When the screen at Sony's press conference went dark and the Resident Evil logo suddenly appeared, we couldn't believe the creepy, deliberately-paced, first-person trailer we'd just seen belonged to the latest incarnation of gaming's longest-running horror franchise. Resident Evil has grown into more of a blockbuster action series in recent years, so to see a game so unabashedly committed to terror--without a single gun, zombie, or bicep in sight--was both surprising and exhilarating.
We later learned, however, that this trailer only showed off a playable teaser that wouldn't be part of the actual game, so we sat down with Masachika Kawata, producer on Resident Evil 7, to learn more about the full experience before it launches next January.
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We now know the trailer shown at the Sony press conference was simply a playable teaser, not part of the full game. So what can players expect from the full Resident Evil 7?
Kawata: So actually, if you take a look at the trailer that was revealed at the Sony press conference and that's online now, there are quite a few images from the main game in there. Going off that, the demo we have on the PlayStation Network right now was specially created to focus on the atmosphere that Resident Evil 7 will provide. It doesn't include a lot of other elements that are in the game. Rather, we wanted to convey just what type of feeling you would get from the game. In the actual game, one thing that you'll notice first and foremost is that the scale and scope of the game is much bigger than demonstrations.
You mentioned the full game will include more mechanics. Can you comment on what some of those mechanics might be? For example, what role will combat play?
One of the main gameplay elements that is not in [the demo] is, as you stated, combat. In the final game, of course, there will be many types of game mechanics including combat, perhaps some gun-play. One of the things I would like to emphasize about this is that it's not always about going in guns blazing. It might actually be to your advantage to try to run away from combat at certain times, or use items against your enemies in a different way. This is to say that trying to survive the horror, the survival horror, is a key element to Resident Evil 7.
The final game is also entirely in first-person perspective. This is driven by the concept of Resident Evil 7, which is a return to horror.
Why did you choose to present the playable teaser in first-person, and will the full game be entirely first-person as well?
The final game is also entirely in first-person perspective. This is driven by the concept of Resident Evil 7, which is a return to horror. At this particular time in games, it was determined that first-person was the most advantageous way to present horror to the player. When confronting the enemy, there's no barrier between you and the enemy. This also applies to exploration and gimmicks and traps and things like that. They felt that it really gets you up close and personal with everything, which adds to that horror element.
So obviously this is a big departure from Resident Evil 5 and 6, both of which focused mainly on action. Why the decision to return to horror?
One of the main driving factors was listening to the desire of consumers. Consumers have often told us very strongly, very passionately, that they want a return to horror. Also from a creative standpoint, it's kind of refreshing and also easier to make a much more user-friendly and easy to understand game if it's more focused. With previous titles, perhaps they had a very wide reach in terms of content and direction and things they wanted to convey to the player. By focusing and buckling down on the horror, we feel we've created an experience that people can easily get into and enjoy for that aspect. So as we focused on the horror aspect of Resident Evil 7, we conversely focused on the shooting aspect for our game Umbrella Corps. So we feel that being very focused on these elements, we can create different games that are easy to understand for the player and easy to get into.
Will players feel sort of super-powered by the end of the game, or will they be threatened and scared throughout the entire experience?
The game is strictly survival-horror, so there's never a time where you'd get a magic item and become super powerful or anything like that. You're in a situation where you're thinking about, ''How do I make it through this terrifying situation?'' However, you'll find items and weapons and things like that which will give you the advantage over your adversaries, or over the situation depending on what the situation is. It's about how you use it, how you use the scarce items at your disposal to make it through that situation.
The game is strictly survival-horror. It's about how you use the scarce items at your disposal to make it through that situation.
How does this game will tie into the larger Resident Evil universe? Will we see any returning characters or elements that have defined the series over all these years?
Just somewhat jokingly, one of the things we can tell you--the only real thing we can tell you about right now--is that there are herbs in the game. So that just gives you a hint that there are Resident Evil elements in this game. Actually, on another note, within the demo, there is an item that also hints at some connections with the larger Resident Evil universe. Some people have found. We've seen in YouTube videos, et cetera. So again, there's kind of a symbolic relationship to the previous Resident Evil titles within the title that we're just hinting at this time. It also does take place in the Resident Evil universe, in the Resident Evil timeline. However, I really want, when people play the game, to put aside the storyline and elements they know from the previous Resident Evil games and approach this anew.
One of the reasons for setting aside the very famous characters and things like that is to, again, focus on the horror. If you don't know what's going to happen to you, or the person you're taking the role of in the game, it's much scarier than if you're an iconic character who you know is eventually going to make it through the day. It's also harder to read what's going to happen in the story because it's new, as compared to some of the organization and things you might know in the past. We know that people understand and enjoy these elements, and there will be plenty of connections to those for the player to enjoy. But the story itself and the action itself is totally new.
So just very simply, who is the protagonist?
The hero is you. [Laughs]
Horror games have enjoyed a bit of renaissance recently, primarily in the indie space. I was curious if the Resident Evil team has been paying attention to those smaller games, or has been influenced by them in any way.
The R&D team definitely plays these games and checks out many many different types of games. I haven't played them personally, but I know that the staff has, and they've taken a deep look at some of these. It's actually part of the reason that gave the team the confidence to move to the first-person perspective, these independent games, which have proven that it is a viable perspective for the genre.
So what can Capcom, as a big triple-A developer, bring to the genre in this day and age? We've seen so many small indie games in recent years, so what can we expect from a giant, triple-A horror game?
So a really easy to answer example is, the entire game supports VR. Only the backing of a large staff and resources could probably make this happen. Interestingly enough, with this title, one of the main goals is actually not to make a triple-A game. From the get-go, the goal is to make the best B-rank horror movie type of experience. The reason for this thinking is that we don't want the content of this game to be driven by marketing, which is often the case with a triple-A game. Instead, we want it to be driven by the creator.
Taking the B-rank route allows us to focus more on horror and an intimate experience, try to make that particular experience as enjoyable as possible, rather than reaching for something that's more bombastic or by the line, so to speak. When Resident Evil first started out, even from that era is kind of aiming for the B-class, did have some influence across other areas outside of the game.
It also does take place in the Resident Evil universe. However, I really want people to put aside the storyline and elements they know from the previous Resident Evil games and approach this anew.
For example, the product packages have always been kind of campy looking--like you would see for a VHS, you know? We wanted to retain that, and you can kind of see that in the influence of the key art that we created for this. We wanted to have that kind of B-rank horror feeling. So I feel like, although the scale of Capcom, of course, is larger than an independent developer, we like to hope that the spirit of the individual developers working on the title matches the feeling they have when they're creating their games.
I understand that rumored PT developer Jordan Amaro is working on Resident Evil 7. What value has he brought to the team?
I think the crux of the question is whether or not there are people who worked on the PT demonstration that Konami released. I can say that there are no staff on the team now or before that worked on PT at Capcom. However, we were actually creating Resident Evil 7 before PT was announced, so when they announced it, it was kind of like, ''Oh, they're doing first-person too?'' However, now that we've come this far, we can see that the content of this game is completely different from what the content or the direction that [PT] was moving in. So we just wanted to make a point of that: that they're both in the horror genre, but what you'll actually see at the end of the day is completely new.
I'd just like to add that I, of course, played PT, and I thought it was an excellent demonstration or excellent game, if you want to call it that. I also know from hearing on the backside of the industry in Japan that the staff who worked on it had to work very hard to achieve what they did. I think it looked really great, and it had so much promise, and I was unfortunately very disappointed that it didn't come to fruition. That was too bad that that happened; I'd just like to share the fact that I really loved it.
[Editor's note: During a later interview with GameSpot and Gamescom 2016, Kawata confirmed that Amaro is indeed working on Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, and reaffirmed that the team at Capcom was already working on RE7 before PT was released.]