In The History of Resident Evil, we take a look back at the legendary franchise from its inception in 1996 through to present day, offering our readers a comprehensive look at each major canonical entry in the series, along with delving into some of the projects that never saw the light of day. If you missed the first installment, check it out here. With that said, strap on your Shotgun, bag a fresh pack of underwear and fork out a First-Aid Spray as we delve into the Second Coming of Resident Evil.
Resident Evil: Director’s Cut (a.k.a. Biohazard: Director’s Cut)
Release Date: September 25, 1997 (Japan), September 30, 1997 (North America), October 12, 1997 (Europe)
Platform: Sony PlayStation
Global Sales: 1,130,000
With a full blown sequel over six months away and Capcom intent on getting a Resident Evil title in the shops for Christmas 1997, the company decided to repackage the original survival horror classic under the Director’s Cut moniker as well as offer a 20-minute playable demo of Resident Evil 2 to give players a hands-on sneak peak at the eagerly anticipated follow-up.
Resident Evil: Director’s Cut offers three flavors in which to plow through the inaugural horror romp, namely Standard, Training and Advanced. While the former two are merely standard ports of the title (with ammo quantity and enemy resilience tweaked for beginner mode), Advanced offers some noticeable differences when compared to the original outing, chiefly alternate camera angels and new costumes for Rebecca Chambers, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine.
The classic S.T.A.R.S. Beretta M92F was also modified to pack considerably more punch than its former incarnation, splattering zombie brain matter across the décor and stopping fast moving enemies in their tracks. Advanced mode also includes one new enemy, coming in the form of deceased Bravo Team member, Forest Speyer, who joins the ranks of the undead when you encounter his crow-pecked corpse on a wind-swept balcony. Furthermore, items are scattered in different locations while certain puzzles have been tweaked slightly, though the plot remains identical to its 1996 counterpart. Nonetheless, Director’s Cut proved popular among consumers, acting as an ideal bridge between the first game and its sequel, prompting Capcom to release a DualShock compatible version the following summer.
Resident Evil 2 (a.k.a. Biohazard 2)
Release Date: January 29, 1998 (Japan), January 21, 1998 (North America), May 8, 1998 (Europe)
Platform: Sony PlayStation
Global Sales: 4,960,000
After a turbulent development process, Capcom finally unleashed the sequel to its widely acclaimed horror outing in Japan and the U.S. in January 1998, with the European conversion shipping in all its uncut glory a few months later. Arriving on the scene amidst a wave of fan hysteria and lofty ambitious, Resident Evil 2 ultimately went on to become Capcom’s second best selling title of all time, shifting copies by the bucket load across the globe and delivering on seemingly insurmountable expectations.
The story picks up a few months after the events of the original game, taking place in the mid-western town of Raccoon City in September of 1998. Opening with a fully rendered introduction sequence, we’re quickly acquainted with the game’s two main protagonists: Leon S. Kennedy, a rookie cop arriving in town on his first day with the R.P.D.; and Claire Redfield, a university student who arrives in Raccoon investigating the sudden disappearance of her brother, Chris (star of the original Resident Evil). After rolling into town in separate locations, the pair is attacked by zombies and bump into one another before hot-wiring a police vehicle and heading for the Raccoon Police Department. Circumstances soon take a turn for the worse and they become separated prior to reaching their destination – thus begins the second chapter in the saga.
Juxtaposed with the original horror classic, it’s not hard to understand why Resident Evil 2 is such a significant leap over its predecessor. Despite offering only incremental upgrades to the basic formula, RE2 upped the game in just about every conceivable aspect, from the scope of the locations, the number of enemies on screen to the quality of the production values and ambitious plot line. The disparity between the environments compared to the original game are strikingly evident, with the dusty halls of the remote Spencer mansion giving way to the decaying, post-apocalyptic remains of a once bustling urban locale.
Combat introduced a fresh batch of new creatures, such as the skinless, humanoid BOWs known as Lickers, the hulking, relentless Mr. X and the sewer dwelling mutated crocodile. Meanwhile, Zombies primarily shuffled in ammo-depleting groups of up to half a dozen or more, often neglected to packing out tight corridors and trashed offices resulting in some decidedly tense encounters. Appropriately enough, the game boasts a heap of new weapons, including the sub machine gun and bow gun, along with the ability to upgrade existing firearms by obtaining custom parts. What’s more, each character has their own personal item, such as Kennedy’s zippo lighter or Redfield’s lockpick, with the pair also able to upgrade inventory capacity by equipping a sidepack. Unsurprisingly, many of these features would act as a template for future installments. Supporting characters Ada Wong and Sherry Birkin are also playable for a brief period during Kennedy and Redfield’s scenario, respectively.
Elsewhere, RE2’s ‘zapping’ system – allowing you to unlock two scenarios for each character – greatly expanded the game’s longevity beyond that of the original title, offering tweaked item/enemy placements, new cut scenes, additional boss fights and an expanded ending sequence. A grading system was also introduced, which scored your efforts based on completion time, special weapons used, number of saves and healing items consumed. Upon further dissection of the zombie sequel players can also discover a boatload of unlockable content, including hidden costumes, as well the introduction of mini games in the form of The Fourth Survivor (this also featured a comical take on the game in the form of Tofu, a sprite used for collision detection during development who comes equipped with only a combat knife for defense). RE2 also featured a special promotional effort in Japan in the form a live action commercial directed by legendary zombie film maker, George A. Romero, featuring Adrienne Frants and the late Brad Renfro as Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy, respectively.
Although a planned Sega Saturn conversion was ultimately scrapped, this didn’t stop Capcom from porting the game over to numerous platforms over the next couple of years, including PC, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast and GameCube. Boasting crispier textures and smoother FMV, subsequent releases included an Extreme Battle Mode, new difficulty levels, as well as a gallery section letting you browse through various concept art and renders.
The Angel Studios-developed N64 iteration – while lacking the goodies seen on CD-based ports – included exclusive documents used to flesh out various character exploits (among which included Rebecca Chambers filing a report on Billy Coen from the then-unreleased RE Zero, plus Brad Vickers describing an encounter with RE3’s towering Nemesis), full analogue control, in addition to an item randomizer, offering further incentive to play through the game after completion. Impressively, the developers also managed to cram in all of the FMV’s from the PlayStation version onto a single cart – no mean feat considering the N64 utilized an inferior storage medium to that of Sony’s machine.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (a.k.a. Biohazard 3: Last Escape)
Release Date: September 22, 1999 (Japan), November 11, 1999 (North America), February 18, 2000 (Europe)
Platform: Sony PlayStation
Global Sales: 3,500,000
Originally conceived under the name of ‘Biohazard 1.9’, Nemesis serves as both a prequel and sequel to the events of Resident Evil 2, taking place 24 hours before and 48 hours after Leon and Claire’s exploits in the fall of 1998. As the final core entry in the series for the PlayStation, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis transports players back to the decaying remnants of Raccoon City under control of ex. S.T.A.R.S. operative Jill Valentine as she attempts to escape the metropolis in the wake of the T-Virus outbreak.
Having opted to stay behind in Raccoon to dig the dirt on Umbrella while her comrades head for the pharmaceutical giant’s headquarters in Europe, Valentine quickly becomes swept up in the ensuring outbreak that sees most of the city’s population transformed into flesh eating undead, and decides to make a last ditch attempt to break out of town before it’s too late. After a stunning intro sequence depicting the Raccoon Police Department’s last stand against the zombie hordes (interspersed with members of Umbrella’s Biohazard Countermeasure Service also fighting a losing battle against the undead), we take control of Valentine as she makes an explosive exit out of her apartment complex into Raccoon’s back alleys.
While this third installment in the critically lauded Survival Horror franchise is pretty much your standard RE affair, Mikami and his team applied several subtle, albeit crucial changes to the basic formula to inject a little more variety into the usual zombie bashing, herb ingesting proceedings. Aside from a handy 180 degree turn allowing players to quickly leg it in the opposite direction in times of danger, Nemesis introduced an all new dodge mechanic, allowing Valentine to deliver an offensive shove or evade an enemy’s attack at the press of a button (requiring immaculate timing on the player’s part – something of which isn’t easily achieved when surrounding by half a dozen rotting corpses).
Further tweaks reared their head in the ability to climb staircases without the monotonous loading sequence, along with chance to create your own ammunition by procuring various gun powder and mixing it with the ‘reloading tool.’ In a recurring theme, players would also briefly assume control of a second character later on in the game, namely fellow U.B.C.S. member, Carlos Oliviera, who is tasked with finding a vaccine for the T-Virus after Valentine is infected with the disease at the hands of the Nemesis.
While RE3 shipped on one disc containing a single campaign as opposed to its predecessor, the sequel greatly expanded Raccoon’s landscape, allowing players to traverse numerous back alleys and crumbling city streets, while also bumping into iconic structures such as the Clock Tower and Raccoon Hospital. The game’s aural presentation in particular was used to stunning affect here, with wails of hunger emanating from far off streets and winds gushing through dark alleys accentuating the feeling of terror and suspense at every corner – a solid testament to the fact RE’s scares weren’t just limited to tightly packed corridors and ominous mansions in the woods.
Series creator, Shinji Mikami, elucidates: “By using the city area, the map becomes bigger, and different types of environment can be used,” adding that the game is aimed specifically at those who were “very good at playing [Resident Evil 2].”
Naturally, as the western subtitle of the game implies, the main highlight comes in the form of Nemesis - a towering, inexorable bio-weapon that pursues Valentine throughout the entirety of the game. After promptly dispatching of fellow Alpha Team survivor Brad Vickers outside the R.P.D., this hulking, leather-clad monstrosity pitches up at various intervals (on occasion wielding a blood-encrusted Rocket Launcher, we might add) uttering a throaty “S.T.A.R.S.” before lunging its massive frame at you in a blood lust. Concurrently, the creature’s appearance frequently triggers the ‘Live Selection’ event, where the game prompts you to make on the spot decisions, such as taking shelter from the creature or utilizing something in the environment to incapacitate it momentarily. Appropriately enough, each decision you make ultimately has a knock on effect, opening up alternate pathways and scenes depending on your actions, affording ample replay value.
“We’ve also included a new kind of enemy, inspired by Terminator’s liquid metal cop…The enemy will keep following you, like in the movie. He will run at very high speed…This character will follow you in a certain stage and disappear,” said Mikami-san, while discussing the inspiration behind the Nemesis.
Elsewhere, the game also boasted a fair amount of unlockable goodness, including hidden costumes (one of which kitted Valentine out in the same outfit as the protagonist from Mikami’s inaugural Dino Crisis videogame), character epilogues, as well as the now infamous Mercenaries mini-game, which sees you controlling members of the U.B.C.S. in order to obtain cash to purchase infinite weapons. RE3 comfortably outsold the original Resident Evil, though ultimately fell short of its predecessor’s mammoth commercial success. Nemesis was subsequently ported to PC, Dreamcast and GameCube featuring sharper visuals and smoother FMV sequences.
The horror concludes with part three of The History of Resident Evil.