Resident Evil 4 Hands-On Preview

After the incredible success of 2019’s Resident Evil 2 remake, it was a no-brainer for Capcom to revive more of its older games to better suit a modern audience. With each step forward, however, the qualitative gap between past and present becomes less noticeable. And now it’s finally arrived at the forefather of the successful over-the-shoulder Resi playstyle, it’s hard to imagine how much an all-time classic can be improved upon beyond a fresh coat of paint. But from what I’ve played of Resident Evil 4 so far, Capcom seems less keen on making a gigantic RE2 remake-style leap. Instead, it seems more focused on making one of the best games of all time even better.

Throughout my play session, which began right at the beginning of the game and ended shortly after the villagers onslaught, everything felt equal parts incredibly familiar and disturbingly different. The sequence of events was almost identical, but the graphical and art improvements made the locations feel noticeably more lived-in, claustrophobic, and haunting. Despite my experience with the original, I still nervously tiptoed around corners, expecting something unexpected to happen at any moment.

Similar to 2002’s Resident Evil remake, elements were strategically organized to subvert my expectations. A highlight in this remake of the original was the early forgery, which exploited fans’ memory of the dogs crashing through the window, which doesn’t happen when you expect it. In Resident Evil 4 remake, I experienced similar twists in my short playthrough, one of which also referred to a dog.

Fans of the original will fondly remember the hapless dog from the opening chapter who was trapped in a bear trap and how the game gave you the ability to free her. You may also remember his triumphant return (if you saved him) when he helps Leon defeat an El Gigante. This time the dog is still there, but it’s already dead. Didn’t I get to it in time? Or was this a sign of the noticeable shift towards a darker tone for this remake? Anyhow, that brief moment laid the groundwork for a game that doesn’t necessarily play the way I expected.

Where Resident Evil 4 does feels incredibly familiar despite being in his struggle. As mentioned, it was inevitable that this game would feel the most familiar, as Capcom redesigned its classic library based on ideas from Resident Evil 4. Leon’s controls still feel exactly as you would expect, and he even retains some of his iconic moves from the original. It was only a matter of seconds before I instinctively started firing kneecaps and stringing together roundhouse kicks to knock down anyone nearby. Muscle memory kicked in immediately and it all felt extremely satisfying.

That doesn’t mean the fight doesn’t have new inclusions though. Along with the expected update to aiming, which now allows you to move (which, while a staple of the genre in the original, wasn’t allowed), there’s also some mild stealth gameplay. It wasn’t particularly advertised to me through a tutorial or anything, but with the addition of a crouch button it became apparent that I could avoid the attention of nearby Garnados by silently sneaking around the village and gathering resources before the attack began . You can now also use your trusty knife to perform stealthy attacks on the unsuspecting locals from behind. I don’t think stealth will be a big part of the game as a whole, but it’s great to have this variety.

Leon also now has a lightweight parry system with his knife, allowing him to resist or parry attacks with a well-timed button press. I didn’t have time to explore the depths of this system, but it came in handy when I was dealing directly with the chainsaw-wielding, bag-faced lunatic Dr. Salavador was confronted. In a flash, not only was I able to withstand the full force of the chainsaw, but the distractor managed to shut down his tool for a few seconds and open a window for me to run away from.

Those familiar with the first village attack from the original Resident Evil 4 know what to expect here. But this time the process is extremely intensified. The gaps between houses are smaller, the area is tighter, and it feels overwhelming in the best possible way. dr Salavador can now destroy wooden structures to block your path, enemies will flank you from every corner, and some will even grab and hold you from behind so their fellow Garnados can attack you from the front. It felt like every second and decision counted as I wormed my way through the herd desperately trying to survive.

Despite being familiar with the scene, there were still plenty of surprises up for grabs, especially considering that many moments could easily be missed depending on strategy. Climbing the belfry no longer led to a safe spot (thanks to the ground collapsing beneath me) and the previously static cow watching all the chaos can now be spurred into action should her stable unfortunately catch fire! While having a burning cow running by was annoying at first, I can’t say it wasn’t useful when it came to managing the Garnardos and plowing through several of them while they were on fire.

Much like the combat, Leon, Resident Evil 2’s rookie cop-turned-government agent, is familiar yet modern. He seems threatened by the situation and approaches her cautiously. It’s a more grounded version of the original’s fearless, cocky, and superheroic prowess. That being said, the dude still has no problem rolling out of a second floor window and squirting cheesy lines (yes, the bingo line is still there!). But at least from my little taste of the game, the way he interacts with humans, especially Hunnigan, feels a lot more realistic.

It’s always been difficult for any newer game in the series to experience the same technical leap that Resident Evil 2’s remake has made. But so far, Capcom seems to be making smart choices, which it’s repeating for Resident Evil 4. It feels like it’s trying to find the perfect balance between tribute and innovation. And based on the changes and updates I’ve seen so far, I’m very excited to see more.

Dale Driver is IGN’s UK Video Lead and rumor has it that when Dr. Salavador might have wet his pants. Be thoroughly bored by following him on Twitter at @_daledriver. Resident Evil 4 Hands-On Preview

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