Love/Hate: Resident Evil 1.5 (BONUS)

Welcome back to a very special bonus entry in the Resident Evil love/hate series! In this entry we’ll be going over the original version of Resident Evil 2, dubbed by fans as Resident Evil 1.5. A very rough build of this unfinished game leaked years ago and a group of dedicated fans have stitched it together into a mostly-playable demo. I thought that it could be fascinating to see how this early prototype plays, considering that much of the work put into it was scrapped and didn’t make its way into the game we ended up getting. How does it hold up and differ compared to the Resident Evil 2 that would ultimately see release? Read on to find out…


  • It Exists – Look, the most remarkable thing about Resident Evil 1.5 is the fact that it exists at all, that we have access to it, and that it’s playable. In the world of video game development and releases, this is a straight-up miracle. We rarely get to see in-development game builds, let alone actually play them for ourselves. This stands doubly-true when a game gets scrapped mid-development, with all the ideas and concepts that had been in production at the time never seeing the light of day. RE1.5 stands as a relic of a game that never was and shows a snapshot of the ideas which eventually evolved into the Resident Evil 2 we know, which is just fascinating to experience first-hand.
  • Elza Walker – Leon is largely the same in RE1.5 as he is in RE2, but what’s really interesting is the character who didn’t make it to the full release: Elza Walker. Considering that she is basically an unrefined version of Claire Redfield with very little writing and no voice acting to flesh her out, it’s kind of remarkable how much Elza Walker stands out as her own distinct character in RE1.5. Her racing outfit is instantly iconic, distinctive, and striking. In addition, her skills as a race car driver give the character an interesting and unique hook compared to this series’ stable of cops and soldiers. I’m endlessly fascinated by the fact that this game allows us to play as this character who never got to see the light of day. Sure, we didn’t get to learn much about her in this scrapped build of the game, but there’s enough character here that Elza could legitimately make her way into a future Resident Evil game and be accepted with enthusiasm (in fact, Capcom are definitely aware of this as well since they gave Claire an Elza Walker costume in REmake 2).
  • Zombie Variety – One of the coolest aspects of RE1.5 compared to RE2 is that you’re not just shooting the exact same zombie type over and over again. There are a lot more different varieties of zombies, including female ones, fat ones, etc. This doesn’t have a massive impact on gameplay or anything, but it does make this feel more like a massive outbreak with casualties all across the populace.


  • Damage Status – RE1.5 has its own unique way to show damage on your character. As your character takes damage, they will begin to have cuts and show tears on their clothing. It’s definitely an improvement on RE1, but it’s also really easy to miss in the heat of combat. RE2‘s ultimate decision to use a limping animation was far better at conveying information and making you want to heal ASAP.


  • Technically Rough – Look, I get it. Resident Evil 1.5 was unfinished and has basically been cobbled together to even get into a playable state. If you play it, you’re accepting that you’re not playing a completed video game, or even one that was meant to be played at all. Even with all that in mind, you can’t help but acknowledge that actually playing RE1.5 ranges from awkward, to rough, to straight-up broken. Characters are not properly integrated with the pre-rendered backgrounds, so they will regularly walk “over” scenery that should be in the foreground, the map is completely broken and useless, none of the type writers or item boxes work, picking up items and reading files can cause the game to crash, animations are incomplete… again, this is to be expected when you’re playing a game like this, but it still makes for a rough experience at best.
  • You Can Kinda See Why It Got Scrapped – While there is clearly more work that needs to be done to make this game functional, you really can start to understand the developers’ concerns that the game just wasn’t coming together. This version of the RPD has no personality compared to the released version – it’s just a big, square, stereotypical police department building with three main floors and then two basement floors. It doesn’t have the sprawling exploration of other Resident Evil games, you just travel between floors, clearing them out one at a time. The majority of the obstacles are either masses of very stupid and easy to dodge zombies, or shutters, which are closed all over the damn station.
  • Combat Feels Bad – I’m not sure why it’s like this in RE1.5, but the shooting feels massively nerfed compared to even the first Resident Evil. Maybe it’s just because Elza is not skilled with guns, but every shot I took was painfully slow and it takes a lot of rounds to actually down a zombie. As a result, you rarely have enough space to just stand your ground and kill a zombie before it reaches you, let alone if you have multiple zombies approaching. Sometimes you don’t even have enough room to back up either, so just running tends to be the best approach.
  • Not Entirely Original Content? – This I am not entirely sure of, but there were a couple things I came across which seem like they have been added by modders, which makes me question what exactly is in RE1.5 which has been added in after the fact. The two big things were that I encountered the Brad Vickers poster from REmake 2, and in the basement there is what appears to be a statue of Pochita from Chainsaw Man (for some reason). I get that this is just some modder putting a piece of themselves into RE1.5, but it undermines this game’s status as a snapshot of a game that never was, because now I just can’t know how much of it is original and what isn’t.
  • There’s Not Much to Do – Again, I get it, the game is not finished… but that also means that playing this game as-is doesn’t give you a whole lot to do. It’s the equivalent of a digital museum: lots of interesting things to see, but not a whole lot to actually do while you’re in it.

Resident Evil 1.5 is a fascinating peek into the processes which bring us the games that we love. While it isn’t particularly compelling as a game in its own right, viewing it that way is kind of missing the point. If you’re a big fan of the early Resident Evil games, I definitely recommend tracking this down so you can get a look into the early development decisions which helped shape the RE2 we know today.

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