The long-awaited remake of Resident Evil 4 finally launches next week, and there’s no denying it’s a technically-impressive update of a survival-horror classic that still holds up today (check out my review for Wccftech here). That said, I have to admit I was slightly disappointed by the scope and ambition of the remake. Capcom certainly treats RE4 respectfully, but they don’t reinvent and elevate the source material to the same degree they did with their remakes of Resident Evil or Resident Evil 2.
Another thing that colored my opinion of the new Resident Evil 4 is that Capcom is releasing it less than two years after Resident Evil Village, which itself was clearly meant to be an RE4 successor of sorts. The European backwater setting, the mobs of enemies, the heightened campy tone, the quest to rescue a damsel in distress – if Capcom had titled the game Resident Evil 4 Part 2 I doubt many would have batted an eye. In fact, in my opinion, Resident Evil Village carries on the legacy of the original Resident Evil 4 in more vital fashion than its own remake (I gave RE Village a 9, while the RE4 Remake got an 8.5). I realize I’m going out on a limb here and that not everyone will agree, but here’s why I thought Resident Evil Village was a more exciting Resident-Evil-4-style adventure than the actual RE4 Remake…
Warning: I’m avoiding Resident Evil 4 spoilers here, with the exception of some broad, general statements and descriptions. That said, this article will include Resident Evil Village spoilers.
Resident Evil Village plays better
Let’s start with the basics. While the Resident Evil 4 remake is largely the experience you remember, delivering over-the-shoulder shooting, dramatic spin kicks and more, the game actually has some issues on the control front. Aiming is a bit sluggish and movement can feel herky-jerky – Leon’s basic walking speed is very slow compared to his running speed, and there’s no middle ground between creeping around at a snail’s pace and charging around like a bull. While the controls aren’t bad, they do take some getting used to, and even quite late into the game I occasionally found myself frustrated by them.
By comparison, Resident Evil Village felt better in terms of basic playability to me. As is usually the case, its first-person shooting works better than the third-person gunplay found in RE4, and Village generally did a good job of designing its challenges around the perspective. Coming to terms with slightly wonky control schemes is a long RE tradition, but more than perhaps any previous game in the series, I felt like I could jump into Village and have fun without any undue learning curve.
Village has better villains
Resident Evil 4 has a solid lineup of baddies, but they’re easily surpassed by Resident Evil Village’s wonderful rogues gallery of freaks. The stylish and intimidating (in a good way) Lady Dimitrescu, the ghostly Donna Beneviento, the rogue-ish wolfman Karl Heisenberg, and the grotesque swamp creature Salvatore Moreau – each a celebration of classic horror genres that could stand on their own as the main villain of a full RE game. Instead, Capcom gave us all of them at once, elevating Village to a Grand Guignol classic. The likes of Lord Saddler from RE4 pale in comparison (Ramon Salazar could stand with the best of Village’s weirdos though).
Village has a better hero
This will likely be one of the more divisive points on this list. I know a lot of people like Leon Kennedy, but the guy is basically a block of wood with a nice haircut. What does Leon care about beyond not being eaten by zombies and “getting the job done”? After multiple games, we don’t really know! Meanwhile, even though he may not have face, we know what Ethan Winters cares about. He cares about his wife, he cares about his daughter. He’s got real human motivations beyond “the President told me to save you.” I actually care about what happened to Ethan. If Leon simply disappeared halfway through RE4 and was replaced by Chris Redfield or any one of Capcom’s other block-of-wood protagonists, I’d probably just roll with it.
Village is scarier
Okay, let’s be real, Resident Evil 4 may be a classic, but it ain’t scary. It’s tense at times, but that’s not really the same thing. Resident Evil Village goes in a lot of different directions during its campaign, but unlike RE4, it actually attempts real horror. Castle Dimitrescu delivers some gothic chills, but the real standout is House Beneviento, which serves up some of the thickest tension in Resident Evil history. I have nothing against the more action-y side of RE, but I prefer when the series doesn’t completely abandon scares.
Village is a celebration of the Resident Evil series as a whole
Continuing on from the last point, the fact that Resident Evil Village does go in so many different directions is what I like best about it. Some may accuse the game of being unfocused, but these directions weren’t chosen arbitrarily. Castle Dimitrescu is a celebration of classic Resident Evil, with its Metroidvania-style map, locked doors, and charmingly obtuse puzzles. House Beneviento is a return to the more intense, atmospheric horror of Resident Evil 7. Of course, the village hub and Heisenberg’s Factory are pure action RE. By comparison, Resident Evil 4 largely stays in its own singular lane, making only fleeting attempts to appeal to fans of different styles of RE games.
Village carries on Resident Evil 4’s tradition of bold creativity
Arguably the key thing that really made Resident Evil 4 great was Capcom and director Shinji Mikami’s willingness to throw anything and everything at the wall. Seemingly, whatever wild set pieces the developers could dream up made it into the game, restraint be damned. Unfortunately, by its very nature, you don’t get that from the Resident Evil 4 remake. Capcom reimagines RE4’s iconic moments, but they don’t create a lot of new ones.
No, if you want a game that truly carries on the mad ethos of the original Resident Evil 4, you need to pick up Resident Evil Village. This is a game that, from moment to moment, will pit you against an 8-foot tall vampress and her sapphic brood, a haunted house full of evil dolls and a giant shrieking fetus, or a scrap metal monster you need to take down with a makeshift mech. If RE4 dialed it wildness up to 11, RE Village broke the knob clean off.
Village builds to the future
When you finish playing Resident Evil Village, you’re filled with anticipation about what might come next. This is the latest story in the Resident Evil mythos, one that wrap up the Ethan Winters arc, provides character development for the likes of Chris Redfield, and introduces a character who may well be the core of the next generation of RE heroes, Rose Winters (who stars in her own excellent RE Village DLC story campaign). By comparison, we know exactly where Resident Evil 4 leads – Resident Evil 5 and 6, two games that represent the nadir of the core RE continuity and almost certainly won’t be getting remakes.
Now if you haven’t jumped to the comments section to curse my name yet, I have to emphasize that I don’t think the Resident Evil 4 remake is a bad game. Again, I gave it an 8.5! But I think Capcom could have pushed harder with the new RE4. They could have made something truly surprising, something that felt groundbreaking all over again, even if it meant risking some fan backlash. As is, I feel like Resident Evil Village actually embodies the daring spirit of the RE4 better than the remake. But that’s just my opinion. Feel free to scroll on down and share yours.
Resident Evil Village can be played on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, and Switch (via the cloud). Resident Evil 4 launches on PC, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, and PS5 on March 24.