Resident Evil 4 remake interview with producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi

We got to talk with RE4 remake producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi about a wide variety of topics and features related to the upcoming game.

Image via Capcom

Resident Evil 4 is one of the most beloved games in the entire franchise. It has been released a few times across various platforms and players are generally enamored with Leon’s journey to infiltrate a bioweaponized cult and save Presidential daughter Ashley Graham from their clutches. With Capcom finally going all in on the remake, we had a lot of burning questions, and Resident Evil 4 producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi was kind enough to speak with us about many of them. Check out how the team is approaching the game, how it’s improving upon its remake process with Resident Evil 4, and how many of the iconic elements are being reimagined!

Shacknews: Resident Evil 4 is considered one of the high points of the series and is said to have revitalized the franchise. How does it feel returning to that game and taking on this remake of a game that is so beloved by fans?

Yoshiaki Hirabayashi: So, for Resident Evil 4, you mentioned ... it is a game that is loved by many. So, while creating this remake now for Resident Evil 4 of course we are doing our best to create this game that we hope everyone will love and make a game everyone will remember.

Shacknews: The original RE4 is known for having gone through many prototypes as Capcom sorted out what direction it wanted to take with the game. Has there been any such difficulty in the remake or did the team know exactly where they wanted to go with it?

Hirabayashi: We held onto stages people know and remember from back in the day. What we did then with the remake is we took those stages and we powered them up, essentially. We modernized them for the modern player. So, for example, while we're doing that, if you look into the opening village area, that area has been remade several times during the development process and been tuned up several times to make the specific kind of area and [the] clear feel that we wanted to have for the intro stage of the game.

The opening village in Resident Evil 4 remake
Source: Capcom

Shacknews: Speaking of the new hardware, it’s been such a long time since the original RE4. It was beautiful at the time, but still kind of flat or blocky in certain areas. What has it been like to reimagine the major parts of Resident Evil 4 with more powerful technology such as the PS5?

Hirabayashi: As you said, back in the day, we had uh, perhaps limited technology when we had the GameCube and the PlayStation [2] and whatnot. Now, we have the very modern PlayStation 5 as our console that you can play the game on. So, the art director, when looking into making this game [was] really focusing on the actual space [and] environments that the user enters when they play the game. Rather than being limited by the technology, he could [instead] rather focus on what he wants to use the for the feel and then that goes deep into the actual details of the game itself. That's not only the small graphical details, like you mentioned the different details and housing etc, but also the lighting of the levels itself.

Shacknews: With the Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes, we saw characters that might not have played big roles in those games expanded in interesting ways. Characters like Carlos or Sherry featured extended or unique twists in their narratives. Can we expect something similar out of side characters in RE4?

Hirabayashi: When making the remake on RE4 now, [during] discussions with the director himself, one important factor when looking into the development is the actual character interactions and how that can be changed now when we look into the remakes of the games. So, when improving the game for modern consoles, there's also the importance of improving the character interactions so, character interactions have been improved. They've been powered up and deepened. Now when we have Leon going through RE4, we of course improved interactions with Leon and the characters around him as well.

Ashley Graham in Resident Evil 4 remake, running through woods by a creek bed.
Source: Capcom

Shacknews: Ada Wong was a pretty big part of the original RE4, not only featured alongside Leon’s campaign, but also featuring her own campaign in Separate Ways. Will we see something similar with her in Resident Evil 4 remake?

Hirabayashi: So, we can't really go into details about this question right now, but we can say that, for the main game, Ada Wong will be as she was in the original game's main story and that's been preserved in the remake as well. That's about what we can say now.

Shacknews: One complaint fans had about the original game was Krauser, who shows up very late in the game and feels a bit shoehorned in the way he is portrayed. Has the team taken note of that feedback in reworking Krauser’s part in the remake?

Hirabayashi: Krauser himself is something we don't really want to touch on right now. We want users to experience that while they are playing the game. That said, from the original game to the remake, it's been about 17 years that's passed since these two games now. In between ... there have been several RE games that came out - not only the numbered entries series but also offshoot series. Within that there's been more information coming out about all the characters and the settings themselves, so we now have all this information that we can now utilize to improve the game and look more to the characters themselves and in their directions and sort of, boost up what we feel like modern players should have for the remake now.

Cultists in Resident Evil 4 remake
Source: Capcom

Shacknews: Both the original Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2 remakes are almost universally loved by fans, but when it comes to Resident Evil 3 remake, there were players who felt it strayed a bit too far from the original. How has the team taken that criticism in its approach to RE4 when it comes to both appeasing older fans and creating something interesting for new players?

Hirabayashi: For [the RE4 remake], we're looking back to RE2 remake. We have the same director now in the RE4 remake, so it's the same team of directors and producers. Now when they're looking into making this remake for RE4, you have the same sort of mindset that they had for Resident Evil 2 in 2019, and that includes the way that they want to preserve the sort of feeling and essence of the original game. The feeling of nostalgia ...  I guess it's a good way of saying it's also updating the game to a modern audience. So, it's this balance that is at hand when they are looking into having sort of the same mindset now for RE4.

Shacknews: It’s worth noting this game comes after Resident Evil 4 VR, and while the control styles between VR and non-VR are very different, I’m curious to know if the team has played the VR game and if there was anything there that the team felt valuable or that it could implement in the upcoming RE4 remake?

Hirabayashi: So, for the first question, yeah, some of us have played the RE4 VR version. But we can’t really answer if we have anything concrete that we’ve learned and brought from the VR version to the remake at this time.

Leon Kennedy walking up to a rustic house in Resident Evil 4 remake.

Source: Capcom

Shacknews: Resident Evil 4 is pivotal for a lot of reasons in the franchise, notably because while it’s still a horror game, the franchise leaned much deeper into action at this point. Is that the same in the RE4 remake? Can you speak to how to the team has worked to balance horror and action here? How do you keep the threats and danger persistent?

Hirabayashi: So, generally the actual balance between action and horror is quite close to what it was in the original game. However, as a trend with the latest Resident Evil games, the elements of survival-horror are important for the RE4 remake as well. So, the horror aspect is something that we have placed focus on. Users might feel there's slightly more horror than they felt in the original game. But [players will also notice] that the action in the game has been improved on heavily since the original game.

Shacknews: With so much love for Resident Evil 4 and so many fans having waited for this one to happen, what do you want fans to see out of the RE4 remake, whether they’re longtime fans returning to the game or new players experiencing RE4 for the first time?

Hirabayashi: We can't really say one thing that we want you to focus on. We are making a game that we hope that users can remember the sort of nostalgic feel they had when they played the original game. But also at the same time, we want new users to be able to play the game in a similar way that we feel like people have been enjoying the latest RE games as well. So rather than focus on one point, we want to say that we are focusing on both the nostalgic feeling that users had as well as modernizing the game so all the new players can enjoy the new era for remake.

That covers this Resident Evil 4 remake interview. Be sure to stay tuned for more coverage and check out our hands-on preview of the game! The Resident Evil 4 remake is set to launch on March 23, 2023 on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

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