Recent leaks point toward an alleged Resident Evil 4 remake launching 2022 for next-gen consoles. With the first three games receiving the remake treatment, there may be credence to these leaks. However, given Capcom’s varying approaches to remaking Resident Evil games, the fourth entry needs to strike a balance.
Reworked Attaché Case
From Resident Evil 5 onwards, the series adopted a real-time inventory system. While pause menus worked for older, slow-paced installments, Resident Evil 4’s renewed action focus feels at odds with its archaic inventory.
The attaché case has its place. It’s more engaging than the earlier simplistic system whereby each item took up a square on a grid no matter its size. A shotgun consuming the same amount of space as an herb makes little sense. Post-RE 4 entries tried striking a balance with larger items taking up more squares, though, in practice, they’re a lackadaisical compromise made for accessibility’s sake. Major weapons utilize multiple squares whereas everything else uses one.
Resident Evil 4’s attaché case turned inventory management into a tetris-lite game of efficiency. Each item’s unique dimensions make more sense. Eggs take up one space whereas herbs take up two. These diversified item sizes, combined with the ability to rotate items, makes the attaché case more of a minigame than an inventory system.
The remake should expand upon this light puzzling by giving each weapon different shapes. Adding a space around each gun’s trigger and giving each ammo type different dimensions, for example, would add an extra layer of strategy to an already engaging system. Making it real-time also feels necessary as a means to enhance the tension the old pause system lacked.
Coupling that tweaked real-time attaché case with real-time weapon switching would make Resident Evil 4 the best game in the series. Of course, with such conscious game design, the remake would need to alter enemy AI to circumvent potential balancing issues. RE 4 works as an action game despite the old-school mobility because it’s designed around that handicap.
Mobs move slowly. Context-sensitive melee prompts stagger nearby plagas. They stare at players long enough to grab their attention before lunging to give them time to react. When downed, they remain on the ground for a decent chunk of time. Enemies even yell before attacking from behind. This is all without touching upon the dynamic difficulty on normal, which auto adjusts variables such as ammo counts, herb frequency, and extra enemy types during encounters depending on how well players perform. Nothing in Resident Evil 4 was designed with Resident Evil 6’s mobility in mind.
Real-time weapon switching would require more or less aggressive AI depending on Capcom’s approach. If weapon switching is made instantaneous, enemies would need to move and attack faster to fit that modern design sensibility. More active combat requires more active assailants, especially with dedicated grenade and healing buttons, which are almost guaranteed for a modern remake. However, if Capcom adds noticeable delay upon switching weapons or items, AI could stick closer to the original’s level of aggression.
Increasing Leon’s mobility wouldn’t hurt the remake, but it’s best to leave the original’s stop and shoot mechanics in place. So much was changed with RE 3 that the next step needs to be more faithful, leaving less chance of ruining something that wasn’t broken or shattering balancing. Resident Evil 3 remake’s overpowered dodge springs to mind, undercutting much of its intended intensity. Ditching Resident Evil 4’s stiff tank controls are another potential consideration as smoother movement would make the core gameplay loop more enjoyable.
Trimming the Fat
The Resident Evil 3 remake notoriously cut iconic locations along with removing the live selections, which lead to multiple endings. It’s ambitious in the sense that it takes more liberties with its source material compared to the last two remakes, but it’s also more conservative with regard to its reigned in scope.
Resident Evil 4 can cut content without feeling as hamstrung as Resident Evil 3. The game is often praised for its near-perfect design and pacing. Keyword: near-perfect. The castle portion and the segments during which Ashley is split from Leon are pointed to as the game’s biggest flaws. While critics are split on midget Salazar’s eccentricity, his castle is considered a low-point.
Ashley’s sections need an overhaul if they’re not removed altogether. Giving her a simple melee weapon or low-powered handgun opens the doors for more interesting level design and scenarios. To make this viable, she would need to grow a bigger spine while maintaining a sense of vulnerability and inexperience.
Considering Ashley isn’t a beloved character, personality alterations wouldn’t cause much backlash. In addition to reworked Ashley segments, Capcom needs to make judicious decisions about how much of the castle needs to be cut so as to keep Salazar’s presence significant without dragging the game’s pacing.
Expanding Separate Ways and Mercenaries
If Resident Evil 4 hopes to one-up Capcom’s recent output, expanding upon Ada’s Separate Ways campaign would act as a gesture of good faith after Resident Evil 2 botched the original’s zapping system and 3 gutted the live selections. Given the campaign retreads old ground, creating new maps and altering existing maps to make Ada’s campaign feel more unique would realize her campaign’s vision.
Additionally, the series’ Mercenaries mode needs a comeback. Considering Resident Evil 3 removed it, it’s not a given for Capcom to bring it back with 4. The new Mercenaries doesn’t need to be beholden to Resident Evil 4’s events. It can add maps from Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, 5, and 6, meanwhile adding some of those entries’ enemy types and characters. Such a feat requires extensive tweaking given the radical changes in AI and player mobility across each game, but it’s not impossible. Adding online multiplayer would sweeten the deal.
If Capcom feels the need to modernize remakes, make these changes where they’d matter most. Online Mercenaries is a necessity for Resident Evil 4.
Resident Evil 4’s Legacy
As one of the industry’s most critically acclaimed games, a Resident Evil 4 remake needs more care than the Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes. While many people love Resident Evil 2, its updates and changes were necessary for modern audiences. The old-school clunky tank controls with RNG lock-on aiming wasn’t going to fit the bill for 2019.
Its modern controls necessitated sweeping changes. Resident Evil 4, while clunky in some ways, has aged more gracefully. Because of this, the rumored 2022 remake should more closely follow the template laid by the first Resident Evil remake. With modern controls, an altered attaché case, a few nips and tucks, and an expanded Mercenaries mode, next-gen’s Resident Evil 4 can make an impact worthy of its legacy.