GOTY Contender – Resident Evil 4

Where to even begin with this one? This is a game I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time, ever since the idea of a remake was merely a rumor. Finding out that my favorite game developer, Capcom, was going to be remaking one of my favorite games of all time was a pretty big moment for me, as I’m sure it was for many other fans of the series. While I adore the original game and it was groundbreaking in its time, there’s no question that it’s now dated. The over-the-shoulder gameplay has gone on to become an industry standard, inspiring countless games after it, including the remakes for Resident Evil 2 & 3. And while the original game is full of fun camp, some of the jokes just don’t land anymore.

Enter the Resident Evil 4 remake in all its glory, a fully updated take on a classic, and an impressive one at that. The remake doesn’t necessarily do anything innovative itself, instead relying on its predecessors, the original RE4 and the recent RE remakes, to guide its mechanics. But that’s okay! It doesn’t have to. This is an update of a game we’re already familiar with, and at that it excels. Environments from the original remain mostly intact but are updated to look and feel so much better. The village becomes more of a cohesive whole than it felt like before, and the RE Engine provides so much detail that I often found myself just looking around and admiring everything before moving on.

The characters feel like fleshed-out versions of their core selves. Whereas characters like Luis and Krauser didn’t have much time to shine in the original, they’re now fully realized people with compelling motivations, three-dimensional personalities, and banter. Luis in particular really benefits from the added screentime, becoming an ally to Leon in a way that he never did in the original. Ashley is a welcome change, as well, as the game truly illustrates her growth into a hardened survivor and has her quipping right alongside Leon by the end. And Leon himself feels like a multi-faceted human, no longer simply a badass full of one-liners. His trauma from Resident Evil 2 is deftly woven into his character, but the quips we’ve come to love from him are still there.

The knife parry is a welcome addition — you can parry almost any enemy attack with your combat knife. This does affect its durability, which means you have to pay for repairs at the merchant (yes, the much-loved merchant is back and just as helpful as ever!), but I appreciated that detail. It adds to the overall feeling the game has of constantly being on the edge, giving you just enough resources to progress without making you feel invincible. Standard mode was a challenge for me, really testing my ability to manage resources and make heated decisions in the middle of battle. There’s a distinct flow to the combat in RE4, to the point where it feels like a dance.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that I loved everything about this game. I loved being able to go back and explore each environment through side quests after finishing the initial run through hordes of enemies. The RE Engine really puts in work, making each photorealistic environment a joy to simply be in. There are so many little moments from the original game that come through beautifully in the remake, and everything flows together so well from chapter to chapter. I honestly don’t have any complaints. Even the few things that weren’t kept in from the original didn’t feel missed, now simply relegated to the past — and hey, the original game is still always there. Now to get back to my hardcore run!

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