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Resident Evil 6 Producer Talks Story, Combat, & Multiplayer

by Tim Turi on Jul 21, 2012 at 09:00 AM

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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.

Okay. Touching back on the controls again. I played around a bit with the dodging and rolling on the ground, but couldn’t find a lot of practical applications for it. I’m wondering if I wasn’t doing it correctly or missed the ideal situation that you’d want to fall backwards and shoot from the ground. How do you hope players use that ability?

Well, first of all, it goes back to what we said about making the gameplay more expansive and giving the player some of that freedom. I mean, when you are in the middle of a fight, there are going to be some very aggressive enemies in this game. When you’re fighting you have that choice: Do you want to just stand up and shoot them or do you want to dodge, then shoot? Return fire? Something like that. There is no set place you have to use it. And the game is pretty long and there will be different points in the game where it will be more useful or efficacious to use these features than in other places. But I think it also comes down to play style. Maybe you’re a very good gamer, so you’re already used to a certain to ways of fighting. This is to give the player that freedom in determining how they want to fight and play the game. They don’t have to use it, but there are places where they should.

Will there be enemies that you can only shoot if you are laying on the ground, or they’ll pass over you if you are laying on the ground, something like that?

We have situations like that with the zombies. There are some that just crawl on the ground, so they’ll grab your leg, knock you down, and crawl all over you. That’s when you shoot them. That’s what you got to see in the presentation when Ustanak, using that claw arm, extends out to grab you. If you fall on your back, you’ll fall underneath his line of attack and you can shoot at him. We wanted to make sure that we weren’t forcing certain gameplay elements on the player, that they had the freedom to choose when they want to use it. And as they play through the game they’ll find that there are different situations where they’ll want to use these new controls in. There’s not an aspect where we’re trying to force you to use them, however.

I’ve played a lot of RE 6’s co-op, and I’ve played a lot of single-player to see if the AI had improved from 5 – I noticed that it has. Can you tell me about the changes that you’ve made to the AI or what you kept in mind from the complaints about AI in 5 moving into 6?

Okay, I was involved in Resident Evil 5, so I understand where everyone is coming from with that critique. One of the key features of Resident Evil, the series as a whole, has been resource management, and that’s a really important aspect of the game. So in RE 5 you have this AI partner who is using your resources. That is something the player wants to control themselves. I understand the fact that resource management is important and that it affects your gameplay and how you want to play the game, and it is stressful to worry that this person is infringing upon your resource management. So we took a step back in RE 6 and how we were going to change that so that people don’t feel stressed like they did in Resident Evil 5.

Another way you appear to be approaching that is that each player has independent loot. If an enemy drops 9mm rounds I can get them and my partner can get the same set.

That’s exactly what will happen.

Why did you decide it was time to add 4-player co-op to the Resident Evil experience?

Just to make clear: We weren’t setting out to create this 4-player co-op experience. That wasn’t the goal from the beginning, but we had all these stories that we want to tell and we wanted a way for them to intersect and give you a different perspective on the stories that are happening for the other characters. And then we thought, "Well, just having the stories themselves, just the stories, is kind of boring." We wanted a more interesting way of getting that to the player. So we thought, "Well, if that was actually playable, it just didn’t happen in the cutscenes, but that it was playable. Then the two groups of players playing together, that would be interesting."

I know that Mercenaries has been confirmed. Are there any plans for competitive multiplayer?

For us, especially Resident Evil 6, the campaign, the main story, that’s where we put the majority of our resources and energy, and that’s where we want to keep the focus on the game. But we understand that gamers out there enjoy a little player-versus-player action. We understand that’s important to them, we do understand that. So, while I can’t go into any specifics, just know that we understand that that’s an important aspect of gaming, so… don’t worry.

Visit our hub for the Hot 50 2012 for more on Splinter Cell Blacklist, Castlevania; Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate, and more.