How do you improve on one of the finest survival horror games ever made? That’s the question facing the team at Capcom, many of whom worked on the original Resident Evil 4, as they tackle the remake for the PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC,
“After [17 years], we too have gained a lot of knowledge about making games. We’re now able to make games that are enjoyed on both a deeper and a broader level even when it comes to elements like controls and storytelling. We thought that adding this knowledge to Resident Evil 4 would make it an even more enjoyable title,” says Yoshiaki Hirabayashi, who was the lead designer of the original game’s cinematics and is now a producer of the remake. “That’s why we decided to tackle Resident Evil 4 with the mindset of, ‘Even if it’s a difficult project, let’s see if we can do it.’
First announced over the summer, Resident Evil 4 will be the most ambitious version yet of the classic game, which has been released on everything from Nintendo Wii to mobile devices. Capcom has enjoyed quite a bit of success with its Resident Evil remakes to this point, but it faces a tough task in living up to the expectations of fans who love the original.
We recently got a closer a look at the remake for ourselves in an extended hands-on demo. In addition to playing Resident Evil 4 for our preview, we had an opportunity to talk to Hirabayashi about topics including quicktime events [QTEs], whether the original inventory structure will return, and more. Read on for our full preview of Resident Evil 4 Remake, which is due out March 24, 2023.
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IGN: I’d like to start by asking about how the proposal for a Resident Evil 4 remake came about. Was it a natural follow-up to Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3?
Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: That is how the order went. That said, remaking a game as beloved by players and available on as many platforms as Resident Evil 4 seemed like a difficult project for us.
As part of the original’s development team and a fan of the game, I believe that Resident Evil 4 is an excellent overall product. At the same time, I also feel amazed that seventeen years have passed since its release already.
After that much time, we too have gained a lot of knowledge about making games. We’re now able to make games that are enjoyed on both a deeper and a broader level even when it comes to elements like controls and storytelling. We thought that adding this knowledge to Resident Evil 4 would make it an even more enjoyable title.
That’s why we decided to tackle Resident Evil 4 with the mindset of, “Even if it’s a difficult project, let’s see if we can do it.”
IGN: I feel that way too, as a fan. Resident Evil 4 isn’t just highly regarded, it’s nearly been deified.
Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: It really has. To be honest, the work can start to feel tiring (chuckles). We’re trying out different ways to make a game like that more fun for players, but what did you think after playing it?
IGN: It was quite fun. Given how well-made the recent remakes have been, I was sure that this one wouldn’t miss either, but it exceeded my expectations.
Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: Thank you!
IGN: There were scenes in the demo that felt even more nerve-wracking than the original, and I enjoyed the action as well thanks to additions like being able to parry with the knife.
Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: Kazunori Kadoi and Yasuhiro Anpo, who worked on Resident Evil 2, are overseeing this game’s creation as directors. Kadoi is supervising gameplay elements, and he’s quite fixated on the knife.
You can even use the knife for follow-up attacks on fallen enemies, or to perform emergency escapes when grabbed by enemies. These actions will reduce the knife’s durability, though, so it’s important to think carefully about when to use them. It allows for a wider variety of playstyles.
IGN: Would it be fair to say that parrying is an element meant for veteran gamers, while follow-up attacks and emergency escapes are also there for players who aren’t as experienced?
Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: I think so. There are a lot of different ways to play the original Resident Evil 4, and it’s been striking to see the different methods people use to make their way through the game. There’s a kind of fun that comes from not being forced to play in a certain way, and these various knife actions are a part of us trying to bring that to this remake as well.
IGN: Resident Evil 4’s story has also been restructured. The demo featured some background that wasn’t discussed much in the original, and it felt like it was trying to highlight the story. Does that trend hold up overall?
Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: Yes, it’s fair to see it that way. We’ve put a particular emphasis on the interactions between characters, as we’d like to show even more about the game’s human relationships than the original does.
For example, take Ashley, someone the main character Leon rescues. We want to show how both of them feel, rather than making her story just be about getting rescued and escaping. Of course, these aren’t feelings of love, and they’re expressed in a tense way appropriate for a survival horror title. The mysterious Luis also has more depth to him than the original.
When the Resident Evil 4 first came out, there of course hadn’t been a Resident Evil 5 or a Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. We’ve restructured the story with this history in mind.
IGN: There were quick time events [QTEs] in the original, like where you have to escape from rocks. Are there any changes to these in the remake?
Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: I’d say there are “barely any” QTEs. Different people have different definitions of what a QTE is, so while I can’t tell you that there aren’t any at all, I can say that there aren’t prompts to press buttons mid-cutscene.
However, there are times when you need to press a button based on a situation. The whole team has been working to properly fit what some would call QTEs into the actual game.
IGN: I was struck by the demo’s serious situations that really made me feel afraid. The original gave me more of a brighter impression overall, with no lack of comedic scenes that could make the player smirk. What kinds of changes are you making on that front?
Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: I personally think that Resident Evil 4 is full of both witty moments and moments that make you feel fear. The horror elements were emphasized in the demo you played, as it’s the introduction to the game. You’ll see scenes with more wit as you proceed further.
We’re working to make adjustments that feel natural to players, with the horror elements of the original maintaining their horror, and Leon’s cynical appeal still shining through. We’ve been sure to keep moments where Leon insults his enemies in as well.
IGN: One memorable part of Resident Evil 4 is the briefcase. Fitting all your items in and managing your ammo well was part of the game’s charm. Is that still in the game?
Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: We’ve been sure to leave in the fun that is the briefcase’s puzzle-like resource management. After all, part of what makes the game interesting is rotating weapons and items to make them fit just right and agonizing over what to keep and what to throw away.
In addition to the large, medium, and small briefcases, there are a few customization options to add style to your bag, like charms you can attach and different briefcase colors. The gold briefcase you can get as a preorder bonus actually has the effect of slightly increasing the amount of money that enemies drop.
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IGN: The remake has also added ammo crafting through gunpowder. Are there any other crafting elements?
Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: I can’t speak about that right now, but there may be something. We’re thinking about ways to let people experience the game using the playstyle they enjoy.
IGN: The graphics have made a big leap forward as well this time. I was struck by moments like seeing leaves carried in the wind, or the Chainsaw Man’s bloodshot eyes.
Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: There’s a particular focus on dynamic expressions and atmosphere when it comes to the art for this title. Light and shadow are important when it comes to survival horror, for example, so while a game gets easier to play when it’s easier to see, it also ruins the atmosphere. We’re trying to tune things down so that players don’t feel stress, but rather a feeling of “it’s dark but I think I can make my way through,” and we’ve done this through the striking use of light and shadow in a horror title.
There was a plaza scene in the demo you played, and you’re walking toward the sun at first there. This makes everything behind you dark and eerie, but it also means if you turn around because an enemy appears, they’re well lit and easy to see.
IGN: The release date for a PlayStation 4 edition was announced the day before this interview. It seems like it would be hard for it to handle this level of graphics, but was the release planned from the start?
Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: The game’s being made in the RE Engine, allowing us to handle lots of different platforms. That said, this game really has been made for latest-gen hardware. We’ll be taking the game we made for newer hardware as our base and optimizing it for older hardware.
Changing the experience of the game is out of the question for us, so the development staff is very hard at work doing their best to bring this game to multiple generations of hardware.
Interview conducted by Takuya Watanabe via IGN Japan. Translation by Ko Ransom.
Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Have a tip? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.