March 2023 is probably going to be a rough month for anyone releasing a game because all the talk and hype will be around the highly anticipated Resident Evil 4 (RE4) Remake. RE4 is a veritable classic that historically represents the transition point between old school Resident Evil and its modern, more action-savvy interpretation, much like what Achtung Baby or Black were for U2 and Metallica, respectively.
At Sony Playstation’s State of Play event, the first trailer for the remake revealed an RE4 that looks nothing like the original – in spirit, that is. While we can expect more impressive and immersive graphics thanks to modern technology, the tone of the game has shifted significantly just from the visuals alone.
That said, it makes perfect sense for RE4 to take its stylistic cues from Resident Evil Village. Capcom has gone for more grit in its recent remakes as well, which is probably the biggest hint that the remake will be nowhere close to a like-for-like update; it makes sense that the tone across all remake titles will be consistent. Will there be an RE5 remake sans the boulder punching? Gasp.
Aside from the groundbreaking action mechanics, the original RE4 is infamous for a couple of things. One was for its campy tone, punctuated by Leon’s now-legendarily-bad one-liners. It’s hinted that Leon is carrying some degree of trauma over from RE2, and we’re uncertain if that will translate into some form of gallows humour, or if he’ll play the straight man.
And who could forget the awkward – and wildly inappropriate – sexualisation of Ashley Graham, which I’d imagine is certainly not on the cards for the remake. It’s a definite public relations suicide, and it would be remarkably jarring, tone-wise. The kindest thing I can say about Ashley’s original characterisation is that it works – I guess? – if you imagined Yakety Sax being played on loop for nine hours like a Benny Hill marathon while you waited for a punchline that never comes.
Capcom has also teased new looks for Leon, Ashley and Ada Wong. Leon’s default costume looks closer to the one shown in the original RE4 Alpha build; Ashley’s costume also looks based on a previously unused model and Ada sports believable winter wear (body-hugging, of course) this time around.
The same can be said about the enemies The Las Plagas hosts have far more menacing and deranged faces than the original and the zealots staggering towards you in their tattered robes are certainly more disconcerting. All we get of RE4 boss Osmund Saddler is merely his silhouette, though we can clearly see that his staff is in a far more evolved state; not sure if there is any significance in that.
What should be significant is the revelation of a ‘four hands’ symbol that will evoke memories of the Four Houses symbol in REV. It’s canon that Mother Miranda has directly influenced Oswell E. Spencer’s work, which was responsible for the Progenitor virus in RE5, so it’s not a stretch to assume that the RE4 Remake will fill in the blanks canonically of the link between Miranda and Saddler.
If anything, the RE4 Remake looks more in spirit like an RE7 sequel that plays like the old school RE games and I can’t say that it’s a bad thing. We will always have the campy original that’s perfect the way it is, in spite of its flaws. And for that, I can’t think of a good reason why we should have a faithful modern recreation. This is one remake that can’t come soon enough.