After months of rumours, Capcom has finally dropped the beans and formally announced its impending Resident Evil 4 remake, slated for release on March 24 on Windows PC, Xbox Series X|S, and PlayStation 5. The publisher states that ” they will reimagine the story of the game keeping the essence of its direction, modernizing the graphics and updating the controls to a modern standard”, and many developers who worked on the 2019 remake of Resident Evil 2 are returning for this title.
I’m excited to say the least. Resident Evil 4 is the most well-known game in the series, and for good reason: it’s a real roller coaster ride. It starts out simple enough: US government agent Leon S. Kennedy, first introduced in RE2, is tasked with rescuing the president’s daughter, who has been kidnapped. The moment you enter a rural Spanish town to be ambushed by zombies known as “Los Ganados”, the action just doesn’t stop, and the variety of enemies you face and the environments you encounter are impressive to this day.
Every time you start to build confidence in your mission, the narrative completely changes, leaving you with the same sense of desperation and curiosity over and over again. Enemies range from zombies to cultists to full-blown monstrosities, and the appropriate reactions of bewilderment and horror from the protagonists keep the game reasonably grounded, keeping the story compelling and tensions high.
To be honest, I have a hard time getting through most games with campaigns that are longer than six hours. It’s very difficult for game designers to infuse enough variety to hold my attention for so long. RE4 clocks in at around 15 hours for a first playthrough, but I was hooked the entire time.
Interestingly, I was late for the RE4 hype train. Originally released for the Nintendo Gamecube in 2005, I didn’t buy a copy until 2016. Suffice to say, the game holds up perfectly and the nostalgia doesn’t really sway my enthusiasm.
Of course, that raises a valid concern shared by many: if RE4 in its original form holds up almost perfectly in 2022, is there justification for a remake? It certainly has less to gain than recent Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes, which went to great lengths to modernize those obviously outdated games with forced camera angles, pre-rendered backgrounds, and lackluster combat mechanics.
For this reason, many die-hard fans of the series have been begging for years that Capcom sees fit to remake Resident Evil: Code Veronica instead of RE4; the argument is that Code Veronica is much older than RE4, and even though it’s an offshoot of the main series, it tells an interesting story nonetheless.
I’m sure I wouldn’t be against Code Veronica getting a makeover, but from a marketing standpoint, it’s not hard to see why Capcom decided to skip it in favor of RE4. While fans of the series are a bit divided on RE4, it is the most well-known Resident Evil game and attracts many, many more players than the deepest cuts in the series. It’s also a perfect blend of action and survival horror compared to the very action-focused fifth and sixth entries and predominantly horror elements the series started with.
But I freely admit that there is a part of me that is nervous about this impending release. RE4 went through development hell where the game was scrapped and redeveloped again twice before settling on what we ended up getting. The result was intense yet cheesy, horror yet sci-fi, and disturbing yet oddly funny at times. It doesn’t check everyone’s boxes, but the final product was completely unique.
For that reason, I just hope Capcom doesn’t go overboard with “reimagining history,” as they say. They gave previous remakes similar treatment, and the general consensus is that they treated RE2 with great respect but failed RE3. But Capcom has been pushing Resident Evil more than ever in recent years, and the series continues to grow in popularity. They’d have to be crazy to release a lackluster reimagining of the franchise’s most popular game; this one feels like a safe bet, and I’m excited.