Resident Evil 0 HD – It takes two to tango – Review

Gare – Wednesday, February 3, 2016 3:09 PM
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If you’re a fan of survival horror, you might have heard of Resident Evil – maybe even grew up fleeing in terror from its fictional, but very much deadly (at least to your character) hordes of zombies. You’re low on ammo, running out of resources and surrounded by infernal puzzles and similarly infernal monstrosities, with one primarily goal – survival. Before the series turned into the action-packed, over-the-shoulder extravaganza with episodes 4, 5 and 6, Resident Evil was all about survival, fixed camera angles and a creeping sense of dread.

Originally released in 2002 before its current HD remaster, Resident Evil 0 used that very same formula to tell the series’ origin story: a narrative that takes place shortly before the mansion incident we all know from Resident Evil 1. It stars rookie S.T.A.R.S. member Rebecca Chambers (who also plays a minor role in Resident Evil 1), as well as convicted fugitive Billy Coen as the two co-operate in order to survive the night. In many ways, the game is sort of a counterpart to the far more popular GameCube remake of Resident Evil 1, utilizing mostly the same gameplay and graphical style. But that’s only what one sees on the surface – if we dig deeper, we realize that RE0 – for better or worse – deviates quite a bit from its peers.

The beginning of a beautiful friendship

The most notable change in Resident Evil 0 is its inclusion – and relative dependence on – a partner system. Long before Resident Evil 5 brought in the idea of two partners duking it out against zombies, RE0 had already done this first step, though not in a multiplayer format: what this means is that while the player can freely switch between Rebecca and Billy on the fly, there is no online two-player functionality in the game. In short, you can only ever control one of the characters, while the other one will either follow you around and potentially help you fight off enemies, or stay put in one place, depending on how you set up their AI. The two characters can also split up and explore different areas completely independent of each other, which provides for an interesting enough mechanic compared to other, more traditional entries in the series.

Now, you may be thinking: why would you want to switch between Billy and Rebecca? Well, primarily because the two have differing abilities and characteristics. Billy can take far more damage, push heavy objects and even has a higher chance to score critical headshots, while Rebecca is the only one capable of mixing various herbs to produce healing items, all the while being far more vulnerable than her male partner. This also means that in several situations, the player is better off taking control of Billy to explore potentially dangerous new areas while leaving Rebecca behind in the safety of an adjacent room – naturally, progressing with both characters at the same time nets you double the firepower, though not without the added risk of having to keep both of them safe. It’s a choice you have to make, although it also needs to be mentioned that the game forces Billy and Rebecca to split up at a few points in its story: during these segments, the two characters are required to act independently of each other for a short period of time, completely isolated from their partners. Ultimately, the partner system is an interesting enough novelty, but not one I feel was absolutely warranted or utilized to its full potential – aside from a few previously mentioned instances where the two characters act independently, you’re more worried about making sure Rebecca doesn’t take too much damage, all the while using the dual character system as a glorified inventory shuffling minigame / pack mule simulator.

Inventory management 101

The other big change comes in the form of the game’s inventory system. In previous classic Resident Evil titles, players had access to an item box (think Diablo’s stash) where they could keep their surplus items – there were several of these boxes scattered throughout the game world, with all of them having a shared inventory, allowing you to access all your belongings regardless of where you were in the mansion. Resident Evil 0 has no such system – in fact, it does away with the concept of item boxes entirely. Instead, you are required to simply drop your extra items on the floor and move on. In all honesty, this can very much come in handy – after all, there’s no longer a need to carefully plan out which items to take with you from the item box, as you can simply drop an unneeded pack of ammo or herb in case you urgently need space for something more important, like a key item for a puzzle. The thing is, once you lose the convenience of connected item boxes where you can access all your items, things can potentially become… hectic. To put it simply, a portion of Resident Evil 0 will consist of you backtracking to previous areas because there’s that one item you forgot in that one room 30 minutes ago, and now you need to go back and get it. Additionally, as you progress through the story, new enemies may occasionally spawn in areas previously cleared, making a simple journey for an item you dropped five rooms ago that much more dangerous a venture – the resulting extra challenge may frustrate some, though others may very well welcome it with open arms. Either way, while the game makes it relatively obvious where the main “safe zones” are (as in, “psst, this is a big, empty hall with a save point, maybe you should leave your items here”), unless you’re meticulous with your management of items, the system may induce some level of tedium, though nothing that would sour the experience too much.

We can’t stop here, this is bat country

In terms of enemy and boss design, RE0 paints a somewhat underwhelming – even bland – picture. It does have its moments, especially with the recurring Leech Man – one of the few enemies in the game I dreaded the appearance of and felt genuinely threatened by –, but overall, the game’s enemies consist primarily of mutated animals, from monkeys through insects all the way to giant frogs and bats – nothing to really send a chill down your spine. The same unimaginative trend applies to boss fights, with the game throwing mostly giant animals at you as opposed to memorable abominations seen in other installments – we need to look no further than the iconic Nemesis from Resident Evil 3 or the horrific Licker from Resident Evil 2, to bring up some solid examples of memorable enemy design. The bottom line is that while not particularly bad, many of RE0’s elements, enemies included, have mostly been done better in other installments of the franchise.

Extras and that added polish

The game, on the other hand, benefits greatly from the HD treatment and looks positively gorgeous. You can expect higher resolutions, widescreen aspect ratios and even silky smooth 60 FPS if you’re on PC – which is all good stuff. Similarly, the original GameCube version’s unlockable costumes are all available to you right off the bat (the rest is paid DLC), with the added ability to change costumes on the fly, which is certainly a convenient bonus for those interested. The original’s unlockable Leech Hunter minigame makes a return in the remaster (an item hunting game where you collect leeches while battling the game’s primary enemies) alongside a brand new addition called Wesker Mode. The mode itself is far less complicated than one might think: it’s basically another playthrough of the main campaign, with the exception that Billy is replaced by series antagonist Albert Wesker and is given a handful special moves to tear through enemies with. A fun little extra for those hoping to spice up their second or third playthroughs, but nothing mind blowing.

Still worth your time

Resident Evil 0 is an odd beast. It’s an odd beast because despite the complaints I listed above, I still had a good time with it. The partner system is decent enough, and the inventory management is hardly a deal breaker. The tragedy of the game, I feel, is the extent to which it gets overshadowed by its more successful peers in the franchise, specifically the Resident Evil 1 remake. I mean, look: there’s a mansion, there’s an underground lab, there’s tension, atmosphere, lethal encounters, plenty of monsters and the expected – though fairly easy – puzzles. I still say it’s absolutely worth giving it a shot if you’re an RE fan – it’s not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination –, and if you enjoyed other classic, pre-RE4 installments in the series, you’ll have a decent enough time with this one, too.

I also cordially invite you to watch me fail spectacularly at the game as I get eaten alive by zombie monkeys. See video below. Fun times are had by all, except for maybe poor Billy.

And don’t worry, I managed to get better at the game later on. Honest.

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