Note: Strict review guidelines mean you’re only going to see images from two (of 16) chapters.
Review guides typically warn against a few obvious spoilers, push you to highlight features the developers consider most significant, and promise many technical issues will be dealt with in a day-one patch. In the case of Resident Evil 4 (2023), pre-launch content is restricted to capturing video or images of already marketed content and describing the game in the broadest sense.
The good news is these oppressive guidelines have nothing to do with the quality of Resident Evil 4 (2023). I think Capcom is assuming – and they’re probably right – that most people interested in this remake have never played the original but enjoyed the recent remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3. If that applies to you, going in blind is the right approach and you’ll get an entertaining ride with familiar foundations. If, like me, you’ve played and replayed the original countless times, it still offers a “familiar but fresh” experience but changes to the gameplay and tone might prove more divisive.
Familiar but fresh
Story details are mostly off-limits but I will say despite featuring new voice actors, tweaked dialogue, reworked cutscenes, and stronger horror vibes, Resident Evil 4 (2023) remains surprisingly faithful to the original.
The narrative is still broken into three major “acts”, each set in a new location that draws on different horror inspirations. The story beats and cliffhangers that connect each chapter remain intact, while the characterisation and motivations of the cast are mostly consistent (albeit with the wackier elements toned down). The voice actors sound impressively close to the original, both when it comes to accent and delivery. I did miss the weirdness and action-hero-movie vibes of the original, but it never feels like there are gaps in the story and the pacing is improved, making Resident Evil 4 (2023) all the better for it.
Another enhanced element – one that goes hand in hand with the updated visuals – is the fantastic environmental storytelling, which leaves the traditional documents you find feeling like incongruous remnants. The original game had no shortage of objects in the environment for Leon to comment on but the remake does far more – and more organically – with intricately detailed scenes full of little details that tell a mini-story. Leon might have less to say overall – excluding his repetitive and annoying combat quips – but Resident Evil 4 (2023) still keeps the tension high with plenty of foreshadowing and even more insight into the tragic fate of the local populace.
The only downside is Resident Evil 4 (2023) is not quite “definitive” if you consider the PlayStation 2 port of the original, which formed the foundation for all subsequent ports. I’d guess an expansion is planned for the future.
Leon clearly skipped cardio days
My feelings on the updated gameplay mechanics are mixed – though most of that stems from having played the original so many times. There are more systems to engage with and the reworked or streamlined sections are all the better for it – but there’s a notably different “feel” to the combat that should please those coming from the RE2 and 3 remakes, but might frustrate fans of the original.
Admittedly, Resident Evil 4 (2005) has floaty animations and wonky half-tank controls by modern standards but movement and combat felt responsive. You could snap off shots at close range, sprint in quickly to melee stunned enemies, and weave between mobs to make some space.
The relatively simple environments and limited animations also made for easily readable combat: enemies were always visible against the backdrop, the dodge and stagger animations were predictable enough for follow-up shots, and the auto-aim felt generous when targeting weak spots.
In contrast, Resident Evil 4 (2023) uses the sluggish movement and gunplay from the RE2 remake. Despite the opening cinematic highlighting Leon’s special forces training, he walks slowly, his run is more of a shamble, takes a second or two to shift between postures like sprinting or aiming, and he’s constantly breathing heavily and flexing joints after the slightest exertion. It feels more cinematic and grounds him in the environment, sure, but he feels far less responsive to control.
You also get that distinctive RE Engine shooting that encourages holding your aim for precision shots but features narrow hitboxes and erratic, sinuous enemy movement – ensuring follow-up shots with any precision weapon is prone to miss. Enemies are also often obscured by darkness, light glare, or visually-dense backdrops – again making it harder to land shots quickly.
This obviously won’t be an issue for newcomers, but from the end of the first act, returning players will notice more and more missing, tweaked, or streamlined encounters – coupled with a general increase in the amount of ammunition dropped. The classic encounters that remain – typically those with large creatures in tight spaces – serve to highlight just how sluggish Leon is, though an easy-to-forget knife parry and simple dodge prompts help to mitigate this to a degree.
Now that said, the positives ultimately outweigh the negatives as Resident Evil 4 (2023) has overhauled or simply removed many sequences that were more frustrating than challenging. The gameplay shift also makes Leon feel more vulnerable, combat more desperate, and ramps up the horror element.
Now the original game introduced several RPG-lite elements to the IP and Resident Evil 4 (2023) retains and expands on all of them. Collecting valuables and currency is still essential to buy new weapons, upgrades, and consumables from a mysterious merchant – who still uses his classic lines at times if you were worried.
The Tetris-style “Attache Case” inventory can now be upgraded in size and customized further for passive buffs. There are new resources that expand the crafting options way beyond simple herb mixtures. There are side quests in almost every major area that lead to unique gear, accessories, and treasures. Admittedly most side quests don’t amount to much more than collectathons, but it makes for a more engaging experience that encourages you to explore each area thoroughly.
Another undeniable positive is the modern quality-of-life features. Autosaves are more frequent; a simple stealth system can help thin the horde before a firefight; keeping Ashley safe is easier; tuned-up weapons sell for much more so you can freely upgrade to newer models as they unlock. There are also multiple difficulty settings, auto-aim assists for those who want or need them, and optional visual modes. The only “modern” feature that didn’t gel with me was the resource-sapping knife durability system.
Damn… 18 years is a long time in video games
Completely remade in the RE Engine, Resident Evil 4 (2023) looks incredible – most of the time. It uses photogrammetry for detailed, high-resolution textures with more geometrically complex environments but it’s not perfect (at least in the pre-release build). You’ll spot the odd rough patch and textures can flicker between LOD settings at times, but the bulk of the game features diverse, stunning, and lifelike locations that feel naturally lit. The layout of many areas is also tweaked to provide a better sense of scale and spatial cohesion; the load times are blisteringly fast on next-gen hardware; and there are no loading screens once you’re in the game (if you excuse a few slow-to-open doors).
The character models, both human and monster, look great, feel grounded in the environments, and move more naturally. There’s great volumetric lighting coupled with thick weather and smoke effects to create a creepier atmosphere. There are also more physics objects in the environment, which makes combat feel more dynamic and impactful. Enemies stagger as bullets impact and often crash back, shattering props and splattering the environment with gore.
The original had a great soundscape but the remake manages to one-up it with meatier combat sounds, densely-layered ambience, and immersive directional audio. Sadly, Capcom has once again placed the original soundtrack behind a paywall, but it’s not as significant as it was in the RE2 remake. The updated version feels close enough and still works well to generate a brooding atmosphere or sense of panic once combat starts.
Aside from odd texture flickering, the consoles demonstrate variable performance and lack a 30fps cap when using Resolution mode. If you don’t have a VRR display, it’s worth accepting a softer image for a more stable 60fps and more responsive handling.
More horror, less action-hero movie, still awesome
On balance, Resident Evil 4 (2023) is another impressive remaster from Capcom that straddles the line between faithful and fresh.
If you’re someone who’s never got around to playing the original and enjoyed the RE2 or 3 remakes, you’ll find Resident Evil 4 (2023) near-perfect. It faithfully recreates and enhances most of the elements that made the original so iconic and memorable, while adding modern controls, quality-of-life features, and gorgeous visuals. Some of the quirkier characters have been toned down and a few set-pieces had to go in the name of balance and pacing, but it remains a comprehensive remake.
If you’re a long-time fan, it’s still a worthwhile adventure that somehow feels incredibly familiar despite your brain constantly picking out all the differences. You just need to go in prepared for a slight shift in tone and unlearn some old combat habits.
A review code for Resident Evil 4 (2023) was provided to gameblur by the publisher.
Resident Evil 4 (2023) is also available on PlayStation 4/5 and PC.
Resident Evil 4 (Xbox Series) ReviewResident Evil 4 (Xbox Series) Review
- Straddles a near-perfect line between faithful and fresh
- Many frustrating sections were removed, tweaked, or streamlined to improve pacing
- New puzzles, challenges, and expanded mini-game activities with new rewards
- A smart and often stunning audio-visual overhaul with stronger horror elements
- Fans of the original might not enjoy the sluggish movement and gunplay
- Lavishly-detailed environments and complex animations result in less readable combat
- Some texture flickering and the "resolution" visual mode needs a 30fps cap option on consoles