Resident Evil 4 preview: Major gameplay changes detailed

A new look at the Resident Evil 4 remake has revealed a few more new details about how the game has changed. Here's what we discovered.
Resident Evil 4 remake Garrador

The remake of Resident Evil 2 was a revelation; an almost complete reimagining of the iconic PSOne survival horror game. When Capcom announced it would be giving the same treatment to Resident Evil 4 (RE4), there was some confusion. After all, RE4 was the genesis of this new form of third-person, action-orientated survival horror in the first place – and they were still releasing ports of it as recent as 2021.

What’s since become clearer, as we’ve gotten to see more of the game, is that despite the timeless format of the game, Capcom still seems committed to changing large swaths of it. This applies to mechanical systems, the environment, enemies, as well as the overall look, feel, and atmosphere of Resident Evil 4.

Read: Pulling Dead Space from the shadow of its remake

Capcom recently provided media with an extended hands-off look at the game, which showcased new scenarios from later on in the game (the initial previews focused on the game’s opening hour), which involved mid-game enemies, a reimagined boss fight, and sequences where you’re escorting Ashley, the daughter of the President of the United States.

Here’s a breakdown of what we learned:

The Knife has undergone significant changes

Most Resident Evil enthusiasts know how important the trusty knife is when facing a gauntlet of zombie-like creatures. In the original Resident Evil 4, the knife was a handy, indestructible tool useful for finishing off enemies and conserving ammo.

In Resident Evil 4 remake, the knife has undergone a number of changes that make it far more useful – but you need to be far more conservative with it.

Resident Evil 4 Remake preview screenshot
Image: Capcom

The Knife has durability and can break in Resident Evil 4 remake. If it does, you need to repair it at the merchant before you can use it again. And you should, because no matter what your play style, the knife has several important uses.

Instead of frantically slashing at downed enemies, the knife can now instantly kill them in a takedown move. This will reduce its durability by a small chunk. Something that’s more useful is being able to use the knife to break free of an enemy grab, which also reduces its durability, but can save you from sudden death. We also know from our initial preview of RE4 that the knife can be used to silently take down enemies from behind if Leon is hidden – stealth plays a big part in the remake.

Image: Capcom

The biggest new addition is that you can parry attacks with the knife and negate the damage they might cause. You can parry melee attacks, thrown weapons, arrows, and the terrifying tentacles that explode from the head of the Ganado enemies later in the game. Parrying with your knife will reduce its durability, however.

This new emphasis on the knife has resulted in at least one major change to one of the big beats of the game: the knife fight with Krauser, one of the game’s antagonists. Previously a cinematic sequence that incorporated sporadic QuickTime events – button commands that had to be executed within a time limit – the fight in the remake is now an actual knife fight that you participate in.

Image: Capcom

Knife parries obviously play a big part in it as you try to get your own hits in. From the footage we saw, it’s a far less exciting interaction, but one that’s nonetheless a lot tenser, as you try to avoid being stabbed.

The Attache Case for your inventory is customisable

Customising and upgrading your weapons in Resident Evil is not a new idea, and Resident Evil 4 maintains a lot of the same mechanics of the original. You can upgrade your weapons (including the knife, this time) to improve specific attributes, like fire rate, reload speed, ammo capacity, and eventually throw attachments on them to further improve their performance.

What’s new is that this extends to your Attache Case this time as well – the thing that carries all your stuff. While you will presumably be able to expand the available storage in it, Resident Evil 4 remake will also let you equip different cases and attach different charms to them for inherent benefits.

Here are the examples we saw:

  • Silver Attache Case – Provides an increase drop rate for handgun ammo.
  • Black Attache Case – Provides an increased drop rate for resources.
  • Chicken Charm – Gives +100% health recovery when eating eggs.

New Weapon: The Bolt Thrower

Leon now has access to a new weapon called the Bolt Thrower, which appears to be some kind of modified crossbow. It’s very possible that this replaces the Mine Thrower weapon from the original game, and potentially draws inspiration from the same weapon that Ada Wong uses when you control her in Separate Ways, a side story for the original Resident Evil 4.

Resident Evil 4 Remake preview screenshot
Image: Capcom

The footage we saw had Leon combining the bolt thrower with a mine, which turned it into an explosive projectile. It’s easy to assume there will be other kinds of combinations we can make for different effects, turning it into Resident Evil 4’s version of the series’ elemental Grenade Launcher.

Stealth plays a big part in Resident Evil 4 remake

We’ve already known that Leon has a new ability in Resident Evil 4 remake – crouching – and that he can use that to sneak around and take out enemies with his knife, if he hasn’t been spotted. But the new footage we witnessed showed another element of the original which has been tweaked to incorporate this new ability.

In a fight with the Garrador enemy – blind berzerkers with enormous claws on their hands – being stealthy is one of the keys to taking them out unharmed. In the original, Leon would have to use the environment to trick them into charging away from him, exposing the weak spot on their back.

In RE4 remake however, you’ll have to be very, very quiet and sneak up behind them, at which point you can deal significant amounts of damage by plunging your knife into them.

Like most other attacks, the wild swipes of the Garrador can be parried with the knife – but doing so in this instance will seemingly reduce the durability of the knife. The Garrador’s claws are significantly larger, after all.

Resident Evil 4 remake is a much darker, moodier game

Again, we noted this in our first preview of Resident Evil 4: the remake is much darker, grimier, and overall more atmospheric when compared to the original. A lot of the reason is the dramatic advancements in visual rendering technology, of course – the original was a Nintendo GameCube game from 2005 – but it’s not just about the clarity of the details.

The original Resident Evil 4 had almost a 1970s Texas Chainsaw Massacre-inspired vibe, thanks to its art direction and slasher vibes – this was a dramatic shift for the series at the time. Resident Evil 4 remake almost seems to be reimagined with Resident Evil’s original ‘spooky haunted mansion’ feeling in mind.

This is just speculation upon seeing a small portion of the game, of course – the section we previewed largely took place in the castle location and its surrounds, as Leon meets antagonist Ramon Salazar and his army of zealots.

We remain very curious to see how meaningful these changes are across the full length of the game. Resident Evil 4 continues to look incredibly sharp and exciting, but it remains to see just how vital and different it ends up feeling.

Resident Evil 4: Release Date

Resident Evil 4 will be available on 24 March 2023 on PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and Xbox Series X/S.

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Edmond was the founding managing editor of GamesHub. He was also previously at GameSpot for 13 years, where he was the Australian Editor and an award-winning video producer. You can follow him @EdmondTran