How can you improve one of the best survival horror games in history? That’s the question facing the team at Capcom, many of whom worked on the original Resident Evil 4, as they tackle the remake for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
“After [de 17 años], we too have gained a lot of knowledge about creating games. Now we’re able to make games that are enjoyable on a deeper and broader level, even when it comes to things like controls and storytelling. We thought that adding this knowledge to Resident Evil 4 would make it an even more enjoyable title,” says Yoshiaki Hirabayashi, who was the lead designer for the original game’s cutscenes and is now a producer on the remake. “That’s why we decided to approach Resident Evil 4 with the mentality of: ‘Even if it’s a difficult project, let’s see if we can do it’.
First announced in the summer, Resident Evil 4 will be the most ambitious version to date of the classic game, which has been released on everything from Nintendo Wii to mobile. Capcom has been quite successful with its Resident Evil remakes so far, but it faces the difficult task of live up to expectations from fans who love the original.
We recently got to play this remake of Resident Evil 4. In addition to trying it out for our preview, we had the opportunity to speak with Hirabayashi on topics such as quicktime events (QTEs), whether the original inventory structure will return, and much more.
IGN: I’d like to start by asking how the proposal for a Resident Evil 4 remake came about. Was it a natural continuation of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3?
Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: That was the assignment. That said, remaking a game as loved by players and available on so many platforms as Resident Evil 4 seemed like a difficult project for us.
As part of the development team on the original and a fan of the game, I think Resident Evil 4 is an excellent product overall. At the same time, I am also surprised that seventeen years have already passed since its release.
After such a long time, we too have gained a lot of knowledge about making games. Now we’re able to make games that are enjoyable on a deeper and broader level, even when it comes to things like controls and storytelling. We thought that adding this knowledge to Resident Evil 4 would make it an even more enjoyable title.
That’s why we decided to approach Resident Evil 4 with the mindset of, “Even if it’s a tough project, let’s see if we can do it.”
I feel that way too, as a fan. Resident Evil 4 is not only highly regarded, it has almost been deified.
The truth is that if. To be honest, the work can start to get tiring (laughs). We are trying different ways to make such a game more fun for players, but what did you think after playing it?
It was quite fun. Considering how well done the last few remakes have been, I was sure this one wouldn’t fail either, but it exceeded my expectations.
There were scenes in the demo that seemed even more harrowing than the original, and I also enjoyed the action thanks to additions like being able to parry with the knife.
Kazunori Kadoi and Yasuhiro Anpo, who worked on Resident Evil 2, are overseeing the creation of this game as directors. Kadoi is supervising the gameplay elements, and he’s quite fixated on the knife.
You can even use the knife to perform follow-up attacks on downed enemies, or to make emergency escapes when grabbed by enemies. However, these actions will reduce the knife’s durability, so it’s important to think carefully about when to use them. Allows for a greater variety of playstyles.
Would it be fair to say that the parry is an element intended for veteran players, while follow-up attacks and emergency escapes are also there for players who are not as experienced?
I think so. There are so many different ways to play the original Resident Evil 4, and it’s been amazing to see the different methods people use to make their way through the game. There’s a kind of fun that comes from not being forced to play a certain way, and these various knife actions are part of what we’re trying to bring to this remake as well.
We have placed special emphasis on the interactions between the characters, as we would like to show even more of the human relationships of the game than the original.
The story of Resident Evil 4 has also been restructured. The demo featured some background that wasn’t talked about much in the original, and it felt like it was trying to highlight the story. Does this trend continue in general?
Yes, it’s fair to see it that way. We have put a special emphasis on the interactions between the characters, as we would like to show even more of the game’s human relationships than the original.
For example, let’s take Ashley, someone who is rescued by the protagonist Leon. We want to show the feelings of both of them, instead of making her story just about being rescued and escaping. Of course, they are not feelings of love, and they are expressed in a way that is tense and appropriate for a survival horror title. The mysterious Luis also has more depth than in the original.
When Resident Evil 4 came out, of course, there hadn’t been a Resident Evil 5 or Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. We have restructured the story with this story in mind.
In the original there were quick time events [QTEs], like when you have to escape from the rocks. Are there any changes in the new version?
I would say that there are “barely” QTEs. Every person has a different definition of what a QTE is, so while I can’t say there aren’t any, I can say there are no prompts to push buttons in the middle of a scene.
However, there are times when a button press is necessary depending on the situation. The entire team has worked to properly fit what some would call QTEs into the actual game.
I was struck by situations in the demo that really made me feel scared. The original gave me a more light-hearted impression overall, with no shortage of comedic scenes to make the player smile. What kind of changes are you introducing in that sense?
Personally, I think that Resident Evil 4 is full of both clever moments and moments that make you feel scared. The horror elements were emphasized in the demo you played, as it is the introduction to the game. You’ll see cutscenes with more wit as you progress.
We’re working to make adjustments that feel natural to players while maintaining the horror elements of the original and Leon’s cynical appeal. We’ve also made sure to keep the moments where Leon insults his enemies.
A memorable part of Resident Evil 4 is the briefcase. Storing all your items and managing your ammo well was part of the charm of the game. Is he still in the game?
We’ve made sure to leave the fun of managing the briefcase’s resources as a puzzle. After all, part of what makes the game interesting is rotating weapons and items to fit together and agonizing over what to put away and what to throw away.
In addition to the large, medium and small cases, there are some customization options to add style to your bag, such as charms that you can attach and different case colors. The golden briefcase that you can get as a pre-purchase bonus has the effect of slightly increasing the amount of money that enemies drop.
The remake has also added gunpowder ammunition crafting. Are there any other crafting items?
I can’t talk about it right now, but there might be something. We’re thinking of ways to let people experience the game using the style of play they like.
The graphics have also taken a big leap this time around. Moments like seeing the leaves blown by the wind, or the bloodshot eyes of the Chainsaw Man caught my attention.
The art of this title especially focuses on dynamic expressions and atmosphere. Light and shadow are important when it comes to survival horror, for example, so while a game is easier to play when it’s easier to see, it also ruins the atmosphere. We tried to fine-tune things so that players don’t feel stress, but rather a feeling of “it’s dark, but I think I can work my way through”, and we’ve achieved this through the striking use of light and shadow in a horror title.
In the demo you played there was a scene in the square, and at the beginning you walk towards the sun. This makes everything behind you dark and unsettling, but it also means that if you turn around because an enemy appears, it’s well lit and easy to see.
The release date for a PlayStation 4 edition was announced the day before this interview. It sounds like it would be hard to put up with this level of graphics, but was the release planned from the start?
The game is being made with the RE Engine, which allows us to handle many different platforms. That being said, this game has really been made for the latest generation hardware. We’ll be taking the game we made for the latest hardware as a base and optimizing it for the older hardware.
We can’t change the game experience, so the development team is working very hard to bring this game to multiple generations of hardware.
Interview conducted by Takuya Watanabe.