Resident Evil 4 is a few weeks away, but eager fans can play its opening chapter right now thanks to the newly released Chainsaw Demo. The non-timed demo allows fans to experience the upcoming remake’s opening, which sees Leon S. Kennedy fending off a town full of angry villagers. It offers a taste of the full game’s reworked combat system, but it also reveals some very significant story changes in the new version.
The original game goes through what happened in Raccoon City and details the subsequent downfall of the Umbrella Corporation, the pharmaceutical company responsible for creating a zombie virus. After a quick title splash, Leon explains that he received special training after the Raccoon City incident and was given a government job. His task would be to protect the U.S. President’s family. When his daughter goes missing, Leon is sent to a remote Spanish town to find her.
That’s pretty much all we get in terms of setup. it’s a quick and convenient way for the series to write off its traditional zombie premise and transform Leon from a local cop to an international government agent. Since Resident Evil 4 was an entirely new chapter for the game, there wasn’t much preexisting lore to go on when it came to what happened to Leon between Resident Evil 2 and 4.
In the new version of Resident Evil 4, that opening tells a far different story. Leon once again recalls the events of Resident Evil 2, explaining what happened in Raccoon City and the government’s decision to nuke the entire place. He isn’t so matter-of-fact about the incident this time; he expresses deep trauma over the event and he seems to harbor resentment over the government for its actions.
Here’s where things get interesting. Leon doesn’t just say that he gained special training after the event; he notes that he was forced into government service this time. That’s significant for fans because it acknowledges a major piece of lore that was introduced in Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, an obscure Nintendo Wii light gun game that would retcon Leon’s backstory in 2009. That game reveals that the government essentially blackmailed Leon into service, threatening to kill the G-Virus-infected child, Sherry Birkin, that he rescued in Resident Evil 2 if he didn’t comply.
It’s worth noting that the cinematic kind of botches its own timeline by accident. When discussing that event, it shows footage from the Netflix CGI miniseries Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, implying that’s when this all happened. In fact, that series takes place after Resident Evil 4, so its inclusion doesn’t really make much sense despite looking like accurate B-roll. You certainly won’t need to watch it to catch up (nor will you need to watch Netflix’s recent live-action adaptation for that matter).
The rest of the intro adds some original pieces to that backstory, too. Leon explains that his government training was grueling. To illustrate that, we see footage of him battling with Jack Krauser, a character who was originally introduced fresh in Resident Evil 4. Krauser’s backstory has been significantly expanded since then — Leon and he are actually partners in Darkside Chronicles. That game also sets up why he eventually goes rogue and what’s up with his arm. To my knowledge, though, this is the first time we’re told that Krauser formally trained Leon.
All of this opens some interesting possibilities for the remake. It seems like we’re going to get a version of Leon who’s more of an unwilling participant in his mission, and one who’s dealing with trauma and resentment for his employer. We can also expect that Krauser and Leon’s relationship will be much deeper this time, playing off their history. All of that could make the new version of Resident Evil 4 feel more consistent with the nearly 20 years worth of plot development that came after its success.
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