The recent remake journey for the Resident Evil series has (mostly) been a success. RE3R pretty much sucked, but RE2R, even if a bit unfaithful to its OG counterpart, was a critical and commercial success. It was a game that I immediately loved, and despite my qualms, I hold it on equal footing with OG RE2. It didn't replace its predecessor in my book, but it offers the benefits of a modern spin on a familiar formula, and excels in certain places where the OG falls short (and vice versa).
Fast forward to RE4R. When this game was initially confirmed, I was skeptical of its necessity compared to other games that I felt were more deserving of the remake treatment (Dino Crisis and Code Veronica, though they confirmed they have no current intentions of a CV remake... I'm still holding out hope for Dino Crisis, but I won't hold my breath), as were most people. Despite being almost 20 years old at the time of this writing, the game is still held in high regards and (mostly) holds up with time. More than that, I've never really been a fan of RE4. Yes, it's a good game and yes it basically defined the archetype for 3rd person shooters, but I personally never connected with it. I bought it on release, I played through and enjoyed it well enough (even fully replayed it once or twice), but it's never been a game I've loved. And the island, save the regenerators, flat out sucks. Sucks
. Even on the rare occasions I decide to replay it, I shut it off after the castle. And personally, I've never been as gaga over the combat design as most people are. No it's not bad, but it falls well short of amazing. I've always preferred the original survival horror trilogy to the heightened action and over the top cartoonish-ness of 4. The foundation for RE games for me has always been: item management, exploration, puzzle solving and backtracking to match strategic combat encounters, so remaking a linear, action-focused entry didn't really appeal to me.
Then gameplay footage was released, treating us to a more serious, darker tone and exceptionally stunning visuals, and I started to buy into the idea. As time went on, and more details were released along with an incredibly fun demo, I was as eager as anyone to get my hands on it. And yeah, I'm hopping on the hype train with everyone else. Not only is this game absolutely superb, I will easily say I prefer
it to the original. Pretty much every qualm I had about the original in comparison to the original trilogy has been fixed here. Item management? Check. Exploration and back tracking? Check. An uptick in puzzles? Check. And non-braindead puzzles? Check check. Challenging, engaging and strategic combat encounters? You bet your ass.
The last one has been a sticking point for fans of the OG, but I personally think it's an improvement. Leon feels less empowered here than in the original, which invites more weapon variety and experimentation in regards to combat. Supplementing this change is the implementation of knife durability. Instead of having an impenetrable knife, every use takes damage, adding an extra layer of strategy to combat for its use. Along with this, they have re-tooled the aiming system to no longer allow for guaranteed stuns with head shots. Some people consider this a step backwards, but for an older RE fan such as myself, this is an excellent change. Cheesing the game by guaranteed-stunning waves of enemies with any weapon before OP round-house kicking and going slash crazy with an OP knife gets repetitive and boring. I prefer to choose my battles carefully and adapt and think on the fly, which is why the newly-implemented stealth mechanic was a welcomed addition for me. I wish there were more opportunities to use it, honestly.
As far as the story, I'll keep this spoiler free, but I think the changes to the story and mood of the game are for the better. Some people prefer the more cartoony over the top campiness of the OG, but I find this to be much more immersive. There is cut content, but where I found some of the content cut in 2R to be an issue, here I have no qualms about it. I don't really miss anything that was cut, and most of it was replaced or supplemented in some way, and I feel it aids in the pacing much better.
As for qualms, they're minimal. As much as I praised the new combat system, I do have an issue with the camera zoom. In 2R this worked because the environment was more claustrophobic, but in a bigger arena this doesn't really work. Thankfully there is a mod that fixes this, which I will link to at the bottom of this review. I will agree with the OG fans that laser sights should have been implemented across the board here, and I believe there is a mod for that, although I haven't tried it out so I can't speak to it. The rest is minor, but it falls into spoiler category so I will leave it off, but suffice it to say these do not really hurt my overall opinion of the game too terribly.
So yeah, suffice it to say I'm loving this game. Is it the best RE game? No, that honor still falls to REMake. Is it the best remake? The survival horror purist in me prefers REMake and 2R. However, while I'd place 2R on equal footing with its OG counterpart in terms of necessity, I have absolutely no qualms in saying this is better, and even replaces the original for me. With time, and the more I play this, it may (could very likely) get a 5, but for what it is in relation to its source material this is a no-brainer, A+ achievement.
Aiming mod: https://www.nexusmods.com/residentevil42023/mods/52