

There’s a sequence in which Leon is forced to defeat some suits of armor, which are now being animated by the Las Plagas parasite; it was entertaining enough for me to ignore how little sense it makes in the first place. This remake also, thankfully, keeps all of the fantastic boss fights from the original game, even if it does make the least interesting one even more of a drag this time around. All of them required quite a bit of trial-and-error on my end, but there was always a strong sense of satisfaction once I prevailed.

Out of everything that this remake does well, I have to say that the gameplay is its biggest strength. As per usual with the series (post-“RE7”), this game is really fun to play. Every weapon that Leon uses has a distinct feel to it, and it gives players even more incentive to try to use all of them. The combat also uses a lot of parrying with Leon’s knife, which was often my saving grace when I was in a sticky situation. It also helps that this game once again has the iconic Merchant character, who, in addition to selling a wide variety of items (weapons, weapon upgrades, ammunition etc.), can also repair your knife and help you improve your marksmanship.

As fantastic as this game is, I do, unfortunately, have a few issues with it. As alluded to earlier, there is one boss fight that I found to be quite boring, and that’s only because of how easily I was able to defeat it. While the rest of the pivotal encounters had me trying and failing repeatedly, I managed to beat this enemy with little to no effort, and that was pretty disappointing. Thankfully, this is also the first of seven bosses, and the rest are more engaging, but that didn’t make this any less of a drag.

All in all, “Resident Evil 4” is a phenomenal game, and it’s about as close to perfection as I could have ever hoped for. Not only is it a faithful remake of a classic game, but it’s also a fantastic action-horror game on its own. This game definitely has a few issues, but it didn’t affect my overall experience. I just finished this game recently, and I already want to play it all over again … and I think that’s pretty telling.

RATING: 10/10
20 hours of gameplay