LOS ANGELES – "Resident Evil 5" producer Jun Takeuchi wants to clear up some misconceptions about his upcoming entry into the popular zombie-killing franchise: It's definitely as scary as its predecessors, players can't run while gunning down foes, and there's nothing racist about the video game, which takes place in a fictional West African country.
"I think the idea that because the game is set in Africa that it's racist is mistaken," said Takeuchi. "I want users to understand that it was never our intention to put anything racist into the game. It's a story that takes place in Africa, but ultimately the story is about helping a region where a bioterrorism incident is occurring."
Footage unveiled at the 2007 E3 Media & Business Summit of the mature-rated game's brooding Caucasian protagonist, Chris Redfield, facing off against a horde of black African villagers caused a furor among many gamers online.
Newsweek technology editor N'Gai Croal wrote that many of the teaser's aspects "dovetailed with classic racist imagery."
"We don't want to create something that offends a certain element of society," Takeuchi said. "At the same time, we don't want to be in a place where you can't set a game in Africa or in an Arabic country. That in itself is a form of racism. For us, as creators of entertainment, it's important for us to strike that right balance."
Like previous games in Capcom's nearly 14-year-old series, the story line of the latest "Resident Evil" centers on a wicked outbreak that turns the locals into rabid zombies.
Set a few years after the original, "Resident Evil 5" explores the African origins of the virus. Other games took place in locales such as Spain, Russia, Antarctica and the Midwest.
Spokespeople for both the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Anti-Defamation League declined to comment for this story because they hadn't viewed the entire game. ("Resident Evil 5" will be released March 13.)
Takeuchi said he believes previous criticism would have been avoided if it had been explained that Redfield is on a mission to help the African country and that he was partnered with an African woman named Sheva Alomar who is based in the region.
Takeuchi also said the game's story line is not meant as a metaphor for AIDS or real-world terrorism.
"Ultimately, I think the problem that we had with this game was a lack in communication," he said. "I think that's where this whole issue comes from. When the game is released and when the public gets to play the finished product, I think people will see the whole racism issue was just a misunderstanding."
"Resident Evil 5" will be available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It will introduce cooperative gameplay, which allows a second player -- either online or in person -- to control Alomar. (The computer will help solo gamers.)