Resident Evil 4 Remake PS5 Review. The original Resident Evil 4 launched on GameCube back in January 2005. Think about that for a second. This was over a year before Sony attempted to drum up PS3 hype by waffling on about Giant Enemy Crabs at E3 2006, the X Factor had just crowned its first winner in Steve Brookstein, and Blockbuster Video was still your go-to for a Saturday night movie rental. Feel old yet?
Helmed by Shinji Mikami, RE4 was a monumental paradigm shift for Capcom’s zombie franchise at the time, eschewing the tank controls and pre-rendered backgrounds in favour of fully 3D rendered locations and a brand new over-the-shoulder viewpoint. Its influence on third-person action games cannot be overstated – everything from Dead Space to Gears of War have taken a leaf out of RE4’s book, and many still do. Oh, and remember Mikami-san threatened to cut off his own head if the game ever came to PS2? Interesting times!
While a remake of RE4 cannot possibly hop to capture the same revolutionary feel as it did 18 years ago, Capcom has nonetheless offered a stark reminder of just why the game worked so well, while expanding on key mechanics and opting for a less campy interpretation of the source material.
Resident Evil 4 Remake Review (PS5)
Village Of The Damned
Six years have passed since Leon and Claire escaped a zombie-infested Raccoon City, and the former find himself hand-picked by the US government for special combat training. Now a hardened agent with numerous missions under his belt, Leon is dispatched to rural Europe to rescue President Graham’s daughter, who has been kidnapped by a mysterious cult.
After your police escort meets a grisly end, you’re soon thrust into the thick of things: the locals are hostile and evidently something is very wrong with them. I won’t spoil anything specific in case you haven’t played the original game, but these aren’t zombies, nor are they just your average Farmer Joes who are miffed you’re trespassing on their land.
Resident Evil 4 immediately feels comfortable as you slip back into the over-the-shoulder viewpoint that has been at the core of all the RE Engine remakes since 2019’s Resident Evil 2. Shooting still feels smooth and responsive, and there’s a palpable weight to your firearms, be it the sting of a pistol shot to the boom of a Shotgun blast. Holding L2 and squeezing R2 to shoot still feels responsive as ever, while hitting R2 without aiming gives you the option of a quick knife slash without having to fumble with your inventory.
The biggest difference here of course is that Leon is now capable of The Last Of Us-style crouch-stealth by hitting circle button. Now, there’s no need to worry: this isn’t Metal Gear Solid. You can simply use stealth to navigate certain areas and get the jump on you foes to deliver a gruesome knife slash to the jugular, but you won’t be Solid Snake-ing your way through entire areas. It feels like a complement to your existing arsenal rather than a radical evolution of the core gameplay, and works perfectly well; it’s satisfying to get the early jump on your foes, whittling down their numbers so you have fewer to deal with when the brown stuff inevitable hits the fan.
Everyone’s Gone To Bingo
The combat knife is perhaps the best thing about the remake in terms of how Capcom has subtly bolstered combat. You can’t spam it constantly; its durability will decrease with each use, and once it breaks, you have to visit the Merchant to repair it (and upgrade its power and durability to boot). This layers encounters with an extra sprinkle of strategy, as you must opt whether to mash X to escape a foe’s grasp at the cost of health or stab them for a quick, more damaging counterattack. You can pick up smaller knives that are dotted throughout most areas, but they’re flimsy and won’t last you as long.
One of the best uses of the knife is the ability to parry attacks using L1. Everything from axes, pitchforks, scythes, and even Dr. Salvador’s chainsaw can be parried, saving you valuable health and even giving you a quick window to melee your enemy if timed correctly. Is it a game-changer? No, but it definitely adds a new edge to combat, and is helpful for when you’re surrounded and low on ammo. The fact you are always cautious about when to us the knife or save it for a rainy day is a welcome dynamic, and can save your bacon if used correctly.
Like the original version, combat is adrenaline-pumping affair that feels less methodical than the zombie-centric Resident Evil games. Enemies come thick and fast; they’ll lob axes at you from afar, rush you down in groups, and grapple you up close. That doesn’t mean it’s any less satisfying, though. The classic head shot or knee-cap followed by a swift kick is as punchy as ever, and the feeling of urgency is palpable as hordes of blood-thirsty bad guys inexorably rush your position.
As such, battles can be fast-paced, and you’re often hastily moving position, readjusting your aim and switching weapons in heated moments to adapt to your enemy’s patterns, leading to some panic-inducing scraps that really stand out among the series’ best to date. It’s a totally different feeling to fighting zombies, and like the original release, helps RE4 differentiate itself from its undead past.
Massive Bosses And Resource Management Keep You Alert
Admittedly things can grow a little repetitive when you’re facing down countless foes of the same calibre, but there’s still a varied bestiary to keep things fresh; the bug-like Novistators, the razor-clawed Garrdors and the ferocious Comillos force you to adapt to survive, and ensuring you are always making use of your wide repertoire of meaty guns. They all retain their classic designs designs to boot, while new foes such as the Brute keep things fresh for veterans of the original.
Bosses meanwhile are an indulgence in sheer ostentatious thrills and offer a little more tactical nuance than rudimentary baddies. From the lumbering El Gigante, the slithery Del Lago to the alien-like Verdugo, RE4’s hulking bosses are not only some of the most aesthetically pleasing in the franchise, but are challenging encounters to boot, and a welcome break from the meat-and-potatoes firefights. Each one is distinct in look and feel, and those who played the 2005 RE4 will be pleased to see their iconic look restored with a fresh coat of grotesque paint thanks to the PS5’s ample graphical muscle.
Meanwhile, Leon’s trusty attache case is back once again, leaving you free to meticulously arrange your inventory if you’re so inclined. Another way RE4 threads its strategic tapestry is resource management, which is far more pronounced than the original. Crafting with gun powder and resources (S) and (L) is introduced, which can yield anything from handgun bullets, flash grenades, shotgun shells to magnum bullets and attachable mines. You’ll still be raiding drawers, jars and barrels for precious ammo (enemies also cough up bullets, cash and herbs when defeated), but you’ll get most of your meatier firepower from making it yourself. I found myself hurting for ammo numerous times for pretty much every gun bar the handgun, so had to think carefully about how to spend precious resources; do I really need that flash grenade now, or wait until I can make some magnum ammo? You’re constantly micromanaging on the fly, and RE4 becomes much more of rewarding because of it.
RE4’s Pacing Is Top Notch
One of the best things about the remake is the pacing is largely brilliant. The game knows when to pull back on the reins when things get too action-packed, allowing you breathing room to really take in your surroundings. As such, RE4’s adrenaline-fuelled bombast is punctuated heavily with sombre moments, such as solving puzzles (there’s plenty of them, and have been completely overhauled from 2005) and soaking up some pretty macabre sights and sounds within the environments. Sure, things can sometimes outstay their welcome, but this is largely an inconsequential niggle – I never once found myself bored or frustrated.
Speaking of sights, RE4’s locations are sparkling with atmosphere and character. The filth-encrusted village, gothic castle and military-clad island return as you remember them, but they’re more fleshed out and in some cases feature brand new areas. In particular, Capcom is really channelling more of a horror vibe; the village in particular feels like something straight out of Wrong Turn, with blood-soaked walls, ritual sites and moody lighting really accentuating the fact something is seriously buggered.
This is also reflected in the overall tone and the script; the campy dialogue has been toned down and more ostentatious sequences have been completely redesigned. Calling this remake more grounded is a bit disingenuous (you do fight giant trolls and scoff chicken eggs for health, after all) but it’s certainly nowhere near as outlandish and works all the better for it. Leon’s relationship with Ashley in particular is one of the biggest improvements, with the pair gradually learning to rely on each other, helped in no small part to additional in-game dialogue that really helps grow their characters.
Speaking of which, Ashely’s tagalong segments are a lot more tolerable this time around. Yes, she can still get pinched by the enemy but a quick knife prompt will extricate from her assailant without fear of accidentally killing her. Hitting R3 can toggle Ashely to keep some distance from Leon or keep closer to him, which is very helpful during heated battles; occasionally she can get in the way, but it’s a minor annoyance and these segments never linger for too long. Sooner or later you find yourself separated again, and Leon is free to go about his business alone. Not having to manage a health bar for Ashely is also a relief (she is merely downed and must be revived if struck by an enemy) and saves you valuable healing items. Overall it’s an emphatic improvement over the original version, which felt like the former R.P.D. cop had taken up babysitting a shouty child who did nothing but impede his progress.
Expanding And Honouring The Brilliance Of The Original 2005 Release
Cocky geezer The Merchant returns as expected but is a bit more fleshed out. He still flogs you attache case expansions, guns, treasure maps and weapon tune-ups, but he now offers side quests. These are pretty rudimentary (shoot blue medallions, sell him a golden chicken egg etc) but reward you with Spinels, which can be traded for rare items such as exclusive weapon upgrades, treasures, weapon attachments and more. It’s optional, but I felt compelled to do them as the rewards are worth the hassle. Speaking of treasures, RE4 really expands on hidden collectibles, and it’s worth searching every nook and cranny of each main area to hoover up as much loot as possible. There’s a surprising amount of depth to locations – the village in particular has a large lake at its centre that features multiple hidden caves to explore via boat, for example – and it’s great to have a chance to venture off the beaten track.
Capcom’s RE Engine once again proves it has the technical muscle to churn out some eyeball-popping visuals. The Los Ganados have never looked more menacing, with bulging red eyes, gaping wounds and gritted teeth, while Leon’s boyish good looks are a little more world-weary due to the advancing years, lending him a more mature edge. Locations meanwhile are oozing with detail; the grime-ridden village tells a story of how its residents have slowly descended into madness, while the gothic elegance of Salazar’s castle maintains a sense of grandeur – a striking juxtaposition to the almost sterile, mechanised rumblings of the island complex. Each major area has its own distinct personality as you remember it in 2005, only this time they pop with intricate flare allowing you to marvel at them in all their grisly glory.
In terms of issues, it’s hard to pinpoint the game’s most egregious fault. I suppose you could say Leon’s run feels more like a casual jog, especially when you have an angry mob looking to shove pointy objects up you backside. The game is also tough; even on Standard difficulty, you’ll taking a battering and fall for the odd one-hit kill from certain bosses, but it feels more like a rewarding challenge than an actual hinderance. On the plus side, frame rate maintained a buttery-smooth performance with barely any noticeable slowdown, and the vibrant spectacle of the graphics remained unwavering even in busy sections.
Resident Evil 4 Remake is an absolute masterclass in action horror, and not only serves as a brilliant recreation of a classic game that honours and expands on everything we loved 18 years ago, but functions on its own as an action-packed and gripping romp. Some folk may not agree with a few of the changes made, and it’s a shame there’s no unlockable game modes (although we know Mercenaries and PSVR 2 are free down the line), but it doesn’t stop RE4 Remake from being absolutely essential for PS5 owners.
Resident Evil 4 Remake is due out on PS4, PS5, PC, and Xbox Series X/S on March 24, 2023
Review code kindly provided by publisher.