Thursday’s Resident Evil showcase gave fans a lot to be excited about thanks to a deep dive into Resident Evil Village. But not everyone left satisfied, as one rumor failed to surface: Capcom didn’t reveal a Resident Evil 4 remake.
For the past year, remake rumblings regarding the horror franchise’s most beloved title have surfaced. Some fans see it as an inevitable endeavor considering that PlayStation classics Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis were both remade in Resident Evil 7’s engine over the past few years. Naturally, Resident Evil 4 seems like it would be next in line (if you ignore Resident Evil: Code Veronica, that is).
While the past two remakes have been huge successes, it’s simply the wrong time for Capcom to revisit Resident Evil 4 — and that’s due to its current template for the franchise.
One size doesn’t fit all
Over the past few years, Capcom has been able to churn out Resident Evil titles thanks to an in-house game engine that was created for Resident Evil 7. The RE Engine allowed the studio to deliver an impressive slate of games over the past few years with consistent quality.
The engine allows for plenty of versatility, as we’ve seen from year to year. Resident Evil 7 uses a first-person perspective and features VR support, both of which helped modernize the languishing franchise. Resident Evil 2 took a more traditional approach, opting for a familiar third-person perspective. Despite those key differences, the games are stylistically united in just about every other way, from visuals to inventory management.
Coming out of 2019, it felt like Capcom had created a one-size-fits-all template for the franchise. Last year’s Resident Evil 3 challenged that idea. While RE7 is a slow-paced, cerebral horror game and RE2 focuses on puzzle box gameplay, RE3 is more of an action game. Players go toe-to-toe with Nemesis, a humanoid mutant capable of dashing around the map at high speeds. That means that players had to do more sprinting than usual to escape the creature.
The Nemesis sections are a low point for the remake. While its predecessors utilize lurching movement to produce tense scares, the running feels comparatively unwieldy in RE3. That made fast-paced sequences feel like a battle against controls at times.
Widely considered one of the best games in the franchise, Resident Evil 4 is an action game, through and through. The GameCube release marked a turning point for the series, trading in slow mansion exploration for gunfights against swarms of parasite-infected creatures. Leon Kennedy is constantly overwhelmed by monsters throughout the game, which is a dramatic shift from the more intimate terror that came from facing one or two zombies at a time.
It’s hard to imagine that the comparatively high-energy game would fit as cleanly with Capcom’s established mechanics. All of the seams that became visible with RE3 would threaten to burst when fast actions become essential to winning.
The RE Engine itself is more than capable of making action work. Capcom used the tool to develop other games like Devil May Cry V, which is about as quick as they come. It’s not that the engine itself is a problem; it’s that the way it’s been utilized for Resident Evil games might not be suited for all of its entries. If Capcom’s going to redo the classic, a more substantial overhaul feels necessary, and that’s going to take time.
If it ain’t broke…
Even beyond that, there’s a more simple reason why Capcom shouldn’t remake Resident Evil 4 right now: It ain’t broke.
RE4 was essentially the game that modernized the series coming out of the PlayStation era. The pivot to action, combined with a more standard approach to camera and control, future-proofed it much better than its predecessors. To this day, it still holds up relatively well as a third-person shooter.
The need to fix Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was much more dire. Both games were extremely awkward due to a combination of fixed camera angles and tank controls, an outdated form of control that was popular for 3D games at the time.
Video games are a strange medium compared to something like movies, because quality can entirely change as technology improves. An old Hollywood classic isn’t a lesser experience in 2021 because it’s in black and white, but a game like Resident Evil 2 can simply cease to be fun at all. That makes some remakes an entirely necessary endeavor.
If Resident Evil 4 is going to be remade, it shouldn’t simply be because there’s money to be earned. A remake shouldn’t so much improve on the original as it should preserve the feeling of playing it at the time it was released. They should redo what’s aged poorly about the game and modernize it enough to make a revisit feel enjoyable. Or they can take the Final Fantasy VII Remake approach and throw everything out the window to create an entirely new game.
In either case, it doesn’t feel like a Resident Evil 4 remake developed today would do anything that the original doesn’t already do on GameCube, other than buffing the graphics. Fans itching to revisit Leon Kennedy’s journey can do so at any time. Instead, let’s allow Capcom to create the kinds of new games that future generations will view with the same reverence 20 years from now.
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