The amazing thing about Resident Evil 0 isn’t how well its gameplay still holds up today.
It’s that somehow, Capcom takes a quality game two console generations old and makes it even better.
The prequel to the original Resident Evil is a 14-year-old game, released way back in 2002, but in a great many moments, you’ll have neither the time nor the interest in realizing that. At times, the game shows its age, but more than a decade later, it maintains its tense and nerve-wracking soul, holding your attention until delivering a unique unlockable twist.
You play as a pair of characters in Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen, switching off freely between both. They start on a train, eventually transitioning to an old Umbrella Corporation training facility, trying to understand how the train was overrun by zombies, and uncovering the mystery of the T-virus.
All this plays out with surprisingly satisfying gameplay. To start, the game looks great, with remastered visuals that shine on the PlayStation 4. At times, you’ll wonder if the Nintendo GameCube version actually had this much detail; that’s how well Capcom upscales all the action.
Chambers and Coen animated cleanly, the only telltale signs of age being the skater-y way they sometimes make contact with the floor. There are other little signs of age here and there, too, in those annoying cut-scenes as you go from room to room, and the fact that many captions describing what your characters see will repeat even as you move to different areas of a room.
The gameplay, meanwhile, is decidedly old-school. The game retains its fixed camera angles, removing control of the camera from the gamer, a necessity of the era that allowed Capcom to control your point of view and maintained the opportunity for scares. Those scares can still get you to occasionally jump, too, even if a few sequences are more predictable in 2016 than they were years ago.
Don’t hold the fixed camera angles against Capcom too much, though, because, annoying as they may be, they remain a part of the genre. Both The Evil Within and PlayStation’s excellent Until Dawn utilized the same tactic; it’s the only way to handle things sometimes.
Capcom does update its control scheme, somewhat mitigating the tank-like character handling of the GameCube era, and while things still can be a bit clunky, this helps greatly. It lets you focus on the more strategic elements of gameplay, of balancing inventories and swapping between characters for excellent puzzles.
It’s in these areas that Resident Evil 0 is at its best. Part of the challenge of survival in this game remains managing your limited inventory, and now you must do that with two characters. There’s a finite amount of ammo and healing items, and there’s still plenty of mental tension in deciding when to use an herb and when to waste ammo on a zombie.
The character-swapping mechanics add intrigue to the puzzles, keeping you mentally engaged. And there are just enough scares to keep you on your toes, too. Portions of the game do seem hokey in 2016, more laughable than truly tense, such as one scene with a villain and just about every line that comes out of Coen’s mouth. But, by and large, this remains a solidly tense experience.
At least until you unlock Wesker Mode, and that’s when things become interesting. Albert Wesker, of course, is an iconic piece of the Resident Evil franchise, the Big Bad, and in Wesker Mode, he replaces Coen, bringing along his vast array of powers and changing the game. In Wesker Mode, the survival portions of the game that forced you to think can be handled bullishly, thanks to Wesker’s hyperspeed and his laser blasts. Even if you’re not a bonus mode kind of gamer, this is a surprisingly satisfying changeup, worth blasting through just for kicks.
The end result is a solid Resident Evil that’s worth going back and playing again. Like any HD Remaster, Resident Evil 0 shows its age.
But it’s aged well. Don’t bury this game yet.
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