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It’s easy to look at Resident Evil Zero through rose tinted glasses. It was one of the final entries to be presented with the classic fixed camera angle and tank control style, and to rely on survival horror mechanics. It also acts as a prequel to that fan-favourite remake of the first Resident Evil game.
To top it all off, Rebecca, the criminally underused S.T.A.R.S. medic (this is STILL her last storyline appearance), finally got her own game. Sort of.
So, it’s easy to forget that Resident Evil Zero was anything but a perfect Resident Evil. Unfortunately, the Remake stole that spot.
Having said that, it might be worth another go just to admire the pretty paint job Capcom has thrown over the top of it for this HD re-release. Just don’t expect much from the story.
Like last year’s Resident Evil Remaster, Resident Evil Zero HD has an updated control scheme, albeit different. Honestly, I don’t understand why Capcom can’t stick to one control scheme – for those of you wanting the most seamless transition between Remaster and Zero HD, switch to control scheme D for a more modern approach.
However, have fun constantly zapping between characters when all you really wanted to do was open the menu… Just that one little button swap led to plenty of frustration.
It’s not all bad, though – in Remaster Capcom introduced a 3D control scheme rather than the tank controls Resident Evil veterans were used to. It didn’t work. Every time the camera angle changed Chris/Jill would jerk about if you so much as thought about moving the analog stick.
In Zero HD this has been improved, characters don’t give the illusion of ‘skating’ around like they did with this control scheme in Remaster and changing the analog stick direction is less jerky. It’s not perfect, but it’s better.
Fun fact for both remasters: using the D-pad will always default to tank controls if you like to switch things up without going to the options menu.
Let’s talk about the fashion of Resident Evil Zero HD. I’ll start off by saying I’m practically insulted by the price of the completely cosmetic DLC outfits and their lack of inclusion in the game. Pre-ordering the downloadable version netted me a very revealing cheerleader outfit for Rebecca (feminism hasn’t worked its way into Capcom yet) but it was balanced out with an equally revealing outfit for Billy, as well as an exclusive t-shirt design also for Rebecca.
I was expecting the prototype outfits for Rebecca, based on her appearances in classic Resident Evil games, to be included as a bit of a nostalgia trip and added incentive. It’s like I forgot I’m playing a game made by Capcom – my bad.
Once I figured out how to use these DLC outfits (it isn’t that intuitive), I put Rebecca straight into her t-shirt. The t-shirts leave the bottom half of Rebecca’s default outfit in-tact, but I always did love her boots and the way she rolled up her combat pants. It’s actually a pretty cool look, I have to say I love Rebecca in casual-chic. I was, however, painfully aware that some lazy texture artist hadn’t hemmed her t-shirt. Who designed it? Sharon Needles circa 2012?
Capcom also staged a t-shirt design competition prior to the game’s release, so for those that took part in voting or designing there are three more t-shirt designs on the way. Unfortunately, it’s only Rebecca that gets to dress-up.
Not only was there no vest design competition for Billy, he also only gets two additional novelty outfits on top of his original collection. Rebecca gets a fetishised nurse outfit, a skimpy cheerleader uniform, a more-flesh-than-fabric basketball uniform, a short-shorts S.T.A.R.S. uniform … I’m surprised a bikini wasn’t included.
Still, the t-shirts look great and, though I doubt Capcom will do it, present a great opportunity to keep running design competitions and keep the community going.
If you missed out on the original Resident Evil Zero, here’s a secret for you – it’s not scary. This was the first game to keep you almost constantly with a partner, a move that has been relentlessly criticized in the Resident Evil games to follow. So, there goes the feeling of isolation and the majority of the tension.
And yet, Zero does provide a decent amount of challenge. Rebecca can’t take much damage, Billy can’t mix herbs and neither of them have lots of inventory space, so you have to use both of their abilities to your advantage.
Unfortunately this means a lot of item swapping and inventory micro management. Zero does have the handy ‘drop’ feature, so unlike previous Resident Evils you can just leave items you don’t want anywhere.
Without the safety net of linked up item boxes, you have to pick and choose which weapons and items you can manage to bring through to the next area – it’s a rather unique form of challenge for the series, and makes you feel a little more like a scavenger than a survivor.
The constant company of a partner character and the ability to swap between them at will (I told you it wasn’t a first in Resident Evil Revelations 2) does add some depth to the puzzles, yet it does nothing but hinder the gameplay. In boss fights with both characters I find myself playing as Rebecca desperately trying to avoid damage.
Weaving through zombies is now a chore, rather than a carefully mastered skill, as the AI controlled partner has a tendency to run straight into their arms. It wasn’t Resident Evil 4 that first demanded you kill everything to safely proceed, it was Resident Evil Zero.
On the plus side, Zero, unlike later Resident Evils, allows characters to split up and even be in separate rooms! So you could always run them through areas separately.
Visually, Resident Evil Zero HD is beautiful to look at. Character models have been re-created and actually look considerably better than Remaster – you can actually see the emotion in Rebecca’s ever-so-glossy eyes this time.
Zombies look even more beaten up, and the same goes for most other monsters. The pre-rendered backgrounds also seem to have fared much better than those of Remaster, without the need for any of them to be remade.
However, Resident Evil Zero relies much more heavily on pre-rendered scenes. Luckily for Capcom, these were originally rendered in widescreen so they fit perfectly, but they were also made back in 2002 and it shows…
The facial animations, and even overall character animations are jarringly robotic, even compared to in-game scenes. That’s not to mention the models actually lack detail compared to their in-game counterparts (compare the detail of Rebecca’s pants on her pre-rendered and in-game model and you’ll see what I mean).
On top of that, because they’re pre-rendered scenes Rebecca and Billy will often be swapping back to their original outfits. Continuity be damned.
Resident Evil Zero HD makes for an interesting nostalgia trip. It’s the only Resident Evil game to have remained exclusively Nintendo property for so long (it was originally planned for the N64), with the Remake of course being based on a Playstation classic.
It also broke many series traditions like removing item boxes and isolation, whilst clinging onto those that Capcom thought made the series scary, like fixed camera angles, tanks controls and inventory management.
Capcom has put in a worthy effort to improve the visual quality of the game, but it’s a shame to see certain relics like pre-rendered scenes let the overall experience down. It’s also disheartening to see Capcom still locking off so many incentives, like outfits not present in the original Gamecube release, behind paid micro-transactions.
If you haven’t already got last year’s Remaster, best to pick up the Resident Evil Origins Collection which contains both games so you can see for yourself. The Remaster is certainly superior to Zero HD.
However, as a stand-alone product Resident Evil Zero HD is definitely one for the die-hard fans and collectors, lacking much of the replay value and openness of Remaster.
Resident Evil Zero is available now digitally for Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Steam. Also available as part of Resident Evil Origins Collection on Playstation 4 and Xbox One.