Little (OK, *big*) oddities: Biohazard 2 trial edition

Those of you who’ve been polite or unfortunate enough to visit my blog and/or Twitter for a while now might know that I’m really quite fascinated by unused and other leftover content hiding away on regular retail games, which is why popping over to check the latest TCRF updates is practically a daily necessity for me. I’ve even done a bit of digging myself in the past, looking at a few Falcom games and divining insignificant tidbits from early Alisia Dragoon images. This blog post is along the same sort of lines, with me poking my nose where it’s not supposed to go and finding… well, you’ll see!

I bought Biohazard: Director’s Cut because I figured I may as well give in and be the crazy Biohazard lady everyone apparently thinks I am – an assumption that isn’t going to be helped when I tell you that the first thing I did after receiving it was pop the accompanying Biohazard 2 trial edition disc into my laptop and go rifling through the files in search of whatever the hell was on there that Capcom didn’t want anyone to see.

To be honest, I expected to find somewhere between nothing and stuff all – perhaps a few duplicated textures with the word 仮 (temporary) scribbled on them and a load of empty disc space. I was wrong. Really wrong.

A quick aside before we get stuck in: I’m probably (OK, definitely) not the first to find these things, and let’s be clear – I didn’t do anything more than poke around the disc using tools people far more intelligent than myself had already created and kindly distributed for the rest of us to use (Biofat in this case) – but I still thought it’d be a little interesting to share and compare a few things anyway.

Let’s start with… a cabinet tucked away in a corner, shall we? Whoo~, exciting! Or maybe not. In the final (shown on the right), the door they added here takes you up an outside staircase and up to the second floor – very handy, so this was probably added to make getting around a little easier, right?

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Wrong. Right. Well, sort of both.

This extra staircase wasn’t necessary in the beta because as these rough drafts show (also found on the trial disc) the main hall was designed very differently and had staircases that could take you up to the second floor on either side without any trouble. I imagine (being the operative word here) this was changed simply because they couldn’t think of a not-contrived way of making the upper levels not immediately accessible, or to encourage players to follow a more restricted path.

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Other places clearly in a “We’ll just hide our unfinished work here where nobody will ever find it” state include the elevator-car-thing that takes you down to the lab (for these next few, left image:trial disc, right: final) :

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As well as “Place towards the end with the tedious elevator/box-pushing puzzle in it”.

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And the last placeholder one we’ll look at here so I can get this blog post out before the sun goes cold; a set (totalling seven different images) that are obviously some poor soul’s work-in-progress “zombie-infested street” design.

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Then the trial disc content starts to get really weird.

Biohazard 1.5 weird.

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For the uninitiated, “Biohazard 1.5” was the game intended to be Biohazard 2 until [some unknown people at] Capcom decided that it wasn’t an awesome enough follow-up to the game that coined the term “survival horror” and so they threw everything out and started from scratch. Almost, anyway. Some of the lab areas are actually identical to their 1.5 counterparts (frozen room where you find the fuse) or with a minor redesign (monitor room, Birkin’s lab), but I digress.

I thought the sensible thing to do after stumbling across these images would be to have a pootle around the leaked (and clearly unfinished) 1.5 beta myself, mostly to prove that I wasn’t going mad but also to match up these unused trial disc files to proper in-game locations. You can see a few examples of this morning’s handiwork below:

(Trial disc background on the left, equivalent Biohazard 1.5 location on the right)

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But as it turns out the trial disc still wasn’t done dishing out delicious secrets yet, as when I checked this (ridiculous) conveyor belt room in the 1.5 leak I thought it looked similar to some backgrounds I’d seen on the trial disc…

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...and the reason why the area looked a little strange was because the trial disc backgrounds are actually from a later stage of development! Compare the images below to see how much detail had been added between the two:

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There’s that much lurking in here I could waffle on forever, so to save everyone from that particular torture I’ve decided to upload all the trial disc backgrounds in a handy zipped folder here instead (do tell me if there’s any trouble with the link).

Why is Biohazard 1.5 still so tantalising anyway? Well, it’s a so-close-we-could-almost-taste-it alternative to game that sold millions, a little “what if” moment in gaming trapped in digital amber and sandwiched between two of the biggest Playstation titles of all time. It’s also because, as with all betas, us gamers can’t help but use our imaginations to fill in the blanks (and there are still an awful lot of those in 1.5’s case) and anything we don’t like we can pretend is “just because it’s a beta” or something they would have fixed before release. The fact is though is that nobody scraps a big-budget (for the time) project 70% of the way through production if everything’s coming together beautifully, so while it’ll always be interesting to read whatever we can about 1.5 (and an official design document/making of book would be wonderful) it’s also good to remember that the best version of Biohazard 2 is actually the one we got.