My first thought when I saw Resident Evil 5 was,
‘Holy crap, I want to play that now.’
The second was, ‘Some people are probably going to get a little upset this
time.’ The game transplants Resident Evil 4′s mostly realistic
over the shoulder action to Africa, where protagonist Chris is in search of the
origins of the progentior virus from RE: Code Veronica. The
source of concern was the hordes of black zombies being rebuffed by a
lily-white hero. The concept is provocative, but Capcom has pushed RE5’s
character models and animation further into realistic territory, making the
situation more harrowing than before, and more difficult to treat as abstract game nonsense.
The infected villagers look like people in pain, not cartoonish monsters.

But a trailer can be deceptive, so I’ve been curious to see
the actual game in motion. Resident Evil 5 was one of the big
games at Capcom’s multi-day press event last week. There, in
addition to the new trailer Alex linked over the weekend, I saw the game in
action and spoke to producer Jun Takeuchi about his work, which is currently
about sixty percent finished.

In motion, the game looks ready to deliver on the promises
made by both trailers. The level we saw takes place in broad daylight in an African shantytown;
zombies swarm from all sides, tearing apart the shacks in order
to get at their quarry. While the AI is still unfinished, there is already some good group and individual action, with zombies coming down from ceilings and attacking individually and in groups. The new trailer hints at the victimization of the
actual zombies, as we see some force-fed some transformative… thing… while the
actual gameplay suggests that dispatched zombies liquefy or bubble away.  What does that mean? Can’t say yet. Though
details are scant, the trailer also introduces a new female sidekick.

The area we saw was akin to the village that served as Resident
Evil 4’s
opening set, though Takeuchi claims it is about four times
larger. It is also significantly more fragile; this time most of the environments
are destructible to some extent. That allows zombies to tear at walls to get to
you, but also makes the powerful weapons significantly more damaging — the classic exploding barrel makes a welcome and shattering appearance. We saw a classic RE4-style
miniboss: a massive hooded gent wielding a hammer the size of Rhode Island which was as liable to take out a string of zombies as hit Chris.

When we sat down with Takeuchi and his mostly silent
co-producer Masachika Kawata, I asked about the Africa qualms right off the bat;
better to get the question out there and addressed so we could move on to the
actual game. Having seen slightly more of the game, I’m not sure that the
concerns are founded. Unfortunately, Takeuchi answered questions through a
translator, so what follows isn’t quite the in-depth talk I’d like.

The first trailer made some people uncomfortable; can you
talk about the reaction to perceived racism in the game?

When we decided that the setting would be in Africa in order
to clear up the mysteries of the progenitor virus, we wanted to create something
accurate and realistic, and something that was accurate to what we had seen.
When we released the first trailer, we got a certain reception, and we were a
little bit surprised. Ultimately, we felt that rather than being concerned
about it, maybe people had just got the wrong impression. 

When we were creating the trailer, we did not set out with
the intention to create something that was racist and this time, you can see in
the [new] trailer what we saw in our own research, and there are other creatures
and people of other races there as well. That reflects what we saw on our
research trips to Africa before we began, it’s a big area and we saw people of
various ethnicities there, and hope fully that’s reflected in what you saw in
the trailer today.

Is the game at all meant to reflect real horror, or is it
simply fiction relating only to the Resident Evil universe? 

That’s not our intention at all. [To reflect real events.]
We’ll leave politics to politicians and are basing this on creating entertainment
and something our fans enjoy. The reason it takes place in Africa comes only
from the storyline itself. There are a lot of horrific things happening in the
Middle East as well, but you wouldn’t call Call of Duty 4 a horror game.

Are the destructible elements intrinsic to gameplay or
purely aesthetic?

One of the things that existed in the RE series for a long
time was the idea that you could hide where there weren’t any enemies and be
safe. RE4 changed that a little bit by forcing you to create barricades,
without which enemies would break in eventually. To expand upon that and
increase the tension by taking away more hiding places is one of the reasons
we’ve added the ability to destroy the environment.

The movement speed here seems to be higher than that of RE4,
where the slow speed was evidently meant to increase tension. Does that mean
RE5 is more action-oriented?

As you can probably see from the model of Chris himself,
he’s done quite a bit of training and can probably move a lot faster now. (Laughs
and points at the life-size standee.) And as you can see from the demo, the
game is faster and more action based than even 4 was.

Does that mean fewer puzzles?

It doesn’t mean less puzzles, but we will certainly reduce
the ones from the old series where you have to get the crest from one place and
bring it to another, then bring it back somewhere else. We’ll be phasing those

RE4 was very influential and often reflected in other games.
Did other games influence you for RE5?

I wouldn’t say there was anything specific that had a big
influence, but one thing that did occur was at E3 the year before last when I
was a producer on Lost Planet I had the chance to talk to the Gears of War
team. One thing they asked me was, ‘why doesn’t Lost Planet use the over the
shoulder camera?’ I explained that LP is a different type of game, but that
confirmed that people really like the camera system from RE4. I was really
surprised that those guys were huge fans of RE4.

Previous games have had unlockable characters and extra
content. Will wee find similar things here? Perhaps co-op?

In terms of that sort of extra thing, it’s usually something
we create once we’ve finished making the main game. We want to put in things
like that, but we can’t tell you what they are right now because we don’t know

Do the quicktime button events return? Should we expect more
of them?

We didn’t get a chance to show it to you today, but the big
guy with the axe has one attack that requires the quicktime action button to
dodge his blow. As I’ve said before we’re trying to make a more action-based
game, so you’ll certainly see the return of the action button events, and there
will probably be a lot more of them than in RE4. 

Please tell us we can expect zombie animals. Lions? Elephants?

That’s an interesting question, but probably not, no. 

Is the environmental destruction real time or scripted?

That is all real time. And so it’s pretty hard to find
somewhere to hide in the game. 

Does the gentleman with the axe have a name?

No, he does not have an official name yet. If you want to
send an email with suggestions… 

And the female character we see at the end of the trailer?

We cannot tell you what her name or role is in the game. The
key word there is E3. 

How about melee combat?

The only melee weapon you’ll have is the knife. [The machete
seen on Chris’ back].