With Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 2 knocking it out of the park, it might finally be time for the publisher to let fans experience the mythical prototype Resident Evil 1.5 as DLC. While Resident Evil wasn’t the first survival horror title – Project Firestart and Alone In The Dark got there first – it was the game that made the genre mainstream. Resident Evil (AKA Biohazard in Japan) started life as a remake of Capcom’s own 1989 survival horror title Sweet Home. The game was a tie-in for a movie of the same name and found a group of filmmakers exploring a creepy mansion and encountering various ghosts and zombies.
Sweet Home pioneered survival horror tropes that later became engraved in the genre, including a limited inventory, uncovering the story through notes and diaries and tricky puzzles. Resident Evil underwent a lot of changes during development, moving away from a direct Sweet Home remake to a first-person shooter with zombies, and finally the game as it exists today. The success and acclaim that greeted the game took even Capcom by surprise and helped pull them out of financial difficulties. Work quickly began on a sequel, with one early concept reportedly called Resident Evil Dash. This scenario would have seen a return to the ruins of Spencer Mansion, with players fighting mutated plant zombies and other creatures. This concept was scrapped early on, though the plant monsters made it into the sequel and a boss creature dubbed Grave Digger was recycled in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.
After a protracted two-year development, Resident Evil 2 would be released to stellar reviews and sold nearly 5M copies on the PlayStation alone. It cemented Resident Evil as a major franchise and many consider it the high point of the series. While most games undergo changes during development, Resident Evil 2 is a unique case, with Capcom’s first crack at the game reaching upwards of 70% completion before being canceled. This version has since been dubbed Resident Evil 1.5, and this unreleased prototype has become a famous part of the series history. The game has never seen the light of day in an official capacity and with the hype surrounding Resident Evil 2’s remake, there’s never been a better time to unleash it among the fanbase.
- This Page: The History of Resident Evil 1.5 and Why it was Scrapped
- Page 2: Why Resident Evil 1.5 Should Be Made Available As RE2 DLC
The History Of Resident Evil 1.5
Work started on Resident Evil 2 a mere month after completion of the first game. Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami decided to take on a producing role for the sequel and handed directorial reins to Hideki Kamiya. While Resident Evil 1.5 bears some similarities to the final version, it was a very different take on the game. The story picks up a few months after the end of the first game, with the Umbrella Corporation having been taken down in the aftermath. Nonetheless, the t-Virus soon spreads through Raccoon City and it’s up to a ragtag group of survivors to escape. Like Resident Evil, players could choose between two heroes, though their storylines never connected or overlapped.
The playable characters were Leon Kennedy, one of the few surviving cops left in the Raccoon Police Department, or Elza Walker, a bike-loving college student who comes to the RPD for refuge. The building seen in 1.5 is a sleeker, more modern take on a police station and was cast in cool blues. Both Elza and Leon had a set of supporting characters who would accompany them at various stages; Leon had Umbrella scientist Ada and Marvin Branagh while Elza had John and Sherry Birkin. This version had a greater focus on action, with a varied arsenal that included machine pistols, various shotguns, an assault rifle and even grenades. There was a bigger roster of creatures too, like infected gorillas and a hybrid spider/man monster. Blood splatters and battle damage would have permanently stained Leon and Elza’s clothes, and both could don body armor to reduce attack damage.
Why Resident Evil 1.5 Was Scrapped
While Mikami and Kamiya clashed over certain elements, the producer ultimately trusted his director figure things out and took a hands-off approach during Resident Evil 1.5’s development. Hideki Kamiya has since admitted his inexperience led to mistakes being made, which became clear when the game was nearing completion. Upon inspection, it was found the brightly lit environments and focus on action didn’t make it terribly scary – a big failing for a horror title. Screenwriter Noboru Sugimura was also given a build to play and his feedback was blunt; they needed to start over from scratch.
He found the game’s writing and dialogue sub-par. It wasn’t scary and the lack of ties to the original Resident Evil was a huge mistake. Tellingly, Kamiya and Mikami agreed with most of his input and took the brave step of scrapping a year’s worth of hard work. Sugimura was brought on to write a new scenario, changing a great deal of the story. He suggested players start on the streets of Raccoon to give a sense of the destruction and reworked the RPD into a former art museum so the puzzles would make a little more sense. Elza Walker turned into Claire Redfield – sister of Chris – to provide a link to the first title and the supporting players got new roles; Ada became a spy and John was turned into ill-fated gun shop owner Robert Kendo.
Very little of the original environments made the transition from Resident Evil 1.5 to the finished game and most of the heavy weaponry was removed. The infamous Licker monster was added and Umbrella was kept around so future sequels could focus on the fight against them. Even during the development of 1.5 Capcom didn’t see the franchise potential in the property, with the game’s original ending wrapping up the story conclusively.
The Enduring Legacy Of Resident Evil 1.5
While the sweeping changes made to Resident Evil 1.5 were undoubtedly for the best, the legend of the game only grew. Unlike other titles that undergo changes during development Resident Evil 1.5 was highly visible, with many screenshots made available to games magazine of the era. Over time, more stills and gameplay footage would make its way online, causing fan sites to crop up around the prototype. The idea of a near complete Resident Evil game they’d likely never get to play became an irresistible talking point.
That only evolved when an early build of Resident Evil 1.5 was leaked online in 2013, leading to fan modders making their own versions of the game. Having the game reappear – albeit in very rough shape – after 15 years was a dream come true to many aficionados. It provided a fascinating alternate take on Resident Evil 2, with familiar locations and characters presented in a new context. While the various builds out there have been impressively stitched together by fans, they’re still far from complete and numerous bugs can spoil the experience.
Why Resident Evil 1.5 Should Be Made Available As DLC
Needless to say, neither Capcom nor the game’s creators had anything to do with these mods. Hideki Kayima flat out hates Resident Evil 1.5, finding it a complete failure, and isn’t really impressed by fan efforts to rebuild it. Mikami has been quoted as finding it ‘boring.’ In spite of their feelings, the game has retained its near-mystical status, and is comparable to something like the Justice League “Snyder Cut.” The Resident Evil 2 remake has impressed even the most skeptical fans of the original title by remaining faithful, but at the same time reinventing familiar elements and characters and it’s been selling super well.
It appears even Capcom can’t ignore the persistent legend of Resident Evil 1.5 with the remake containing various nods, like a bonus costume for Claire being Elza Walker’s outfit. It’s a ghost that continues to hover around it, and while some fans mourned the loss of fixed camera angles in the remake, Capcom has a traditional, almost complete Resident Evil game sitting in a drawer somewhere. Taking into account the game only reached an estimated 70% completion before being canned and would need a lot of additional work to make it releasable, it could be done. That said, it would be a case of Capcom locating the game’s most complete build, assessing what needs to be fixed and added and if its worth the extra expense of designing and completing for the modern style of RE2.
Resident Evil 1.5 would make for perfect post-launch DLC, providing fans with a game they never thought they’d get to experience. The game was redesigned for valid reasons over 20 years, and its faults will only be amplified with time, but so long as players accept its release is meant as a fun novelty, it would certainly be embraced. Is that ever likely to happen? Realistically, probably not. Capcom has never given any indication they’d be willing to return to it, and its unlikely Mikami or Kayima would support the move. Still, it’s hard not to think such a step wouldn’t be an oddly perfect way to cap off the journey of the remake and nods to that era.