[The Lost Resident Evil is a new series of texts by me in which I tell you about the Resident Evil titles that never came to be. I hope you'll enjoy reading it and I hope I can keep focus long enough to keep writing it.]
As you probably would know by reading my blog, I'm a big fan of Resident Evil and survival-horror in general, now Resident Evil is probably not my favourite horror franchise, but it's without doubt the one I know the most about. I've spent hours playing and replaying the games, reading the development history and learning as much as I possibly can about Capcom's little survival-horror masterpiece. So I figured, why not take my knowledge to the test and write a feature about cancelled Resident Evil games. There's been quite a few, some with more history than others, starting with the original Resident Evil 2 set for release in 1997, nicknamed Resident Evil 1.5.
RE1.5 starred two main characters, Leon S. Kennedy and Elza Walker. Leon S. Kennedy remained largely unchanged from his final appearance in RE2. He was still a rookie cop in Raccoon City where the T-Virus had broken out, but unlike RE2 it doesn't seem like it was his first day. His story started out on the roof of the police building where he was fighting off the undead. Leon partnered up with Marvin Branagh who in RE2 remained a minor character who turned into a zombie in Claire's scenario. Leon and Marvin would later meet up with a scientist named Linda, who was later turned into Ada Wong in RE2. The trio would somehow end up in the Raccoon City sewers and anything happening from that point forward is unknown.
Elza Walker was the character replaced with Claire Redfield in RE2. Elza was a college student who was returning to Raccoon City after a holiday trip, like Claire she came in by motorbike. Elza would join up with John, the character writing a letter to Ada in the original 1996 Resident Evil game, like Linda to Leon, John was redesigned into Robert Kendo for the final RE2, the gun-shop owner who designed the special Samurai Edge M92FS for S.T.A.R.S. and like Marvin he was turned into a minor character who dies early on. Elza would also meet up with Sherry Birkin who was kept largely the same in the final game.
Unlike RE2, Leon and Elza would not cross paths, it were to be a separate deal like Jill and Chris in the original. Umbrella had already shut down in RE1.5 as well, in the current Resident Evil canon they didn't fully shut down until 2003, five years after the events of RE2. Raccoon City's police station was largely different, looking more contemporary and was smaller in terms of size. However, for some reason the sewers and the laboratory remained pretty intact from RE1.5 to RE2. But the biggest difference lies not in the story or the environment, but in actual gameplay.
RE1.5 had a similar approach to gameplay that the final Resident Evil 4 did. The models had lower polygon count than the final product in order to feature more enemies than once, designing the idea of fear around "More Enemies = Scarier". Another thing that RE4 later added was the addition of equipable armor, where as RE4 had the bulletproof vest, RE1.5 had various different clothing to apply for different situations. Some of the clothing allowed for more inventory slots and other would help you increase your character's level of defence.
There were several different or scrapped enemies as well. One enemy was a zombie monkey that would be able to move across the roof like the Chimera in the original, it would also be able to break through certain areas of the floor to scare the player. The design was later re-used for Eliminators in Resident Evil Zero (which also had a prototype that we'll get into later). Some of the various scrapped Zombies returned as enemies in Resident Evil 3, such as the fat Zombies and more female Zombies. The Zombies would also break apart easier yet still crawl and attack the player, something only possible with critical shots from the shotgun in RE2. Mister X was also heavily redesigned.
William Birkin's transformation in RE1.5 was to be further grotesque, something pretty unbelievable judging from his transformation in the final RE2, but he would still be able to call out Sherry's name as he would stalk Elza. He would also attack other enemies if they got in his way or attacked him. Further details on William's role outside of his transformation is unknown, but judging by the similarities. Something we do know is that Annete Birkin would also transform thanks to the G-Virus.
What Happened To It?
When the game was around 70% done it was scrapped, the godfather of Resident Evil, Shinji Mikami, felt the game was boring to play. There had also been a lot of disagreements between Mikami and the director of RE1.5 (and RE2) Hideki Kamiya. The game felt more action oriented than what Mikami wanted for Resident Evil, ironic seeing as what the future would hold for the series, and basically everything needed to be reworked from scratch. However, since they had already used up a lot of the budget they couldn't afford getting new reference photography, especially since the actual background renders took two to three weeks to finish, so they had to reused what they had to recreate the locations, new but similar.
Several limits in terms of visuals were set, the zombies were brought down to a maximum of seven and the characters would no longer get visible wounds when attacked, allowing for a higher polygon count. The original story for RE1.5 was set to be the final story in the RE universe, something that Mikami would revisit in RE3.5, but this was something Capcom didn't like. After discussion and shown interest in the universe Noboru Sugimura was set to write the new scenario based on what had been created. This is when Elza was reworked into Claire Redfield in order to established a direct link the original game, Linda was reworked into Ada Wong, John into Robert Kendo and Anette would no longer transform from her G-infection.
The story was written so Leon and Claire would cross paths in order to make it one big storyline rather than the original concept of keeping them separate. FMVs were created using action figures as storyboard that would later be recreated with CGI, however, scenes with Ada was scrapped and kept as in-game cutscenes because her model could not be finished in time for the deadline. Eventually, January 1998 hit and the extra months of delay for the final RE2 proved worth it as the game sold almost triple compared to what Capcom had expected.
Where Is It Now?
Resident Evil 1.5, as with every Resident Evil prototype at the moment, has not been released. Part of RE1.5's team was set to work on Resident Evil: The Director's Cut, the team took this opportunity to include a preview of the game. This is the only officially released media of the RE1.5 build. However, there are about 15 minutes of RE1.5 leaked from what is a possibly still in-existance build. If and when we ever get a chance to either see it release or if there'll be a possible fundraiser like Resident Evil GBC is currently having, I can not answer.
To be honest, I think we've seen from RE1.5 all there really is to it and I'm not sure how interested I'd be in a released copy. It'd be nice out of curiosity, but unlike some of the later cancelled titles, this is one I fully support the cancellation of. I do not think RE1.5 would have been better than RE2, some aspects do sound interesting I'll admit, but based on what we've seen and known, I'd say we were lucky that the development halted and the game became what we today call RE2. I fully trust Mikami in his decision.
So, to close it off, this was a look into the most well-known prototype. I could have talked about the original Resident Evil's prototype, but I didn't feel it was different enough to be brought up at this point, I prefer focusing on the actual lost games first. Next time will be Resident Evil for Game Boy Color, but until then, I'd like you to know that there's currently a fundraiser going on to raise money for the two GBC builds of RE to actually be released, the goal is 20,000 which is very low for a release this rare so I fully support it. If you're interested in chipping in, there's info here: LINK TO THE FORUM THREAD
But I want to know your opinion, do you think you would have preferred 1.5 over RE2? Comment below, I'd love to hear your thoughts!