Windows Central Verdict
Resident Evil 4 is a true technical marvel on Xbox Series X, with utterly stunning visuals and wonderful ray-tracing implementations. While the game is a bit thin in the "survival horror" department, Resident Evil 4 is an absolutely spectacular action horror game with varied and satisfying combat, memorable characters, and a meaty amount of content.
Absolutely stunning visuals
Most impressive ray tracing implementation on Xbox yet
Varied action combat that is slick and satisfying
Beefy 15-hour campaign with lots of post-game content
Horror fans may be disappointed by the action emphasis
Ashley's escort segments continue to be irritating
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The Capcom renaissance continues with yet another resoundingly resplendent Resident Evil Remake.
Resident Evil 4 launched originally on the Nintendo GameCube back in 2005. The game took the horror franchise in a bold new direction, casting off the shambling corpses and foreboding horror atmospherics of the previous three games for something a little more action-oriented. Resident Evil 4 leveraged the power of the Nintendo GameCube to show gamers what a next-gen Resident Evil might look like, and the result became one of the most popular entries in the franchise.
Fast forward to 2023. Capcom has made something of a name for itself remastering some of its classic Resident Evil games, which ironically started with a GameCube remake of the original Resident Evil back in the day. The modern remake of Resident Evil 2 was a cover-to-cover success, although Resident Evil 3 was a little less impressive. Now we've made it to Resident Evil 4, which many regard as the franchise's crown jewel.
Set in an unnamed mountainous region of Spain, Resident Evil 2 protagonist Leon Kennedy returns, now on a mission to rescue the U.S. president's daughter. Drafted into an elite government unit for his heroics during the Raccoon City incident, Leon finds himself once again dropped into a gauntlet of horrific mutants and mysterious pharmacological conspiracies.
Will it take the horror top spot on our best Xbox games and best PC games lists?! Let's take the nostalgia goggles off and examine everything Resident Evil 4 does right and what, if anything, it does wrong.
Note: This review was conducted on Xbox Series X, using a code provided by Capcom.
Resident Evil 4: Setting, Art, and Performance
Recent releases from various major publishers have often had one thing in common: shoddy launch performance. Not to call out anyone specifically, but launching rough and patching later seems to be standard practice in 2023, but it seems Capcom has decided to buck the trend.
Resident Evil 4 continues RE Engine's winning streak, meticulously balancing visual depth and performance on the new-gen systems. Resident Evil 4 is perhaps most notable for its ray tracing implementation, which I would argue is the best and least intrusive I've experienced in a modern game so far. And what exactly do I mean by "least intrusive," you might ask. It's the only console implementation of ray tracing I've seen that doesn't prohibitively impact performance.
It helps a ton that Resident Evil 4 offers players on Xbox Series X and S a variety of visual tweaks to help tailor your experience to your liking. You can disable the game's more complex hair textures, for example, to claw back some overheads for general performance, for example. You can enable ray tracing in both resolution mode and performance mode as well. For most of the game, I played in performance mode with ray tracing turned on, trading some resolution sharpness for stunning dynamic lighting that served to make Resident Evil 4 one of the most stunning games I've laid eyes on.
Volumetric mist and realistic shadows make the game's meticulously sculpted environments screenshot-worthy at every turn. Noteworthy sequences from the game's original take on new life thanks to the power and performance of the RE Engine, and Capcom uses every tool at its disposal to really elevate some of the original's classic set pieces. I'm thrilled to note that Resident Evil 4 performs excellently across Xbox Series X and Series S, bucking a trend that often sees the Series S versions left far behind the curve. The game runs with an uncapped frame rate that targets 60 FPS, and generally speaking, it offers an incredibly smooth experience.
Even with resolution mode turned on and ray tracing maxed out, the game retains smooth performance overall — although, on occasion, I noticed textures would get stuck in a lower-resolution compressed mode for a second or two before loading in. You may see some jitter if you spin the camera really quickly, too. And there are a couple of areas in the game besieged by heavy weather effects that impact performance, but it's an acceptable trade-off for something that just looks so damn pretty. And if you don't want to sacrifice frames, you can always tweak the settings to tailor your experience.
I had no issue gunning for visual quality over performance playing Resident Evil 4. The sheer quality makes the novelty more than worth it for me. Without spoiling, some of the original game's boss battles and enemies just work so much better with modern technology powering the experience, elevated ever further by the game's impressive dynamic gore physics and destructible environments. A huge array of toys and weapons await players to deal with the game's various mutated threats, and the game's art direction and cutting-edge tech complement each other with orchestral precision.
The Resident Evil team continues to light the way for some of the industry's heavyweights with large catalogs of classic games. Comparing the original Resident Evil 4, which was utterly impressive in its day, to what we have now is almost like comparing a horse-drawn cart to a Tesla.
Resident Evil 4: Story (Spoiler Free)
Covering Resident Evil 4's story is tough without leading into spoiler territory, and naturally, we don't want to ruin the game's surprises. However, I will note that there's something new for everyone here, whether you're a veteran of the original games or coming in for the first time as part of the remake wave. I will say that I think Resident Evil 4's story is probably its weakest aspect (and that's not to say it's terrible by any means).
Resident Evil 4 is set in an unnamed Spanish mountainous region, where U.S. agent Leon Kennedy has arrived to investigate the whereabouts of Ashley Graham, the U.S. President's daughter. From the very outset, it's a bit of an odd premise. The President's daughter is kidnapped, and the government's recourse is to send one agent to investigate? There's a relatively spurious explanation offered via text files revolving around wanting to keep the event hidden from the public as well as potential spies, but this lack of plausibility permeates through much of the game. Resident Evil 4 is very much a gameplay-first entry in the franchise, for better or worse.
Leon arrives at a small mountain village, armed with limited intel, only to find a mysterious cult kidnapping backpackers and even local law enforcement. The victims wind up subjected to grisly rituals, torture, and outright murder. Something is quite clearly very wrong with the townsfolk, too, being onerously resilient to bullets and other injuries — with some apparently capable of coming back from the dead. These aren't your garden-variety zombies from previous games, though. Retaining aspects of motor function, these enemies wield weapons, can communicate, and work as a team. Yet, the decrepit town, piles of bodies, and mysterious effigies suggest quite heavily that humanity is in short supply here.
Resident Evil 4 has the unenviable position of paying homage to the original while also offering fresh angles. My memory of the original game is quite scant (I'm getting old, ok), essentially making Resident Evil 4 feel like a fresh playthrough. Going back to review some of the previous story directions, it does seem like Resident Evil 4 plays very close to the original in general, albeit with elevated visuals and more impressive production.
Leon retains some of his cheesy one-liners from the original, almost in a celebratory context and often to hilarious effect. Other characters occasionally break the fourth wall with some well-known Resident Evil memes, too. The supporting characters also deliver their roles well, with the fearful Ashley growing bolder as the game moves forward, and the sleazy-yet-wholesome Luis, whose one-dimensional exterior hides a more complex role within the game. The game's antagonists remain suitably creepy, too, with the self-styled prophet Saddler flanked by the effortlessly creepy nobleman Ramón Salazar.
My central criticism would be the missed opportunity to redirect the game's delivery to keep it more grounded and believable, and thus immersive. Resident Evil 4 revolves around its cult antagonists, who seek to use a parasite to gain superhuman powers, which isn't far removed from the plot of other games in essence. However, those of you who have played Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6 ultimately know where the franchise ended up and what caused it to go on hiatus for a while. Still, I'm not about to punish Resident Evil 4 for things its successors did. As a remake, Resident Evil 4 is truly excellent, and it will most likely give the majority of fans exactly what they want — an elevation of the original without taking huge liberties with the direction or its characters. I acknowledge that my criticisms boil down to a personal preference, ultimately.
As much of a classic that Resident Evil 4 is, it also marked a turn for the franchise, which led it increasingly towards action gameplay to the detriment of its pure horror roots. Resident Evil 4 does nothing to steer the franchise away from this path, and indeed, whether or not that is a problem for you will boil down to personal preference.
Resident Evil 4: Gameplay
I mentioned above that Resident Evil 4 puts gameplay at the forefront of its delivery, and in that, it absolutely excels. No Resident Evil game, past or present, feels as good to play as Resident Evil 4, even if it comes with some compromises with the game's ability to immerse you in its story.
Resident Evil 4 feels very arcadey, as did its predecessor. Enemies drop mountains of bullets on normal difficulty, ensuring that you're never really without ammunition. Cutting through enemies with a shotgun feels as satisfying and chunky as ever, and popping skulls with one of the game's various magnums or rifles never gets old. There are various sections designed for sniping, and the game is quite aggressively linear, with each area serving as a combat arena of sorts. Ammo crates are depicted with yellow tape for quick access, and red explosive barrels dot the land to help you take down multiple enemies at once.
Modernizing things a bit, Resident Evil 4 introduces an incredibly fun parry mechanic, which elevates the melee combat the original was known for. You can still pop enemies in the knees and roundhouse kick them in the face, sending groups of enemies flying — but now Leon can also parry incoming attacks with his knife, opening enemies up for knockdown attacks without expending ammo. On normal difficulty, the timing is pretty generous and makes dealing with groups of enemies a lot more lenient on your ammo supplies. Some later enemies in the game become orders of magnitude easier to deal with if you learn the parry attack, which flashes up with "Left Bumper" in the bottom right corner of the screen. It's easier to simply watch out for the enemy's attacks, though, and tap it right before a hit connects. You may end up severing a few limbs this way as a bonus — and it feels so damn good when you do.
A lot of the game's economy revolves around currency that can be obtained in a variety of ways. Resident Evil 4's notorious arms dealer returns, appearing inexplicably in random places throughout the game. He also now comes with underground pirate-themed shooting range challenges as a bonus, again, entirely inexplicably. I am irrationally irritated by the lack of in-game explanation for this vendor, but he serves an important role within the game, providing you with weapons, upgrades, and other tools to help you on your merry, violent way.
I disliked the vendor economy in the original Resident Evil 4, and I dislike it now. It's weak that you simply buy weapons from a vendor instead of getting rewarded for finding them in the field. There are only a handful of weapons you can actually find via exploration in Resident Evil 4, which detracts heavily from the "Resident Evil" experience, in my view. Previous games had weapons in hidden places, rewarding those who were daring enough to brave another corridor likely filled with jump scares or solve complex puzzles. Again, this is a personal preference thing, perhaps, but Resident Evil 4 is only a horror game in theme. There wasn't a single sequence in Resident Evil 4 that offered much of a fear factor — there's simply so much ammo and so many enemies that I just found myself slipping into Gears of War mode. Indeed, some areas even have chest-high walls.
Resident Evil 4 is an unapologetic action game. Thankfully, it's such a damn fun action game that once I accepted the fact, I simply couldn't put the game down. Leon is a badass, and once I got going, I played the game through from start to finish without much of a break in between. Speaking of which, a playthrough on Normal took me 17 hours, and a fair bit of that was spent exploring and looking for items for guide coverage. It also has a strong post-game content line-up, which I shan't spoil here. I will say that you may find yourself eager to jump right into New Game+ as a result.
While the debate over action vs. horror could boil down to your preference, the one thing that I think will continue to annoy absolutely everyone is the Ashley sections. For those who remember the original, occasionally, you will have to escort characters in Resident Evil 4. They have made it a little more user-friendly in that you no longer need to manage Ashley's health, but sadly her AI seems stuck in the GameCube era. A large amount of my "deaths" were actually Ashley's deaths because, as you might guess — if she dies, it's game over. One segment of the game sees the pair besieged by canons. And despite using the game's Ashley commands to tell her to run closely behind me, she still managed to get herself squashed a few times. It felt like a failure through no fault of my own, and that is never fun. Thankfully these segments are relatively brief.
Since Resident Evil 4 is paced more like an action game than a regular survival horror game, the Ashley portions feel like jarring road bumps that don't fit the game's overall delivery, at least while playing on normal, that is.
Resident Evil 4 also features a "hardcore" difficulty mode, as well as an unlockable "professional" mode which strips back some of the game's "modern" conveniences. These difficulty settings do bring Resident Evil 4 a bit closer to the nail-biting experiences fans of the classic gameplay may prefer, limiting your weapon choices and saving opportunities. Here, you may find yourself opting for stealth takedowns with a knife more often to conserve ammo, as opposed to normal modes' gun's a-blazin' splatterfest. It's great that Resident Evil 4 accommodates more playstyles in this way, but I think professional mode should be available from the outset rather than hidden behind a first-time completion.
Resident Evil 4 boasts a large variety of hand-crafted environments. Never once will you feel like you're repeating steps or seeing the same corridors. The game truly is a painstaking labor of love with regard to its environmental design, and while it doesn't reward explorers with weapons, it does reward them with currency and treasures that can be sold. Some of the treasures are surprisingly well-hidden, but for a small fee, you can buy up treasure maps that show where they are. The more you get, the more powerful you can make your weapons. By the end, you'll be a walking arsenal armed to the teeth, but your enemies will also gain new powers and abilities to match. Indeed, Resident Evil 4 boasts a truly impressive menagerie of mutants as Los Illuminados' experiments bear fruit and ultimately break free.
I suspect Resident Evil 4's emphasis on action over terrifying its players could see it wind up one of the franchises' more popular entries. While I am very personally a fan of the more horror-oriented jaunts, it's impossible to deny the sheer quality Capcom has put on offer here. A beefy campaign, tons of post-game content, stunning visuals, and absolutely spectacular combat make Resident Evil 4 a must-play game.
Resident Evil 4: Conclusion
Resident Evil 4 is another resounding success for Capcom's effort to remake and modernize its classic games. The RE Engine showcases the current-gen systems more effortlessly than any other game I've seen so far, with a level of launch polish that sadly is becoming a rarity among full-price titles from the biggest publishers.
While the fear factor takes a back seat for this entry, Resident Evil 4's sublime gunplay, satisfying melee combat, and elevated gore physics more than make up for it. Resident Evil 4's gameplay focuses almost entirely on the action, and it makes Leon's journey through the Los Illuminados' cult compound as fun as it is sensational. Gorgeous vistas and Hollywood-grade production values coalesce into an epic, gothic playground filled with memorable characters atop a typically weird Resident Evil plot. Twists and turns, egos and delusions of grandeur, designs upon world domination, and B-movie one-liners come home in Resident Evil 4 in what feels like an unapologetic celebration of the original.
Without a doubt, Resident Evil 4 is a must-play game. And while I personally prefer the more horror-oriented games, Resident Evil 4's fun factor and raw quality make it easy to put those preferences aside. It's also a little refreshing to be able to recommend this to anyone and everyone. If you find other Resident Evil titles to be too overwhelming but still have a fascination with the franchise, Resident Evil 4 might be absolutely ideal for you.
Capcom has another hit on its hands with Resident Evil 4. Long may its winning streak continue.
Resident Evil 4 Remake (Xbox, PC)
Resident Evil 4 is another triumph for Capcom, who have solidified themselves as the masters of the modern remake. With absolutely stunning visuals and spectacular action horror gameplay, Resident Evil 4 is a treat for fans of the franchise and shooters in general.
Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!