This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee reviews the 2023 Resident Evil 4 remake.
For more major games Yahtz has reviewed lately, check out Metroid Prime Remastered, Atomic Heart, Hogwarts Legacy, Dead Space (2023), Hi-Fi Rush, and Forspoken.
And check out Yahtzee’s other series, Extra Punctuation, where he’s recently talked about the death of the live-service model and the end of silent protagonists.
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Oooooooh, Capcom, A remake of one of the most pivotal games of the 2000s and a personal favourite of mine? Go ask your friends at Bloober Team how much you’re going to have to do to win me over on this. “Uh… wanna be one of the first outlets to get a review code?” Well, consider your foot in the door.
Now let’s go down the list. Is the Bingo line still in. “Yes it is.” THE BINGO LINE’S STILL IN. DISMANTLE THE PYRE. Is the Tetris inventory management still in? “Yes!” Is the overly enthusiastic Cockney merchant whose presence everyone mysteriously accepts like he’s Doctor fucking Who still in? “Yes, although slightly more South African these days…” That’s fine. Is squeaky voiced midget Napoleon still in? “Yes indeed!” What about being chased over a bridge by a giant robot squeaky voiced midget Napoleon? “Er… no, we cut that.” WELL WHAT’S THE FUCKING POINT THEN. In all seriousness, it would be very mealy-mouthed to spend this review reciting an itemised list of every single set piece that was in the original Resident Evil 4 and that the Remake has cut out for one reason or another, so let’s do that. The descending ceiling bit’s gone. The killdozer bit’s gone. The lava castle room is gone. The boss fight with It is gone. And it probably cost a lot of money to license the character from the Addams Family estate.
Alright, alright. The RE4Make would probably be perfectly serviceable to a newcomer who’d only played recent RE games, although towards the beginning they might accuse it of ripping off RE Village shortly before my broken bottle enters their jugular vein. But it turning out merely “serviceable” was exactly what I was afraid of. The original RE4 was a historically explosive boost to the flagging series and action games generally and none of that can be recaptured; all the remake’s going to do is bring it up to a state of homogeneity alongside the RE2make and the RE3make, both heavily RE4-inspired incidentally and now I’ve said RE so many times I’m worried the director of the movie Hereditary is going to think I’m trying to get his attention. In short, oh Danny boy, the bland, the bland is calling. And I was absolutely certain it was never going to be as hilariously camp as the original because games these days are far too tryhard serious to want to shoot for a deliberate crappy B-movie vibe. And that’s exactly what happened. Leon now resembles a sulky teen wearing daddy’s trousers rather than an insecure person’s idea of an action hero who was sick the day the rest of the class was taking one-liner lessons.
Ashley no longer comes across as screechy jug-eared first act of the Jason movie fodder but a traumatized frightened girl. Which I guess makes sense, and that’s the general pattern, really – they took the knob that’s got CAMP on one end and SENSIBLE on the other and just clicked it a couple of notches to the right. So now Ada’s default outfit is something that would actually be practical outside of a Chinese brothel. With this shift, the game feels decidedly restrained. Another thing that got cut is the thing where the villains hack into Leon’s comms device in the second act and for the rest of the game call him up every now and again so they can very unconsciously Yes, And each other’s smug one-liners for five minutes. Which was the main source of RE4’s really iconic and memorable crap dialogue lines. Funny thing is, the achievements you get for beating the bosses are all named in reference to those original lines, but to do that and cut them from the actual game smacks of mixed messaging. It’s like they’re saying “Ha, yeah, wasn’t it great back when we knew how to have fun?”
Oh come on Yahtz you big negative Nathan, stop focussing on every single fleck of dried up turd that has been shampooed out of RE4’s bum hair and tell us about what’s new with the remake. Well, Leon makes a funny sort of fatty-grunt every time he switches to aim mode, now. And Ashley grunts all the time as well whenever she has to navigate terrain more complex than a partially occupied waiting room. So if you run up and down the hallway aiming at things it sounds like you’re dubbing a foreign porn film. “Not that, Yahtz! Tell us about those new sidequests we’ve been hearing so much about.” Oh yeah. I finished an early game area, and as I was leaving I found a blue note scotch taped to the door saying “Hey, why not go through that area again and kill three rats? And it took me about three hours before I was finally able to get my mouth to stop forming the “oo” at the end of “fuck you.” But don’t fret, there’s more new stuff besides quests straight from the tutorial section of a failed World of Warcraft knockoff: basic combat has some new surprises that might catch the old hands off guard, the first time a dude charged at me with a pitchfork I was so surprised I couldn’t enjoy the four shish kebabs I was offered at the barbecue later.
And the addition of stealth kills makes sense, the original had a couple of moments where you could go unnoticed for a while but you still had to kill everyone at some point so you were really just picking your moment to jump out and yell SURPRISE SHOTGUN PARTY. So I merrily stealth-knifed my way through four or five of the dudes in the starting village assault when suddenly me knife broke. “Oh we forgot to mention your knife has degradation now,” said the game. And this time the “oo” on the end of “fuck you” lasted until the beginning of this video. You need to go back to the fucking dollar store and get a refund on your knife, Leon mate. “It’s OK, Yahtz, you can get your knife repaired at the merchant for a small price.” Oh even better my knife has a fucking subscription fee. I didn’t realise Adobe was in the weapons business. I assume knife degradation was added to counter the other new feature, that Leon can use his knife to parry basically any melee attack, including the chainsaw instakill. Which I suppose is fairer, but the chainsaw instakill was another of the original game’s iconic moments.
You were at the starting village, you were surrounded by the mob but you were getting to grips with the combat and starting to hold your own, and then Doctor Potato Sack runs up with his Black and Decker and goes “That’s a nice full health bar you’ve got there, show it to someone who gives a shit!” Bzzzt, surprise budget height reduction surgery. Giving us the chance to survive it makes me think Doctor Potato Sack’s had to amputate a few of the game’s testicles in the time since we saw him last. Which is all consistent with the knob having been clicked towards sensible, but as anyone should expect whenever an elderly champion racehorse gets brought out and expected to perform again because it’s got a new carrot up its bum, there’s a marked reduction in energy. As I feared, it’s Resident Evil 4 with all the edges sanded down. The additions to combat feel more like a fussy dilution of a purer experience. The more sensible dialogue and characters lacks the fun chemistry and banter of the original. You know what, though, one exception: I like Luis more in the remake. He gets a clearer backstory, more complex motives, some fun personality clash with Leon, and most importantly never unironically says “Ai yi yi.”