Resident Evil 5 is at Captivate 08 in Las Vegas, and that's big news for journalists assembled in Capcom's almost-penthouse at Palms Casino, which sits back from the Strip and bakes quietly in the 30-celsius heat. But the game's developers, Jun Takeuchi and Masachika Kawata, aren't letting us near the pad, so when the presentations are over, we have to make do with Street Fighter IV. Or would do, except the four arcade machines - linked in pairs for two-player combat - are permanently swamped. We've seen Street Fighter IV already of course. We've even played it already. But that hasn't dimmed anyone's enthusiasm.
Captivate 08 brings us face to face with near-complete code. Things yet to be added include Seth, a boss character revealed on Famitsu's website at the height of Capcom's shindig, but only spoken about with attending journalists in interviews. "Seth is indeed a new character and a boss. Seth is a really interesting character because he has connections to some other important characters in Street Fighter IV," Yoshinori Ono, SF IV's producer, tells Eurogamer. The Internet reckons he's the boss of evildoers Shadowloo's weapons division, and has modified himself. "If you look at him he's got a kind of expressionless face and a strange skin colour, he has some sort of device embedded in his stomach," Ono says of this.
There's definitely a "specific connection" between him, the returning M. Bison (thought dead after Street Fighter II, which saw the supposed fall of Shadowloo - SF IV is set just after that game) and the rest of the cast. "I don't want to give away too much now because that would be in spoiler territory then," says Ono, "so I'll have to leave it up to your imagination, but I will say he's in the arcade version as well." The arcade version, which is likely to hit Japan this summer ahead of PS3, 360 and PC releases at an undetermined point in the future, will have "a good deal of story" dealing with Seth, says Ono, but the console versions will have more.
The big question though is whether he will be playable. During Ono's group presentation of the game the previous day, he remarked that Capcom would be unlikely to fully animate characters without making them playable, so we ask about this. Ono bursts into laughter. "That's a good question. In fact, I would rather you just subtitled this whole section with three little ellipses down there!" he says. "If people express a desire to take control of Seth, we might see a movement in that direction at some point. I certainly don't want to say much more than that - I've already said too much!"
Capcom's been building SF IV up gradually since the game's original unveiling, and among the things it's also already said are that we'll have a minimum of 16 playable characters, all of whom are in the Captivate 08 arcade pods. That's Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Guile, Zangief, E. Honda, Blanka and Dhalsim, along with bosses Balrog, Vega, Sagat and M. Bison, and new characters Abel, El Fuerte, C. Viper and Rufus. Rufus, of whom we've seen very little, is a comically rotund yellow-suited fighter with a gelatinous, wobbling belly and a kung fu skill-set. Abel, our early favourite, has a monstrous reach and can pluck jumping enemies out of the air and slam them to the ground. Ono's current favourite, though, is actually an oldie, Dhalsim. "Making the character Dhalsim for Street Fighter IV is a huge challenge," he explains. "Getting him to look right, getting him to stretch right, getting the animation to work properly and the move-set to work properly. He took a lot of time to pull off."