Wait for the leech!
HIGH Line shotgun up with zombie head. Pull trigger. Spectacular.
LOW Inventory management is like playing musical chairs.
WTF 'Did you kill twenty-three people? I'm not going to judge you.'
She's a cop, and a rookie combat medic. He's a con languishing on death row for the murder of twenty three civilians. Put the two together and there won't be a zombie left standing.
That's right, Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen are back for the Resident Evil Zero remake!
Set immediately before the events of the original Resident Evil, this latest version of Zero boasts remastered visuals and tweaks to gameplay.
I'm sure most oldschool fans want to know if the classic tank controls are there, and they are, but for those who want 'up' to mean 'up' instead of 'towards the clawing arms of the nearest zombie'? They're covered too. Otherwise, there are a pretty good range of options to have it as faithful or as spruced-up as the player wishes. Widescreen or original aspect ratio? Home theater or stereo? 60 frames per second or 30? It's all in there.
Of course, there have been a lot of little things nudged, but the visuals are where most effort has been put in, and the CG backgrounds are as clean as can be with a noticeable lack of 'noise' or artifacts. It's a good-looking remaster, though the boost in resolution for the FMV cut-scenes hasn't been kind—they look decidedly smudgey by comparison.
As for how it plays, it's old-school Resident Evil with the twist of having to take care of two characters at once in order to progress. Resource management is important throughout, and zombies still have their heads explode in a ludicrously satisfying manner when popped with a shotgun. If only all headshots were as awesome as these.
Despite the promise it seems to offer, the dual character setup doesn't offer many surprises. Rebecca and Billy can fight alone, team up, and the active character can be switched at will. They're also occasionally separated and have to help each other from different areas—things like sending items across in a lift, flipping a distant lever, or having one make a mad dash to the other before they get murdered by shambling nasties. Of the two, Billy will get the most use—he's just more resilient. That said, both characters have skills necessary to progress.
Back in 2002, the ability to drop items on the spot felt like a quantum shift forward for RE. Previously, players would have to hoof it back to an item box to dump off their unwanted goods when their inventory was full. This was often derided as ridiculous—a full inventory meant that ammunition couldn't be picked up to reload empty weapons, or an object that needed to be placed in a puzzle ten steps away would require running halfway across the map to free up space.
Unfortunately, the ‘better' system in Zero doesn't work quite as well as I remembered.
For one, there are now no item boxes at all, so stashed stuff won't be readily accessible from storage points—leave any critical items at the start of the game and it'll require running all the way back for them later on. There are other annoying aspects like Billy and Rebecca only having six item slots apiece, and power weapons such as shotguns usually require two. There's just an excessive amount of item reshuffling overall.
The fixed camera angles are painful to return to as well. While there's a more fluid control option now, the camera angle can still switch suddenly, throwing everything into momentary confusion and sending characters scampering off the wrong way—sometimes straight into the maw of a waiting zombie.
As far as new modes and goodies go, once the storyline is completed there's a leech hunter mode which unlocks spiffy new bonuses for the main game, and a mode quite obviously influenced by the events of Resident Evil 5. No Sheva Alomar, sadly, but there's a returning fan favorite there with a couple of unique moves.
There are also a bunch of little extras to unlock throughout, such as new weapons and costumes. Some are available from the start or as DLC, with my personal favorite being a Wolf Force number for Billy taken straight from Mercs—a reference so obscure and ridiculously machismo that I nearly stood up and applauded. Well, once I figured out how to put the damn thing on.
I enjoyed my time with Resident Evil Zero back in the day, and I largely enjoyed it now. This remaster holds up pretty well despite the fact that some of the sheen's rubbed off over time. It might be a harder sell for anyone who doesn't have fond memories of it, but it's still a damn fine way to brutalize the undead.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 20 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed twice, with Leech Hunter mode 100% completed) and there is no multiplayer.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this hasn't been rated yet. The original version on Gamecube was rated Mature for blood and gore and violence, and that remains true to this day. It's not the goriest the series has been, but heads are gonna pop.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing The game is subtitled, but as it relies on a bunch of jump scares and enemy noises to locate them from offscreen the gameplay will almost certainly be impacted.