Review: Resident Evil Zero

Well, wasn't that a pleasant surprise? I must admit that, when I first heard the RE series was coming to the GameCube my dubious fan-boy instincts kicked in and told me to manoeuvre well clear. Thank god for independent thought. A few minutes with the remake left me converted, as well as somewhat unnerved by the disturbing events I had witnessed. Graphically it left the competition to the Cerberus', its pre-rendered backgrounds making a mockery of anything previously deemed impressive, and lifted Nintendo's supposedly technologically inferior console into the eye candy elite. But it was more than the visuals that characterised Resident Evil; the atmosphere invited me into a state of perpetual alertness, hoping in vain to anticipate the next ghastly horror that would leap out and take a bite out of me. The tension, for fans of the prior instalments, was the selling point. But for all its shine and shivers the game was still a remade, albeit revamped version of a 6-year-old playstation game. Add to this the fact that holes remained in the saga's engrossing subplots many gamers felt they were getting a raw deal. Cue Resident Evil Zero. New game, new story, holes filled. Could it be that Capcom have finally fine tuned the format and released the perfect Resident Evil game? Ironically enough, RE0 could well prove that there's no such thing as a perfect game.

"To uncover the truth we must delve deeper into the events that transpired in the beginning before the mansion incident", that's a stunning pre-tense for a prequel if ever I did hear one, RE0 is in fact set one whole day before the original. The STARS ill-fated bravo team spear head the investigation into the disappearance of several families in the area, but technical difficulties (damn choppers) cause their helicopter to crash land in the undergrowth of Raccoon forest. Their unscheduled arrival leads to the discovery of a prison van, surrounded by cadavers, and the information on a clipboard that would split the group up in typical horror movie fashion on an exploration to find Billy Cohen, the convict who was travelling in the prison van and the only logical suspect so far in the improvised investigation. You take control of new STARS Bravo team member Rebecca Chambers as she boards a seemingly abandoned train… Abandoned? This is Resident Evil, folks, expect at the very least ghoulish beasties and frightful mutant unspeakables to lurk behind every door loading sequence.


In a word? Stunning. Let me get the bad stuff out of the way first so I can spurt on about how goddamn beautiful this game is. There's some pixelation on the character models in the FMV sequences, and perhaps in game animation could have been improved further. Phew, that wasn't too hard. Petty faults aside, Resident Evil Zero is the finest looking video game available in the known universe. Where the remake's pre-rendered backgrounds were generally static and questionably glossy, RE0 has a dark and festering appearance that drips and jerks in a frighteningly credible fashion. The opening section, a train overrun with foul undead, includes wine bottles rolling on table tops, carriages bumping with the train's movement, and a zombie wilting over the back of a seat swinging to and fro before the onset of rigermortis. Add to this the fact that even when things aren't moving they look good enough to touch you're talking about one purdy game. Fire looks hot, water looks wet, and no game has ever looked anywhere near as convincing. Every location impends ominously over your unwitting sprite, rotted and rusting through years of neglect, beckoning you towards the door that leads you into another foul yet visually alluring environment.

Lighting plays a key role in the graphical appeal of RE0, sorry, allow me to rephrase that statement: A lack of lighting plays a key role in the graphical appeal of RE0. How dark and brooding does one game need to be? Ask RE0; it seems to have visited the furthest frontier of visible light depravation, that is to say, it's rather dark. That's not to say however that what light there is isn't of the highest quality. Objects in the remake may have appeared to have been placed onto a blue screen with the background superimposed afterwards, however, this slight graphical hitch has been corrected, and in sterling fashion.

The sprites themselves are as ever fantastic, detailed, realistic, and in the case of the creatures you will encounter as grimy as the surrounding environments. The only real fault to be found as far is the animation is concerned is that when it is compared to natural movement it does look somewhat laborious, a comparison that would cause other games to cower into a corner.


For the initiated RE0 will offer nothing substantially unique, though the atmospheric silence and crescendos of terror that occur when the demagogues hurl themselves at you from the murky corners are used to spectacular effect as always. The ambience is one of knife-edge tension, a turbulent score that intertwines with the graphical splendour to form an unstoppable combination of visual and aural perfection that ensnares and engrosses. The sound effects are all of the highest calibre; acoustics vary depending on the size of the room and the degree of resonance possessed by the materials from which it is constructed. It's a shame; because of the degree of realism you will begin to take the atmosphere for granted if you are anything like myself.

The infamously poor voice acting improves every incarnation, but bear in mind that there haven't been all that many incarnations, and better acting can be found in a debt restructuring commercial than in RE0. It's no biggy; if anything fans would feel robbed if professionals were brought in instead of allowing the guy who restocks the vending machines in Capcom HQ to do the talking.


Unique to Zero is the partner switching system. Throughout the game you will encounter two controllable characters, the aforementioned Rebecca Chambers and the escaped convict she was ordained to apprehend, Billy Cohen (how much does he sound like a country western singer?). The two strike up an unlikely partnership in the face of such extreme adversity, each with their own attributes to aid the common cause of getting the hell out of there. Once you have met Billy it's possible to switch between the two characters at any time, unless of course one of them happens to be in the grasp of a giant centipede or at the mercy of bloodthirsty psycho apes. It is possible to control both characters simultaneously; this however can prove fiddly in moments where quick reactions are called for. To make up for this you can take command of one character whilst the other will adhere to your orders, whether they be holding ground or following your lead, keeping off the trigger finger or popping off caps along with you, one argument against partner swapping is that the element of isolation you experience in the other games is blunted somewhat, but I believe when you are obliged to maintain the safety of two characters the heat is turned up.

The Resident Evil puzzles have never been in the high leagues when it comes to lateral thinking, though don't get me wrong; they have always been among the most enjoyable. The fact that you have two playable characters available is heavily exploited, and for a good few of the puzzles cooperation between the two characters is essential. One example of this is the various transport lifts used to move items between floors. It can get fiddly, but the fun is rarely compromised, and completing a RE puzzle you've been toying with for a few hours is a wonderfully rewarding experience. Like I've already said, RE puzzles are infamously illogical, so you're encouraged to snoop around every crevice for clues as to what you have to do to proceed. You are no longer told whether or not you've cleaned a room of its use and will occasionally need to return to a location in order to take advantage of something that was of no relevance previously. It can get tedious, but if your CV includes RE logic defiance conquering you should fit right in.

One thing that is absent from this game is the beloved Crimson head Zombies, a deadly reincarnated form of the common or garden zombie. Unique to the remake, a zombie that had not been set alight or decapitated would get up after a short period of time and run after you at speeds exceeding even your own. Not only were they scary, they were also hilarious to watch as they hurtled after you like a rampaging madman craving your tender flesh *slavers*. Now that one type of elite zombie is gone one has come in to become the new object of your trepidation, the Leech zombie. Made entirely out of genetically modified leeches and accompanied by a locust string section these lurching horrors all resemble Dr Marcus to begin with, once they've spotted you however it's not long before they've turned themselves inside out and begin loping towards you like one of those wooden wobbly blokes given out on the generation game. They can withstand huge amounts of abuse and should not be tackled as a solo effort. Back tracking is at a minimum, so I presume the reason Crimson heads were removed is because you're not going to be in the same place twice as often as Resident Evil.

Item boxes have been done away with altogether; instead you are required to drop surplus or useless items on the floor and continue without them. Personally I prefer item boxes, but if you do forget where you left something you can call up the map, which tells you the location of anything you need to which you are required to return. Both players have 6 item spaces so you shouldn't run out of essentials too quickly, having said that it's still a problem when items are on the other side of the training facility and there are a gang of monkeys looking for a fight on the way.


One feature that caused mixed opinions towards the remake was the directly ported control scheme, so to broaden Zero's appeal the controls could have been altered to make them more in fitting with the tastes of modern analogue gamers. But they weren't. Up is as always forward, like a radio-controlled car, no matter how you perceive direction, control is always dictated by the aspect of your sprite. At first this can lead to complications, but you do get used to it. It's an age-old argument though, why should you have to get used to it? Why can't the controls be instinctive? Another fault concerning movement control is sixpence turning; in the remake you could at least jerk the C stick to perform a 180 degree turn on the spot, in Zero however the yellow nipple is used to move the secondary character, all rather frustrating. Like I've said, it does through time and experience become familiar, and the game does ease you in nicely so you're not asked to push the controls above and beyond the boundaries of human endeavour.


Not long enough. In all honesty 10 hours of gameplay do not warrant a 40 quid price tag. Aside from the difficulty of the puzzles and the occasional dangerous encounter nothing's really going to stop your progress, and RE0 should be licked hastily depending on how frequently you play it and how in tune you are with the Spock-baffling conundrums. As for replay value, the game does have it to a stunted degree; though don't expect a wonderful variety of play types. For those who complete the game regardless of the difficulty chosen or the time in which the game was conquered there is the mildly entertaining and comparatively tongue in cheek Leech hunter, where you must navigate the training facility collecting colour coded model leeches. You can do this in a variety of costumes, and depending on how many leeches you acquire you will win a prize from a selection of gifts. None of which will extend the game's appeal. 3 different difficulties are on offer, each one far more challenging than the last, but there's vary little gameplay variation over them and the most hardcore of players will seek to triumph over them all.

Final Say:

RE0 is the messiah RE fans have been prophesising. Most (though not all) of the unanswered questions they had been asking have been laid to rest, and have been done so in a way that entertains and unnerves. Do not expect to be sustained eternally however, an experienced gamer will burn through this game which can be completed on lower difficulties in the same amount of time as Luigi's mansion. RE0 toys with the boundary into being an essential purchase, everything about it exudes style and polish, yet the controls and the lack of replay value push it into that category of being an acquired taste. They're getting better, those RE games, far from seeming like an over flogged horse they compliment one another in a way unique to the series. RE4 will have analogue controls and a moving camera, and if it's got the charms of RE0 it will be a classic, that much is certain. As for this instalment, if you liked or were even indifferent in your opinions of the remake this should be one to snap up, if you weren't impressed there's nothing here that will substantially influence you otherwise.

Stuck in the terrific realms of Zero? Never fear, C-E is here to guide and help you get the better of the freakishly lead tolerant zombies...
>>> Resident Evil Zero Guide

N-Europe Final Verdict

Wonderful to behold, rewarding to play and petrifying to endure. Could've been longer mind...

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability4
  • Visuals5
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan4
Final Score



Unsurpassed visual splendour


Controversial controls
Half the length it should be

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