Three months into the year, Capcom's Resident Evil 4 remake has cemented its reputation as one of the best games of 2023. Shacknews senior news editor TJ Denzer awarded it a 10 out of 10, the first such score in our history. "Capcom had a mountain of a task remaking Resident Evil 4," he wrote, acknowledging the 2005 original as a landmark title that set the mold for third-person action games going forward. Despite the long shadow cast by its predecessor, the remake "improves upon a masterpiece in ways that will make it hard to go back to the original," TJ concluded.
While TJ played through Resident Evil 4 on PS5, I started on the same platform and then jumped into the Steam version supplied by Capcom for review. Our objective in playing through the game on two platforms was not to write separate reviews, but to take a closer look at how one of 2023's early Game of the Year contenders performs on the PC. Capcom's remakes of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 included a treasure trove of bells and whistles in their respective PC ports. Resident Evil 4 is another impressive showing for the RE Engine, though not without a few very minor caveats to keep in mind as you play.
PC specs and performance
I played Capcom's Resident Evil 4 remake on two PCs: one at home, and another at the Shacknews office. Their specs are as follows:
- OS: Windows 10 Home 64-bit
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 8-Core Processor at 3.6GHz
- Memory: 16GB
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super
- DirectX Version: DirectX 12
- OS: Windows 10 Home 64-bit
- Processor: Intel i9-9900K at 3.6GHz
- Memory: 64GB
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
- DirectX Version: DirectX 12
* All videos for this article were captured on the PC at the Shacknews office.
The game played very well on both PCs, though I was able to push the RE Engine further at the Shacknews office. As with Capcom's remakes of RE2 and RE3, Resident Evil 4's Display and Graphics menus boast options that allow you to customize the experience to your PC's specifications. Settings from frame rate and display mode, to SSAO and ray tracing, to support for HDR and the new hairstrand system can be adjusted over multiple levels.
Performance meters on the right-hand side of the screen are adjusted in real time to show you how your choices will affect performance, and the accompanying screenshot above the meters reflects how the visuals will change in-game. The robustness of these menus is one of two main advantages of playing on PC. (The other being controls, a topic we'll dig into later.) Compared to the console versions, especially last-gen systems, there's no shortage of granular adjustments you can make and appreciate.
The only downside, as with the remakes of RE2 and RE3, is that these menus feel rooted in console UI design. For instance, you can click on any setting that's visible, but only so many options are displayed on the screen at a time, so you have to scroll laboriously from option to option to find the settings you want. The placement of your cursor can cause the highlighted option to skip around, resulting in more scrolling than should be necessary. I had an easier time navigating the menus using the keyboard.
Still, that's a minor complaint in the face of how well the game looks and performs. After fussing with various settings, I played using Resident Evil 4's Maximum, Ray Tracing, Graphics, and Balanced preset options found in the Graphics menu. Maximum cranks everything to the max, as you would expect, while Ray Tracing turns that option up to its highest settings. Maximum pushed our office PC to its limits; the frame rate dropped to the low 30s, and the gains were not enough for me to continue playing at that setting, seeing as Capcom targeted 60 fps. Every other option performed much better, and without sacrificing much fidelity.
RE4's hairstrand system is especially impressive. The RE Engine renders strands as individual objects so that hair moves and reacts realistically to movement, or at least realistically enough. If you open the game's photo mode and zoom in on character models, you'll be treated to a high amount of detail and impressive lighting in textures on clothing, weapons, character models, and each individual strand of Leon's luxurious mane.
RE4's Ray Tracing--both the preset and the option available in the Graphics menu--is more of a tossup. Reflections on surfaces of water such as the lake in the Village area and in puddles of rain is more implied than rendered accurately, at least from what I could tell. That worked in the game's favor. Resident Evil 4 is meant to be a dirty, grungy game set in dirty, grungy settings--with the exception of the Castle region, which is appropriately opulent--so there isn't supposed to be much of an opportunity for Leon to stand around admiring his handsome mug in mirrors or puddles. Ray tracing is implemented well enough to be implied rather than perfect, and that's all the game needs.
On the whole, Resident Evil 4 is smooth and stunning, exactly what such a marquee release demands. At home, I switched between Balanced and Graphics and stuck with the latter. The frame rate dipped below 60 occasionally, but never enough to impact gameplay. Even on the Balanced preset, RE4 looked better than the PS5 version. The flexibility of the RE Engine means the game will play well and look great on a range of systems.
Controls and console comparisons
Besides graphics, another reason anyone would play a game on a PC over a console is to benefit from the inherently tighter precision of mouse and keyboard controls. I played the remakes of RE2 and RE3 on consoles (PS4 and PS5, respectively) and on PC, and preferred both experiences on PC. Capcom's Resident Evil 4 remake is no exception.
Aiming with a mouse is more intuitive and more accurate than aiming with analog sticks, yet I had to marvel at how Capcom accounted for this, if indirectly. When Resident Evil 4 launched in 2005, it was the vanguard of third-person, over-the-shoulder action games, making the 2005 original as significant to the evolution of game design as earlier landmark 3D titles such as Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was also a very different style of Resident Evil, shedding pre-rendered backgrounds and static camera angles but keeping tank controls.
To help players adapt to this new perspective, Capcom fixed every weapon with a laser sight. However, there was also an AI director that adjusted difficulty depending on your performance. Score too many headshots, and the AI director made the Ganado weave and duck more often to throw off your aim. Miss too many shots or suffer too much damage, and the director dialed down the difficulty to give you an edge.
Aiming in Resident Evil 4's remake is tight, but feels a little off, something TJ Denzer mentioned in his review. That's the case with the PC version as well. I felt more comfortable aiming and shooting with a mouse than I did with the PS5's Dualsense controller, but to his credit, TJ scored the highest marks in every shooting gallery minigame before I did, and he's only played on PS5. You're encouraged to improve your aiming by seeking out weapon attachments such as a laser sight or stock for certain weapons, and rifle scopes with additional magnification. Those accouterments, coupled with the inherently greater accuracy of a mouse, will improve your play, but, again, never to the detriment of removing tension from what's supposed to be a tense gameplay experience.
My only advice is to turn up the aim sensitivity. I had to slide my mouse across the pad and lift it several times just to get Leon to aim at targets far to either side. This advice applies to controllers as well, on all versions of the game, but it’s practically a requirement if you want to use the mouse.
Visually, Resident Evil 4's PC version holds several advantages over its console counterparts. The game's rain, rendered as fat, ugly, white drops in a trailer released earlier this month, caused a kerfuffle among fans who were convinced that ugly raindrops meant the RE4 remake was doomed to failure. I think I get what Capcom was going for: You're in a torrential downpour, at night, so darkness coupled with heavy rain should enhance the atmosphere: it's a dark and stormy night, things are moving out there in the darkness, and all that. There was another water-related issue that TJ Denzer and I both noticed. During a certain boss fight that takes place on water, the rippling effect on the surface caused by the boss's movement just below the surface looked like one big, ugly texture on PS5. It stood out to us because every other part of the game world is rendered so beautifully.
Capcom reassured everyone that the rain (and conceivably other issues) would be addressed in a day one patch. I can't speak to that, but I can say that the raindrops and the water texture during the aforementioned boss fight were somewhat distracting on PS5. On PC, they were nonissues. There's a Rain setting in the Graphics menu, and rain was rendered realistically on both my home PC and at the Shacknews office so that the atmosphere was enhanced in the way Capcom seemed to have wanted without the effect being distracting. The wave texture during the boss fight on the lake was noticeable, but not at all distracting.
Stranger, stranger! Now THAT'S a weapon!
Aside from the quibbles noted above, some of which do not exist on the PC, my experience playing Capcom's Resident Evil 4 remake on Windows was as pleasant as the dozens of hours I've logged in Capcom's previous "REmakes." If you played 2019's Resident Evil 2 or 2020's Resident Evil 3 on PC, buy this version with confidence, and indulge in what is arguably Capcom's greatest game to date and inarguably one of the best games of 2023.
David Craddock posted a new article, PC is the best way to play Resident Evil 4
The hardcore pc player in me wants to agree, but even AAA games haven’t been immune from shader stutter and varieties of performance issues. That and WFH are enough reason to kick back on the couch instead most of the time. Unless it is a first person game, of course, then PC is undeniably better despite any issues for me.
I guess I’m more of a traditionalist when it comes to RE games and they feel more natural on console rather than m+kb. I’m not going to debate which control scheme is better, but the “limitations” of playing on console enhanced the experience for me. I haven’t played the new one, but I remember this being a point of contention back in 2005.
Fully playable in 3rd-person VR now, too!
It’s been very good so far on PC ultrawide 3440x1440. Good performance at default details. I jumped right into hardcore difficulty and the intro village swarm was a lot more intense than the demo was for me, which I assume was at normal difficulty. I’ve made it to the church around the lake. For some reason I didn’t think the textures in the demo looked very good, but the full version looks really great in any event.
As expected I love the rifle again. The bolt thrower seems a bit weak by default, I’ll be upgrading the power to see if it comes around.