If there's one genre of video game that has been done to death (quite literally) it's that of the Zombie killer. Dating as far back as 1982's Entombed for the Atari 2600, shambling, infected, brain-devouring zombies have been popping up in games all over the place for decades.
However, one name stands tall amongst the others when it comes to revolutionising and reinventing the genre, and that is... House of the Dead.
Obviously I jest, and while the House of the Dead series features some absolute classics (ignoring the most recent entry) none can hold a gore-covered, partially burnt down candle to Resident Evil.
The franchise is SO iconic that for Halloween we pulled together a huge retrospective covering ALL the mainline games here at Zatu, but the release of Resident Evil 4 Remake has rendered that list outdated. So, it's time to take a look at Capcom's latest offering and decide if it's on par with the fantastic RE2 Remake, or a bit of a let-down like RE3 Nemesis' second coming.
Looking Good, Leon
Now it would be fair to say that the original Resident Evil 4 was, at the time of its release, somewhat of a masterpiece. One of the reasons for this was just how good it looked considering the technology it was running on.
A Gamecube exclusive upon launch, it brought out the absolute best from Nintendo's little black box. By today’s standards it looks a touch rough around the edges, but compared to RE2 and RE3 the jump to current-gen wasn't going to be as obvious.
All credit to Capcom though, because the Resident Evil 4 Remake looks spectacular, and really comes into it's own in the later chapters when Leon leaves the muddy expanses of the village and enters the opulence of Salazar Castle.
The majority of character models look better too, and the added movement and expression to the infected villager’s faces can be truly terrifying.
The More Things Change...
For those who have played the original, changes to the game will be immediately apparent. The opening sequence has changed quite a bit in terms of layout, and this is something that follows through most of the game. Items are in different places, buildings and paths aren't quite the same as they used to be, enemies pop out from places they weren't hiding before.
But when it comes to the storyline, characters and boss battles, things have largely stayed the same.
The President's daughter has been kidnapped, you have been sent to rescue her, and all is NOT well in rural Spain.
Oh, and Ashley (the aforementioned President's Daughter) is still insufferably stupid when it comes to evading capture.
Playing With Las Plagas
The same could be said for the control scheme and general gameplay. Everything has been tightened up, making Leon a breeze to take charge of as he battles his way through hordes of the infected.
The original received criticism for being littered with Quick Time Events, but thankfully they have been nixed for 2023, so no more insta-deaths because you didn't press X in 0.2 seconds.
There are a few new elements to the game which make things much more interesting too. For a start the Merchant has opened a handful of Shooting Galleries, which give you the opportunity to brush up on your gunplay. Akin to something you might see in a Zelda game, Leon is tasked with shooting pirate shaped targets in a set amount of time. Should you succeed in one of the challenge criteria, you are rewarded with a gold or silver coin which can be used in a nearby gacha machine.
The trinkets that come out aren't just some novelty collectibles though, up to three of them can be attached to Leon's equipment case to add boosts. This can be anything from a discount on weapons to a boost on how much health a first aid spray recovers.
Spinels have also taken on a more important role, as they can now be earned from completing challenges and traded in for special items and weapons.
Players can still expect the usual Resident Evil staples; preserving ammo, solving puzzles, blasting enemies heads off and so on, but with some nice quality of life improvements and a beautiful fresh coat of paint.
More Bang For Your Peso
The main campaign is a meaty affair, and will take you at least 10-12 hours to get through if you want to explore everything and find all the hidden treasures Resident Evil 4 Remake has to offer. But the fun doesn't stop there, as once you complete the game you still have a few options at your disposal.
You can play through the game again, but with all your weapons and upgrades intact from the start, as well as other perks like unlimited ammo and special guns, dependent on if you've met the criteria to unlock them.
Or you can dive into the Mercenaries mode, which throws wave after wave of enemies at you with the only goal being to survive. This is a fun way to kill some time, and even unlock some of the aforementioned perks if you're good enough!
Of course, when it comes to unlockables in this day and age, the 'M' word isn't often too far away
La Plaga De Las Microtransacciones
That's right, Resident Evil 4 has Microtransactions, and they aren't just cosmetic either.
Players can purchase 'Upgrade Tickets' that allow them to evolve each weapon in the game to its 'final form'. Priced at £2.49 each (or £7.99 if you want to buy in bulk and get 5) they are a fast-track to the best weapon upgrades in the game, which normally cost 30 spinels.
Spinels aren't easy to come by, so if you're looking to get these unlocks quickly this is the best way. Microtransactions almost often ruffle the feathers of the gaming world, but it feels like Resident Evil 4 has done it right. Grinding to get these upgrades IS possible, but for those who have the cash and want a quick fix can pay to get there quicker, and it doesn't give them a benefit against other real-life players.
A Vacation To Remember
Resident Evil 4 Remake isn't the longest game in the world (although there seems to be a bit more to it than the original) but Capcom have put enough in here to make it worth the price tag.
I referred to it as 'grinding' a few moments ago when talking about earning weapon upgrades, but the game is so much fun that it doesn't feel like an effort to replay.
There have been updates to add more content since the initial release too, so there's a chance the game will continue to expand as new Mercenaries scenarios are added, and there is even scope for multiplayer to be introduced further down the line.
If you've never played the original Resident Evil 4, then this is the perfect way to experience an absolute classic in the series. If you did play it the first time around, there's plenty here to keep you occupied too, not least the pure hit of nostalgia that can only be achieved by laying into a chainsaw wielding maniac with a 12-gague.