"We're not trying to make you like Umbrella," a translator for producer Masachika Kawata told me during an E3 meeting. "Umbrella is definitely evil; they are definitely the bad guys. But that's fun, right? We wanted to get away from the traditional hero main character for once and see what we could do with a more sinister main character. And obviously there's a lot of interesting and cool stuff that opened up when we made that decision. There's a lot of dirt getting done that we wouldn't be able to do if it was Chris Redfield out there doing it."
The decision to go this route brings up obvious questions: How will this affect the Resident Evil timeline? Is Capcom trying to retcon a different series of events into the series' canon? Can important characters die? The answer to that last question is yes, surprisingly.
"Basically, we wanted to do something we couldn't do on an actual numbered Resident Evil game and this is one of the things we decided. Kill Leon was one of those things; a kind of theme for the game. So it's basically a new experience, one of those things you couldn't do in a normal Resident Evil game." While Kawata wouldn't specifically say whether Leon dies or not in the game, he explained that the idea was a central theme in producing the game. "We can't really say what the big thing is -- there's a big surprise at the end of the game," he teased.
Some of the past events taking place during 1998 in Raccoon City won't be the same in Operation Raccoon City as in previous Resident Evil titles. "To a large extent, we've thrown out the old events," he said, but assured me that there won't be "much confusion" between what has happened and what will happen in the game. "The situation and setting of Raccoon City in 1998 is the same. It's a really interesting way to tell a new story and it just seems to fit with this kind of gameplay."
Finally, I had to ask about the zombies. In previous games, they were central to the experience, but all signs point to them being more a backdrop than the main threat -- something that Kawata told me is a bit of a misperception. He says that zombies can actually kill players and that in the final game, it'll be important to leverage them against your enemies. An example he gave me was wounding an enemy, causing them to bleed, which in turn will attract any nearby zombies.