[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.]
Resident Evil 4: The Last Resident Evil
Last time we talked about how the development of Resident Evil 4 spawned a new franchise with Devil May Cry. Today we talk about how it intended to end a franchise. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis didn't sell all too well, and Code: Veronica was even more of a let-down. Capcom was starting to worry about the future of the franchise, as was series creator Shinji Mikami.
Capcom proposed a deal to Mikami, either reinvent the franchise into a new direction or take the storyline to a close and let Resident Evil end once and for all. Mikami decided on the latter. The year is 2001, development is starting on what I'm going to refer to as the "Fog Version" of Resident Evil 4. The game told the story of Leon S. Kennedy infiltrating the Umbrella Headquarters somewhere in Europe In current canon the HQ was in Russia, as of the Fog Version it's unknown where the location was, but it's possible they kept the theme of Spain.
The reason I'm calling it the Fog Version is because of the new B.O.W. introduced in the game, fog-like creatures created by the Progenitor Virus. This black fog (sometimes accompanied by Ouroboros-like tentacles) slowly hunted Leon down and contaminated his blood, giving him a new power that would transform his left arm and eventually leading to his planned death at the end of the game. Other details on the story, while not confirmed, suggest Leon looking for Sherry Birkin and Wesker as this was before Wesker's capturing of Sherry was retconned.
Another part of the Fog Version took place on a airship, how big this part of the game was is unknown at this point, but data of a female pilot was found in the Resident Evil 4 Preview Disc found a few years back suggesting there would have been at least another person there. After that, Capcom supposedly scrapped the Fog Version completely or at least changed direction far enough to warrant a new nickname.
The popular "Hooked Man Version" is probably the most well-known Resident Evil prototype of all time, and no text by me can fully make it justice, but damn it I will try. As I mentioned, this was a whole new game. Except I don't buy that. Yes, we have one quote from Entertainment Gaming Monthly suggesting development was fully restarted. Except that directly contradicts various information we have on the game. Allow me to explain.
-Fog Version had Leon infected, as did Hooked Man Version.
-Fog Version had Leon infiltrating Umbrella in Europe, as did Hooked Man Version.
-Fog Version had a new more psychological-horror style to it, as did Hooked Man Version.
-Fog Version had the exact same model for Leon as Hooked Man Version did.
And here's the biggest point in my opinion...
-Fog Version had Leon's left arm transform but we never got to see it, Hooked Man Version's unused "Thank you for playing" screen had his left arm transformed.
So what does that mean? Probably that the game changed some direction and was set back by a good time, possibly some change in gameplay (Fog Version suggested some first-person view that we never got to see in Hooked Man Version) and such, but a full reboot? I doubt that, but enough on my conspiracy theories, let's look at known facts on the Hooked Man Version, okay?
Hooked Man Version showed infected Leon being attacked "paranormal" enemies such as Dolls, Armoured Suits and most importantly, a Hooked Man who would chase him through the game like Nemesis in Resident Evil 3. The world would tint blue whenever you entered this world that allowed the paranormal beings, similar to how the otherworld works in Silent Hill, except shorter and more random in appearance.
Whether this was something that was actually happening or Leon growing insane and hallucinating is unknown, but my bet was always on the latter, having him seeing these weird things after being infected and dying. This would allow it to still make sense in the Resident Evil universe that tries its best to stay outside the supernatural realm. Another reason this probably is true is that Hooked Man Version was called 幻の「バイオハザード4」which loosely translates to "Hallucination Resident Evil 4".
Hooked Man Version featured a much more dynamic camera than any other Resident Evil game to date, and probably my favourite camera I've ever seen in a horror game. Allow me to explain, the camera was a fixed camera that would float around the scenery as you moved, similar to Code: Veronica but a bit smoother. Nothing new there, except if you aimed your gun, you would switch to the shoulder cam we all know from the final version of the game.
This allowed for the game to keep the classic horror aspects when it came to camera and movement, but still give a new fresh way to aim your weapon and control the situation at hand at a better way. Deadly Premonition did this at the few times it used a fixed camera, but as much as I loved that game, it was not as smooth as seen in Hooked Man Version and it was never really useful due to the fixed camera only being used in areas where you most likely didn't use a weapon.
The classic health system remained, except now you would get a heads-up-display warning whenever you entered Caution, this was of course changed to the health-circle of Resident Evil 4, something I kind of wish they hadn't done, but we'll get to that in a bit. Speaking of the HUD, it was this version that introduced the now famous QTEs to Resident Evil, as seen whenever attacked by the Armoured Suits or the Hooked Man.
Another aspect to one of the two versions was the idea of having Leon use the flashlight to burn away the darkness of the enemies, it's unknown whether this was something used against the Fog enemies of that version or the paranormal enemies of the Hooked Man version, though most likely the first if you ask me. This is a concept that is certainly not that uncommon in horror videogames though. Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (2001) featured enemies that couldn't stand light, as did Obscure (2004).
Alone in the Dark: Inferno (2008) used light as well as fire for certain enemies to repel or be killed and perhaps the biggest likeness would be Alan Wake (2010), using the exact same concept to burn away the darkness from the Taken before allowing them to be killed. I wonder if Capcom took inspiration from one of these or if any of these took inspiration from Capcom for this idea. Though it's probably just a fun coincidence.
The biggest concept of Hooked Man Version and Fog Version was horror. Making sure the player would be scared. Mikami had a famous quote before premièring Hooked Man Version in 2003, "Don't be your pants!" was the only four words he told the audience. Now I'm certain that horror was something Capcom had nailed here, the footage we have is pretty damn scary. But as we all know, this game never was released.
Why you ask? Well, Mikami liked the game as it was, he really did. But he did feel it stepped a bit to far away from what Resident Evil should be with the paranormal elements. Capcom wouldn't let the game become something on its own like Devil May Cry (Probably because their Survival Horror games, as stated above, didn't sell very well any more.) so Mikami decided to cancel the project and start again. This time on a more traditional Resident Evil game. Although some argue that a lot was brought over into another Capcom horror-game called Haunting Ground (2005), which began as Clock Tower 4.
This next version is the "Zombie Version" of Resident Evil 4. This version was never shown to public and we've never found any leaked date. It was in development for a few months before Mikami stopped it all, he didn't want to end Resident Evil and this game felt far too formalistic to his personal taste. He wanted it to keep going. He went back to Capcom's original proposal of "Reinvention" or "Conclusion" and decided to go with the first choice instead.
Enter the Resident Evil 4 we know today. Mikami proposed a whole new camera system, a new inventory, a story without Umbrella, a Resident Evil without Zombies and a more cinematic approach. The famous quote for Resident Evil 4 became "Forget Survival Horror, this is Survival Action.", though I never felt this was correct, Resident Evil 4 still had a good share of horror left in it to me, but not in the same way that was originally intended.
Some things was kept from earlier versions. The Spanish setting that the original RE4 (Devil May Cry) was back, the infected Leon was still in the game, though now drastically different due to the Las Plagas being the cause instead of the Progenitor Virus. Leon's jacket was redesigned, but it's obviously a throwback to the prototypes as well. The Preview disc for RE4 even have data left from Fog Version and Hooked Man Version, like the power to slow down time, complete with blue tinted visuals.
Mikami eventually felt that Capcom had mistreated him and his team. It's unknown how much of Resident Evil 4 actually was of his design and what was things Capcom changed to make if profitable. But perhaps the biggest betrayal to Mikami happened after the game was done. Resident Evil 4 released on Nintendo Gamecube on January 11, 2005. The deal between Capcom and Nintendo about the Resident Evil franchise was still upheld and Mikami famously said "I will perform harakiri if Resident Evil 4 arrives on PlayStation 2.".
On October 25, 2005. Nine months after the original release. Resident Evil 4 was released on PlayStation 2 with additional content. Capcom broke the Nintendo deal because of how well Resident Evil 4 sold and today Resident Evil 4 exists on ten different systems.
Shinji Mikami left Capcom after finishing his next game God Hand in 2006.