Interview with Capcom’s Ben LeRougetel on Resident Evil 5

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Q. Previous Resident Evil titles have seen the player working very much alone. What made you decide to move to a full co-operative experience this time?

A: Action titles nowadays, really the expectations are that they offer co-operative play. Obviously Xbox provides Xbox Live; it’s easier to deliver a co-op experience. It’s that much easier for the developer and also we’ve seen some great games released over the years that offer co-op play so a game coming out in 2009 really has to have it to be up there or at least matching what’s already out there so yeah that’s kind of the reason why they put that there, plus it also allows some new things. There have always been female partners in previous Resident Evil games, but there hasn’t been the true co-op play. Now with the next generation power of the 360, they can fully utilise the power of co-op properly within the gameplay as well.

Q. Do you feel having your co-op partner at your side detracts from the feeling of being alone against all odds??

A: I guess that’s a very good question actually. Resident Evil has historically been a single player experience, there have been exceptions of Outbreak but that’s slightly different. By and large though, it’s been about you, saving yourself, looking after yourself and trying to stay alive. When we looked at the partner side of things, initially we thought where’s the tension going to be? We’ve got two of you fighting against the enemy, I think the tension is there though, more so, as you’ve got to worry about someone else too if you play the game properly.

There is of course the issue of not caring about your partner, but if you do that you’re not going to complete the game so now it’s a case of looking after someone else: sharing ammunition with them and taking on the confrontation together. Now obviously we’re here together today and we’re playing co-op via system link so we’re sitting beside each other and maybe the tension is not so great. But I think if you’re playing over Xbox Live, and you’re however many miles away, and all you’re going to have is the headset and there’s going to be moments where you’re shouting ‘come on, I need some ammo, come on’ and that tension, that bit where you have five seconds and your partner’s down to critical health and you’ve got to run to get to them, or you’re that person on critical health and you’re waiting for your partner to come to you and you know I think the tension is still there.

There are still some great set pieces that you haven’t seen today, still some of the great moments like the earlier Resident Evil games. You’ve mainly seen the demo release in the sections that you’ve played today, you see the outside somewhere but you haven’t checked out the mine sections where it’s pitch black and you can’t see around the corner, those kind of classic Resident Evil sections. So tension is very much still there.

Q. Will the game provide us with any true teamwork challenges, where the players must work together to overcome obstacles for example?

A: Yes… *laughs* again, one of the things that hasn’t been shown in the demo or today is the puzzle element. Anyone who’s played Resident Evil 4 will know that there are quite a number of puzzles there, mainly action based puzzles and within Resident Evil 5 there are a similar percentage of puzzles. So they might be, Chris has to be in one place while Sheva has to be on the other side of the area turning a crank or they could be, you both have to pull something at the same time or you have to find items…I think also generally there’s the working together just to make progress through the game. So on certain occasions, Sheva might take the high ground; get elevation, while Chris is staying on low ground so those kinds of things. You play together for the most part of the game, but there are various incidences where you have to split up to solve puzzles or complete sections.

Q. There are some who feel that Resident Evil 5 is simply an updated Resident Evil 4 and aside from the inclusion of co-op the game offers nothing new on its predecessor. What would you say to this?

A: I would say there is more to it. There is just the sheer fact that we’re on next gen consoles, that we can add a lot more detail and richness to the world, you can tell the filters used to create the smoke haze here *points to example on screen*. You’re really immersed in the world, other new features to Resident Evil 5 are the vehicle based action, action where you’re based on a jeep or based on boats. You’ve got enemies themselves, who are far more advanced than Resident Evil 4. Whereas previously they were limited to just being on foot, they’re able to ride motorbikes, and jeeps and cars and vans and lorries…they’re quick and faster than previously. There’s also some other little bits and pieces I can’t really tell you about but will add to the gameplay experience. So I think overall, if you’ve played Resident Evil 4 and you’ve played this, it’s not just simply Resident Evil 4 in HD, there’s more to it than that. If you haven’t played Resident Evil 4 I think you’re going to come to this and think ‘ok this is great, it’s got a real mix of gameplay’. Hopefully if you’ve played Gears of War or Dead Space and you liked those games, you’ll really enjoy this as well.

Q. Following the release of the demo on Xbox and PSN there has been a great deal of debate over the games control system. What were the developer’s intentions with decisions such as not allowing running and shooting, changes which ultimately have split the community?

A: Resident Evil has always been about, ever since Resident Evil 1, standing still, taking aim and taking your shot. Now you could say back in those days that was partly due to the power of the machines, but that was really tense then, ammunition was limited and the survival horror genre was born with that and Alone in the Dark. So we’ve moved on, 13 years hence from that time, and you know people have played games like Gears of War but it’s the one that a lot of people have played and therefore will have experienced a certain control mechanic they’re used to. I think then the demo’s been put out there, and it throws you right into battle pretty much. You don’t get a lot of opportunity to experience the controls before you’re like ‘aaargh’ running scared, basically fighting for your life. I think with the people that have come here these past few days who have played the demo and have since played the game from the beginning. They’ve really gone ‘you know what, playing the game from the beginning is an experience’ it allows the opportunity to get used to the controls before you’re really thrown into the thick of things and I hope that people when they can play the full game will feel the same way. No it’s not the same control mechanics as Gears of War but then if you made it a run and jump game it wouldn’t be Resident Evil. There have been some concessions by the team in terms of putting in some different control mechanics that are perhaps more akin to what people are used to but they decided against going the full way because in our opinion that wouldn’t be a Resident Evil game.

Q. I love being scared and certainly the early incarnations of Resident Evil were very good at this (that first ‘Licker’ in Resi 2 almost killed me)! However there seems to be a trend for survival horror games to put more and more enemies into the action. Whilst this is very impressive from a technological viewpoint it does dull the fright-factor considerably once you’ve seen your 200th zombie. Has Resident Evil 5 still got the potential to scare the living daylights out of you, or is now just a hugely impressive gore-fest?

A: I don’t think it is a gore fest, I mean it’s not gone for the splatter house look. It could have been much more visceral in what they showed. Yes there’s blood but it could have been even more over the top, we transported a lot of the action from dark corridors to the daylight and yes there are a lot of zombies….sorry infected but they’re in your face now, the fear now is how am I going to get past all those zombies…..infected so I think that you have to put more enemies in because it’s expected. I think that you will still be scared because as I said before, there are those moments in dark corridors where you don’t know what’s round the corner, and there’s also some great Resident Evil beasts if you will, monsters, that are huge, supernatural, fantastical, that are ‘how the hell am I going to kill that?’ and you probably won’t get to kill it the first time and you’ll keep going till you do. But the first time you see those things, they will scare you and you’ll worry about how you’ll survive. I mean sometimes even the simplest thing scares you, I can use a classic Resident Evil moment, dogs jumping through the window into the corridor, great game moment and a similar thing to me would be first T-Rex in Tomb Raider, and there are still those moments in Resident Evil 5. Yes you’ve got someone by your side, you know great, but I think the fear is still there.