Resident Evil’s been knocking around for 22 years now, which officially makes it a Very Old Game. For reference, when the seminal shocker first came out, Peter Andre was busy letting his abs do the talking on MTV, and mobile phones hadn’t even advanced to the point where we were able to play a cheeky game of Snake when the teacher wasn’t looking. In that time, the brain-splattering series has been responsible for establishing the survival horror genre in the mainstream consciousness, spawning a multi-million selling video game franchise, and launching a frankly wank movie series that really only served as a quintessential example of why you should never allow Paul W.S. Anderson near a camera ever again.
Inevitably, it also means that there’s been a hell of a lot of stuff left on the cutting room floor. Most fans know about Resident Evil 2’s prototype, the colloquially-dubbed Resi 1.5 that featured a bunch of disparities between it and the final version of the game, including biker enthusiast Elza Walker, a contemporary Raccoon Police Department, and zombies that didn’t sound like they were staggering home from the boozer after one too many. However, dig a little deeper into Resi lore, and there’s a ton of cool stuff to unearth, making for some interesting ‘what if’ scenarios had Capcom possessed the inclination to go down that particular path.
Here’s some of the best of the bunch.
Resident Evil’s original concept
Most people probably know that Resident Evil was inspired by Capcom’s 80s horror romp Sweet Home, but the game itself went through numerous concepts before finally settling on the campy B-movie jaunt we have today. For starters, meme-generator and burly gun aficionado Barry Burton wasn’t in the game at all; instead, Capcom was looking to feature a massive bloke named Gelzer and a weedy comic relief chap named Dewey, though both ended up on the scrap heap. Cooperative play was also planned, and there’s footage doing the rounds on YouTube that clearly shows Chris and Jill doing the buddy cop thing in the mansion’s hallways. However, creator Shinji Mikami gave it the boot as ‘technically, it wasn’t good enough.’
It’s probably just as well, as it would have been an incongruous design choice given the fact the game plays on the fear of isolation and, well, not having someone basically saving your arse. Early on a first-person mode was also considered, which in light of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard’s release perhaps isn’t all that shocking; nonetheless, the technology at the time wasn’t sufficient enough to power such a concept, so Capcom settled on the third-person view and static camera that later became synonymous with classic Resi.
Resident Evil Dash
This one’s a curious beast. For years it was believed Resi Dash was actually a separate game entirely, conceived before the first title had even shipped to stores. Apparently, Dash was to take place after the events of the first Resi (sources vary on how long; some say months, other say years) and would have reunited Chris and Jill as they returned to the now-ruined Spencer Estate to combat an outbreak of plant-like creatures. While the whole place was ostensibly blown to bits at Resi’s climax, it appears Capcom initially wanted the posh gaff to survive the blast; the estate was to return with cobweb-ridden halls, crumbling walls, and other aesthetic touches to mark the passing of time. One highlight was a new location underneath the Tyrant’s chamber, supposedly the starting point of the adventure, although that’s about all there is to know.
While there’s some concept art floating around the web to back this up, it’s now widely believed that original reports of Dash originated out of a translation goof, and that the concept was actually the first drafts for what became Resi 1.5. This would certainly explain one enemy design, known as Golgotha, that conspicuously featured Wesker’s actual head on its tail. Interestingly, some of the ideas made the transition to Resident Evil Outbreak: File 2, specifically the Flashback scenario, which featured a heavily emphasis on plant-like enemies and an abandoned hospital in the woods.
Jill Valentine may have returned for 1999’s Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (where she also bagged the award for Most Inappropriate Clothing to Wear in a Zombie Apocalypse) but Resi 3 was going to be an entirely different kettle of fish had things gone as originally planned. Back in 1998, future Twitter-banner and no-shit-taker Hideki Kamiya was helming Biohazard 3 (as it's known in Japan), while another team were working on Biohazard Gaiden, which sounds infinitely better than Resident Evil Side Story.
Before Jill arrived on the scene, the main narrative revolved around the enigmatic Agent HUNK, who would have found himself scrapping with bio-weapons on a cruise ship while attempting to procure a sample of the G-Virus. Gaiden, meanwhile, settled on a Raccoon City setting, at which point the team pondered including a bizarre scenario featuring a playable zombified Brad Vickers. The team also wanted to include some major crossovers with Resi 2 characters; at one point, Leon and Carlos were to buddy up to obtain a cure to the T-Virus (presumably exchanging macho banter along the way), and there was apparently a massive ruck planned between Nemesis, Birkin’s ‘G’ creature, and Tyrant. Obviously this didn’t happen, though the Raccoon City concept survived and the Gaiden project became the full-fledged Resi 3, since Sony was throwing its toys out of the pram insisting that it got one last main entry before PSX went to the big plastics factory in the sky. At this point, Kamiya-san and his team were moved over to what would become the very first incarnation of Resident Evil 4, which later evolved into Devil May Cry. Meanwhile Hunk, the poor bugger, is still waiting for his own game…
Resident Evil 3.5 beta - ‘Castle’ Edition
Resi 4’s had more incarnations during its production than Ian Beale’s had wives, but the Fog version -- first shown way back in 2002 for Nintendo GameCube -- is arguably the best of the bunch. This version starred floppy-haired hero Leon S. Kennedy infiltrating Lord Spencer’s spooky castle HQ somewhere in Europe, while becoming infected by a new type of virus. Perpetual sunglasses man Albert Wesker also played a core role in the story, which featured long-time scenario writer Noboru Sugimura in what was billed as a true sequel to CODE: Veronica. While Capcom ultimately put the idea on the chopping block, what we’ve seen looks utterly compelling and features a huge, diverse range of environments, including a castle, theatre, and most intriguingly, a flying airship. It’s lamentable that this was ditched, as it certainly sounds more interesting than the guff we got in the final version of the game, which turned its back on 10 years worth of plot development in one irritatingly-succinct line of dialogue.
Elsewhere, a further intriguing concept was the addition of a side story of some description, which featured a woman waking up after taking 40 winks in the depths of the Castle and exploring the chilly abode with her canine companion. Apparently, one of the roadblocks with the Castle version of Resi 4 was the mysterious ‘black mist’ enemy that stalked Leon, which proved tricky to animate with early 2000s technical grunt. This was later recycled somewhat for Resi 5’s Uroborus threat.
Resident Evil 4.5
Long before Chris Redfield was stacking dianabol with his morning protein shake, Resi 5 was due to take quite a different direction. Early concepts for the game (featured in 'The Art of Resident Evil 5') featured zombies, and Capcom flirted with the idea of having Jill or Barry as Redfield’s partner, with Sheva instead part of a local African militia. Wesker was again part of the gig, and at one point captured Jill, forcing Chris and his epic tree-trunk arms to set out and rescue her, only this time she wasn’t Wesker’s personal brainwashed flunky.
Resi 5’s original concept was by far way more ambitions than the final product; players would battle hordes of flesh-hungry undead and parasite-infested villagers, one boss fight saw you tackling over ten lumbering El Gigantes, and Wesker was supposedly due to beat the living shit out of Chris until he was rescued by the timely arrival of Jill. By far biggest change is that the African-based adventure was a single-player affair only, something which survived until the latter stages of development until Sheva was introduced as your co-op buddy (around the same time that Resi 5 was accused of racism for its depiction of a white man killing legions of black villagers). In another throwback to the first game, a Tyrant was scheduled to rock up at one point and dispatch Excella, who at this stage wasn’t quite so high up the food chain at Tricell; her boss was in turn murdered by Wesker, who wasn’t scripted to mutate for the final battle. Finally, a scrapped mechanic involved Chris being affected by the sweltering conditions, and entering a dark room from a lit area would require a period of readjustment until you were able to see your surroundings.