For a game that stands as living proof of a change in direction, Resident Evil 4 sure knew how to get inside the player’s head. Moving away from fixed camera angles was supposed to amplify perspective. Instead, the up close and personal approach created a suffocating tunnel vision. But you were no longer fighting the undead – the enemies here pushed you to engage, not flee. And the further you ventured into the story, the more this tension began to fade.
I got into Resident Evil 4 late in the party on Switch after numerous failed attempts before that. I knew it was a tonal hybrid, leaning towards what we saw in Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6 rather than the series’ trademark horror. However, even if the power fantasy of becoming a walking armory happened much faster as a result, there were several unnerving moments that I remember to this day. Those moments were full of haunting untapped potential, but all of which were never fully realized. Now, with Resident Evil 4 Remake seemingly taking on a darker tone, Capcom has an opportunity to realize that potential and commit to its horror foundations.
In 2013, Shinji Mikami said IGN that Resident Evil 4 “would have been a scarier, more horror-focused game” if the GameCube remake of Resident Evil had sold well. Seven years later, CVG reported on a new version that would be on par with the treatment of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. According to fanbyte, Capcom’s version of Leon S. Kennedy’s mission is going to be creepier, taking “direct inspiration” from the original demos first presented at E3 and the Tokyo Game Show between 2002 and 2004.
In these early concepts, Resident Evil 4 was set at night, had the same camera angles as its predecessors, and Leon was not fighting villagers. Instead, he was faced with ghoulish dolls, a black mist, and what appeared to be a ghost carrying a fishhook attached to a chain. This vision is more like what we witnessed in The Evil Within games, leaning into the supernatural rather than just the horrors of the T-Virus.
But some of these early ideas can be seen in the trailer for shades of pink, the next story DLC for Resident Evil Village. The protagonist is trapped inside a realm where reality is distorted and the world around her comes to life. The fear of finding horror in unexpected places is appealing and seems like the next step.
The first demo is quite unsettling to watch even to this day, with an atmosphere that is quite different from the later Resident Evil 4 demo and subsequent game. According to the report, some of the original ideas made their way into the game to some extent, but most of it “sat on the cutting room floor” during development.
While I can’t imagine Leon fighting reanimated dolls (Resident Evil Village’s Benevent House will have to work), those early demos serve as a window into what could be in Resident Evil 4 Remake. the trailers we have viewed so far they present the environment in a different light, zooming in on corpses and showing the world at night. The interior corridors of the Castillo de Salazar are similarly dark, lit by torches that no longer act as mere props, but as guiding lights to avoid unexpected attacks. Everything is grittier and reminiscent of original ideas that weren’t meant to be.
During the Capcom Showcase, it became clear that the development team wants “It nails the feeling of loneliness and fear (…) even more than the original.” While the original game has its moments, it’s clear that this new direction will enhance them even more. I imagine Leon running through the rain pursued by shadows and dim torches, while the sound of a chainsaw coming from around the corner hits him to the core. Navigating not only Salazar’s Castle, but also the halls of the underground lab with the iconic Regenerators could be chilling under a more diabolical lens.
The original version will always be there, literally, as I don’t think Capcom is going to stop porting it to new platforms. The remake is not here to rewrite history. It’s here to show what if. This time, Leon will discover what it’s like to face his worst fears.