The man responsible for directing nearly 50 cut scenes in "Resident Evil 5" shed some light on how they were made, and explained how he was influenced by "Metal Gear Solid 4," "28 Days Later" and "Black Hawk Down."
As we know, often video games use cut scenes to push along the plot; in this regard, survival-horror game "Resident Evil 5" is no different. However, the developers at Capcom in Osaka were so captivated by filmmaker Jim Sonzero's work directing "Wes Craven's Pulse," a 2006 remake of Japanese horror movie "Kairo," that they hired him to craft the cut scenes for their new game.
Aside from "Pulse," Sonzero's previous work included TV commercials and music videos; he had never done a video game before, but he was enthusiastic about the chance to work with Capcom. "I saw it as an opportunity to expand my skillset, so I jumped in and just started swimming," Sonzero told MTV Multiplayer in a recent phone interview. "It was a big learning curve to learn the motion-capture technology, but it was fascinating and I'm totally hooked on it."
"I brought cinematic experience, as opposed to being a game developer who would usually do cinematics for games."
Once he hit the ground running, he was given the script and he visualized the sequences; Sonzero said in that respect, it was very similar to the movie-making process. "I was also given game assets to work with, like the environments and the characters," he said. "From that, I was able to run wild with how these sequences played out, how the actors behaved in the scenes, where the cameras went and how the cameras exposed different pieces of the story."
Sonzero also used his knowledge of effects and live-action film-making to help create the cinematic visuals for the game. Though he's not a gamer (he added that he did play some of the earlier "Resident Evil" titles), he said he tried to look at other video games as well. However, with the exception of the "incredible" cut scenes in "Metal Gear Solid 4," he was less than impressed. "Most of the ones I looked at I felt could be improved upon and weren't very inventive," he explained. "I just found them to be not cinematic. The choice of lenses, the way the narrative beats were exposed in the cinematics, seemed really static and flat. ... For 'Resident Evil 5,' I brought cinematic experience, as opposed to being a game developer or programmer who would usually do cinematics for games."
As for film influences, he cited sci-fi flick "28 Days Later" for its reinvention of zombies and the Somalia-set war movie "Black Hawk Down" for its depiction of an African setting. "One of the issues of the game was that most of it takes place in broad daylight," Sonzero said. "So to create a horror feel in Africa in broad daylight requires a different sensibility; most horror films use dark and moody sets, environment, and atmospheres so this was a challenge."
"To create a horror feel in Africa in broad daylight requires a different sensibility."
"The mood that I was going for overall was to keep it consistent with a Hollywood blockbuster feel," he continued. "We wanted to stay true to the slightly bigger-than-life melodramatic tone of all the other versions of 'Resident Evil,' because it is an over-the-top story. So we were walking the line of keeping it blockbustery and not being corny but still keeping it relevant." Sonzero added that the scenes we'd see will range from dramatic, about the characters' relationships and their backstory, as well as ones that are strictly action.
And don't worry: there are plenty of scary scenes, too; really scary ones, according to Sonzero. "The great thing about interfacing with Capcom was the scarier I could make it, the more they loved it," he said. "We were just feeding off each other to make it as scary as possible."
Not only is the game as scary as he could make it, but it's also gory. Sonzero said he pushed it to the limit when it came to non-human carnage."There is some sensitivity in how much actual blood is shown, but with the monsters and the evolution of the creatures and how they would burst and rupture out of people's bodies -- there was no limitation."
"With the monsters and how they would burst and rupture out of people's bodies -- there was no limitation."
Well, almost no limitation. There were a few scenes so brutal that they had to be taken down a notch. "There were a couple of scenes where they had to re-edit and pull things back or cut away," he explained, "like scenes where zombies falling on top of things and getting splattered or fragmented. But I think my biggest frustration was when I'd run out of environment, where I couldn't take a shot because there was no background or 3D part of that model built. They'd say, 'Well, we don't have that area detailed out so you're going to have to put the camera over here.' So it was just dealing with the logistics of the 3D environments."
A few constraints aside, Sonzero was pleased with his experience and plans to do more with what's he learned from working on "Resident Evil 5." He explained that he now sees the convergence between movies and video games more than ever. "I think what's happening now, Hollywood is affecting games and games are affecting Hollywood," he said. "Movies are looking more and more like video games in the choice of camera angles and the high-octane sequences you see in action movies, and games are looking to Hollywood for more cinematic storytelling in their cut scenes."
Sonzero also revealed earlier to MTV Multiplayer that he's currently talking to Capcom about directing a live-action film based on one of the company's franchises.
Stay tuned for more from our interview with Sonzero.