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Resident Evil 4 (PS5) Review

April 19, 2023 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Resident Evil 4 Image Credit: Capcom
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Resident Evil 4 (PS5) Review  

I’ll admit, I was a pretty big fan of the original Resident Evil 4 back in the day. While the later parts of the game have slipped my memory, I have very clear memories of the first few chapters burned into my head. This was a mostly very nice way to replay Resident Evil 4 with one small and one big caveat.

Resident Evil 4, for all three of you who have never played it before, was a pretty seminal title when it released all the way back in 2005. Doing away with the tank controls and fixed camera angles of Resident Evil games before it, RE4 puts you behind the back of Leon S. Kennedy as he tries to make his way through the rural Spanish countryside filled with insane, parasite-infected people. His main mission is to rescue Ashley Graham, the President’s daughter, who has been captured by these infected people. However, things don’t quite go according to plan with Leon and Ashley having to team up to take out the infestation and just to survive the events.

From the outside, this 2023 remake is almost entirely faithful to the 2005 game with only a few major/minor additions. Since this is based on the RE Engine, which has powered the last handful of Resident Evil games, going back to Resident Evil 7. So if you’ve played any of the prior remakes of Resident Evil games or RE7 or 8, you pretty much know how this game plays/feels as well.

The left stick controls Leon’s movement while the right stick controls the camera around him. When you hold L2 this readies Leon’s gun, which changes the right stick into a targeting reticle. These are two of the biggest actual gameplay changes from the old game and the new game: Leon can walk with his gun out, and the removal of the laser sights.

In the prior version, when you readied your weapon with Leon, he would basically plant his feet to the ground and you would be unable to move, until you depressed the “aim weapon” button. While Leon doesn’t run around when his gun is ready, here he can at least move somewhat around, giving you much greater mobility and survivability, in combat situations.

The removal of the laser sight is an interesting choice. With the last game, pretty much every weapon had a magical laser dot attached to it. This was basically your targeting solution as you wouldn’t see a red dot appear except on enemies or items that warranted it. In this version of the game, you just have a regular aiming/targeting reticle. There is one game that has a laser dot sight on it, but it works like a normal laser sight would, and not the magical one from the last version of RE4.

Back to the controls, R2 shoots your weapon when it is ready. When it’s not, you can use R2 to do a knife slash without having need to ready it. In the prior version, the knife was its own equipable weapon, which was very cumbersome to actually use. Here, it’s always at the ready, if/when you need it. You also use R2 to attack with the knife in certain situations. R1 is used for running and something else, I’ll get into below. X is used for melee attacking stunned enemies and is the general action button like “open door”, “climb ladder”, “pick up object” button. Square is used for reloading your gun. L1 and Circle are used for new additions in the game.

You use circle to crouch down and enter a quasi-stealth mode. You don’t become fully hidden or anything but you do make less noise and move slower. This lets you sneak up on certain infected and you can use your knife to do a quick stealth kill on them. The knife in this game actually has durability associated with it, so stealth killing enemies takes some of that away. You can improve your knife stats, like durability and damage, with the merchant.

The other big move change is with L1. You can now use the knife to also parry a lot of attacks. Not every attack can be parried but a lot of ranged and even melee stuff can be, if you time it right. A little indicator pops up in the lower right hand corner for when an attack can be parried, assuming the timing is right. Parrying also uses up your knife durability though, so you can’t just parry every attack through the game, or else you’ll burn through your main knife and the secondary knives you pick up as well.

This brings me to my small issue, which I mentioned above. I never actually played the original GameCube version of RE4, the PS2 port is what I mainly played so my muscle memory is really with that game. In it, Leon had a quick, 180 turn move he could do, he would be facing one way and would basically spin in place to be facing the opposite way, in case he was being attacked or enemies were coming up from behind him. You would do this by pressing down and Square at the same time. Well, I tried that here, and it didn’t work. I just assumed they took it out for balancing reasons, like, you can now actually move with your gun ready, so I assume they saw the 180 spin as redundant and got rid of it. No, they didn’t, though. It wasn’t until I was literally writing this review that I looked at the control settings and discovered the “Quick Turn” as they call it, is mapped to R1 and moving the stick down.

Both Resident Evil 2 and 3 Remake have this mapped to “Circle + Down”, and even Village/RE7 do this as well. Here though, RE4 has circle busy with stealth, and at NO point in the game, like say, during the tutorial, do they mention “Hey, the 180 degree spin is here also.” I literally played through the entire game without knowing about it. My small rant is now complete.

As opposed to past Resident Evil games, 1, 2 and 3 in the series, chronologically, RE4 doesn’t just feature stupid zombies for the most part. The parasites are linked together in a hive mind and are related to a cult called Los Iluminados. Basically, if one enemy sees you, it’s on for that area, and enemies will begin to chase and attack you. The basic enemy can be unarmed, but many of them have pitchforks, axes, throwing weapons, torches and dynamite to attack you.

These are just the regular enemies, later variants will have big tentacles coming out of their heads, helmets to protect against headshots, RPGs, riot shields and so on. Even with the basic enemy unit there is a lot to contend with.

Also, there is the usual other beastlies to take care of, both main bosses, mini-bosses and just other enemy types. While you mostly do come up against infected humans, there are infected dogs, highly mutated blind/clawed enemies, enemies that can only be killed by hitting exact certain spots, flying bugs that can skewer you and so on. This game has the gamut of infected things wanting to end your life.

Resident Evil 4 does have its fair share of memorable characters, who are mostly unchanged in this version. Ramon Salazar is the noticeable downgrade, but Luis, Sadler, Krauser are here and as interesting as ever. The only other, small, downgrade is with the Merchant. He just sounds like Kano from the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie, doing a dreadful Aussie accent, but that’s just me.

One really cool system they introduce here is when it comes to crafting stuff. Now, even the old Resident Evil games let you combine herbs into various combinations to increase their efficacy but ever since Resident Evil 7, you’ve been able to craft ammo for your weapons which greatly lowers your dependency on hunting down ammo boxes in the maps.

You only need two ingredients to craft, gunpowder and “resources”, which come in small and large. Small resources crafting nets you handgun, shotgun, magnum ammo and attachable mines. Large resource crafting can get you rifle and submachine gun ammo as well as various grenades. You can also use a kitchen knife and large resources to make a better knife but I almost never did that. Some of these crafting recipes are unlocked from the start but most you’ll have to buy from the merchant.

Earning money be done by a few ways. Killing most enemies nets you at least some cash, assuming a better item didn’t drop. You’ll also occasionally find money in the game world that you can pick up, usually in destructible crates or barrels. You mostly earn money though, by finding saleable treasures, gold bars, necklaces, etc., or by finding certain treasures and inlaying them with gems.

This gem system is pretty reminiscent of the system used in Resident Evil Village. While you can sell a crown for 10,000 Pesetas, you can inlay it with different jewel combinations which can improve its price. There’s a whole, handy, guide in the game that details the various multipliers that can be applied to treasures if you socket them correctly and it’s really the main way to earn money in the game.

A curious addition in this game is that of the shooting gallery. Occasionally, the merchant will be set up in a slightly bigger area and will have his underground shooting gallery set up. Basically, you will be given a specific gun and told to kill cardboard stand-up pirate enemies, while avoiding the sailor pop-ups. Some of the pirates will have specific targets on them which can net you more points. Generally, if you hit all the pirates quickly, with not a lot of ammo, you’ll unlock “Bonus Time” which nets you even more targets to shoot, increasing your score. Getting high scores in the shooting range will net you silver and gold tokens to use in his capsule machine.

You can use the capsule machine to unlock charms to attach to your briefcase/inventory. These have passive bonuses like increasing the amount of handgun ammo you craft, increasing the amount of health you get from eating snake meat, decreasing the amount it costs to repair your body armor, etc. Not all of these are super useful, as you might imagine, but a few of them are very handy to have, if you want to put the time into this system. I was personally pretty bad at the shooting minigame so I was never able to actually get the really rare charms, but even some of the basic ones do help out some.

Before the bad stuff, I’ll lastly mention the Spinel system. Spinels were jewels in the original RE4 that you could just sell to the merchant for a few thousand Pesetas. Here, they are reworked into a different currency. You can undertake side missions for the merchant like shooting blue targets in certain areas, killing high-difficulty enemies, destroying specific things, etc., which when completed will net you Spinels. You can trade the Spinels to the merchant for goods like treasure maps for each of the three big areas, stocks to attach to certain guns, certain treasures to sell, and upgrade tickets to unlock gun upgrades.

The first bad thing is a personal thing but for some reason, this game absolutely hated my PS5 controller with a passion. I literally get no stick drift with any other game, but any time I went to the map, it would start zooming out on its own accord. I’m not the only one this has had happen to, but it’s not that widespread an issue. When I’m aiming with the right stick, it has no issue, but for the map, it was a constant problem. It also, weirdly, corrupted my PS5 controller speaker, until a restart. Like, the speaker got all garbled and messed up, until I did a hard reset of my console/controller.

The actual biggest problem with Resident Evil 4 and the one that’s knocking some points off the final score is how it handled post-game unlocks. Past Resident Evil games have had systems where when you complete challenges, it gives you CP (Challenge Points) to unlock extra content after the game is done. This breaks down into models of characters, concept art, extra costumes and so on, but the really fun stuff was unlocking Infinite Ammo weapons for additional playthroughs. This let player just kind of have a good/fun time with playing the game again, since you might have some overpowered weapon to blast enemies with.

Resident Evil 4 has this also but to say that it’s gimped, is a bit of an understatement. There are only four infinite ammo weapons to unlock, and one of them is an infinite durability knife which kind of doesn’t count. One of these weapons, the Infinite Rocket Launcher, requires 2 million Pesetas to unlock in the game, which is somewhat doable, it just takes a while to grind it out. The other two are fairly impossible for regular players. One involves you beating the game on hard mode, without using special weapons. The other requires you to beat the game on hard mode while getting an A rank. There IS a special accessory you can unlock which gives all your weapons infinite ammo, but it requires damn near superhuman levels of speedrunning/playing to unlock it.

This all just kind of sucks. One reason I replayed RE Village a few times is because unlocking these “fun” infinite ammo weapons was easy. There was also a ton of weapons to get infinite ammo with, around 14 or so, so even if you got infinite ammo with a “bad” weapon, you could still have fun and try to unlock infinite ammo for a more fun weapon later on. Here? It’s functionally only 3 weapons, and two of them are such a pain to get that it is fairly impossible, and the accessory upgrade for the rest is extremely impossible to get. This is the biggest mis-step with this game by a big mile, sadly.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Resident Evil 4 is still a fantastic experience and it given a facelift when it comes to the presentation and the gameplay just means it’s way more approachable and fun for new and old players. While I’m a bit underwhelmed by post-game content, RE4 is still a super thrill ride to play through and is one of the more memorable games in the entire franchise.

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Resident Evil 4, Marc Morrison