Resident Evil 2’s Producers On New Areas And Scarier Zombies
Capcom announced the remake to Resident Evil 2 three years ago, but the publisher debuted the game for the first time at this year’s E3, and title made a big splash. At the show, we sat down with producers Yoshiaki Hirabayashi and Tsuyoshi Kanda to talk about how the original Resident Evil remake served as an example for this project, why Capcom is moving away from a shooter focus with the series, and how this might be the scariest Resident Evil game to date.
What was the plan to get Resident Evil 2 remade?
Hirabayashi: The reason is really just that fans have always asked for this. There have been a long number of years with a very high demand for a remake of Resident Evil 2. Finally three years ago, the timing was right. We got it all signed off and I couldn't wait to tell everyone, so we made this unofficial soft-launch video where it was like, “We're gonna do it, don't worry.”
The Resident Evil remake on the GameCube is beloved by fans, but a lot has changed in the gaming landscape since its release. Are you still using that game as a template for this remake? Or are you thinking of something new and different?
Kanda: Both that remake and the new Resident Evil 2 reimagining are trying to respect the original game while pushing things forward in terms of available technology and hardware. We want to see how to better express the concepts onscreen better than we could in the original game. We're not necessarily treating the first remake as a full-on template for how to reimagine this game, but I think they both start from a similar place. We're taking a well-loved title and saying, “How can we bring this to modern hardware with the latest technology and bring an experience that will allow today's players to feel the same as people did 20 years ago?”
Hirabayashi: Actually, my first project at Capcom was the GameCube Resident Evil remake.
Oh, cool. Nice work.
Hirabayashi: Back when we worked on that project, the director, Shinji Mikami, was telling the team that he wanted us to bring the best Resident Evil we could with the tools we had available to us – trying to bring a game that modern players would enjoy. That mindset hasn't changed at all, but in terms of when we make these games, a lot of things are different. When we remade Resident Evil 1 on GameCube, the series only existed as a series of fixed-angle camera games, Resident Evil 4 hadn't come out yet.
So there wasn't even any choice on the table, it was just, “This is what Resident Evil is,” so we kept the exact same system as the original and upgraded the graphics. But looking back, if you're going to remake a Resident Evil game that's coming out in 2019, you've got three basic choices in the title: the old-school fixed cameras, or you could go with the subsequent games over-the-shoulder view, or with Resident Evil 7’s first person perspective. All those options present themselves now in a way that they didn't when we remade the first game. We've made the decision to go with over-the-shoulder third person as we think it's the best experience possible.
Does that mean that it will play similarly to what fans remember of RE 4 and 5? What are the tent poles of Resident Evil 2 that you felt like you needed to stick to?
Hirabayashi: You look at Resident Evil 4, its combination of over-the-shoulder perspective and more shooter-based gameplay, and that was the same for Resident Evils 4, 5, and 6. Just because this remake has gone over-the-shoulder doesn't mean that it also has a shooter focus. This is something we really want to make clear – we want people to separate in their minds what an over-the-shoulder game is and what a shooter is. Resident Evil 2 2019 is over-the-shoulder plus survival horror. Which is actually a kind of an unprecedented combination for the series.
Kanda: But this game is going to be slower paced, resource management, survival-horror adventure gameplay with backtracking metroidvania exploration puzzle-solving – we’re not really adding shooter gameplay to it at all. I think if anyone has any concerns that over-the-shoulder is going to make it an action game, then we can tell you “No, it feels like Resident Evil 2,” it's just that there's a brand-new perspective.
Hirabayashi: This main concept of over-the-shoulder survival horror is going to play into one of the other key pillars of the game, which is that the horror of the zombies is probably the highest that we've ever had in the series. Because you're right up close with the camera perspective, and you get this kind of intimate atmosphere. Whenever you come across a zombie and fight against it or it's fighting you, it's right up in your face. Very immersive. Really terrifying.
One of the major innovations of Resident Evil 2’s gameplay was the zapping system and the way that Leon and Claire's stories would affected each other during successive playthroughs. Is that feature still present in the remake, or is it just all one big story?
Hirabayashi: The zapping system was definitely innovative at the time, and it kind of has its pros and cons where it brought a way to experience the story in different ways. But it also introduced a lot of repetitiveness, where to see everything you had to retrace a lot of steps in the different A and B stories. So we decided to try and bring these together. Leon and Claire have their own full-fledged story campaigns that are separate from one another. Like, each one is its own entity now: a single story for each character. That is our way of trying to bring depth that everyone can experience for each playthrough.
Kanda: They're separate campaigns but they do have relationships, so there will be parts in Leon’s campaign where you come across Claire and that kind of thing. It’s still a single-player campaign, it’s not like you're gonna be crossing over somebody else's Claire story or something like that. It is a very focused single-player experience and the two campaigns are related stories but each one takes a focus on what happened to Leon in this situation or what happened to Claire.
I noticed that you guys started the trailer from a mouse's perspective, and I see that you have one here in the interview room. Is there...?
Hirabayashi [grabbing the mouse and talking for him]: “Hello. My name is Kevin Jr. Nice to meet you.”
Oh, I’m sorry, I didn't get your business card … I was just curious: Is there a secret behind the mouse? Or is there a reason you guys chose to...?
Kanda: Well, it's not like this rat is gonna be some central story figure in the game, but it's kind of building off the fact that there were rats in the original game. We were trying to think of a concept for how to kick off the announcement trailer in a way that would make you start watching and think, “What am I seeing here?” And then it would somehow click with you at some point that this was Resident Evil 2. We thought that the rat's-eye-view beginning of the trailer was a really fun concept for how to do that.
Hirabayashi: We kinda wanted some Easter eggs in the trailer as well, whether it's the concept of rats as being the source of how the virus spread through a city in the original, or you might have noticed there's a PlayStation One in the trailer at the start. That's a little hint back to the origins of the game. It'd been such a long time since we spoke about the project, and we wanted to slowly get back on everyone's minds after this three-year gap from [when] we said we'd do it. You know, we didn't just want to have a splash screen with “Resident Evil 2" and Leon. We wanted to take a moment to warm up again to show you that we're coming back.
Do you guys have new areas, then? Or do you feel like you just took the concept of Resident Evil 2 and re-did it all? Will people recognize the layout of the police station?
Hirabayashi: Yes, but we have another place and a not-original part, too. Yeah, if you check out the build you'll definitely get some answers there. But yeah, there's definitely gonna be new places to explore compared to the original game.
Kanda: There are bathrooms.
Kanda: We have a restroom in our video game. [laughs]
Hirabayashi: People commented over the years that there were no bathrooms in the RPD where they go to go, but there are now bathrooms.
So it is the 20-year anniversary of Resident Evil this year. I was wondering, for this remake did you end up consulting a lot of the people who were on the original team?
Hirabayashi: Yeah, well we are not just consulting people from the original team, some of them are on our production team. So there's two directors on the game, and one of them is someone who was working on the original Resident Evil 2, and our boss is also someone who dates back to the RE2 project. So we've got direct involvement with key staff members, and that is really helping us make sure we're respecting the original game in the way we should.
Kanda: The other director has actually been on the series since Resident Evil 1, so we've got some great veterans on the team.