Resident Evil 4 remake preview: Darker and sleeker but still beautifully cheesy
This remake looks to expand on what made the original game so great.
Capcom has delivered hit after hit with the past several Resident Evil games, and based on what we've seen, there's no reason to expect that'll change with this year's entry.
I recently got the chance to see around 17 minutes of new gameplay footage from the upcoming Resident Evil 4 remake, showing off some of the different environments, setpieces, and enemies that players will encounter in this upcoming survival-horror game.
If you're not one of the many millions of players who have gone through this game before, I'll set the stage. Years after the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3, government agent Leon Kennedy is assigned to find and rescue the president's daughter, Ashley, who has been spotted in a remote part of Spain.
What follows is a descent into hell, as Leon fights through crazed villagers called Ganados, strange parasites referred to as Las Plagas, and other monstrosities. Another threat is Krauser, a former partner to Leon who had a falling out and is looking to settle the score.
The gameplay shown opens up at the beginning of Chapter 4, with Leon still searching for Ashley. Combat remains tense as you'll need every gun and bullet you can scrounge up to defeat the Ganado, Plagas, and other threats lurking about.
While crowd control will still clearly be key to surviving the threats that come your way, Leon isn't as sluggish as he was when we last saw him in the Resident Evil 2 remake. The new ability to parry enemy attacks with your knife adds an extra layer of risk-reward management, encouraging you to quickly weave through smaller groups of enemies and allowing you an escape route even if you get surrounded.
The roundhouse kick also returns, allowing you to quickly stun weaker enemies with a couple of shots and kick them to the curb. This in turn sets enemies like the Ganado up for knife finishers, meaning you can quickly dispatch foes without having to use additional ammo.
Even with how heavily the focus is on the action, things are still a bit spookier than the presentation of the original experience. The aesthetic is darker and moodier overall, while the massive advancements in technology provided by Capcom's RE Engine allow for enhanced gore as Leon tears through groups of groaning Ganados and flailing Plagas. Leon is bloodied by enemy attacks, while grenades and gunfire scorch the Ganados' flesh and sever limbs.
I wouldn't be worried that it's too dark, however, as there's still a cheesy, unmistakably Resident Evil edge. At one point, after blasting an infected Ganado with a shotgun, Leon yells out "No food for you!" and if that line is any indication of the levity players can expect, things seem to be on the correct, carefully balanced course.
This preview also showed off some new tweaks to how player inventory management will work. The iconic Attaché Case returns, allowing you to again sort things to your liking in order to hyper-optimize your inventory in the service of cramming in every last possible gun, bullet, and spray. You can even get different colored cases for different bonuses like extra resources, as well as attaching charms for further special effects.
Resident Evil 4 remake uses an expanded version of the same weapon-swapping system from the past several games, mapping guns to your directional pad or hotkeys. Now, players can map up to eight different guns in addition to the knife, though of course, that may not be the best use of your inventory's limited space.
As you explore, you'll be finding treasures that can be sold to the mysterious merchant, but careful exploration will yield even greater rewards. Some items like a gilded mask will have slots for gems, and if you fill all three slots, the sale value of the mask will skyrocket. It's a neat twist, encouraging you to think carefully before you immediately sell something off.
Once the gameplay skips ahead to after Leon has found Ashley, I got to see the new controls in action. Ashley can no longer just be chucked away for hiding before a battle, but instead can be told to follow Leon closely or stay further back. Whenever she's attacked, you'll need to drop what you're doing and save her, so this is a potentially interesting gameplay mechanic, depending on how it actually shakes out through the rest of the game.
Capcom has also made big changes to the knife fight between Leon and Krauser. While this used to be entirely a QTE, it's been expanded into a full battle, and it's here that players will really have to have learned the parry system if they're hoping to come out on top.
There are a handful of questions that remain. What — if any — new enemies are skulking about that have yet to be revealed? Will the fates of any characters change? Most importantly, will Ashley's big ol' ears be shown? I don't know, but after seeing this new gameplay footage, I'm even more excited to find out.
2023 has already started strong with horror games like Motive Studio's Dead Space remake (you can read my review here) and everything shown so far indicates that Resident Evil 4 will also join the pantheon of stellar remakes, as well as being one of the best Xbox games of the year.
Capcom previously confirmed that a demo for Resident Evil 4 remake is currently in the works, so hopefully, everyone will get to try the game out shortly before its full launch. Capcom is also working on a free post-launch update that will add The Mercenaries mode, though there's no info on when players should expect it.
Resident Evil 4 is currently scheduled to launch on March 24, 2023 across Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, PC, PS5, and PS4.
Resident Evil 4 remake
Capcom's next big remake is for one of the most beloved games of all time. Everything we've seen indicates that this is going to deliver, regardless of whether or not players are fans of the original. As Leon Kennedy, save the president's daughter from a nightmarish cult.
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Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.