How do you explore the origins of a pandemic? Play a survival horror videogame from 2002 of course! Resident Evil Zero was once contained to a small proprietary GameCube disc, but now the whole world can learn the truth. The last pure traditional Resident Evil game has now been re-released on every modern console in HD widescreen.
2002, really? This technology looks a little older than that. The detail is so fine in these pre-rendered graphics, you can smell a hint of cigar residue on these metallic knobs. Mmmm, 60s broadcasting equipment. Resident Evil Zero is set just before the mansion incident of the first game, but it takes you back much further than that with lore that spans decades. Who are the people behind this virus? How did the research go? How long has it been going on? What was the cost? Instead of spoiling the game and answering these questions, I’m going to change the topic and talk about the gameplay.
The gameplay is the most modern out of all the traditional Resident Evil games. Sure it’s still in the traditional fixed-camera angle, but this is the peak of that formula. After Capcom perfected the original game’s updated look with the Resident Evil 1 Remake, Zero released shortly after using every graphical trick and much more. You can now walk around with two characters and switch between them with a button press.
This means the game can load two rooms at once, so it’s twice as good. It’s also the foundation that went on to inspire the co-op focused gameplay of Resident Evil 5 and 6 that millions of people have now played together online. Not bad for a game that started development on the Nintendo 64.
Just a little higher mate. The two character switching method can feel clunky, but clunky is a core part of Resident Evil’s design. It allows for more complex and interactive puzzles, and adds a new layer to item management and combat. Spending time in a menu is part of the gameplay in games like this, let’s be real.
RE0 introduces another revolutionary new game mechanic, the ability to drop stuff…. and… wait for it… pick it back up! The trade-off is that there are no item boxes. Instead of that, you can store items in any room in the game. This sounds simple but I honestly can’t think of another game that lets you do this off the top of my head, certainly not any of the modern RE games. Every room is basically an item box now and you can freely drop ammo anywhere you want, without it disappearing forever into a vortex. Or maybe it’s the zombies that grabbed your discarded ammo and keys all along? I look forward to fighting a giant monster in Resident Evil 8 that shoots giant key-shaped bullets at you, with the occasional red herb.
The story scenario of this game is one of the most varied in any Resident Evil. You end up finding out what happened before the mansion incident, and why things played out as they did. It’s not just a prequel however as it brings its own new flavour with the added character backstory of Rebecca and the escaped prisoner Billy. Resident Evil Zero is dripping with commentary on big corporations, capitalism, war and disease, to the point where it still feels relevant in 2020.
You can also see the effects these giant corporate projects have on everyday people through diaries of employees at the water treatment plant. The workers there are wondering why there is so much extra waste. Don’t worry guys, it’s just the new pizza place that opened downtown. It makes people poop out giant flower monsters, no big deal. The toppings are to die for.
The iconic train setting at the beginning does a great job bringing survival horror to a place of comfort. This once-luxury train now feels claustrophobic and dangerous, with nowhere to run. Moving from carriage to carriage opens up unique puzzles and co-op elements that couldn’t really be done in any other setting. It’s one of the most well-designed areas in Resident Evil that brings out all the game’s strengths.
I felt motivated to do this writeup mainly because I think Resident Evil Zero is underrated. It might not be everyone’s favourite traditional RE style game, but it is the most technically impressive in terms of graphics, with the most ambitious gameplay design. The story is fleshed out, and the game even has great music with a lot more tracks than RE1. I was overjoyed to find any music at all in rooms that weren’t save rooms.
My ink is running low and Rebecca and Billy just ran off to this mysterious lab with all the keys to get out of here. I guess I’m stuck, sometimes writers have to fend for themselves. I can hear moaning coming from the next room and I’m ready with my trusty knife. If I don t m ke it out of here, tell my girlfri e n I love her and I tr ed my b st.