Resident Evil 4 Remake Review – Ashley Graham’s Day Off
Leon the professional.
Resident Evil 4 Remake on PS5
Here’s what I imagine a typical day in the life of Ashley Graham to look like: she wakes up bright and early in the White House and checks her phone for the latest gossip from her friends. She gets ready for her day and picks up a pumpkin spice latte before meeting her sorority girls, and they skip classes, go shopping, laugh at the loser guys trying to hit on them… Y’know, typical 20-year-old college girl stuff.
Then one day, she gets kidnapped by a bunch of cult-like weirdos. She gets whisked off to rural Spain with no way or any hope of going home. Within the next 24 hours, she goes through significant trauma, but becomes a much tougher and hardier woman than anyone could’ve ever imagined.
My main takeaway after playing hours upon hours of Resident Evil 4 Remake? Ashley Graham is first name Pretty, last name Awesome.
Capcom’s Resident Evil series entered its renaissance period with the release of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and Resident Evil 2 Remake. RE7 was a strong outing that properly set the tone for the future of the series (though it seemed to flounder in Village), while RE2 Remake served as a powerful reminder of how this series practically defined the survival horror genre back in the 90s.
Resident Evil 4 was a whole other beast, though. While it’s certainly cherished by many, it’s also the game that marked the true turning point for the series: this is where Resident Evil shifted into action territory. Less horror, more shooting. Going into Resident Evil 4 Remake, I was prepared for the horror factor to die off completely, but instead, what I found was a brilliant, and much more beautifully human reimagining of a beloved classic.
The events of Resident Evil 4 Remake kick off with a brand new intro. Leon recounts the events of the past few years, along with what he’s been up to since escaping Raccoon City. He’s never quite gotten over the trauma of that night, and it seems as though things haven’t exactly gotten better since then. He’s sent on an important mission to rescue the president’s daughter in rural Spain, though why the US government would think that one man with 10 handgun bullets is sufficient for such a crucial job is beyond me.
Anyway, things take a turn for the worse when Leon finds out that the village he’s visiting is full of people who have been mind controlled by a strange parasite called Las Plagas. There’s something much more sinister going on here, and popular sorority sister Ashley Graham is caught in the middle of it all.
Resident Evil 4 Remake keeps the core of the 2005 game intact; this is still a third-person shooter game, enemies still drop resources upon death, and surprisingly, it’s actually a tad bit scarier than I remember it. Capcom has clearly opted to go for a slightly darker tone with RE4 Remake, and it becomes obvious as soon as you see the way the muted intro is handled. There are still little jokes here and there (“Wouldn’t wanna get a parking ticket!”), but the villagers don’t quite feel like the same cartoonish villains you remember from 2005.
This is, of course, thanks in no small part to the fact that video games have enjoyed a huge graphical leap since 2005. The villagers’ animations look more realistic now, Las Plagas tendrils look absolutely terrifying, and the gore is even more unsettling. Beautiful lighting effects also really help to set the scene and emphasize the creepy, brainwashy cult ambiance of the entire game.
The horror factor also comes through in Leon’s own subdued manner; while he’s not above making the occasional funny quip, he clearly isn’t the same wisecracking Leon fans might remember from 2005. Leon’s carrying a lot of grief and trauma with him, and he’s determined to get this young girl home safe, no matter the cost.
Truly, the biggest change in RE4 Remake comes with Leon. The softness and tenderness that was present in RE2 Remake Leon is barely here anymore, and in its place is an agent who’s been hardened and perhaps even a little disillusioned with the world. I love emo Leon; his heaviness is never overplayed, and it’s the subtlety of his emotions that make him feel more human, instead of just the hot, supermodel-looking badass who pulls off ridiculous suplexes everywhere he goes.
On the other side of things, we have Ashley. I don’t believe that anyone who’s ever played the original Resident Evil 4 in the history of the world has ever liked Ashley Graham. I mean, if there’s a lone 2005 Ashley Graham fan out there, please drop me an email. I’d love to hear from you. But I think I speak for the majority of the fan base when I say that 2005 Ashley Graham was pretty awful in how she was portrayed. From the bad fashion choices to the annoying “Leon, HALP!”s, as well as the way the game loved to uncomfortably sexualize her every chance it got, Ashley was iconic and hilarious in all the wrong ways.
2023 Ashley Graham, however, is such a huge step up from her 2005 portrayal. Just like Leon, Ashley actually feels like a real human being. She’s a terrified 20-year-old just trying to stay alive while all these cult dudes keep trying to mind-control her, but she has her moments of genuine endearment as well. It’s been fascinating to watch the relationship between Leon and Ashley develop, as she slowly learns to trust him and follow his instructions with no backtalk.
The first time I instructed her to hide in a rusty old locker, Ashley shot back with an incredulous “Seriously?”, which caught me off-guard. As the game progresses, though, she doesn’t just follow your orders with haste, she even starts to help out from time to time. Ashley gradually becomes more protective over Leon as well, as she doesn’t want her sole protector to get hurt, and even has her moments of brightness, which comes through so well in her voice actor’s performance when she accomplishes a small goal and sounds so proud of herself for doing it.
By the time I hit the 10-hour mark and had Leon give Ashley a boost so that she could knock down a ladder for him, I found myself wanting so badly for there to be a prompt to get them to high-five each other. I can’t believe I never realized this before, but Leon and Ashley are the original Joel and Ellie. Don’t @ me.
Just like the RE2 Remake, Resident Evil 4 Remake keeps the general framework of the original game intact, while making some pretty significant changes in several key areas. Most of the old puzzles have been either completely taken out or reimagined to keep you on your toes. The village and castle layouts will feel largely familiar, but new rooms and combat encounters help to spice things up. I welcomed these changes personally, as the game felt much more streamlined than the original, and it cut out several sections that I’d found to be a little too draggy or over-the-top.
Other aspects of the game have been expanded, such as Luis’s role in the story. Even Krauser gets a mini facelift, and the game makes sure to spend some time with him to flesh out his history with Leon. What I used to regard as one of the weakest and most boring boss fights in the game got turned into an incredibly intense and surprisingly emotional sequence in the remake, and I truly believe fans will appreciate the big changes Capcom’s made here.
That being said, there are a couple of sections that could’ve probably used a bit more tweaking. For instance, without getting into spoiler territory, there is a point in the game where you venture underground and are forced to go through a time-gated section while dodging a seemingly unkillable enemy. This would be more exciting if it were handled more like a Mr. X situation from Resident Evil 2, but because the playable area is so small and limited, it doesn’t take long before you figure out the most optimal way to avoid damage and just run down the clock. There are a few segments that definitely felt like padding and could’ve been trimmed down a little, but I’m really nitpicking at this point.
Further, while I’m not usually a stickler for visuals and graphics, I’d be remiss not to at least mention that there are instances where the game does look a little rough around the edges. Don’t get me wrong; Resident Evil 4 Remake is a good-looking game, but when compared directly to RE2 Remake which looked phenomenal, certain boss and character models don’t look quite as polished as you might expect. Again, this isn’t a deal-breaker and don’t let that turn you away from playing, but you may want to consider fiddling with the various graphical modes before starting.
Other familiar RE4-isms remain intact, such as the fun Tetris-like inventory management system, the iconic Merchant (though he’s a little less gravelly this time), as well as the Blue Medallions. New to RE4 Remake is the requests system, where you can pick up optional requests by discovering blue notes plastered all over the world. Completing these will reward you with Spinels, which can then be traded at the Merchants for useful trinkets like more treasures, special weapons, yellow herbs, and more.
Most of the requests are pretty simple as well, usually requiring you to shoot down the familiar Blue Medallions or collect certain items, but there are plenty of other requests that get a lot more involved and challenging.
I’d also almost forgotten just how many weapons this game throws at you. With so many different types of handguns, shotguns, rifles, and SMGs to choose from, the game becomes less about inventory management and more about making smart decisions about which weapons to properly invest in. Sure, it’s hard to feel truly scared when Leon literally becomes a walking arsenal, but that’s also where the fun comes from. The villagers and zealots are aggressive, but learning their patterns and figuring out which weapons are most effective on which enemy types is what makes the game so satisfying to play.
As always, the real challenge begins when you replay the game on higher difficulty levels. While RE4 Remake is considerably lengthier than RE2 Remake, it’s still a highly replayable game as there are new goals to strive towards on subsequent playthroughs, such as better rankings and conquering it on its most brutal difficulty.
Despite my strong love for the series, I’ve always regarded Resident Evil as a B-movie-style franchise that was just fun to engage with. You don’t play a Resident Evil game for the emotional narrative and complex characters; you play it for the zombies, the intensity that comes with having to manage your resources carefully, and the satisfaction of blasting the final boss with a convenient rocket launcher. I’d expected as much from Resident Evil 4 Remake and I wasn’t disappointed. What I didn’t expect was a game with characters that I could actually get attached to.
Leon and Ashley were supposed to be fun, meme-able characters that I could laugh at; they weren’t supposed to have real feelings that got me invested, but I did. I can’t overstate just how much I’ve enjoyed their portrayals in this game, and how gracefully their character arcs have developed. Resident Evil 4 Remake is further proof that Capcom knows exactly what made these games so beloved in the first place, and longtime fans will find a lot to love in this brilliant recreation of the 2005 classic.
- A much more streamlined version of the 2005 game that doesn’t feel like it betrays the original.
- Leon and Ashley have great character arcs.
- Parts of the story have been expanded and make more sense in the overarching narrative.
- Highly replayable, especially with multiple difficulty modes.
- The inventory management and zombie-shootin’ is still really fun.
- There are one or two sections that kinda drag a little.
- Graphically, the game doesn’t look quite as good as RE2 Remake.
March 24, 2023
PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC
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