I love the Resident Evil 4 remake, even if there were a few things that rubbed me the wrong way—I wish all those spiffy outfits were unlockables instead of paid DLC (I’m ashamed to admit that I coughed up five bucks for that bomber jacket), and The Mercenaries mode feels a little anemic and tacked on, awarding the super-endgame hidden Handcannon to practically anyone with a pulse. But there is one feature of the REM4KE that makes up for all that and more: its sick as hell, Sekiro-style parry.
A quick tap of left bumper or space bar and Leon brings his every day carry-ass combat knife to bear, capable of blocking almost any enemy attack if timed correctly and opening enemies up for a devastating melee combo if you land a “perfect parry” in a tighter window. I highly recommend enabling the option that instead ties it to left click/right trigger outside of aiming down sights as well.
I think the thing that has me in love, and elevates Sekiro and RE4’s parries in particular, is how forgiving they are. I’ve got untold hours logged on the Souls series, but I hardly ever engage with their parry/riposte systems. They’re balanced as daring, hugely risky moves—a whiffed parry in Elden Ring leaves you standing there with your shield arm outstretched like a moron, mouth agape, ready to be thoroughly punished by the Soldier of Godrick or whoever yet again.
Sekiro and RE4, meanwhile, still require timing, but your failure state is far less disastrous. Mistime a counter in Sekiro, and you’ll merely block the attack as normal. A parry in Sekiro is just a precisely-timed block. RE4’s knife works largely the same way—an imperfect parry just becomes a block—and the brisk animation makes parry attempts eminently spammable.
That’s one thing that really rubs me the wrong way about RE4’s max-difficulty Professional mode though: it limits you to exclusively perfect parries. Anything less, and it’s RIP Leon. I understand this as a way of increasing the difficulty in a creative, nonlinear fashion, and this is supposed to be a punishing mode, but it still chafes my hams. Here we are with a perfect game mechanic, and we’re gonna make it feel worse and less rewarding in the name of difficulty. I’d have preferred almost anything else to ratchet up the tension in Professional, and will be keeping to the less-difficult Hardcore because of it (don’t say it’s because I’m bad at the game or I’ll come to your house and ask you to please be nice to me).
Professional gripes aside, RE4’s knife parry is a goddamn revelation. It feels incredible and drastically changes the minute-to-minute tactical reality of these familiar battles—the mad lads took one of the best-feeling shooters ever made and introduced a tangible, unambiguous upgrade to it.
Compared to everything we’ve seen out of Resident Evil since four’s initial release, I don’t think anything else measures up to RE4 Remake’s parry system. RE5’s co-op was certainly welcome, but it came with a worse campaign, no attaché case, and a presentation of sub-Saharan Africa that was criticized at the time and has only aged like milk. Gimme the castle’s baroque interiors and kooky cultists any day. The first person horror turn of seven and Village were great on their own terms, but again, represent a deliberate shift away from RE4 rather than an improvement on it. The RE2 remake, meanwhile, was so good precisely because it recreated RE4’s rules and feel while translating it in a slower-paced, more cramped context with beefier enemies.
Resident Evil 4 Remake is the first time it feels like the series has stepped fully from the original’s shadow and improved on one of the most foundational shooters in recent memory. All I want now is more of this—killer shooting against predominantly melee enemies and one of the best parries in gaming, but in a new story and setting. Give me a fresh locale as memorable as these sumptuous 17th century castle interiors and a protagonist who’s fun like Leon, as opposed to everyone’s favorite room temperature glass of water, Ethan “Look ma, no hands!” Winters. The future of Resident Evil is brighter than it’s been in 18 years though, and I can’t wait to see what Capcom does with this momentum.