Resident Evil 4 Preview – Fresh, Familiar And Wet

There's a lot of new and old in this remake.

You would not think that Capcom could pull it off. You might even feel that Resident Evil 4 didn’t need a remake – that it’s too soon to even bother. But Capcom felt otherwise. And I’m kind of glad they did. Because, after seeing even more of the game, a few things are clear. For one, the atmosphere cultivated in the Resident Evil 4 remake is unparalleled. But even better, it’s evident that Capcom has respected the original game. There’s still some action and some cheesy goofy energy to it, but the added commitment to offering up a more horror-tinged atmosphere makes it even better.

This preview opens in the lake. It’s both familiar and fresh. Keen fans of the original will remember what transpires here – and I won’t ruin it for anyone who doesn’t – but this takes place in the game’s fourth chapter. It’s just hit nighttime, and Leon is still looking for a key to a church where he suspects the president’s daughter, Ashley, is being held captive. In the opening moments, we see one of the first significant changes. In the original game, Hunnigan, Leon’s field support agent, would call Leon to explain things in video call scenes. Now, in the remake, she’ll call him and appear in a Dead Space-esque hovering panel, allowing Leon to continue exploring during their conversations. It’s a small change, but a welcome one

Resident Evil 4 Preview Ingrid Hunnigan Call

Leon eventually makes his way through a newer area – tunnels that connect the lake and the other areas of the village – before coming across a blue note written by the Merchant himself. This looks to be how the game will offer side quests. Where the original game had a singular optional quest surrounding some blue coins, it seems the remake’s Merchant will have a lot of optional content to offer Leon. Leon picks up the note, jumps on a boat and heads into the infamous lake. Our preview coyishly fades into another section of gameplay, keeping what transpires here a secret for newer players.

Here, it becomes a bit more evident that the developers are working hard to break open the original game, which was previously quite linear. Similar to areas like the Village in the last game or the Wetlands in Resident Evil 5, it looks as if Leon can travel around the lake area to explore for different currency and treasures. It’s an elementary change that will hopefully happen throughout the game. I’m a massive sucker for exploration in games, but when it’s done in a modern Resident Evil, it feels like a throwback to the classic games, which I’m always going to be here for.

Resident Evil 4 Preview Ramon Salazar

In the original game, this was the first area where parasites burst from the enemies to bolster their abilities; in the remake, this is truly a sight to behold. I jokingly mention to my friends that you can measure the quality of a horror game by how wet the viscera presents – and Resident Evil 4 delivers in droves. These parasites that burst from the broken necks of villagers are wet and slimy, posing as much of a threat to Leon as they did in the original. Of course, bullets can take them down, but a flash grenade will always instantly kill them safely and efficiently. During one of these encounters, we also see Leon performing a crouch dodge, keeping him out of trouble during some of the more intense moments.

We move on, and Leon encounters the infamous Merchant character in the flesh. He’s almost as you remember, but there is a brand new option to TRADE. It’s different from his usual services – Buying, Selling and Tuning Up your weapons are still here – but we don’t know how it will work. The treasures system has also been overhauled, giving Leon generic gemstones that he can fit into certain pieces of treasure and offering bonuses if he decorates each piece with different coloured gems. Lady Gaga would be so proud.

Resident Evil 4 Preview Treasure Menu

This section ends, and we’re transported to the entrance of the second major area of the game – the castle. Leon has rescued Ashley, and the enemies are now the more ominous-looking monks. Here, we get a better idea of how Ashley will work in the remake. In the original, she could die instantly if hit by a hard enough take. In this game, she is balanced much more in favour of the player.

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Enemies can still pick up and take Ashley out of the level, instigating an instant game over. But now, if she takes damage, she’ll be incapacitated. A chunk of it is still an escort mission at heart, but she’s less prone to instantly ending your game in the remake. She also behaves more realistically – in a battle inside the castle, she gets out of the way when things get heated. You’ll still have to worry about her, but she’s less annoying than in previous Resident Evil games with partner AI.

Resident Evil 4 Preview Castle Entrance Ashley Abducted

As I eluded to earlier, the pair make their way into the castle and meet Ramón Salazar. This was one of the aspects of the original that I wasn’t convinced would translate to the more realistic look of the recent remakes. Gone is the goofy pirate-looking hat, replaced by a powdered wig that better suits Salazar’s noble aristocratic origins. The dialogue between Salazar and Leon is still dripping with cheese, but it still feels within the game’s tone. Salazar’s new look is similarly fantastic – he’s clearly infected with something and holding onto the last shreds of his humanity – an aspect of his character that wasn’t communicated in the original.

We then skip ahead to what I assume will be the first battle with the Garrador, an experiment left in the castle. He’s violent and aggressive, outfitted with razor-sharp claws. The catch? He’s blind. In the original game, you’d have to sneak past him by walking to ensure he didn’t hone in on your location. You’ll encounter him in areas strewn with hanging chains in the remake. Walking into them accidentally will alert him, so moving slowly and methodically is important to get past him. You can, of course, take him on for rewards too. It’s, once again, an example of a slight change in how you encounter these enemies that makes it feel all the more modern.

Resident Evil 4 Preview Garrador First Battle Close-Up

But this concept dovetails beautifully with the first encounter with Jack Krauser. He’s somebody Leon has a history with, but while it’s the shortest segment of this preview, it’s the most important. This was a tense battle in the original game – you’d have to clear five or so QTEs in an epic knife battle to survive. Now, in the remake, it’s a proper boss battle. Parrying was a feature introduced when we saw the game at Tokyo Game Show, and it’s nice to see it being utilised in this battle to its full effect. It’s still tense, and the same feeling of tension is communicated, but you’re an active participant rather than just watching and pressing a singular button at any given point.

Walking away from this preview, I’m still intrigued by how Resident Evil 4 will turn out. Capcom has demonstrated a tremendous sense of self-awareness with every subsequent Resident Evil release, so they won’t explicitly cut anything out of the game, given the backlash Resident Evil 3 received. But there’s so much we haven’t seen that I’m excited but nervous to see. Some characters play a large part in the original game, but we’ve seen less than five seconds of them in trailers. Some enemy types, who don’t fit with this new style of Resident Evil, might also have been cut. It’s hard to believe that everything in Resident Evil 4 will carry over to the remake, but perhaps Capcom needs to be more cautious with what they show.

Resident Evil 4 Preview Krauser Leon Knife Battle

After all, this game harkens from an era where we only got our news from magazines and leaks weren’t so prevalent, so it’s a blessing in disguise that Capcom might still have some surprises in store when the game releases later this month.

Resident Evil 4 launches on March 24th 2023 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. A demo is due later this month.