Resident Evil 4 Remake is one of the best games of 2023. Actually, it just might be one of the best remakes ever. That’s why it’s such a shame that the remake’s recent microtransactions compromise the spirit of one of the game’s best features.
Capcom recently updated Resident Evil 4 Remake with quite a bit of new content. While the new (or returning) Mercenaries mode was the highlight of that update, it also introduced quite a few new microtransaction options called “Exclusive Upgrade Tickets.” Those tickets allow you to unlock the exclusive, final upgrade for the weapon of your choice. Those same tickets can also be purchased with in-game currency via the Merchant. The microtransaction versions of those tickets can also be acquired and applied at any time, whereas the in-game versions require quite a bit of grinding and are usually only acquired after you’ve upgraded most other parts of a weapon.
In many ways, these microtransactions aren’t surprising. After all, Resident Evil 4 Remake already offered premium “Treasure Map” DLC that filled the game with significantly more treasures. For that matter, the recent Resident Evil remakes (and Village) offered similar cash-for-upgrades purchase options. In the grand scope of modern gaming, these are also hardly the most offensive microtransactions on the market.
However, the keyword there is “modern.” We may expect modern games to offer shortcut, pay-to-progress microtransactions, but they always still feel at least somewhat scummy. Besides, one of the best things about the base Resident Evil 4 Remake was the way it served as the antithesis of that microtransaction model.
The base version of Resident Evil 4 Remake celebrates unlocks and cheats like few games in recent memory. It allows you to acquire everything from new costumes and special trinkets to powerful weapons and unlimited ammo simply by playing the game. While there are special sidequests and activities directly related to certain unlockables, pretty much every aspect of the game contributes to unlocking some small part of it in some way.
That’s hardly a new system. The original Resident Evil 4 offered similar incentives, and so did a lot of other games of that era. Who didn’t try to unlock every character in Tony Hawk or grind for those famous GoldenEye 007 cheats? At a time before the rise of microtransactions, the idea of playing the game to unlock such things was the rule, not an exception.
Yes, I’m veering closely into “old man yells at clouds” territory, though that’s the point. The joy of that old-school unlock process isn’t some relic amplified by the allure of nostalgia. Resident Evil 4 Remake recently utilized such a system, and it was fantastic.
On a very basic level, Resident Evil 4 Remake‘s unlock system offers extra incentives to replay (and replay and replay) a fairly short game. Yes, you beat the game once, but did you complete all those challenges? Have you tried it at a higher difficulty? How did you do during those shooting range minigames? There’s real joy in realizing that the game you love isn’t quite over yet, and Resident Evil 4 Remake finds ways to realize that joy time and time again.
It’s not just about the replay value unlocks, though. It feels like there is always something to work toward in the Resident Evil 4 Remake. Nearly everything you do in the game isn’t only enjoyable in and of itself but it’s all building towards something. More powerful weapons, more carrying space, a gun that makes previously daunting encounters a breeze…Resident Evil 4 Remake offers numerous challenges that are fun in their own right yet still bother to reward you for your considerable efforts.
That’s the thing. Microtransactions often try to measure the value of a gameplay experience in terms of real-world money. We’re told that we have the choice between spending money or time on that experience, and there is some truth to that. However, it sometimes feels like the real reward for spending your time is the pleasure of not having to spend money. Games like Resident Evil 4 Remake are designed to respect your time and reward you for it in ways other than the money you didn’t spend or even the items you received. The pleasure of unlocking new items in games was always largely based on the process of the unlock experience, and the unlockable itself was simply the sign of another journey done. It was the payoff intended to represent your dedication, and the best ones succeeded in doing just that.
Ultimately, you can ignore Resident Evil 4 Remake‘s microtransactions if you want. Honestly, you probably should. They don’t offer much more than a way to make the game slightly easier, slightly quicker than usual. It hardly seems worth even the few bucks it costs to unlock even one unique upgrade.
Still, there’s just something sad about the situation. Resident Evil 4 Remake showed that there is a genuine joy to the retro unlock process that is difficult to put a price on because it adds real value to a game. The addition of these microtransactions is just a sad reminder that even that just somehow seems to not be enough anymore.