Shortly after its release, Resident Evil 5's trailer footage was accused of promoting racist imagery, what with its lone Caucasian hero Chris Redfield trying to outwit and outlast a horde of zombie-like African villagers. Gamers more familiar with the series deemed the outcry misplaced, believing RE5 should be viewed for what it is; delivering the series' "survival horror" formula to a new and potentially exciting setting.
Nevertheless the setting continues to be controversial, and misgivings need not stem from potential racism. For example, Newsweek's tech editor N'Gai Croal recently lamented that the RE5 trailer's woes simply highlighted a lack of input from anyone black, making developer/publisher Capcom's intentions more likely to be misinterpretated as a result.
Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu had the opportunity to interview RE5's chief producer, Jun Takeuchi, over what gamers can look forward to in the upcoming title. Takeuchi also touched on why the team settled on using Africa as the backdrop for RE5, explaining that the "cradle of civilization" would be an interesting setting for the outbreak of a new virus, and you know how much Resident Evil loves its virii.
We settled on the fact that we really wanted to show the origins of the virus. So for the setting we thought, how about the place where humankind was born? Well, I'm not a scientist, so I don't know how things might change in the future, but we thought we would use Africa, which is now called the birthplace of humanity, as the model.
That's how we came to use a place in Africa as the setting for "Bio 5".
Granted, Takeuchi's response wasn't particularly aimed at qualming the fears of discrimination already voiced. Ideally, the RE5 development team will be taking the concerns of discrimination voiced as a result of the game's imagery to heart and ultimately prove that such misgivings will be misplaced. Of course, Resident Evil's survival horror strategy often necessitates the use of violence to... survive against foes often under the influence of some seriously bad mojo, so Capcom will likely remain on the defensive once the game officially ships.