‘Resident Evil 4 Remake’: A Classic Game Is Updated For Next-Gen Consoles

The 2005 horror survival game is back with fresh graphics, and it's as panic-inducing as ever.

Leon Kennedy under attack in Resident Evil 4. Capcom

A curse must have something to do with it. Back in 2005 when Resident Evil 4 was released for the Nintendo GameCube, I realized the action-oriented horror survival offering would be one of the best games of the year—it was just so eerie—but I did not have luck playing it. Though I’ve never been a very agile gamer, it had nothing to do with the way I used the controller. Midway through the game, my save file became corrupt. I asked Nintendo about this, and they said there was nothing they could do to retrieve the file. Crestfallen and busy, I never went back  to start again.

Nonetheless, what I had seen had made me appreciate the series, which surely must have been an inspiration for the 2013 game The Last of Us, itself recently turned into a HBO hit. So last week when Capcom released Resident Evil 4 Remake, with art enhanced for the high definition of today’s PlayStation 5 and Xbox 4K graphics, I was just so ready for a deep dive into the 14-hour game. But again, the curse: after trying various console setting configurations, I couldn’t get the downloaded product to emit sound. Not the sound of people, or the monsters, or music, or weapons. The saddening frustration was palpable.

I wondered if I should get another game code and reinstall, but I couldn’t wait. After all, back in 2005 Resident Evil games didn’t have as much dialog as the series does today. The horror was more about the visuals: thin paths of spiky fences adding a claustrophobic feeling to the journey, bulked up enemies wearing hoods over their heads, violent confrontations with the infected as you protected your meager existence with a knife to their neck or a bullet to their head. Young, blonde protagonist Leon Kennedy is even called a silent type by one of the characters.

So I played without the sound—the dialog and narrative wouldn’t be as important as the interacting with the environment and monsters. The plot remained the same: Kennedy searching for the president’s recently kidnapped daughter somewhere in Spain. In between battles with gross goons throwing grenades, stabbing at me with pitchforks, or chewing on my flesh, there was a constant search for weapons and ammo found in drawers or shelves, in dark hallways or abandoned wooden houses. Equally important was finding green, red and yellow herbs, which, when mixed together, restore health and power. Along the way, you pick up quests, which give you pesetas to collect.

Spending these at a merchant’s table was slightly creepy in itself. The merchant, a Ganado, is hooded and physically wide in the way thick-shouldered Marvel characters are made, with eyes that pierce and seem to have their own source of uncanny light. It may seem odd, though, that the Ganados are named with a Spanish word that translates to “cow” in English. But the Ganados are generally those infected by a mind-controlling parasite, and they have a backstory that’s unsettling and detailed.

Then, about six hours in, the sound magically returned. It was like a new world had been unveiled. The wind blew through leaves and gullies. Doors creaked heavily as though no amount of WD-40 would fix the hinges. Even Leon’s own footsteps were foreboding. The Ganados yelled “Donde esta?!?” as they searched for me, and the soundtrack’s long, mournful notes added more tension. When I visited the merchant again his British voice was deep, commanding, yet reassuring that worthy purchases had been made.

Words of optimism were sorely needed when monsters were out to get me at every turn. After the monsters enter and attack when there’s a moment before more hordes move to get me, I stopped to consider how great this game still is, almost 20 years later. For even more proof, I reflected upon a being in a body of water. The main thing I remembered about the 2005 version was a lake creature in an area called Valdelobos. Its gigantic nature may have been due to the power of console computer chips at the time that allowed such creations, but many game makers were creating intricate, oversized, towering enemies. Sony’s God of War with its building-high Cyclops was one. And Resident Evil 4 had this massive Del Lago, a vicious, infested salamander with the sharp-toothed maw of a great white shark. It was 65 feet long.

My first encounter with it was startling. From shore, Leon sees in men in a small motor boat dumping a body, and in a flash, Del Lago rises from the depths to consume the dead man. Later, dragging my boat around the lake, it was up to me to kill him with harpoons. The animation here, while not exactly movie scary, is panic-inducing. If someone enters the living room while you play, they’ll see a bug-eyed terror on your face.

In the end, my initial peaceful, soundless experience without the sounds of grunting, screaming, crashing and blood flowing led me to enjoy the graphics and animation more fully. Having said that, I wouldn’t want to review a game sans audio again. When they enhance Resident Evil 4 the next time (because classic, popular games are remastered a lot after a next generation console is released), maybe the sound will work for me throughout the experience. Here’s to ending the curse.


‘Resident Evil 4 Remake’: A Classic Game Is Updated For Next-Gen Consoles