It has been 18 years since Leon S. Kennedy first fought the Plaga parasites in Spain. Now Capcom is bringing back the action-packed horror – with bravura.
After surviving the zombie virus that wiped Racoon City off the map, Leon S. Kennedy finds himself alone in a godforsaken corner of Spain. His job as a secret government agent: find the president’s daughter who was kidnapped by the local cult Los Illuminados. This is how the story begins Resident Evil 4, which first flickered across the screens on the Gamecube in 2005. I’ve played it a number of times over the years – on Gamecube, Wii, PS4 and PC with the HD Project Mod, whose creators spent many years looking for as many of the templates for the game’s textures as possible in order to recreate them in high resolution .
So I’m well acquainted with Leon’s adventures in Spain: I mentally memorized the angles of the areas in the iconic village, the castle and the final island area.
I can speak along to some of the tongue-in-cheek, wacky lines of dialogue (“Insect live doesn’t compare to human live!”), know a good deal of the game’s exploits and secrets. So I was excited for the new one Resident Evil 4 – but also concerned. There was a risk that the remake didn’t feel fresh enough for me. Unlike the new versions of Resident Evil 2 (in the test, grade 9.0) and Resident Evil 3 (In the test, grade 8.5) before that, there wasn’t a big leap from the fixed camera perspectives in the original to the over-the-shoulder camera.
Now I can reveal that the developers did a very good job of putting their own spin on the gameplay in the remake and playing with the expectations of fans like me, as you can read here and see in the video above. Due to Capcom’s embargo regulations, I was only able to use my own game scenes to a limited extent. All sections up to the end of the first group battle in the village and the boss fight against the Garrador in the test video and in the screenshots were recorded by me on PlayStation 5.
|You get to this village square very early on, where you have to survive for several minutes while the parasite-infested residents want to get at you. At the beginning, however, you can still sneak around and plunder the first supplies in peace.|
Resident Evil 4 turned the series upside down, shelved fixed camera perspectives and tank controls. Leon was fast and there was a lot of action. Instead of classic survival horror, terror was the order of the day in the face of groups of enemies that, unlike zombies, didn’t slowly shuffle up. The new edition also exudes this feeling. What is special is how movement and goals were implemented. By that I don’t mean that Leon can now move while aiming, unlike in the original – you wouldn’t be able to expect anything else 18 years later. What is more striking is that the controls are roughly in line with the remake of Resident Evil 2. This also means that there is some inertia when maneuvering when you change the direction of your movement. At the same time, various enemy types are now even faster than before. Therefore, it is not too easy in the remake to mess with the enemies who like to attack you from several sides.
But I got used to Leon’s momentum, the actual movement and aiming are implemented very precisely and so (apart from the agility of the enemies and Leon’s wobbling when looking through the scope of the sniper rifles) I had no problems getting my feet on the ground to take or to target body parts. As in the past, you can shoot weapons out of the hands of the human parasite hosts (the Ganados), stun them with headshots, or use leg attacks to knock them to their knees or fall entirely. If you approach stunned enemies, you can trigger melee attacks with the context-sensitive action button.
The handling of the various guns is also beautifully implemented. For example, the first shotgun is particularly good at dismantling opponents, while a later model is better at knocking back entire groups. You can quickly switch between the up to eight weapons in the quick selection slots using the digital cross. Alternatively, this can also be done via the detour into the suitcase inventory and to be honest: I sometimes preferred to do that to give myself a little breather.
|Melee attacks differ somewhat depending on which side Leon is attacking from – for example, a front kick for a Ganado on his knees will give a face kick, while a back shot will suplex.|
On a knife edge
One innovation is the rudimentary sneak system: at the push of a button, Leon crouches down to move more quietly. If you get behind a Ganado without being recognized, you secretly kill him with the knife. In this way you can often thin out the enemy field before a confrontation, occasionally you even avoid enemies triggering an alarm and completely avoid an open fight. But Leon’s knife can do a lot more, because with additional new mechanics it now plays a much more important role than in the original. If enemies have fallen to the ground, you can finish them off immediately with the push of a button. If the corpse of a recently defeated Ganado twitches, this warns you that his parasite is about to erupt and he will get up again. You can also stop this with the knife.
Most importantly, however, is the new parade. Even in the Ur-Resi-4, you could ward off approaching crossbow bolts with a swing of a knife at the right time. You don’t have to do this manually anymore, instead a short press on the button with which Leon draws the knife is enough and he knocks the projectiles aside. In the same way, he now parries many standard attacks from Ganados and bosses with the blade in the remake. If you trigger the parade with optimal timing, you will stun your enemies. This mechanic also turns the first boss fight against Krauser upside down. The original was a long cutscene full of quick-time events, where failure meant instant death. The remake says goodbye to this element, you just sometimes have to hammer a button in fights to free yourself from grips or quickly press the crouch button in certain attacks to dodge.
Even attacks that Leon would immediately send across the Jordan can be warded off with the knife. But that’s not overpowering. On the one hand, there are enough attacks that cannot be parried, on the other hand, the knife breaks particularly quickly during life-saving actions or when killing Ganados, whose parasite breaks out immediately. To save your main knife, you can also use other blades that you loot while exploring (but they can also be used as crafting material and will be lost if they break). If, on the other hand, Leon’s starting combat knife breaks, you can have it repaired at the dealer and also increase the durability of the tool there, just as you increase damage, reloading speed, capacity and fire rate with other weapons against pesetas captured.
|Leon can also fend off the attacks of the Garrador’s giant claws with his knife.|
Exploration and lack of space
Since the treasures, like key items, do not take up any space in the suitcase, there were no annoyances in that regard. It was different with the crafting materials. As in the original, you have a rectangular suitcase with a limited number of squares for items that you want to store efficiently, like in a tile-laying game, in order to make the best possible use of the inventory. Weapons take on particularly large rectangular shapes, but they can be stored at typewriter save points just like healing sprays (in addition, Resident Evil 4 Remake also creates mostly fair reset points via auto saves). However, all other items cannot be stored, which often led to my suitcase soon overflowing with small scrap (space requirement: line of two squares) and large scrap (line of three squares), which cannot be stacked, unlike black powder ( one square for every ten pieces). You can craft all sorts of ammunition from scrap and powder (if you’re lucky, you’ll get a few more shots on top of that). At the same time, it certainly helped the game feeling when, towards the end of an intense battle, I thought about what type of ammunition I should now make best. But all in all, I would have been happy about more direct finds of ammunition (again, stackable) and would have preferred to think less about how to change my suitcase order (which I have fun maintaining) in order not to have to leave a bag of scrap lying around.
However, that didn’t dampen my general enthusiasm for exploration in Resident Evil 4. Even in the original, it was occasionally worth doing some backtracking with companion Ashley in the luggage, since you could now use her to unlock doors by lifting them over walls with a stepladder. This is reflected in the remake, along with many other incentives to return to familiar areas within an area. So you come across, among other things, locked drawers, gates or wayshrines, which are also marked on the map and whose key you often find much later. Here, backtracking is not only rewarded with treasures, often a new composition of enemies awaits you when you return, so that the way to the goal is also part of the fun. Finally, another incentive are side quests from the dealer, which you will find distributed around the world as blue notes. For example, like in the original, he asks you to destroy blue medals in the area, or to sell certain items or to do other small jobs, some of which also lead you back to old areas. As a reward, you will receive Spinel Stones. Unlike the original, these cannot be turned into money, but are an independent currency that you exchange for special items that the dealer does not have in the regular range. There are other side hustles, one of which brings you pendants for the suitcase that trigger certain positive buffs.
|With the right combination of looted gems, you make significantly more profit with the treasures. Gems can be found hidden in the area, but also stronger enemies like the chainsaw wielder Dr. Salvador usually leave some.|