Resident Evil Zero is a prequel to Capcom’s groundbreaking original game, initially released in 2002 exclusively on the Nintendo GameCube. Since then it’s been ported to the Nintendo Wii, repackaged for Windows PC and finally remastered for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Suffice to say, Capcom’s modest 2002 ‘exclusive’ has become the village bicycle of the gaming world. But is it any good?
Game Name: Resident Evil Zero HD
Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One
Genre(s): Third-person shooter
Release Date: 1.19.2016
Price: £22.99 / $29.99 USD
Reviewed on: Xbox One
I was a small child when my father bought me the original Resident Evil on the PlayStation for Christmas. Having been born in 1992, I was roughly five years old when he felt it appropriate to bestow nightmare inducing zombie violence upon me. To this day it becomes a hot topic of a dinner conversation between my parents whenever I return home; my mother opting for the appropriate “what were you thinking?” line of questioning. Being introduced too early to videogame violence (when up until that point I’d been playing nothing but Sonic the Hedgehog) meant I had an overwhelming disdain for games like it. Dad’s latter Christmas ‘apology’ presents failed to soothe the deep trauma inside – in fact, I began to think he wasn’t even looking at the things he was buying me – Evil Dead, Dino Crisis, Silent Hill (I just about made it through MediEvil with all my nerves in tact). As a result of all of this hullabaloo, I’ve yet to play Resident Evil Zero – a game which hardcore fans of the franchise have hailed as one of the last bastions of classic Resi Evil gameplay. How appropriate then, that fresh out of Christmas 2015 I am at the helm of another Capcom title, just as I was in 1996…
Zero has you playing as one of two heroes, S.T.A.R.S officer Rebecca Chambers and a death row convict named Billy Coen. An extra tidbit for the HD fans – once the main campaign is completed you’re able to play as a third hero, Albert Wesker, also known as the franchise’s most infamous villain. Throughout the game you can zip between your heroes in order to harness their unique abilities and solve puzzles; from a game-play perspective that’s great, however as characters, I do find them lacking in likeability and any three-dimensional quality. I’m not sure if that’s a fault with the games themselves or just with how they’ve aged over a decade.
Visually the game impressed me right from the get-go. A bit of digging around on the internet has informed me that the cut-scenes haven’t actually been remastered in any way, shape or form since 2002 – which I suppose is the biggest compliment I can give to the original development team. The game starts with a thrilling if a little dated, set-piece on a train and develops from there; the visuals improving in density and scope as you progress through the campaign.
The game inhabits the same space as the original Resident Evil and Silent Hill titles in so much that it’s a third-person shooter. Originally the game was released in its native letterbox 4:3 aspect ratio and through the beauty of the remaster you can now flip between the ‘original’ aspect ratio and a brand spanking ‘new’ widescreen 16:9 one. Obviously, whoever forks out for this HD revamp will naturally be inclined to play through using the new presentation – and I think it’s to everyone’s benefit. To achieve the widescreen effect you will notice that the camera is zoomed in permanently throughout the game – tilting subtly up and down depending on your firearm aim and position in the frame. It feels more modern and works extremely well compared to the original look that feels static and cold.
On the topic of modernization, there’s a new control system that feels immediately friendlier and more accessible. You can walk around in what I like to call ‘three-dimensional space’ as opposed to the rigid tank-like controls that littered games in the 90’s and early 2000’s. This makes progressing through the game a lot easier, the aiming a lot easier, the puzzle solving a lot easier – and due to the clarity of the new visuals, it makes the full experience a lot less buggy than I can imagine it once was.
The audio is nicely handled too – I can’t quite comment on exactly how much it differs from the original 2002 release, however I can say the soundtrack is suitably eerie and frequently heightens the tension at key moments throughout the claustrophobic adventure. The voice acting has been criticized for resembling that of a terrible 60’s ‘B-movie’ – however I find knocking a dated game on its acting chops a pointless exercise. The presentation is key for an HD re-release and throughout the spine of this well-priced remaster a lot of attention has clearly been paid by the Capcom team.
The game is not without its faults. Headshots are the real key to slaying zombies in this adventure – yet I found the most successful way of achieving a perfect headshot was to let your enemies come close, aim up then fire. It worked 9 times out of 10 – the result leaving me a little frustrated at the amount of repetition on offer. Equally, a fundamental mistake back in 2002 was struck when Capcom opted to ditch Resident Evil’s classic storage box mechanic, limiting you to two small inventories (one per character) in which to collect and drop key items. An external storage space (think of it like a retro Dropbox or iCloud) would have saved some precious time that players will have to sacrifice in order to spur-of-the-moment drop their important items, then backtrack. My other, smaller gripe is another pacing issue – one I’ve always found with classic survival horror titles. That is when the zombie action begins, my heart begins pounding in my chest and my adrenaline levels shoot up through the roof. Yet the slow crawl of text you have to read as you check each environment around you really breaks up that sense of speed and exhilaration. After dedicating a few hours to the game, it becomes less ‘suspense-building’ and more frustrating.
Overall, I was pleased to revisit the Resident Evil universe I once knew as a child rather than the one I’ve come to know as an adult. Nostalgia infiltrates this HD remaster through very subtle yet highly important artistic direction – the untouched cutscenes, the B-movie voice acting, the core controls modernized to a pleasurable degree of gaming satisfaction. The universe is equal parts haunting and stunning with each frame of the game a work of art in its own right – brought to life through modern 3D polygons and dynamic lighting. The key issues I have with the game are simply down to decisions made over a decade ago; they’re core failures that the remaster hasn’t been able to address – from a terrible inventory system to repetitive combat. Due to its competitive pricing in the modern gaming climate, I’d definitely recommend this HD remaster a reliable January buy to tide you over to any upcoming A-grade titles you may be salivating after… like hungry gaming zombies…
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