Resident Evil 0 HD is a game that miraculously manages to wash away those feelings of disappointment and hatred towards the action heavy, bullet pissing fifth and sixth entries in the franchise, and reminds us that the foundations of the Resi series are well paced scares, an emphasis on survival, and some arse-clenchingly tense set pieces. Oh, and really crappy voice acting. Never forget the voice acting.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the rich (and not at all convoluted) tapestry that is the Resident Evil series; 0 was the fourth game in the main line, but actually serves as a prequel to number one, revealing how those pesky zombies came to party in that lovely mansion up in the mountains, and talks us through just how the deadly T-Virus managed to cause such a kerfuffle.
It was originally released way back in 2002 for the Gamecube, and then ported to the Wii in ’08. Now, Capcom have decided to remaster it for Xbox One, PC and PlayStation 4, offering an updated control scheme, improved sound effects, lighting, character models and textures, and a new 16:9 aspect ratio. Thoughtfully, Capcom have included options to switch back to the original “tank” control scheme, just in case you’re a purist (or masochist).
For the most part, the high-def facelift works a treat. The familiar environments are given a new lease on life, with the improved lighting and sound effects adding a few more buckets of atmosphere on to a game that was already terrifying over a decade ago. Unfortunately, the character models do sometimes look a little too shiny… and as a result they end up looking a bit like they’ve walked out of a Dreamcast cut-scene. Still, there are some gorgeous moments throughout. Stand-outs include making your way across the top of a speeding train in stormy weather, and your initial trek around the mysterious Umbrella Training Facility and its myriad of shady rooms.
The only real complaint in the presentation department is that when everything looks and sounds so superb, the voice acting really starts to show its age, especially in an era of games that pride themselves on superb vocal performances. Still, if you can adjust your filter to appreciate the cheese, it shouldn’t bother you too much.
To go too much into the plot would ruin a game that enjoys nonchalantly throwing twist upon mystery at you at every opportunity, so let’s just say there’s enough intriuge to keep you playing till the end. Our journey begins on a train full of zombies (of course), where S.T.A.R.S medic Rebecca Chambers is part of a team investigating a series of grisly murders outside Raccoon City. It’s not long before she ends up face to face with all manner of beasties, and soon teams up with ex solider and textbook “badboy”, Billy Coen. They resolve to shoot zombies and solve puzzles together and stuff. Not in so many words, but you get the idea.
It’s the pairing of Billy and Rebecca that makes for 0’s most interesting feature. At the tap of a button, you can instantly switch between the two heroes to make the best possible use out of their unique skills. Rebecca is a pro herb mixer, for example, while Billy is a big strong chap who can push heavy objects. The game makes great use of this system to put together some fantastic puzzles.
For example, early on in the train, one of your characters will end up trapped in a single room, and you’ll have to use a nearby service lift to send items back and forth to whichever character is still free to move up and down the train. It’s always a good sign when a video game forces you to think about things a little differently, and Resident Evil 0 nails it in that respect. There’s a genuine pleasure to be had from coming across the second half of a puzzle as you continue to explore, realising you now have a solution to that locked door or riddle you saw a while back.
Unfortunately, this remaster isn’t without its problems, and there are a few moments when the cracks in the facelift start to show and its real age becomes apparent.
The character switching system, while great for puzzles, can often lead to a whole heap of hot steamy bother. Managing two separate (and irritatingly small) inventories gets tiresome fast, and having to worry about keeping two characters alive can make survival twice as hard. You can be fighting off an undead fiend yourself, only to realise too late that your AI companion is getting their face chewed off, with a game over screen following swiftly after.
As mentioned earlier, the tank controls (which were dated even back in 2002), are now mercifully nothing more than an optional novelty. The modern control scheme is easily much tighter, allowing for quicker turning and more fluid movement but there are still more than a few clunky moments, especially in tight corridors or small rooms.
The actual shooting side of things still isn’t hugely accurate either, and after the tight controls on show in Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6, it’s a shame that most fights are really just a matter of standing in the right place. Of course, that’s all part of the original’s charm, but newcomers may well be put off.
Still, for the most part Resident Evil 0 HD is a tight and attractive remake of one of the more unique and engaging Resident Evil games out there. As long as you can remember that this is technically a 14 year old game with a few cosmetic tweaks, its flaws shouldn’t bother you too much. Hell, they might even be part of the appeal for you if you’re an old fan looking to bask in some nostalgia.
At any rate, there are plenty of scares, and more than enough mystery to keep you exploring the Umbrella Training Facility and the surrounding areas for a good old while, even if you’ve already made the journey once or twice before.
Oh yeah, we should probably also mention there’s a new Wesker mode. It’s absolutely insane, and almost worth the price of the game alone.