I only ever managed one playthrough of the original Resident Evil and that is pretty much the extent of my history with this series. After that I never really picked the games up, so when writing this review I had very little knowledge of the wider story, lore or background of any of the characters. That being said, I do remember plenty of things that I really didn’t like about the original. The infuriatingly tedious area transitions have remained as you go through doors or walk up and down stairs into a black void. Similarly, whenever you pick up items it takes you out of the game into the menu screen, the controls are terrible by today’s standards, aiming is non-existent and the cutscenes look quite dated.
Despite all this, I also remembered the things that I loved. The game is certainly not bad and took me on a nostalgia fueled ride back to when I first played it about 10 years ago as an 11 year old kid. The remastered graphics look great and I thoroughly enjoyed the story, far more than I enjoyed the actual gameplay. The sheer amount of lore I re-learned was extremely absorbing and I took time to find and read all of the files to give myself as much information as possible. For me however, this was as good as it got and I found the controls far too frustrating and clunky to really enjoy the gameplay aspect of RE0. However, I do understand that this is purely a reskin of the original and naturally with that comes the same gameplay mechanics.
Resident Evil’s story is great and is as entertaining now as it was when it was first released. Whilst other fans of the series may have got swept up in the re-skinned gameplay, I was more interested in trying to remember or re-learn as much of the story as I could. I really enjoyed it and the well-designed cutscenes helped to break up the gameplay, which I personally had less fun with.
As a very brief synopsis, the deadly T-Virus has been leaked, infecting a train in the forest of the Arklay Mountains outside Raccoon City. Field medic Rebecca Chambers and former Marine Billy Coen must form an uneasy alliance to stop the train from crashing and in doing so find themselves at an abandoned research and training centre. As they explore the facility, they learn just what the virus is and how it has been modified to turn it into a bio-weapon by James Marcus and Oswell Spencer. After several events transpire, the facility is eventually destroyed leaving Chambers and Coen to go their separate ways at the end of the game.
Evidently, Zero’s story remains a carbon copy of the original Resident Evil and provides no additional content for anyone hoping to receive some easter-eggs or new expositional lore. RESI fans will be quite happy with this but newcomers to the game will perhaps benefit the most by being able to enjoy the first story of the saga with no prior knowledge whatsoever. I found that I remembered more and more as I played but it was still exciting to be essentially playing the story from scratch once again.
The gameplay reminded me why Capcom drastically upped the pacing in their later games. As I mentioned before, I understand that this is simply a graphical reskin of an old game but regardless I just cannot stand how frustratingly awkward and clunky the gameplay is. I hated it when I first played it and I hate it now. Many people who loved the original would argue that ‘it’s just how the game is, you need to get used to it’ and to some degree they’re correct. That certainly doesn’t mean that I have to enjoy it though. The amount of times I ran into walls because of the camera angle, struggled to pick items up and couldn’t aim to save my god damn life (literally in some cases) diminished the enjoyment I was getting out of the story.
I love the fact that the early Resident Evil games were known to be hard and Zero is certainly no exception, but the first time I lost loads of progress because I hadn’t saved in ages was really, really frustrating. I accept not having checkpoints is part of the game, however this also broke up the pacing of the story and I had to take a break because I could not be bothered to replay all that lost progress straight away. It was interesting playing as the two main characters at the same time, utilising the strengths and avoiding the weaknesses of each. For example, Billy is far more of a tank than Rebecca and can absorb far more punishment so it’s important to have him shielding his partner during the harder fights of the game.
Capcom were obviously keen to retain the originality of the old game, something I am totally on board with, and I really did like how they managed to keep the horrific and creepy feeling of each area. From the narrow confines of the train to the dank rooms of the training facility, I could definitely feel a real sense of foreboding and fear as I turned each corner or entered a new area. The slow, shambling corpses of the zombies felt just as dangerous as they did before and the other monstrous creatures just added to the fear factor. This was beneficial in helping me forget about the poor controls and I started to enjoy each fight more as I got used to handling the characters.
Having said all that, I did have a good time with the game and there is certainly a lot of replay value to be had. I don’t doubt that my achievement hunting playthroughs will be far less arduous than my first and of course fans of the series are most likely going to play through the story several times as well.
If we were just judging on the graphics alone this game would probably be a 4 or even a 4.5 out of 5 because RE0 certainly does look excellent and this is particularly evident when compared to the original game (pictured below). Character detail has been vastly improved and environment rendering is arguably even better. Inanimate objects that are scattered about the place look far more realistic than ever before and animations have also been significantly enhanced. For some reason, I felt as though the cutscenes hadn’t received the same love as they still look quite dated, despite them being excellently animated.
I certainly could have done without the tedious loading transitions between each room. The animations for opening doors and climbing stairs or ladders was something I really hated in the old game, and I was hoping they would have removed them when updating the graphics. It is just one more thing that slows down the story’s pace and bores you each and every time it occurs – which is frequently throughout the entirety of the game. Again we could hark on about how Capcom wanted to keep the originality of the game but I would argue that not everything has to stay the same.
Resident Evil Zero is a remake of a gaming relic from a time gone by. It is of course a very good remake, the graphics are excellent and the story holds up well, but the gameplay lets it down by simply being awkward and outdated, hampering the pacing of the plot in the process.
Fortunately the game retains its high learning curve and fear factor to create a truly horrific setting and first time players will be nervous each time they progress to new areas, unsure of what might lurk ahead. Die-hard fans of the series will most likely welcome the return to RESI’s roots, whereas complete newcomers will probably become frustrated with the games control system and irritating transitional loading screens.