How the Resident Evil 4 directors approached the design of the remake
“To be honest, I didn’t want to.”
Those were the words of Capcom’s Yasuhiro Ampo, co-director of the Resident Evil 4 remake. Working alongside director Kazunori Kadoi, her team has taken on the challenging task of reinventing the 2005 classic for a modern audience, recapturing the game’s magic while expanding it with new features. During our cover story interview with the two designers, they spoke candidly about the early stages of the game’s development, their initial hesitance to tackle such a daunting project, and how the team’s approach to identifying areas for improvement gave them the confidence to take on the project see through.
Ampo and Kadoi have a lot of experience working on Resident Evil. Their combined credits range from the original 1996 game to titles like Resident Evil: Outbreak, Resident Evil 5, and Resident Evil: Revelations 2, the latter two of which were directed by Ampo. As a directing duo, the pair’s most impressive accomplishment is overseeing the development of the critically acclaimed Resident Evil 2 remake, which launched in 2019.
After Resident Evil 2 shipped, Ampo and Kadoi moved on to other projects within Capcom while the 2020 reimagining of Resident Evil 3 was being developed without their involvement. Upon the game’s release, the two were asked to direct the next remake: Resident Evil 4. Considered to be one of the best games of all time, it has already seen many revisions and updates over its lifetime due to its age. It also means there’s a legion of fans who are keen for everyone to play around with their winning formula.
“Among the RE series and even games in general, the original RE4 has become something of a legend,” says Ampo. “I knew it was going to be difficult to successfully remake, and if we made a mistake with any updates we made, we would upset his fans.”
“When I first heard about the RE4 remaster, my first impression was that a remaster would be difficult as the original is a masterpiece,” adds Kadoi. “So I didn’t want to do it.”
As popular as the original Resident Evil 2 is, its dated presentation, gameplay, and general framework make it difficult to revisit today. Ampo and Kadoi’s solution to this problem? Remake it in the style of Resident Evil 4, a game that set the standard for modern third-person over-the-shoulder action games. Because of this, Resident Evil 4 still holds its own against today’s games, to the point where Kadoi told us he initially “didn’t think there was really that much to update,” which only added to their concerns .
“With RE2, for example, you could feel how much it had just been updated with the new camera system,” says Ampo. “But with RE4, we knew that wasn’t really going to be the case, so one of the first things we did as a team was discuss how we were going to handle that.”
Step one to relieve that pressure: Don’t recapture the light in a bottle. The original game revolutionized a genre, so trying to replicate that feat “wouldn’t be possible,” according to Ampo. Instead, Ampo and Kadoi decided to stay largely faithful to the original, incorporating developments introduced throughout the series since its release to create “a new form of the Resident Evil game”. If they could pull this off, maybe fans would accept it.
To do this, the team had to reproduce the original and closely examine areas that could either be revised or improved. One area for expansion that came to Ampo’s mind from the start was the scenario elements: the characters and the plot. Although the team would retain the core characterization of Leon, Ashley, and others, a remake allowed them to flesh out their personalities, interactions, and backstories through elements such as additional lore notes.
Another mechanic that stuck out like a thumb was Resident Evil 4’s numerous quick-time events. Early in development, a decision was made to remove as many of these as possible. While Kadoi is a bummer for fans who still enjoy frantically pressing a button to help Leon dodge that Indiana Jones-style rolling boulder, Kadoi believes QTEs have lost the popularity or appeal have who they once had.
“We really didn’t think today’s players would enjoy it,” says Kadoi. “So we thought about what we could implement to take their place.”
The solution to revising these sequences came from re-examining the knife fight with Jack Krauser. In the original game, the confrontation unfolds entirely through QTEs. The team wondered, “If we wanted to fight with a knife in the remake, how could we do that?” That question eventually spawned the remake’s new knife parry mechanic, which preserved the spirit of that battle in a more engaging form. This was a game changer, as the team soon realized that this system could be applied beyond this boss fight to the rest of the game in standard encounters. This proved to be a fun addition and gave a lot of confidence that the team was on the right track.
“Once the parry mechanic was implemented, I wanted to parry in the original from the moment I played the original,” says Kadoi. “That’s when I felt like things got really interesting.”
In terms of graphics, the team viewed Resident Evil VII and Village as references for what a modern Resident Evil game should look like from a fidelity standpoint. Speaking of the village, Resident Evil 4’s new side quests grew out of that game’s upgrade system, where players acquired upgrades by bringing ingredients to the Duke. These new quests tied into perhaps the biggest areas Ampo and Kadoi wanted to expand: player choice and replayability.
Resident Evil 4’s many ways in which players approach it might be the main reason for its enduring popularity. Both Ampo and Kadoi cite this as one of their favorite aspects of the game. Today’s games offer more freedom than ever before. To ensure the remake would be entertaining after multiple playthroughs, the team knew it had to be bigger. New paths were added to allow players to explore in different ways, and Capcom wanted new options for dealing with the Ganados.
“Within combat, the combat is really well done, and the choices you have in combat are pretty diverse,” says Ampo. “But other than that, we felt like there wasn’t a lot of choice and thought there was room for updates.”
This paved the way for adding more situations to use stealth and gave players a completely different option for combat than running and shooting. To complement this approach, the new Bolt Launcher weapon has been added, which fires silent rounds ideal for taking out enemies undetected. Ampo and Kadoi hope the other new special weapons they’re keeping secret will ensure that Resident Evil 4 keeps players busy no matter how often they play it. When they realized they couldn’t put the game down during development, which they also felt during the development of Resident Evil 2, their initial fears evaporated even more.
“It’s important to make a game that you enjoy yourself,” says Ampo. “When you make a game, you play it over and over as it develops, and eventually you’ll probably get bored. But with the remake of RE2, no matter how much I played it, I never got bored. That is an important core factor.”
According to Kadoi, the Resident Evil 4 remake is the culmination of the years it and the original game were in development. In his opinion, Capcom should be able to do something better with that much work. They may have initially shied away from remaking this classic, but now he and Ampo are confident they’ve identified the right elements to improve or completely overhaul it to give fans what they remember , without any permanent design baggage. We’ll have to wait until March (or hopefully before then for a demo) to see Leon’s revamped Rescue Mission come together.
Resident Evil 4 will be released on March 24th for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4 and PC. Be sure to click the banner below to visit our coverage hub, filled with exclusive features and videos available throughout the month.
https://www.gameinformer.com/exclusive-feature/2023/02/08/how-resident-evil-4s-directors-approached-designing-the-remake How the Resident Evil 4 directors approached the design of the remake