Resident Evil 4 is a masterfully crafted action game that is a perfect coalescence of everything that is great about the series. It is perfectly paced and a truly gripping ride that will keep you glued to your seat at all times.
Resident Evil 4 has always been an enigma to me. Having never played it I would often hear how great it was and how it is the “greatest game of all time.” After playing it finally, in its remade form on PS5, I now see just why Resident Evil 4 has been held in such high esteem for almost two decades and why it is the pinnacle of the Resident Evil franchise.
While having never played Resident Evil 4 before now, I have picked up enough information over the years. I knew what to expect to some degree, but I didn’t quite understand just how finely tuned the action and set pieces are until sitting down and spending 16 hours with the remake. The game is an expertly conceptualised rollercoaster ride with perfectly, pulse-racing peaks, and velvety valleys that allow you to sit and relax and enjoy the gorgeous locations you get to explore.
One moment you will go from fighting a large sea creature called Del Lago on a boat, throwing harpoons at it as it whips and whirls you around a lake to exploring dark caves and finding hidden treasures without disruption from enemies. This happens dozens of times throughout the game and each moment arrives just when you need it and lasts for the perfect amount of time.
Nothing overstays its welcome and each set piece, vista, combat encounter, boss fight, and moment of exploration provided me with exactly what I needed to rejuvenate my interest and keep me excited and entertained in that chapter.
The pacing throughout the whole game is just perfect, in fact, it is impressive that developers could have crafted an experience like this with such expert flow in 2023, let alone back in 2005. This moment-to-moment action and perfection blew me away and stands out as the real shining part of the game.
But almost everything else is just as good, Resident Evil 4’s combat and gameplay are also just as punchy, perfectly balanced with a sense of confidence that Capcom knows this is the series’ sweet spot. The remakes of RE 2 and RE 3 both had great third-person survival combat that left you feeling like you were scrounging for ammo in the face of adversity. In reality, though, they often skimped on the action set pieces.
Resident Evil 7 brought the survival horror up a notch with terrifying scares and atmosphere, while Resident Evil Village went big on action. But the combat in both games felt clunky in the first-person perspective. In Resident Evil 4, the summary of its parts are all implemented to the right degree.
Third person is where the series is at its best, and, in Resident Evil 4, the weapons feel just as punchy and powerful just as they did in the other remakes. But here, the enemy variety and quantity actually put your weapon skills to the test, keeping fights more engaging. You no longer feel entirely starved for resources, and while ammo and health are more common, it doesn’t detract from the game’s difficulty. I had plenty of close encounters towards the end of the game, where I made it out alive with just a handful of bullets and a herb to my name. ,
That experience of having resources aplenty to hardly any later on is a great way to weave the narrative into the gameplay experience. As Leon spent more hours in the village and the surrounding areas, like the Castle and Island, it felt like his journey to save Ashley was getting more and more desperate.
Even though I haven’t played the original, I can see how much care and attention has been put into this remake both mechanically and visually to perfectly recreate that sense of desperation. Even controversial aspects of the original game, like Ashley tagging along for 75% of the game, didn’t bother me at all. The companion mechanics are useful, allowing you to tell Ashley to stay by your side or run away. They give you just enough control without making her a problem.
And when she did find herself in a spot of bother, getting her back into the action – by pulling her back on her feet or shooting the enemy taking her away – wasn’t cumbersome or an annoyance. In fact, I actually found these moments added a whole new dimension to combat as you had to think about your positioning in a room of half a dozen enemies. It adds another layer to Resident Evil combat, which is often quite simplistic.
That combat sits alongside well-thought-out puzzles and satisfying exploration, which I have come to expect from the series. In addition, a number of post-game options and fun ways to take on the game’s many challenges also add a lot of replayability and reward for revisiting Leon’s mission to save Ashley.
The one part of the game that didn’t stand out and felt like standard Resident Evil fare is its story, which feels largely traditional for the series and never really blew me away. I did like some of the character development done here, especially with Luis and making Leon seem less like an action-hero archetype. However, by the end, it left too many loose ends to the point where it brought what was a fantastic final set piece down. When the rest of the game is so incredible, it stands out.
That aside, though, I am in awe of the Resident Evil 4 remake. While its story could be better in places, the pacing is incredible and the combat using Leon’s expansive arsenal adds some much-needed variety to the series formula. Remaking something widely regarded as one of the best games of all time is no easy feat, but I think Capcom has done it justice here.