Steve Bristow and Tim Jones of Rebellion are really excited about Evil Genius 2 and Zombie Army 4 — E3 Interview

I had a chance to sit down with Steve Bristow and Tim Jones of Rebellion Developments to talk about Evil Genius 2 and Zombie Army 4: Dead War. We talked about taking over the world, stomping on corpses, and much more! Check it out!


Northup: So what’s new with Evil Genius 2?

Steve Bristow: Well, the whole thing, really. We’ve become custodians of a very popular and much loved game from way back. And, we’ve reimagined it and rebuilt it from the ground up. So it’s going to carry with it elements of the game and some characters from the game who are familiar for many fans of the original. But we’ve really dug into the mechanics a lot more, and in particular, we’re bringing forward the concept of world domination and spreading your evil tendrils across the planet, and doing the full Evil Genius thing of trying to take over the world.

Tim Jones: Yeah. It’s probably worth sort of punching out the basis of the original game, which we’re remaining true to, is a sort of sci fi themed lair building game. James Bond inspired stuff where you play the evil genius, as the title would suggest.

Steve Bristow: And James Bond’s the baddie.

Tim Jones: So you get to create the lair of your dreams and your tropical island paradise, fill it with minions and henchmen and all sorts of like fun traps with which to defend the lair against the forces of justice who are always there trying to spoil your fun.

Steve Bristow: Evil forces of justice.

Tim Jones: Yeah, it’s very tongue in cheek and humorous as you may have guessed from the trailer. And we’re certainly maintaining the tone of the original game the fans have been clamoring for for a long time.

TN: So how does the enemy force manifest itself in this game? Is it like other RTS’s where they’re somewhere else building their forces, or do you get to a certain stage in the game and then they invade?

Steve Bristow: No, they’re kind of like an omnipresent force that works against everything you’re trying to do in whatever territory you’re trying to take over. So your lair is on an island in a mysterious location somewhere out to sea, like islands usually are. But you’re trying to sort of insert yourself into these other territories. And while you’re there, those forces will be working to try and stop you from accomplishing your schemes.

Tim Jones: And there are some interesting ones like stealing the Statue of Liberty or like holding the British Royal Family for the highest bidder, and literally baking Alaska is one of them. There’s hundreds of crazy schemes for you to do.

Steve Bristow: But then, the lair itself, the kind of 3D component that you’re working on building and making your own can come under direct attack and will come under direct attack from agents of these different forces. So, the more you spread out, the more forces of justice that you alert yourself to or upset, the more intense the other aspects of the game becomes as these forces start to attack your base. Which is why you need to build defenses and a cover operation to try to dissuade them from finding you in the first place. And if they do, to try to get them back out of your base. But they are also a resource as well in that, if you can capture them and interrogate them and get information, than that can give you advantages back on the world map as well.

Tim Jones: It may sound like oh, being pestered by the forces of justice is sort of slightly irritating. And it is to an extent, but it’s also one of the most fun parts of the game and one of the most popular aspects of the original game is like the booby traps that you set up in your lair. You’ve probably seen some in the trailer, we’ve got laser walls and like fans that blow people into other traps. And we’ve got shark pits. And you can chain all those different traps together into like the most absurd kind of contraptions.

Steve Bristow: Mouse trap type builds.

Tim Jones: And it was one of the most popular features of the original game and we’re kind of obviously returning to that and dialing it up and making it.

Northup: It sounds like it has elements of like a tower defense almost.

Steve Bristow: Kind of, yeah. I mean, it’s not that type of game. But yeah, there are gameplay elements in common with tower defense games I guess. But it’s all in the context of what’s a larger builder strategy type of game.

Northup: It’s very high level, is what you’re saying. But you’re also placing specific traps.
Tim Jones: Yeah, you can be really creative about it as well. You can do it in your own style, if you want to like create an entire corridor full of giant man-eating venus fly traps, just because that’s the way you like to deal with the forces of justice, then it’s up to you to do so.

Northup: How long does a typical conquest last? Does that vary too much, because I know it’s kind of different.

Steve Bristow: I’ve actually got no idea. We’re still developing the game, and it is going to, you know, it’s a career game in a sense, so it’s got kind of a long life. There’s no way I can put a number reliably.

Tim Jones: It’s one of those kind of games where, because it’s so sandboxy as well, you know. You can play it definitely in that respect, plus we put like four different evil geniuses. So we’ve got Max and Red Ivan who are returning from the original game. We’ve got a couple of new ones. And they’ve all got their own strengths and weaknesses, particular personality and style, and objectives across the world. So, you know, even if you go through and manage to dominate the world as one of them, you can go back and do it as the others, and there’s huge amount of replayability.

Steve Bristow: Our evil geniuses are going to have entirely separate set of objectives. They have their own kind of stories.

Tim Jones: Some of them are focused on technology, others on brute strength. So yeah, it brings a whole new flavor to the game.

Northup: So your character determines your objective and your win conditions?

Steve Bristow: Yes. Essentially, like each of the geniuses have got like a vision of the world that they are trying to create. And those visions are all different, and therefore the route that they take to get there, or try to get there is different.

Tim Jones: Although they all kind of all ultimately end up with a doomsday device. There’s something about an evil genius where that sort of thing is probably the end goal.

Steve Bristow: We’ve taken a fairly broad interpretation of doomsday device.

Northup: So how many evil geniuses are there?

Tim Jones: There’s four that we’re talking about.

Northup: Four that you’re talking about?

Steve Bristow: Well, actually we’re only talking about two for now. (laughs)

Tim Jones: But you’ll see four on the splash screen. They’re all really cool characters. They’re really entertaining. We’ve had so much fun designing all the new stuff for the game, the concept artists as well. Working on it has been amazing.

Northup: So platforms, release date, all that stuff?

Tim Jones: So we’re coming to PC on Steam in 2020. That is the only thing that we’re confirming at this point. Everything else is up in the air.

Northup: Cool. Where can we follow you guys for news on Evil Genius 2 specifically?

Steve Bristow: Yes, there is a Twitter, which we can’t immediately provide for you, a twitter for Evil Genius and is the portal to all of our games. Evil Genius is featured on that.

Tim Jones: And yes, I really should have those things at my fingertips for all further interviews.

PR person: (whispers) @Evilgenius

TN: Now let’s talk about Zombie Army 4: Dead War. Okay, so I’ve actually played all of the other ones. I’m a big Sniper Elite fan. So what’s new with the fourth game in the Zombie Army saga?

Tim Jones: So Zombie Army 4, it follows on from the story in the Zombie Army trilogy, in which, you know, ultimately, Hitler, who had raised the armies of the Undead Nazis gets kicked back into hell and dealt with. We pick up the story sometime later after the world’s been trying to kind of pick itself back up and deal with the remaining zombies that have kind of been a bit inert after Hitler is gone. But, early in the game, they all kind of suddenly come back to life and become really aggressive Nazi Zombies again. And all of the fun ensues from that. It is a multiple player cooperative shooter. Up to four player, yeah, you can totally play it on your own or with two player, three player, four player. There’s drop in, drop out co-op as well, so people can join you along the way. And it’s got a whole new campaign. And, we really kind of stepped it up in every area. We’ve got like new layers of progression and depth to everything from like skills of the players have got to the weapons that you can upgrade and put on attachments, electrical attachments to your shotguns or your rifles. We’ve got traps, we’ve got new melee systems where you can even get into doing sliding tackles on zombies and stomping on them and taking them apart with the takedowns. Trap cams and all sorts of stuff, there’s so much in there. It’s kind of like all the things we always wanted to do on Zombie Army, but didn’t have the chance. We’re really, you know, dialed in on that stuff in Zombie Army 4.

Steve Bristow: And the head stomp never gets old.

Tim Jones: It’s not even specifically head stomping. It’s just stomping.

Steve Bristow: Yeah, you just stomp on whatever’s under your foot.

Northup: My recollection is that the original trilogy was very sniper rifle focused. Is that still a focus in this game?

Tim Jones: Yeah, absolutely, it’s kind of, because it originally started as an offshoot of Sniper Elite, but it absolutely became its own thing. So fans of Sniper Elite 4 will be familiar with the field ballistics and all the gunplay. But it’s totally got its own vibe. And the interesting thing about slow moving Nazi Zombies, at long range with a sniper rifle, you can be there like, oh, where shall I shoot him, pick him off, feeling relatively comfortable in the situation. But the nature of zombies is that you get complacent, you miss a couple of shots, more zombies coming. Before you know, you’ve got a horde that’s constantly encroaching on your position. Next thing you know, your back’s against the wall and you’re having to switch to more short range weaponry, machine guns. And even melee combat to like barge through them to try to get to a certain position. So I think it’s sort of fun to kind of get all of those different types of gunplay in there. That’s one of the fun things about the game is that like, there’s different paces of kind of intensity of action all the way through as well depending on how the environment and the zombies are going to play out. And I think one of my favorite things about it is because, you know, we’ve got the traps, the trip mines and telemines and that kind of thing in there as well, you can really work with the zombies to your advantage because they’re slow moving and constantly moving towards you if they’re aware of you, you can really start setting up like booby traps and taking them apart in creative ways.

Northup: The trailer kind of looked to me like it was implying a class based system, just because each character had like a thing? Was that just showing all the different parts you can play, or does it have some sort of like class system or characters?

Tim Jones: So what we focused on is, because you can totally upgrade your character as you choose, it’s kind of like, it’s separate from the aesthetics of the characters themselves. So you can have your character looking how you want. If you really like (unintelligible 00:1Tim Jones:47) or Jim or Boris or Carl, and you like the look of them, you can upgrade them and their abilities to your, you know, your personal taste. And, a lot of the aesthetics too as well, like you can choose which hats or emotes like animations you play, like different skins for the weapons. So, yeah, it’s really, it’s kind of the way we always go with our Rebellion games, is like, you know, letting the player make their choices in how they want to play it. Yeah, it’s nice. And you know, if people want to go in like as four Carl Fairborne’s at once, they can do that too.

Northup: But there are ways for them to give themselves rules by creating certain paths?

Steve Bristow: Yeah, that’s in the hands of the players, rather than the structure of the game, you know. You can steer a character to be, you know, good at a particular type of combat. But that’s open to everybody who plays it.

Northup: Release dates? Platforms? All that stuff?

Tim Jones: So we are coming to Xbox, Playstation 4, and PC in early 2020, next year. And it’s going to be awesome. We’re obviously supporting Playstation pro and Xbox One X with enhancements as well, for the 4K and HDR. We’ve got some months of development still to go. So there’s other stuff coming down the line, but yeah, there’s going to be lots for people to get stuck into.

Northup: What is something about either Evil Genius 2 or Zombie Army 4 that you guys are dying to tell people?
Steve Bristow: Well that would be giving it away, wouldn’t it? (laughs)

Northup: That you’re allowed to tell me.

Steve Bristow: I think, as far as Evil Genius goes, as a company, we’ve had people asking us to do Evil Genius 2 for a long time. And so, that’s kind of, we’ve got a lot of responsibility to deliver the game that they’re looking forward to. And I’m really excited about people getting to play it because in particular, the world domination aspect of the game is a feature that players didn’t really get in the original game, but sort of have since imagined happened. And, we’re actually bringing it to life. So I think people are going to be really pleased to see that.

Tim Jones: And I think similarly, it’s nice. Rebellion, that we do get constantly clamored for like, when’s your next game coming? Like when’s Evil Genius 2? When’s Zombie Army 4? When’s Sniper Elite 5? They’re always asking for the next thing. And Zombie Army 4 has been something that I’m personally very attached to Zombie Army because I’m a huge horror fan, you know, nerd about horror movies and zombie movies in particular. And I think our fans certainly seem to really pick up on the love that goes into the game. And we’ve taken great pains to try to capture everything that we and the fans loved about Zombie Army Trilogy, and just sort of make sure that we’re delivering that for Zombie Army 4, stepping it up a level in every area. I can’t wait for people to get their hands on it.

Northup: Yeah, I share your enthusiasm. I hadn’t played Zombie Army until it came out in that trilogy pack. And I saw all my friends playing it, I was like, what is this? And then I got in and I was like, dude, this is like Sniper Elite with zombies. This is awesome.

Tim Jones: What’s not to like, right?

Steve Bristow: We could have just said that right at the start.

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You know that jerk online that relentlessly trash talks you after every kill? That guy was probably Travis "Tie Guy" Northup. Competitive, snarky, and constantly wearing a tie, Travis has been writing his opinions about electronic media since he was a teenager, and is pretty much the only person to hold his opinions in high regard.

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