Resident Evil might be the franchise that’s benefited the most from remakes. The Resident Evil 1 remake for GameCube was a terrifying fulfillment of Shinji Mikami and crew’s vision for the original survival horror masterpiece. Likewise, 2019’s Resident Evil 2 remake took the clunky controls and abrasive design of RE2 and modernized it into an exceptional experience. While I still love their original incarnations, there’s no doubt to me that the remakes are far more enjoyable to go back and revisit.
But when the Resident Evil 4 remake was officially revealed last summer, a lot of folks immediately asked the question – why does this exist? 2005’s RE4 pioneered the modern third-person action genre, and it remains immensely enjoyable to this very day. And given that it’s available on pretty much every console under the sun, it’s not like the game is hard to come by. If anything, the main fears surrounding this new incarnation were that Capcom would lean too heavily into the gritty horror of things, completely neglecting to bring over the truly bizarre oddities that make the original so memorable.
And honestly, I shared some of those fears. I knew the gameplay would feel great, considering it’s built on the foundation of RE2’s remake. But would the campy dialogue, charming merchant, escalating weirdness, and true oddities like Salazar’s giant animatronic statue be left on the cutting room floor in favor of a more “traditional” survival horror experience?
Well, after 15 minutes with the Resident Evil 4 Chainsaw Demo, I’m thrilled to say that Capcom’s updated masterpiece feels like it’s walking the perfect balance of providing a tense, gorgeous, and terrifying modern horror action game, while still maintaining the delightful camp of the original. And that last part is clear thanks to four simple words that Leon mutters to no one in particular at the end of the demo: “Where’s everyone going? Bingo?”
The Resident Evil 4 Chainsaw Demo tosses us right into the first chapter of the game, with Leon approaching the Spanish village after already having been separated from his police escort. The overgrown shrubbery, dilapidated cottages, and mutilated corpses of various animals are all represented in the same fidelity you’d expect from the modern RE games since Resident Evil 7 revitalized the franchise back in 2017. There’s also much more color this time around, which is a far cry from the heavy use of brown that RE4 helped usher into that era of gaming.
The lighting is particularly impressive, with lanterns creating pronounced shadows and Leon’s flashlight illuminating thin strips of dark basements. It immediately felt scarier and more intimidating than the original game, but this tension is manageable thanks to your updated control over Leon. This really shines once things pop off in the village, and we get to experience one of the most iconic opening encounters in video game history all over again.
Like many parts of 2020’s Final Fantasy VII Remake, running around the village feels like equal parts time travel and magic. The layout is exactly as I remembered, and many of the same tricks can be applied now as before. The same two-story house holds a shotgun, cutting through the barn works like a charm, and the rooftops allow you a moment to catch your breath. And thankfully, the silliness of RE4 is still alive and well here – staggering an enemy let me run up and deliver a stupid-yet-satisfying roundhouse kick. Killing an innocent chicken rewarded me with a nice egg in these trying times. And once the church bells rang, and the Ganado all dispersed, Leon said his iconic one-liner, pointing to the fact that Capcom is embracing the inner cheese of RE4.
I took my normal route of immediately cutting behind the homes to the left, but with the newly added stealth mechanics, I was able to sneak up to the first Ganado and deliver a silent kill using my knife. While I don’t expect to be clearing out full areas using this level of stealth, I appreciated an additional verb being added to my arsenal.
Speaking of arsenal, your knife is no longer a tool sent down to us from the heavens, but rather a weapon that can – and will – break. While some purists might be put off by this change, I’m excited to see how this will cause me to approach situations differently throughout the entirety of the game.
While so much of the Resident Evil 4 Chainsaw Demo was familiar, I also loved the other small changes that threw some unexpected curveballs in my direction. A quick button prompt allowed me to parry Dr. Salvador’s chainsaw in a wildly entertaining manner, though it understandably depleted the strength of my knife quite a bit. Shooting the lantern in the barn now caused the bull to catch on fire, and he charged out of the stall and rammed into unsuspecting Ganado. And though the top of the tower used to be a relatively safe nook amidst the chaos of the attack, the floor now gave way from underneath me, completely catching me off guard.
These little things all added up into a nice set of expectation-defying tweaks, and I can’t wait to discover more of them. And knowing that Capcom is still letting the game be weird – both Leon’s bingo line and a look at the Castle and Island sections in the latest gameplay and trailers pointed toward this – means that Resident Evil 4’s spirit is alive and well in this remake.
I recently played through the original RE4 for the first time in nearly 15 years on my Twitch channel, and it made me remember just how incredible the game is from start to finish. The constant fresh ideas, satisfying combat progression, and absolutely killer roster of weirdo characters and situations made me fall in love with it all over again. And after just 15 minutes with this new demo, I’m completely sold on this remake and 100% on board to rescue Ashley one more time later this month.
Related: Resident Evil 4 Demo How to Unlock Mad Chainsaw Mode on Game Skinny