It wasn’t any sort of surprise that following the success of the Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes, a remake of 4 would soon follow. It is a little disappointing for some people, like me, that Capcom chose to skip over Code Veronica, an important chapter in the overall story and a game that’s more in need a remake in favor of 4, but it is a logical idea. The original Resident Evil 4 shook up the formula of the series, going in a more action heavy direction that brought in a much larger audience than the previous games, and would go on to influence the survival horror genre in general. The remake comes out at the end of this month, and like they did with the last few Resident Evil games, Capcom has put out a demo. So let’s take a look at it.
The beginning of the original Resident Evil 4 is iconic. If you were playing video games at the time of its release, unless you completely ignored it, you’re probably very aware of how that game opens. Resident Evil 2 hero Leon S Kennedy is now a government agent, tasked with locating the president’s daughter who went missing in a Spanish village. Shortly after arriving, things take a turn for the worse, as Leon finds the villagers are crazed killers. They’re not the zombies he dealt with back in Raccoon City, but they’re also clearly not in full control. Soon, he finds himself dealing with swarms of them, as well as one with a sack over his head and wielding a chainsaw. The demo recreates this sequence.
What I found most impressive was how familiar it all was, while still feeling like a new experience. The first building you investigate in the original is very small, basically one room with a staircase leading to a loft. This time, there’s a few rooms with plenty to look at. Your actual motivation for going into this building is also different. In the original, Leon leaves the car his two Spanish police escorts are driving to enter the building and ask its resident if they’ve seen the president’s daughter, Ashley. After getting attacked by the guy, Leon finds that his escorts are missing. In the remake, Leon is actually looking for his escorts who went ahead of him. After finding the villager who attacks him, Leon learns that one of the escorts has been murdered. After quickly dispatching the enemy, Leon heads to the village, but not before getting attacked by the same guy he had already dealt with, now with a messed up neck, and getting attacked by other villagers.
The original game still feels pretty modern compared to the ones that came before it. This is largely thanks to its over the shoulder camera perspective, something still used in the remakes of 2 and 3. But that’s not to say that there isn’t still modern features that can be added to 4. The remake adds the ability to move while aiming, instead of Leon planting his feet. This was something added to the series in 6, and I can’t imagine them ever going back to the old way of doing things. Additionally, recent games have had a crafting system, allowing you to make ammo and health recovery items out of things you find in the environment. While the demo doesn’t give you the opportunity to really mess with this, other than the old herb combining that’s been around since the very first game, I did find lots of gunpowder, which when selected in your inventory pulls ups multiple options for things to make, but since you need more than just gunpowder to make a bullet, I wasn’t ever able to do anything. But this seems like it’s going to have all the stuff that made the last two remakes so good.
Thanks to the more modern fighting mechanics, I was able to get through the opening bits pretty easily. I was happy to see that the melee attacks are also back. After hitting an enemy, they will sometimes stagger backwards, and a prompt will appear above them. Get in close to them and you’ll be able to deliver a powerful attack that often knocks the enemy into other enemies. I was a little worried that with the more serious tone of the 2 and 3 remakes, 4 would lose some of it’s over the top wackiness, but Leon will still pull off crazy moves and say a dumb one liner afterwards. The balance of scary and goofy has always been one of 4’s best traits, and that seems to still be intact here.
Eventually, Leon finds his way to the main village, where he finds that his other escort is getting burned alive in the village square. This leads to a desperate struggle as all the villagers swarm him. Careful aiming can make all the difference, as you don’t have a lot of bullets and there’s just too many villagers to deal with. You’ll have to spend a good amount of time just running away and hoping not to get caught, which gets hairier partway through when that chainsaw wielding maniac I mentioned earlier joins in. After a while of running away, killing when necessary, and just trying to avoid a chainsaw to the stomach in a particularly gruesome death, a bell rings and all the villagers suddenly stop and all walk away. Leon says his famous quip, “where’s everyone going, bingo?” which I’m so happy is still here, and then the demo ends.
All in all, it’s a very short demo. But that’s okay, its length inspired me to play through the whole thing three times. Once on the Xbox Series X, once on the PlayStation 5, and once on the Steam Deck. The Xbox and PlayStation versions are basically identical. The only real difference was some extra bells and whistles on the PlayStation version, with some pretty impressive haptic feedback while walking around and shooting, as well as certain sound effects playing through the controller speaker. All things that I don’t think anyone playing on Xbox should feel like they’re really missing out on, but it’s cool that they’re there. The Steam Deck handled the game well enough, but it’s clear that the demo wasn’t optimized for it. There was a lot of weird graphical glitches, looking like dark boxy shadows appearing all over the place, especially in outdoor environments. I tried messing with some settings to see if I could fix that, but with no luck. The Resident Evil 2 remake is deck verified, and 3 is listed as playable with the only issue being that it might not work when waking up from sleep mode, so I’m pretty confident that the full release will be just fine. But maybe wait for reviews if your plan was to play specifically on the Steam Deck.
We’re only a couple weeks away from the release of the full game and I’m so excited. All the recent Resident Evil games have been outstanding, and this one seems to be living up to the hype.