Here’s the Thing is where Rob dumps his random thoughts and strong opinions on all manner of nerdy subjects – from videogames and movies to board games and toys.
I used to be a bit of a Grinch about Resident Evil 4. I knew it was a solid action game at its core, had good atmosphere and some very intense moments and, of course, was extremely influential to the videogame landscape as a whole after its release in 2005. But I was also disappointed that it wasn’t much of a “Resident Evil.” But now we have a modern remake of what many people consider to be one of the best (and one of their favorite) games of all time, done in a similar style to the spectacular () Resident Evil 2 Remake. Obviously this new RE4 has won me over, but here’s the thing: A big reason why is because of all the really small things it’s changed and refined.
I swear I’m not the kind of person who nitpicks tiny details or views plot contrivances as an experience-ruining catastrophe, but aside from the whole “It’s not a ‘real’ Resident Evil” thing there were a ton of little details that never sat right with me. And I never really understood that until this remake came along. Expect some mild story spoilers from here on out, by the way.
All of the game’s various areas and maps flow together much more naturally, making the non-specific Iberian countryside feel tangible and real – or at least not disjointed and strange, as it did the first time around. And various locations and landmarks can be spotted from most of the first half’s more open vistas, giving you a chance to see where you can go and look back at where you’ve been. And this extends to many of the boss fights and other set piece encounters, which now get the proper amount of time to breathe with better (and longer) quiet setup moments before finally unleashing parasitic hell. And on a similar note, I like how village chief Bitores Méndez is presented in a much more intimidating light all-around – particularly how being shot through a window in that scene doesn’t faze him so much as annoy him, and how rather than diving out of the window after the shooter just kind of looks up and smirks as they disappear, then slowly grabs his hat and leaves.
Character interactions are also much improved with far more natural dialogue and banter – both during cutscenes and in-game. Some of the original’s over-the-top cheese remains (or has been replaced with all-new fermented dairy), but it sounds more like something a real person might say. I particularly appreciated the back-and-forth between Leon and Ashley over the course of my playthrough. Like Ashley chastising Leon about not warning her before throwing a flashbang (and him then shouting out warnings as he throws one), their quips slowly shifting from a little awkward and unsure to familiar and trusting a time goes on, and my personal favorite: Ashley questioning Leon’s decision to jump on and swing from a chandelier, calling out one of the game’s many somewhat silly puzzles.
The biggest small change for me, though, is easily the way remote communications have been handled this time around. In the original game, everyone would simply stop and chat on what most people jokingly referred to as a CODEC (referencing the radio calls from Metal Gear Solid), which even then felt kind of weird. Like why and how would the game’s big baddies bother with a video chat on government-issued technology? In the remake this all makes way more sense as only a few characters (who would understandably have a similar means of communication and the game straight-up shows them holding the devices) do the video call thing. For the others, Salazar uses an old-school acoustic tube system built into his castle as a PA and Saddler appears mostly through parasite-connected mental imagery. Both of these approaches make much more sense, narratively, and feel way more natural to the characters and their settings.
There are plenty of other reasons why I’ve come to thoroughly appreciate and enjoy the Resident Evil 4 Remake that aren’t related to minutiae, of course. But now I think I can finally look at it in the same way most of the rest of the world does, too. And it’s mostly thanks to a whole lot of little things that had been picking at my brain for decades without me even realizing it. Like a dull ache you didn’t know is there until one day it’s gone.
Rob Rich is a guy who’s loved nerdy stuff since the 80s, from videogames to anime to Godzilla to Power Rangers toys to Transformers, and has had the good fortune of being able to write about them all. He’s also editor for the Games section of Exploits! You can still find him on Twitter, Instagram and Mastodon.