Resident Evil 4 wants to be The Last of Us and it’s getting creepy

By Lee Brady,

Resident Evil 4 reimagines Capcom's classic survival-horror hit for PS5 and PS4 — although much of that reimagination looks like The Last of Us.

Those Resident Evil 4 trophies are now just a few weeks away and, frankly, everything we've seen of the game thus far makes it look like an instant contender for the best PS5 games list. That said, what is with Resident Evil 4's creepy fascination with The Last of Us? We're not the only ones seeing this, right?

Resident Evil The Last of UsResident Evil remake has The Last of Us lying just under the surface.

All the similarities between Resident Evil 4 and The Last of Us

A lot can happen in 18 years — one day you're Resident Evil 4, the trailblazing 2005 trendsetter that popularised third-person over-the-shoulder shooters; the next day you're Resident Evil 4, the 2023 game that really liked what The Last of Us did for video game knives.

As a franchise, Resident Evil has never been afraid of moving with the times — that's largely what made the original RE4 such a big deal and one of the best PlayStation games ever. It showed that the franchise was able to adapt while still bringing its own thoughtful contributions to both horror games and blockbuster game design at large. It was such a big deal, in fact, that eight years later Resident Evil 4 would be a massive influence on a game called The Last of Us — a genre influencer and blockbuster hit in its own right.

RE4Sixth console generation Leon, who was cool in his day.

However, Resident Evil's constant need to adapt has inevitably revolved around and in on itself, bringing us a Resident Evil 4 remake that awkwardly parades around in its own grandson's clothing. Sure, it's still got its own identity; its campy jokes and shlock horror will likely elicit eye-rolls from the self-serious TLOU generation. Taking a closer look at everything that's changed about RE4 in those 18 years, it's difficult to ignore the influence The Last of Us has had on Resident Evil 4.

The Knife

The Resident Evil 4 remake's knife may not be the most telling symptom of The Last of Us' influence, but it does strike at the heart of just how deep that influence goes. In the original RE4, Leon's knife was little more than your de facto melee attack — useful for opening boxes, stunning peasants, and not much else unless you were an RE4 superstar. Now, the remake's co-director Kazunori Kadoi was described as being "quite fixated on the knife."

Resident Evil The Last of UsResident Evil 4 grapple options look familiar.

Why? Well, nobody's saying it out loud, but if you've ever had to count your shivs while collecting The Last of Us Part I trophies to make sure you can open all the bounty-filled locked doors in the game, then you'll be familiar with a lot of the changes made to Resident Evil 4's knife (side note: the trophy for unlocking the doors in TLOU is called "Master of Unlocking," which is an RE1 reference — neat!).

Unlike in the original, Leon's knife in 2023's Resident Evil 4 has added durability and can break on repeat uses. If the knife breaks, Leon can find a new one in the environment, much like TLOU's shivs. Leon can also upgrade the durability of the knives, meaning it takes more actions to break his knife, much like The Last of Us' manuals allow you to upgrade the durability of the shivs.

Resident Evil The Last of UsThe chainsaw parry that makes it all worth it.

Speaking of actions, these have been greatly expanded upon in the new RE4. Leon can use a knife to break an opponent's grapple quickly, killing them and letting him take less damage in trade for knife durability. The knife can also be used for quick kills on enemies with a durability penalty, and can apparently even be used on stunned enemies with no cost to durability at all. Those first two actions are very reminiscent of how Joel uses shivs in The Last of Us, and that stun move should remind players of Ellie's switchblade in The Last of Us Part II.

All that said, it wouldn't be Resident Evil 4 if it wasn't trying to innovate on genre staples in some way, and knives are no exception. As talented as Joel and Ellie are with a shiv, nobody in The Last of Us can quite measure up to Leon Kennedy and his chainsaw-parrying knife skills. Seriously, if the entire point of Resident Evil 4 borrowing The Last of Us' shivs was to justify a system where you could parry a chainsaw with a knife, then it was entirely worth it.

RE4I think you've been spotted, Leon.

The Stealth Mechanics

Now this is the most telling symptom of The Last of Us' influence — Resident Evil 4 now has stealth mechanics. Unlike the original, and even unlike Resident Evil 2, Leon can now crouch-walk past enemies undetected instead of fighting them, and he can even sneak up to unsuspecting creatures and deal massive damage with a stealthy knife attack.

To be frank, this is quietly Resident Evil 4's most controversial design change and where the game's infatuation with The Last of Us stands to do the most damage. The Last of Us employs stealth very tactfully — it flows into the open-arena level design as elegantly as it compliments the game's resource management. Plus, it purposefully enhances The Last of Us' roleplaying elements — after all, you are supposed to be roleplaying a hardened survivor wary of wasting resources. Having Joel or Ellie employ stealth to score free kills in The Last of Us very neatly doubles as roleplay of a survivor's calculating, callous decision-making.
Resident Evil 4's survival elements have always been more about wily resourcefulness than active desperation — you're roleplaying an adaptable action hero in a tricky situation, not a world-weary traveller. Sure, there might be situations where having Leon crouch over and avoid combat stands in for Leon's quick thinking and ingenuity, but if Resident Evil 4 gives players the option to crawl around from room to room, it's quickly going to chafe against the other sections where Leon deflects a hurled scythe out of the air with a bullet while uttering a goofy quip.

Resident Evil The Last of UsResident Evil's UI vs The Last of Us.

The UI

If you don't get the ick from Resident Evil 4's outright replicating the UI of The Last of Us, you've got a stronger tolerance for the uncanny than we do. Just look at the above image — look at how Leon's health is represented in a little radial graphic at the bottom right of the screen. You've got your ammo right in the middle and you've got your knife durability just lingering outside the circle? That's haunting stuff, Capcom — utterly bone-chilling.

And if you think that's bad, did you know they dramatically changed how weapons work in Resident Evil 4? Now you no longer awkwardly pause, reach into your attache case, and pull out your weapon of choice — instead, you press an arrow and select your weapon from an ever-expanding cross-shaped menu. Now, you might say, "well, hey, Assassin's Creed did that before The Last of Us," and you might be right, but come on. You can bet if The Last of Us Part 1 had made players rummage around Joel's backpack using the DualSense's touchpad, RE4 would have gone PlayStation exclusive just to make it work.

RE4The flashlight becomes pivotal.

The Flashlight

Isn't it a little uncanny that Resident Evil only got flashlights in gameplay after The Last of Us came out in 2013? Sure, the original RE4 shows cutscenes where Leon has a flashlight, but the series wouldn't let you take control of one until 2015's Resident Evil Revelations 2. And isn't it eerie that Revelations 2 was designed by Kazunori Kadoi, the very man who would later implement flashlights full-time into the RE2 and RE4 remakes? This guy is obviously a mega Naughty Dog fan.

The Rest

Many fans will be thrilled to hear that Resident Evil 4 will do away with mid-cutscene QTEs, a choice that has earned RE4 a spot on our PS5 and PS4 best horror games list on merit alone. However, did you know that instead of QTEs, the game would be using button-mashing prompts during grapples and combat, much like The Last of Us?
We're sure Resident Evil 4's plot, in which Leon gets assigned a mission to escort a VIP lady, Ashley, from a dangerous place to a safe place was a big influence on The Last of Us' very similar plot. We're also sure that Ashley driving players crazy by constantly getting kidnapped inspired Naughty Dog to design Ellie, a character who almost never gets in your way. But did you know RE4 now lets you tell Ashley to stay out of danger's way and that she will also open doors for Leon, just like Ellie would? It's suspicious, that's all we're saying.

And did you also know that Resident Evil 4... has zombies? Just like The Last of Us? Alright, fine, we're out of comparisons — for now, anyway. This hotly anticipated upcoming 2023 PS5 and PS4 game has still yet to release at the time of writing, so we're bound to notice more similarities once it launches on March 24th, 2023.

RE4They also gave Ashley a jacket, and Joel wears a jacket? Come on guys.

None of this article was intended to be read as mean-spirited nitpicking, by the way — it's just fascinating to see how AAA game design has evolved over the last two decades, and we're curious to see whether Resident Evil 4 will once more offer us fresh innovations on the design of its modern contemporaries. If Resident Evil 4 leans into The Last of Us' gameplay to show us where else this genre can go beyond Naughty Dog's work, then we'd love to see Capcom take us there.

Let us know in the comments whether you've noticed the similarities between The Last of Us and Resident Evil 4, and how you think they'll impact the overall feel of the game.
Lee Brady
Written by Lee Brady
Staff Writer Lee loves to write about classic PS1 games on PS Plus, examining the game design of upcoming PS5 games like Marvel's Spider-Man 2 and Like a Dragon Ishin, and his shameless love of Sonic, Final Fantasy, and Kingdom Hearts games. He's also your resident PlayStation Stars guy.
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