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'Zero' highlights Resident Evil's fall
Jan 26, 2016
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
While Capcom presumably sorts out how its uber-popular Resident Evil series moves on from the disastrous Resident Evil 6, the company is leaning heavily on its back catalogue to fill the void. The latest remake, Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster, is likely to appeal to those who played the original game back in 2002, but few others.
"Zero" was the last game in the series to rely on survival horror tropes, as it was followed up by 2005's decidedly action-oriented Resident Evil 4. Sadly, it took these gameplay mechanics a little too far, and while the game's idiosyncracies were a little easier to swallow over a decade ago, they simply don't hold up in 2016.
The game follows S.T.A.R.S.' elite task force member Rebecca Chambers and escaped convict Billy Coen as an unlikely duo that is forced to make its way through numerous creepy environments in an attempt to survive countless biological mutants.
The game starts off strong as Rebecca and Billy take on zombified passengers and train employees in the tight confines of the creepy Ecliptic Express train. It's not long before the pair finds itself in a mansion very reminiscent of the one found in the original Resident Evil. It's also not long before the game's problems become more annoying and unrelenting than Nemesis himself.
Arguably the biggest issue is the broken inventory system. Early Resident Evil games rarely allowed you to carry many items, but they at least added a handy item box system. These item boxes were strewn throughout certain games, and were universally shared, meaning that if you placed something inside one box, you could pick up that item in another box.
In Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster, each player has six slots to hold items, and that's it. You can drop items wherever you want, and they'll show up on the map (which makes for some semblance of convenience), but it still makes for far too much backtracking. By the time I finished the game, I was ready to never see another door-opening load screen for the rest of 2016.
I remember being a huge fan of Zero's novel character-swapping mechanic back in 2002, but after replaying the HD Remaster, I realize the developers really lacked creativity when it came to this feature. Players can change between Rebecca and Billy at the touch of a button, but there really aren't that many puzzles that take advantage of this, and the ones that do are often more cumbersome than interesting.
The first, for instance, has Billy working to get Rebecca out of a locked room, but the scenario is almost completely one-sided, with Rebecca simply forced to wait around in a tiny room while Billy does all the interesting stuff. There's another section much later in the game where the two once again get separated, but instead of showing both sides of their story, Billy simply disappears and is unplayable for a significant chunk of the game.
The Remaster does look a lot better than its predecessor, as expected, and the game's sound is top-notch, but as technically sound as "Zero" is, the gameplay can't make up for that.
The few boss fights lack creativity, and the tactics involved in taking down any of the larger enemies involves nothing more than standing in place and unloading as much ammo as possible. When you look at how Resident Evil 4 evolved boss fights - the giant salamander and the Garrador, to name but two examples - it really highlights Zero's problems.
The updated control settings definitely help make the game playable in 2016, but the characters still feel slow and plodding. Certain enemies, such as the hunters, can cheaply get off numerous attacks and kill Rebecca before she can even set her gun.
The new Wesker Mode is probably the most interesting thing about the Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster, which is ironic considering its gameplay flies in the face of classic survivor horror games. In Wesker Mode, Billy is subbed out for Wesker, who has a special death stare attack that can be used permanently, which completely negates the need for any sort of ammo. In a truly lazy move, cutscenes feature Wesker's character, but still use Billy's voice. This mode is likely for players who want to try speed runs of the game, and is sure to be all but ignored by "purists."
Leech Hunter mode is another unlockable that returns from the original game, and it serves as a moderately interesting side quest that will truly test your ability to manage your inventory.
I'm far from convinced that the Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster is a high-quality game, but considering how the majority of current third-person action games have focused more and more on shootouts and in-your-face setpieces, it's sure to serve its purpose to anyone who craves old-school survivor horror.
As long as the sales of these remakes go toward making a brand-new Resident Evil game (as I'm guessing they are), all I can say is "bring it on."
Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster
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