No new console generation feels quite right until a re-release of Resident Evil 4 rolls around. Following a PS2 version in 2005, the Capcom classic has been ported to every home system from Sony since; you can’t have one without the other at this point. However, following the developer’s recent remaking efforts with Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3, expectations are now quite a bit different compared to past editions. Retaining so much of what made the survival horror sensation a masterpiece all those years ago, Capcom has remade Resident Evil 4 into one of the greatest games ever all over again. With new content, features, and areas, it’s a truly outstanding, special experience worth savouring.
The remake remains faithful while iterating and expanding on virtually everything that was there before. From the village through to the castle and concluding on the island, it follows a very similar sequence of events. The vast majority of the moments you remember most are there, and some even happen out of the order you’re used to. Some concessions have been made — on the island in particular — but this is Resident Evil 4 in all its glory.
And while those unforgettable sequences will surely be the crowd pleasers, it’s what happens in between that allows the PS5 remake to achieve a much higher level of overall quality. So much more happens as you go from one story beat to the next. The village and castle especially are now gigantic, freely roamable areas with secrets and optional quests buried inside. You’ll find new puzzles to solve, much bigger locations to explore, and a lot more lore to discover. Storylines are much more fleshed out while some characters receive additional screen time. The PS2 original is essentially rendered obsolete, with long-time fans handed an essential playthrough and newcomers a genuinely definitive version.
Combat has received just as much of a facelift; it’s obvious Capcom really went to town here all in the name of style. Brand new to the remake is a parry mechanic, which in combination with intense gunning sections and flashy melee moves, constructs a set of systems that make you feel like a complete badass. Leon’s kicks, swings, and suplexes are back, but now they’re paired with effective knife slashes that set enemies up for devastating blows to the brain. The timing window is fairly gracious, so it’s worth investing in upgrades to add to your repertoire of Ganado killers.
Resident Evil 4 has always been a bit more of an action game than its predecessors, and the remake sticks with that by pairing its satisfying parries and punch-ups with brutal, gory warfare. Heightened by the adaptive triggers of the PS5’s DualSense controller, one-shot kills from the end of a shotgun or magnum feel weighty and mean. On the other hand, TMP (a submachine gun) sprays feel lighter yet more rickety as the trigger vibrates underneath your fingertip.
Haptic feedback does just as much for the experience. The PS5 pad matches the pitter-patter of Leon’s footsteps, subtly rumbling from side to side as he explores the Spanish village. It then really comes into its own when the former cop wades through water, with the controller providing resistance in the form of vibrations that make you feel like you’re fighting against the current to maintain balance. It’s effective, providing the PS5 version a compelling reason to be purchased over other editions.
The improvements continue with an updated control scheme that allows for further freedom; now you can finally move and shoot at the same time, or freely crouch to employ a bit of stealth. Matching — and in some cases going beyond — what Capcom’s previous remakes have felt and controlled like, Resident Evil 4 finally plays like a modern video game again.
For the most part, it looks like one too. Every area, building, character, and enemy has been given a complete makeover, allowing them to shine in 4K on PS5. With a much more haunting atmosphere to boot — much of the game now takes place at night — the rescue mission is a far more daunting prospect. As slippery tentacles shoot out of a Las Plagas-consumed Ganado, or the vile Novistadors conceal themselves and lie in wait for an attack, you’ll think twice about whether saving the president’s daughter is really worth it all.
It’s only in the village where you may encounter a bug of the technical kind, however. On just a handful of occasions, we spotted a bit of texture pop in off in the distance when the game was running on the day one patch. They’re very much blink and you’ll miss it moments, but do seem to be an issue in the first stretch of the title; we didn’t encounter any problems in the castle or on the island. That’s as far as any complications go, though, so it’s an extremely minor hiccup.
Alongside those lush graphics is atmospheric audio, which adds even more tension to the nighttime scenes. The sounds of the monks chanting their religious passages carry throughout the castle while the Ganados inhabiting the village can be heard nearby as they stay out of sight. Simply turning a corner is lent stakes as arousing the suspicions of a single enemy can put the whole area on alert. With effective audio cues and a spine-tingling soundtrack, Resident Evil 4 sounds just as good as it looks.
However, none of this would matter if Capcom had lost what makes the original game tick in the transition from a PS2 classic to this PS5 masterpiece. Even with better combat, more content features, and improved visuals and audio, this is still the Resident Evil 4 we’ve loved for 18 years at heart. Its soul has been retained; what makes it so very special is still present. From the moment you leave the presumed safety of the police car at the very start, everything just feels right. Despite some areas being brand new to the remake, they instantly feel like they’ve always been there. Things fit snugly in place, and it’s incredible to see a classic expanded upon in a way that just feels so natural.
With more things to see and do, the village starts to feel like a strange, unwelcoming home for Leon. Some buildings aren’t accessible until later on while basic side quests provide reason to return to places you’ve already been. With the famous merchant along for the ride, how the village has been developed is a pleasure to see.
The same can be said of the castle and island, both of which feature many of the noteworthy moments and sequences you remember most. The latter has been hit by cuts slightly more than the other two environments, but what’s there feels more cohesive. You’re not suddenly switching from a horror game to a full-blown third-person shooter in a matter of minutes anymore.
In making each area look and feel so distinct, repeat playthroughs will never be anything other than an utter pleasure. Your first venture will last more than 20 hours, and while additional visits will reduce that playtime considerably, there’s so much replayability — it’s something Capcom does best. From new content only found in New Game+ to Trophies providing inventive ways to play, Resident Evil 4 is a title you could still be playing months down the line. The original managed to stay relevant for 18 years; we expect this truly special remake to do the exact same.
Nearly 20 years later, Resident Evil 4 is just as much of a masterpiece today as it was in 2005. Capcom has faithfully remade a genuine classic by bringing it into the modern age and kitting it out with new content, tremendous combat, and striking visuals. What was there before was already enough to consider Resident Evil 4 one of the best games of all time, but now it earns that title in 2023 off the back of better environments and sublime action. This is Resident Evil at its absolute pinnacle; an utterly outstanding experience that will live long in the hearts of longtime fans while inducting a whole new generation of supporters.