There is a pause. "So, how do you think it should control?" asks Resident Evil 5 producer Masachika Kawata. It's a good question - the camera may have shifted to an over-the-shoulder perspective in Resident Evil 4, but the traditional Resi control scheme has remained pretty consistent over the years. The franchise's characters control like forklift trucks, turning on the spot and firing with feet rooted to the floor. Back at Leipzig, Capcom were still gathering feedback; still unsure whether to make the leap to a new control system - something more like Gears of War, or this issue's Dead Space...
We were granted the honour of an audience with Kawata to talk about Resident Evil 5, but ended up becoming one of the voices guiding the game's future. Just a week or two later at Microsoft's Japanese Media Briefing, Director Jun Takeuchi confirmed Resi 5's controls had changed to something more "Gears of War like". That means a sidestep, and maybe the ability to shoot while backpedalling or circling foes.
So, how did we think it should control? We spoke to Kawata, told him our ideas, heard some of his...
Resident Evil 4 was among the best games of the last generation; does the legacy intimidate you?
Kawata: We didn't create Resident Evil 4; Shinji Mikami created it. Mr Mikami is pretty much a genius anyway, so Resident Evil 4 was a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing. We're under a lot of pressure to live up to expec-tations, but we've done what we wanted to do.
So, would you say that the team feels (Resident Evil creator) Shinji Mikami's absence quite a bit?
Kawata: Yes, we do feel his absence, but he's left and such is life... We have a lot of people among our team who worked on Resident Evil 4 with Mr Mikami, and Mr Takeuchi worked on Resident Evil (the Gamecube remake) and he's a truly incredible individual as well. Like Mr Mikami, he's very hard-working and he makes the team work very hard as well. He gets into big arguments with everyone; Resident Evil 5's development is like wartime, but he's got incredible leadership.
Without Mikami, will your take on Resident Evil tread its own path?
Kawata: Resident Evil 4 broke the boundaries of the franchise. However, there are things we wanted to do in RE4 which we can do now and will be including in 5. It's not going to be a revolution, but it will be an evolution.
Things? Resident Evil 5 looks superficially similar to Resi 4; what's been improved here?
Kawata: First of all, and quite obviously, the graphics. Even the title screen of this couldn't have been done on PS2 or Wii. Online co-op as well; the number of enemies you can have on-screen at one time; destructible scenery, physics - we're using Havok this time. We can do more complex stuff with AI; the concern I had in the very beginning is that sometimes an AI partner can become very frustrating. Now she handles fine and you can play through the game without her becoming a frustration. When you see the new stuff you'll say "Oh my God, I can do this and this and this", but you'll probably get used to it quite quickly and then get into the story.
And you're still pretty excited about the way the lighting can impact on the gameplay?
Kawata: Yes. In the daylight, you can see your opponents very clearly, so the gameplay is very action-oriented. In the dark, you can't see your enemies nearly so clearly, so we utilise the power of the next generation consoles; particularly the sound abilities. The sound effects are quite incredible - if you have a 5.1 stereo system you'll hear your enemies moving around you even if you can't see them. We spent about three to four times more cash on the sound effects in Resident Evil 5 than we did in Resident Evil 4.