Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 was easily one of the most anticipated sequels in the history of gaming. Capcom’s ‘Directors Cut’ edition of their first game, offered players a taste of the sequel (via playable demo disc) with both outdoor and indoor locations.
Flashback to an early issue of GamesMaster (published Christmas 1997), and you’ll see the issue contained the first shots ever released of Capcom’s up-and-coming Resident Evil 2. The exclusive shots followed Capcom’s promise of a sequel ‘one and a half times bigger than the first game’, with ‘more gore’ and even zombies that would still attack the player after being decapitated.
Resident Evil 1.5
Those of you who bought this copy of GamesMaster would have noticed the final product looked totally different to the Resident Evil 2 game shipped. This was due to three main reasons. The first was the overall look of the game. Capcom wanted the sequels look to relate to the original game, with an old, listed-building design that added to the survival horror atmosphere. The second was detail in polygons. The original zombies (and even the two main characters at the time) were created with far less polygon’s. This may have allowed for more zombies on-screen at once, but came with a cost in visual quality. This after all, was the follow-up to one of PlayStation’s biggest selling games (shifting over 2.5 million units) and engine enhancements were a solid gamer expectation with AAA sequels (especially back then).
The real reason for lack of street gameplay in Resident Evil 2
After playing the demo of Resident Evil 2, many gamers were excited to finally experience the survival horror on the streets. However, once the game finally released, it was clear how few street locations there actually were. This of course, wasn’t down to Capcom ignoring gamer feedback, but was a design decision enforced by upping the polygon count on zombies and main characters for the Resident Evil 1.5 build (now restricting the amount of zombies on-screen, making street-filled zombies too taxing for Sony’s original system). It would actually take six years (Resident Evil 4) before players could truly experience the nightmare outdoors.
This now brings us to our third reason – the female protagonist. This was easily the biggest and most defining decision Capcom had ever made for the franchise…
The Resident Evil 1.5 build included Lean S Kennedy and an Elza Walker (a kick-ass super bike racer that took shelter at the police department during her journey to Raccoon University). Although the character offered a refreshingly modern look, there was never a real explanation into why Elza could handle weapons so well (at least Leon had police training before the incident and the original game was based on trained S.T.A.R.S members).
The biggest issue with Elza Walker was that she had no link to the story or case. After the Resident Evil 1.5 build brought the the overall story to a swift close, Capcom realised this move was never going to help build on their most popular IP since Street Fighter. Capcom hired new writers to solve this issue and with this, Claire Redfield was born. Trapped in Raccon City while searching for her brother, this rewrite helped Capcom produce several prequels and sequels, further expanding Resident Evil’s universe and generating millions of sales world-wide.
Making way for Resident Evil 2
During the early phase of Resident Evil 1.5’s development, Capcom had two other projects in the works. The first was an RPG card game called ‘Warewolf’ for Sega Saturn. The second was a side-scrolling beat em’ up called Major Damage for both the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation (yup, I just miss calling it ‘Sony PlayStation’ rather than simply referring to it as ‘PSX’. Yuk!). Due to the complete overhaul from Resident Evil 1.5, both of these titles had to be completely scrapped in order for CAPCOM to meet the release window for Resident Evil 2.
Could we ever see the resurrection of Elza Walker in a remake or new Resident Evil game? Those writers would have to work their magic but it would be great to see (maybe even as an unlockable character?).
Keep it at D4G for more on Resident Evil and Capcom’s amazing new Resident Evil 2 Remake.