Resident Evil 4 for iPhone hands-on impressions: A zombie-killing dream with some drawbacks

Resident Evil 4 on iPhone
(Image credit: Capcom)

Resident Evil 4 is widely considered to be not only one of the best survival horrors but also among the best video games of all time, thanks to its excellent atmosphere, insidious story, and immersive gameplay. 

Resident Evil 4 launches on iPhone, iPad, and Mac on December 20, and is a universal purchase meaning buying it once will give you access to all versions of the game on different devices. It costs $59.99 but is 50% off at launch through to January 17. You can buy deluxe edition upgrades and the Separate Ways DLC independently of the main game. 

For those unaware, Resident Evil 4 is a zombie horror game placing you in the shoes of Leon Kennedy, an agent of the US government, who travels to Spain to rescue someone who has been taken captive by a mysterious and sinister cult. At the time, it represented the first real shift into a more action-focused game and nails the balance between thrills and scares. On my iPhone 15 Pro Max, it did the same once more. 

Looking Pretty

Resident evil 4

(Image credit: Future / James Bentley)

This is a port of the Resident Evil 4 Remake that launched earlier this year and it looked pretty great for me, partially down to its unique style. Blood shines in the light, Zombie flesh tears, and Leon’s pristine boyband hair glistens as it crashes over his moody pout. There are, unfortunately, no graphical settings in Resident Evil 4, which puts it a step behind the recently released Resident Evil Village iPhone port. 

In exchange for the lack of customization, you are given a very streamlined experience, pushing the game to its limit. Resident Evil 4 is generally a pretty smooth experience that feels tonally and texturally fine-tuned, even if it struggles a little in more hectic scenes. I even plugged it into my 55-inch TV at one point and was surprised it played as well as it did. I wouldn’t advise playing through the game this way as upscaling those textures can leave the game looking blurry and frame drops were more consistent but I was impressed by how capable the iPhone really is. 

My colleague, Daryl, had a much worse time with the game, finding its graphics lacking and stutters constant. My experience was smoother but this inconsistency is certainly worrying. There is a free demo on the store that is worth trying to test it for yourself. 

Within the display settings, you can turn on and off HDR, which accentuates color contrasts on the screen, meaning darker areas should light better. As well as this, there are some simple HUD options, the ability to turn on and off the ‘Depth of Field’ creating visual texture, and you can change the aim reticule and color. Outside of this, you are mostly given a specific experience of Resident Evil 4 that you just have to follow. 

Losing its touch

Resident Evil 4

(Image credit: Future / James Bentley)

Taking pretty much the exact same controls and layout of Resident Evil Village, I would never advise playing Resident Evil 4 with touch controls. They are cumbersome, take up too much of the screen, and are too finicky to work at the game’s most hectic moments. Even on the easier modes, touch controls just aren’t very fun. 

Luckily, with one of the best controllers for iPhone in hand, the game performs very well. Leon is tanky enough to add to the tension of navigating tight spaces and running away from cultists but controls are tight and responsive enough to make you feel truly cool in the game’s best moments. You can remap controls at any moment but the default control scheme feels comfortable and fluid. You can change simple things like ‘toggle’ or ‘hold’ to crouch, how strong you want aim assist to be, and more. 

An accessibility tab gives you a handful of presets for standard options to complement the specific support you need like a ‘preset for motion sickness’ which turns off camera wobble and motion blur, among others. These are a cool touch that simplifies accessibility options nicely. 

Daryl had a much worse experience with the game
iMore Features Editor Daryl Baxter
Daryl had a much worse experience with the game
Daryl Baxter

"(With Resident Evil 4) I played a game that ran on a 720p resolution, which also lagged from time to time — so as I’d try to aim at some of the enemies, I’d have to try again as it would stutter

I feel that we need to move on from the ‘At least you can play it on iPhone’ narrative. That’s a disservice to how powerful these devices are in 2023. Apple spoke about hardware ray-tracing at its iPhone 15 event in September and held up Resident Evil 4 Remake as the example. Instead, I’ve got the protagonist, Leon Kennedy, looking like he’s already been bitten by a zombie as you start the game, sporting a monobrow and thinly veiled hair.

This isn’t the game I was expecting to play on my iPhone — and it’s ultimately a disservice to the expectations that were set in September. 

CAPCOM and Apple may as well have brought out the original Resident Evil 4 from 2004, and spruced it up with some high-resolution graphics instead. It’s a shame, and I hope future updates bring in some graphical improvements — but if you were wanting to spend $49.99 on this remake, I’d avoid it for now."

Launch Extras

Resident Evil 4

(Image credit: Future / James Bentley)

From release, there is a rather in-depth photo mode, allowing you to apply filters and move around scenes to get a nice screenshot, as well as a Mercenaries mode, which sees you take on waves of enemies, with depleting ammo and tougher bad guys. It’s a good way to get a little more juice out of the Resident Evil 4 experience and is a lot of fun on a commute or in an environment where you don’t particularly want to pay attention to the story. 

At launch, you can buy the Ada Wong-focused DLC, Separate Ways, for $19.99, which gives you a few more hours of gameplay, new challenges, and more. It’s not a bad package but it would have been nice to see a complete version with all DLC in one go. This is made even stranger by the fact you can buy weapon upgrade tickets for a few dollars a pop, making the game a little easier. 

Despite some gripes with graphical settings, some stutters, and the amount of tacked-on DLC, Resident Evil 4 performs surprisingly well on Apple devices, making the remake of one of the best games of all time fully playable in any setting. 

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James Bentley

James is a staff writer and general Jack of all trades at iMore. With news, features, reviews, and guides under his belt, he has always liked Apple for its unique branding and distinctive style. Originally buying a Macbook for music and video production, he has since gone on to join the Apple ecosystem with as many devices as he can fit on his person. 

With a degree in Law and Media and being a little too young to move onto the next step of his law career, James started writing from his bedroom about games, movies, tech, and anything else he could think of. Within months, this turned into a fully-fledged career as a freelance journalist. Before joining iMore, he was a staff writer at Gfinity and saw himself published at sites like TechRadar, NME, and Eurogamer. 

As his extensive portfolio implies, James was predominantly a games journalist before joining iMore and brings with him a unique perspective on Apple itself. When not working, he is trying to catch up with the movies and albums of the year, as well as finally finishing the Yakuza series. If you like Midwest emo music or pretentious indie games that will make you cry, he’ll talk your ear off.