Preview: Resident Evil Zero

When Resident Evil came to the GameCube back in September, there was no doubt that it was a graphical masterpiece, but it was a remake of an old game. How does the first original Resident Evil game for GameCube, Resident Evil Zero, compare, and does it provide anything new?

If you're not familiar with the Resident Evil series (where have you been?) it's a survival horror, high on zombies, and strange puzzles. Fixed camera angles will have you creeping around corners, unaware of what awaits you until you're in its full view, and the slightly frustrating controls will no doubt initially make you curse, but have patience and you'll get used to them! Resident Evil Zero could very well be a good place to start your RE education, right from the beginning of the story, though you may not be fully aware of any future events that characters may refer to.

RE0 is set just two days before the events of RE, and gives you the ability to control two characters, Rebecca Chambers a STARS rookie on her first assignment, who featured as an non-playable character in RE, and an all new character, Billy Coen an ex Navy SEAL, apparently guilty of the murder of 23 people. Rather than choosing which character you wish to play as at the start of the game, RE0 lets to switch between characters as you play, or even have one character follow the other to back them up. Quite a cool concept I think you'll agree which shines a brand new light on the game.

This 'character zapping' feature is new to the Resident Evil series, and brings a new element into the game seeing you using both characters together to solve puzzles and take out enemies. One part of the game, for instance, has you using both characters to pass items to one another via a dumb-waiter in order to get what you need to meet up again to take out more enemies.

On the subject of enemies, RE0 brings more new enemies than any other game in the series. As well as the familiar zombies and dogs, there are a number of mutated insects to take on, centipedes, huge cockroaches, bats, as well as strange leech zombies and fanged monkeys that attack in packs.

Another new addition to the series gives you the ability to drop items where ever you please, rather than only in chests. There are a huge number of items in the game, and each character can only carry so many, so you'll have to decide what you can leave behind at any point. To ensure that you don't forget where you've left things though, the map will indicate which item is in which room. Of course, this does mean you'll spend part of the game back tracking to fetch items left behind. At least in the previous game you could just head for the nearest chest, I personally don't see the point but what the hell, it makes it more realistic eh.

Resident Evil Zero has you starting your adventure on a train packed full of zombies, after exploring this and the surrounding area you'll find yourself in more familiar Resident Evil territory, an Umbrella mansion, not too far from the mansion featured in the original title. Graphically it's superior to Resident Evil, which is quite an achievement in anyone's eyes considering the sheer beauty of it, and the use of music and sound really builds on the tension you feel as you explore.

In fact, it seems that the only improvement Capcom haven't attempted is with the control method, and they've even removed some of the control options that featured in RE. The 'C' type control, which had you using the R button for movement has been removed, but I've got my fingers crossed for its return in the European version of the game!

Resident Evil Zero appears to have everything that we have come to expect from a Resident Evil game, and makes a few changes too, with the character zapping and item dropping said to improve gameplay. It may well also answer a few of those questions that have arisen whilst playing the original, such as the origins of the virus, and the like. However, I can't help but feel that there will be more questions than answers, just to keep us waiting for the next game!

Resident Evil Zero is without doubt one of my most highly anticipated games of early 2003.

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