ECCO L'INTERVISTA SU RE4 DELL' E3
May 13, 2004 - It's hot at Capcom's booth. We're sweating. We're told by a Capcom public relations specialist that it's about to get hotter. The show floor energy has just about cooked the company's meeting rooms. We're led to a white conference room in the back of the company's booth and there we meet up with Resident Evil 4 producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi. He's sweating too. He dabs a handkerchief over his forehead and we start in with a series of questions about his new survival horror title, which is exclusive to GameCube and set to debut in the US later this year. Resident Evil 4, like Capcom's booth, is sizzling hot and sure to please gamers who grew up loving the franchise. Keep reading to find out why.
IGN: You've said in the past that the villagers in Resident Evil 4 are not zombies, but that they are not human either. What are they then?
Kobayashi: They're not humans and that's actually one of the big mysteries that surrounds the game itself. It's one of the mysteries that you begin to uncover as you play the game. They're not villagers. They're not zombies. They are these things.
IGN: The latest trailer of the game shows off quite a new gameplay elements and story aspects, from satanic looking monks to castles and fire fights. How do these all tie in? Can you give us some idea of the story and how it progresses? Kobayashi: Basically the village itself is connected to the second area, where you see those monk-type enemies appear. Leon, whose part of a security force which protects the President, goes to a European country -- he doesn't state which one it is -- to rescue the President's daughter, who has been kidnapped. When he gets to the village he seeks help from one of the villagers as you can see in the video and he gets attacked. As he's proceeding through the village he realizes these are not people at all and yet they're not zombies either -- he knows what a zombie is. He continues to go forward looking for the President's daughter and about halfway through the game he does find her.
After he finds her he tries escape from the location that he finds her at, this new almost cult-like organization of people who are all wearing these black robes attacks him. They try to get in his way as well. So as he proceeds through that area he starts to realize what this groups is, what their motivations are and etcetera. It's just one more mystery that he begins to unravel has he progresses through the game.
IGN: There are signs in the new RE4 trailer that there is an infection plaguing the village. In a cut-scene featuring Leon, Ashley and an all-new character, we see Ashley coughing violently as if sick and the mystery man says that there are symptoms before the change. What is the infection?
Kobayashi: First of all, you really have sharp eyes for pointing that out. A lot of people have watched the videos several times and never thought to say, "Oh, that's a virus. She's coughing and she's sick."
This time there is no Umbrella, there are no zombies and of course that also means there is no T-Virus. And unfortunately the only thing I can say right now is that after you buy the game you're going to realize what's causing these non-villager/non-zombie things to become the way they are. And that thing also has an affect on Ashley, which is why she's coughing and sick as well.
IGN: There are extraordinary new enemies. We've seen a giant monster that resembles an ogre. Another gargantuan-sized being picks Leon up with one hand and chokes him. There's also a giant water creature. How do these characters play into the storyline?
Kobayashi: That's also kind of a mystery of the game, but if you think back to the trailer you'll remember a scene where people are actually opening the gates to release the beast. One hint I can offer is that they had to seal that beast up in the first place. They're not necessarily on the same side. That thing was originally sealed off so that it wouldn't do any damage, but in order to stop Leon they freed it and let it loose on him. They didn't want to free it in the first place because as you saw in the video it grabbed on person and smashed another person, so obviously it was very risky to try and release it. They opened Pandora's box, so to speak, in letting that thing out.
IGN: How deep is the Leon/Ashley system and is it inspired by the Sony PlayStation 2 game Ico?
Kobayashi: I don't really know much about Ico. I've seen pictures and roughly know what it's about, but I have never played it personally. I think probably, from what he knows of Ico, that you are protecting this girl the whole time in the game. In Resident Evil 4, you don't even find her until halfway through the game and even when you do find her you get split up through certain circumstances and meet up again later to protect her. It's not like you're protecting her for half the game. You're with her sometimes and split up other times.
Basically, as you could see in the video, she's a very weak, fragile female. She can't do any special action moves like crashing through a window as Leon can. As the video showed, he helped her down from the cliff because it was kind of high up. So there will be times when you'll be leading her and helping her through these various obstacles, but also you'll have to protect her so when the enemy comes you'll have to shoot it and stop it from getting her. If it does pick her up and start to run away, you'll have to shoot it and it'll drop her. You are protecting her when you are together like that. But you will be separated for plot reasons and you'll have to search for her. And other times you'll intentionally go different routes. You'll say, "Okay, let's meet back here at a different time."
Who is this new character, why is he in the village and is he playable?
Kobayashi: He's actually one of the remaining survivors who has not been hit by this thing in the village. And when you meet up with him you really don't know if he's friend or foe, so he's kind of also shrouded in mystery. But you cannot play as him -- he's not a playable character.
IGN: Will you be able to play as Ashley then?
IGN: The villagers demonstrate noticeably smarter artificial intelligence. Can you give us some examples of just how smart they are?
Kobayashi: One good example is that if you look at a zombie when it approaches somebody it walks ever so slowly directly at them. These things will try to flank you on the sides. They'll get behind and to the sides of you and they'll also try to attack in groups so that you don't have a place to escape to. If you go into a building, maybe something that has two stories, Leon may barricade the first floor, but they're smart -- they'll try to come at him from the second floor instead. They come at you from all directions. They're not just going to try one way in to get you. If they can't get in that way, they will like a smart person -- a person who can actually think -- try another way.
They also use weapons, of course, which is something that zombies didn't do. They will try and pick you off from high locations and the ground floor. They use a variety of weapons from axes to picks to chainsaws -- basically whatever they can get their hands on. If you remember the castle scene from the video, the enemies fire cannons at him. Leon can also fire back. In one scene he gets his own cannon.
IGN: The Resident Evil franchise has traditionally provided gamers shock scares. A perfect example of this would be the dogs that crashed through the window in the first game. We haven't seen at lot of these elements in RE4. In contrast, it seems to emphasize action, albeit in a very eerie way. Are there old-style scary scenes in the game? Also, will there be points where Leon will simply have to run away from the oncoming villagers?
Kobayashi: When it comes to the action, sometimes you're going to be attacked by 10 or 20 villagers, so of course you're going to run. If you're talking about the jump scares from the original Resident Evil then yes, there are still those in the game. We still have scenes where things jump out and scare you, but there are not as much as the previous Resident Evil games because we really wanted to put a focus on action.
IGN: Don't take this the wrong way because we absolutely adore Resident Evil 4. But why is it such a grand departure from the rest of the games?
Kobayashi: There's Resident Evil 1, 2, 3, Code Veronica -- we've been pumping them out for the last seven years or so. The staff, which includes myself and of course Shinji Mikami, decided that we wanted to go in a new direction and re-create the series. We were tired of making the same stuff as well. We wanted to make something new and original. And that's how it started.
IGN: How is it still Resident Evil?
Kobayashi: Of course, for all the people who played Resident Evil and wanted something new, that was another reason we still wanted to re-design it. But we still feel it's Resident Evil because the controls are still exactly the same. Granted, they're the controls that a lot of the press in America doesn't like, but they are still the same [laughs]. In addition to that, Leon is back and he's a character that was from the series before. And little parts of the story really relates to Resident Evil games up until now. So we think that there's enough in there to warrant calling it Resident Evil.
And if you are going to go even one step further to specifics, we still have the typewriters, herbs and first aid sprays [laughs].
IGN: Are the enemies in the game scientific or supernatural in nature?
Kobayashi: It's closer to scientific. It's based in reality. It's not like some magical ghost or something spiritual like that. People made a mistake and these things appeared.
IGN: We know about some of the weapons in the game, but it would be nice to have a longer list of what Leon can use.
Kobayashi: Handgun. Shotgun. Sniper rifle. Rocket launcher. Grenades. Grenade launcher. And there's also a knife. And that's still not even half of the weapons in the game. There are a ton of weapons.
IGN: Excellent. Can you also give us an idea of what types of locales Leon will visit in the game? We've so far seen the village and the castle.
Kobayashi: There's a forest, caves, and lakes. The mainstay of the game will be in the village or town, but the village is huge. There are a lot of different parts to the village -- not just what you've seen here. It's really, really big.
IGN: Is the village set up in a non-linear or linear way? In other words, can you freely explore it or are you directed to the next sequence?
Kobayashi: That's a tough question. Obviously you have a starting point and a finishing point for each place that you have to get to. But in how you get there, there are a lot of different paths to go. Even in the demo we have there are at on of different houses you can go into or, oppositely, you don't have to go into any of those houses if you don't want to. There really just are a lot of possibilities. But if you define linear as a start and a finish then yeah, it's linear in that way.
IGN: The enemies seem to attack Leon as if they want nothing more than to murder him. They're almost rabid in that way. And yet they are very smart, too. In some story cut-scenes they dispose of dead bodies in the water and in the demo they have set up laser trip wires that are triggered to set off bombs. What are they hiding? Who are they trying to keep out?
Kobayashi: Basically, they are just defending their town or their village. They don't want anybody in there. The less suspicious the village looks, the less people are going to come. But for anybody who does come, they have traps set up to take them out right away. You take one look at the village and you think, "There's definitely something going on here."
IGN: You mentioned that the US press doesn't necessarily like the control mechanics in the Resident Evil series. Well, we do like the updated camera in RE4, which has a profound bearing on how control works -- and for the better. We actually like it very much. It feels good. But can you please, please add a strafing option so that Leon can quickly move from left to right to avoid attacks?
Kobayashi: Actually, when we were developing it, we were really thinking about putting that kind of option there. But the more we thought about it, the more we figured that would make it a Splinter Cell-like game and we didn't want to go into the shooting/army type genre. We wanted to keep enough of the Resident Evil essence in the game, yet still change it enough to offer a new feeling. So we made an active choice not to include a strafe in there.
IGN: Okay. It's still great.
Kobayashi: Instead of having that real-time strafing, we have included the A-button-activated action, where you can bust through windows, sprint, and things like that.
IGN: Do you have any final words for our readers who are greatly anticipating Resident Evil 4?
Kobayashi: I think I talked about it a little bit earlier, but we totally changed the camera and it has given it a brand new feeling. All those users who have played the series games before and might be thinking that this isn't Resident Evil, we want them to know that it still is Resident Evil. There's still enough in there that you're going play and think it's a lot of fun. On the other hand, we think we've added enough new stuff that all those people who played the previous games and didn't like them or grew bored with them, we just want them to try it one more time to see if they can appreciate this new style. It's a whole new game while still being Resident Evil.
Just one final comment. We are also releasing a game called Under the Skin and in it there is a Resident Evil stage. Once you've unlocked it Resident Evil brand things and characters appear. It's your first chance to play Resident Evil in a sort of funny, zany way, so you might want to check that out as well.