“Where are they going, Bingo?” mutters Leon Kennedy as the intense Resident Evil 4 Remake preview comes to an end. It’s a moment of levity directly lifted from the original that perfectly illustrates the line between silly and serious that Resident Evil 4 walked so perfectly with its original release.
As things have been amped up and new elements have been added to the Resident Evil 4 remake, it’s good to learn it’s still kept its goofy sense of humour.
It needs the moment of levity. My nerves are on fire and I’m genuinely shaking from one of the more intense firefights I’ve had in video games in recent years, a modern remake of the Aliens-esque assault by infected villagers that kicks off Resident Evil 4 and introduces you to the scariest villain in video games: Dr. Salvador.
If you don’t remember him, you’ll get everything you need to know from his Japanese name, pre-localisation: Chainsaw Man. He has a bag on his head, a chainsaw in his hands and a desire to murder Leon Kennedy in his heart.
He’s the perfect lens to show you how far Resident Evil 4 has come. You can see the technological improvements in the character himself: instead of a pixelly burlap sack he’s now got a, well, well-rendered burlap sack with terrifying red-rimmed eyes beneath it. Instead of waving his chainsaw around ineffectually as he tries to get close to you, he’s now swinging the chainsaw around like he’s trying to win a starring role in a mid-80s splatter movie, the chainsaw hewing limbs off the villagers swirling around him as he desperately tries to kill Leon. Other villagers will get in on the act too: get grabbed during his appearance at the end of the demo and rather than try to hurt you themselves, your assailants will just try to turn you around to face the chainsaw and let you face Chainsaw Man’s judgement. He’s smart about it too, if you try to flank him through certain routes he’ll carve away the wooden supports and cause them to collapse, forcing you to face judgement.
You can take him as a microcosm of everything coming with Resident Evil 4 Remake. Things look better, enemies seem smarter and altogether it’s a tougher game, without compromising on the weird humour and slightly clunky combat that made Resident Evil 4 work in the first place. Shooting feels accurate even on a controller, but the real highlight was pulling off dumb combat tricks like dropping a flashbang into a horde of enemies before roundhouse kicking them all to death, or punting a ladder to send the enemy currently scaling it to his death. It’s the same game – both of those moments were in Resi 4 – but shinier and easier to access for a modern generation.
There are changes, though. New to the game is a dismemberment system that’ll see you blast chunks out of your enemies, and a fully working stealth system that will let you skulk around the place. The stealth is likely to be contentious if you’re just hearing about it for the first time, but it doesn’t really change the flow of things all that much: rather than giving you the option to ghost through things like Solid Snake, it’s more that you can skulk around a fight before it kicks off properly, perhaps taking out a couple of enemies with your knife or finding a few supplies before you get stuck in.
It adds texture to what’s going on, rather than being a full rework and it’s really built up my enthusiasm. The short preview let me taste a little bit of fear and a little bit of the action at the heart of the forthcoming game and I’m hesitant to heap too much praise on what was essentially a 30-minute chunk of the game – however, I will say that I can’t remember the last time I felt this elated coming out of a preview. If Capcom can manage to keep the entire game feeling as good as the chunk that I’ve played, the question isn’t “why did they remake this game” but rather “why didn’t they make this game sooner,” because it’s going to be absolutely amazing.
I’ll need to visit a tiny prince with a rocket launcher before I can pass judgement, and invariably spend a few hours escorting the prisoner’s daughter around the place, but I cannot wait to get stuck in.