The latest Resident Evil 6 game is shaking up the series’ formula in the most significant way since Resident Evil 4. Overhauled controls, an intertwining narrative thread, and four-player co-op are coming together for a very new experience. As a diehard fan of the series, these changes have raised a lot of questions for me. Following some hands-on time with Resident Evil 6, I picked producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi’s brain for the answers.

I’ve played a lot of Resident Evil 4 and 5, and in 6 I’ve noticed that you don’t feel as rooted. It feels a bit looser. Was it rebuilt from the ground up from Resident Evil 5?

Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: Yeah, we did rebuild the combat for this game. I think you’re right in saying that it’s a little freer for the player. There is more opportunity for you to fight in the way that you want, and there is a reason for that because it allows us to depict the horror element in this game in a more pleasing manner.

For example, if you remember the old games, you’d see an enemy running at you and it stops in front of you and then raises its arm to attack. It's very lumbering and it is almost ridiculous at times. You just see that and move out of the way and shoot it or whatever. But now the enemies are a little smarter. So they’ll run up to you and they don’t just stay there and wait for you to shoot them, they can get around that and try to attack you.

It opens up the game to more of those horror elements because we have the enemies behaving in a different way. We want to give the player the freedom to fight those enemies in the way they want. Just because you have freedom doesn’t mean that this game is very action-oriented as a result. We’ve tweaked the enemies as well, so they react to all that you can do. So now, the way that enemies attack you, you’ll feel that fear from being attacked more than you have in the past.

Speaking of the enemies, I’ve noticed that the guys with the clown paint, the J’avo, they start off seeming more human than the Ganados or Majini, and it feels like they’re more capable with their guns. Which virus it is that affects them and why it is that they seem more human?

Your understanding of the J’avo is pretty on the money. In the beginning they are more human-like. They are much more intelligent. They are able to use firearms. So they are much closer to what a human is than say some type of zombie or whatnot. But we want to make sure that we’re not making this a typical third-person or first-person shooter where you just have these human enemies that are shooting guns at you and you fire back and it is that typical exchange of gunfire.

These J'avo do mutate. So depending on where you shoot them and where they take damage, that part of their body will mutate into different things. So that will change combat on the fly and the way you fight on the fly. So the J’avos are going to mutate into a larger size or gain an extendable arm that can grab you, or its legs might mutate into spider legs or it might be able to sprout wings and start flying. So that changes the combat on the fly. So when we are creating what we call the B.O.W.s – Bio-Organic Weapons – I mean, a lot of them are set types of creatures, but the J’avos themselves can mutate into whole different types of things.

And you were asking about the virus and in RE 6 we have the C-virus and the C-virus is what’s responsible for creating the J’avo, and it is a key point in the plot of Resident Evil 6. Just to add to what I said to you earlier about the mutating J’avo, you fight them and you damage them and they start mutating, but there is something even beyond the mutations you saw in the demo, so that’s a little secret you have to look forward to in the game.

So for the zombies that Leon is fighting in Tall Oaks, are those a T- or G-virus product or something else?

I don’t want to spoil anything about the game for you, but just like what I said about the C-virus, that really is the centerpiece of Resident Evil storyline. Its something I’m really proud of. Those zombies that you see in Tall Oaks aren’t the result of the T- or G-virus, but from the C-virus.