Friday, September 25

Resident Evil 0 Review

I played on: PS4
I paid: £14.99
Available on: Gamecube, Wii, Switch, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Notes: I played the HD version of this game but besides the higher resolution this game can be played exactly as it would have been on the Gamecube original release.

Resident Evil Remake was a massive success on the Gamecube and is still to this day one of the best games in the entire franchise. Because of this Capcom wanted to follow it up with a prequel using the same engine and similar graphics. That is what we’re looking at today, Resident Evil Zero, the story of RPD’s S.T.A.R.S bravo team.

You play as Rebecca Chambers, S.T.A.R.S field medic and a rookie member of Bravo team. If you’ve played either RE1 or its remake, you will know that Bravo team goes missing. RE0 shows us what happened leading up to the beginning of the first game. Over the course of Bravo team’s final mission, we learn more about Umbrella and its founders. This includes more about Albert Wesker and William Birkin’s position and role in the company. On top of this Rebecca Chambers, who only played a supporting role in the original game, is given proper depth. She is joined by ex-soldier Billy Coen, but he’s not as interesting as Rebecca or any of the villains. For fans of the Resident Evil lore, the story of RE0 is essential.

This high quality is carried over to the presentation as well. Even the original GameCube version looks fantastic, although RE0 really stands out in HD. Unlike most games from the early 2000s, it’s aged remarkably, almost holding up with games on the PS4 and Xbox One. Similar to the RE remake and other early RE classics this high quality was achieved via the combination of prerendered backgrounds and 3D character and monster models. If you play this in HD, then you have the option to play in 16:9 widescreen ratio. This doesn’t just stretch out the screen, instead, it zooms in on a section and the camera pans across as it follows your character. I love this effect as it makes the camera feel more dynamic. The only parts of this game that feel dated are the CG cutscenes. Going from the in-game models to the pre-rendered videos is at best jarring and at worst immersion breaking. Luckily they aren’t too common so it’s a small issue at most.

I wish I could continue this praise but sadly the gameplay is where this game falls flat. Major problems with the game include awful map layout, poor item management and small character inventory space.

Map design is vital to this style of Resident Evil. There’s a reason that locations like the Spencer Mansion, RPD, and the Baker Estate are so memorable and beloved. These locations may appear rather large and daunting at first, but this isn’t the case. As you explore you unlock doors and shortcuts. After a while moving around becomes quick and efficient. Typically, you start with a central lobby and have two wings that branch off from it. Each one of these wings will have 2 floors and if you enter on the ground floor and keep moving forward you should appear on the upper floor of the lobby or vice versa. Think about how you leave the RPD lobby via the ground floor waiting room and then come back to the lobby via the library door on the upper level. This means that if you need to move around the map quickly, which you will need to do, as long as you plan your journey it’s normally rather short. Resident Evil 0 ignores this tried and true layout and instead consists of corridors that lead to other corridors never linking back to a central lobby. This makes moving around in Resident Evil 0 ineffective and just tedious.

What makes this issue worse is the lack of a chest in the save rooms. During classic era RE games, you would have ‘save rooms’ that no monster could enter. Typically, one for each wing of the map. These would contain a chest that you could store items in freeing up space in your inventory. Anything in these chests could be accessed via any other chest in the game. This meant if you stored a weapon, health item or puzzle piece in a chest you could simply make your way to the nearest save room when you needed it. This once again helped the maps feel like well thought out mazes that as long as you planned your route could be navigated with ease. During Resident Evil 0 you have no such chests and instead must carry any items you need with you or leave them behind. If we use the Hookshot as an example, I’ll explain what I mean. You only need to use the Hookshot 4 times in the game, once during the beginning while on a train. After this, it’s easily an hour or so of casual play until you need it again and because of this, you’ve most likely left it by the train. Now this train is the other side of the map at this point. Instead of just making your way to the save room that’s right next to you, you instead have to backtrack all the way to the train.

Lastly, this is further compounded by the tiny amount of inventory space you have. The catch with RE0 is that Rebecca has to work closely with her unintended partner Billy Coen. What this means in terms of gameplay is that you have to share items between each other’s inventory. In theory, this should double up your space from 6 slots to 12. In reality, each character needs a weapon and ammo so that’s 2 slots each taken up. Then you may very well have healing item/s which is normally 1 extra slot each. Which leaves 3 slots free each. Certain items or weapons such as the Hookshot and shotgun take up 2 slots on their own plus 1 more for ammo. Numerous puzzles require multiple items that take up even more space. This means you will be leaving plenty of things behind which leads to more backtracking, which is made even more confusing and frustrating due to the terrible layout of the map.

Resident Evil Zero is a very mixed bag as its story and presentation are top-notch, easily holding up almost 20 years after its release. Rebecca Chambers goes from feeling flat and weak in the RE1 remake to a fully rounded out character with this game. Her reliance on Chris in the first game is now recontextualized as exhaustion. Despite all this greatness playing RE0 isn’t fun. It fails at what made early RE games timeless masterpieces. This is a must-play for any RE fans wanting to understand the larger lore and story of the series. For more casual fans or those not so interested in those aspects, I’d advise you skip this one.

Recommendation Rating: 7 out of 10

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