Resident Evil Zero
You may have wondered why we’ve held off reviewing Resident Evil Zero for so long. After all, the game came out in the US back in November and we normally get there first with the big import reviews. On this occasion though, we decided to hold back until the PAL version arrived. Our earlier In-Depths should have given you enough info to decide whether or not you wanted to import a copy anyway.
Resident Evil Zero arrives in the UK four months after it stormed both the US (where it sold equally with Metroid Prime) and Japan. Capcom never expected Resident Evil Remake to sell ridiculous amounts — despite the upgraded graphics and all-new areas, much of the game had been seen before. Resident Evil Zero on the other hand, is completely new — the gameplay, the areas and the enemies, together with a storyline, which explains how the greatest survival horror of all time began. Capcom is putting a hell of a lot of faith in this game and already the title has shipped more copies than its predecessor. However, Zero has a difficult task ahead of it. With gamers conditioned to expect the unexpected (by way of Resident Evil 1, 2, 3, Code: Veronica, Silent Hill and Eternal Darkness), Zero runs the risk of just being another puzzle shooter. Can it possibly live up to the original’s fright factor?
Everything about this game is second to none. If you read CUBE regularly, you already know that Resident Evil Zero looks out of this world. Remake shocked everyone with its graphical splendour, but this raises the bar yet again. We’d even go so far as to say that Remake looks a little tired next to Zero. Textures jump out at you as the light of nearby lamps dances off them. Ageing brickwork really looks like it could have tiny creatures rummaging around in it and underground tunnels glisten with moisture. Polygon models fit into their surroundings far more convincingly than they did before. You won’t walk into a room and think, “yeah, that item can be moved” because the lighting on the prerendered areas matches up so well. In a similar fashion, the character and enemy models blend in convincingly. The characters especially are even more detailed than before and the only real difference between the in-game versions and their FMV counterparts are slightly rougher edges.
As you would expect, the sound is very accomplished; deep, ambient strings, echoing piano riffs and the obligatory drips, screeches and groans. Voice-overs and the lip-synching are excellent. The conversations between Billy and Rebecca are a joy to listen to.
The most significant improvement over Remake has to be the gameplay. There are several new additions, such as the Partner Zapping and item-dropping abilities, both of which have their pros and cons. Most of the time, you will be in control of both Billy and Rebecca. You can choose to totally control one character while the other will follow you. Zapping between the two comes courtesy of the Y button. If you’d prefer to explore on your own, you can order the other character to stay by tapping the Start button. Capcom has tailored the puzzles around this ability. If the secondary character gets in the way or you want to move him or her out of harms way quickly, you can do so with the C-Stick. During enemy confrontations, the secondary character will act according to how you have him/her set up in the options menu. At any given time you can go into the options and heal/reload/use an item with both characters — a simple and effective system. More significant however is the ability to drop items whenever and wherever you want.
Despite all these improvements though, there is one department in which Resident Evil Zero does not deliver convincingly, and that’s fear. You can attribute a fair amount of the problem to the fact that we’ve simply seen it all before, but there are many new enemies so you can’t blame it all on that. Ironically, the very aspects that improve the gameplay detract from the fear factor. Having a secondary character by your side throughout much of the game results in a psychological safety net. It’s almost like playing the game with a friend rather than on your own. You know that however bad the situation is, you’ll always have two characters’ worth of ammunition. As a result, the feeling of isolation and the fear of the unknown are distinctly subdued. The lack of item chests also detracts from the fear. No longer will you think to yourself, “damn that inventory space, I’m in some real deep s*!# now”.
It’s still a scary game, but it’s just nowhere near as frightening as Remake or Eternal Darkness. We’re being a little bit harsher on Zero because, after all, it’s supposed to be a horror. As a game, Capcom’s latest is a fantastic achievement and a must buy for any Resident Evil fan. The new gameplay additions may even sway those of you who couldn’t get to grips with Remake. So go on, don’t be scared, give it a try…