It's hard to talk about Resident Evil 0 without mentioning the Resident Evil remake that graced gamers back in 2002 on Gamecube and again in last year's excellent HD port. It's entirely possible for some to dismiss RE 0 as the inferior game when weighing pros and cons. For instance, the new playable characters aren't as timeless as Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield; the environments don't quite measure up to the Spencer mansion; and lastly, since this happens to be a prequel, much of the story beats don't have the proper impact if you didn't play the first game. With all that being said, choosing to ignore RE 0 would be a major disservice. Although it may occasionally feel like a retread of the original horror classic, RE 0 remains a surprisingly enjoyable and tense adventure, even in 2016.
Just like the Resident Evil HD Remaster last year, Capcom has cleaned and spruced up Resident Evil 0 quite nicely. Character models look sharper than ever, and this time they mesh with the pre-rendered backgrounds more naturally than they did in the first game. RE 0 was impressive to look at back then, but thanks to a 1080p 16:9 visual presentation (4:3 is also available for those that hate HDTV's) and an overall smoother performance, Capcom has solidified this port as the best way to experience or revisit the game. The only kink in an otherwise solid remaster are the jarring cutscenes that sprout up. These are taken straight from the Gamecube original with hardly any touch-up work so they're noticeably lower quality than the in-game graphics.
RE 0 takes place right before the events of the first game and attempts to shed some light on the cause of the T-Virus outbreak, its origins, and exactly what Umbrella Corp was really doing. This is all told from the perspective of S.T.A.R.S. rookie Rebecca Chambers and series newcomer Billy Coen, an ex-soldier accused of murder. In typical RE fashion, things immediately go from bad to worse. For the most part, RE 0 tells a fairly consistent narrative but we can't honestly say that it's a memorable one. We don't believe that there's anything here that completely offers any satisfactory answer to all the weird happenings in this zombie universe — but it is entertaining, if nothing else. RE 0 still retains the series' feelings of foreboding and trepidation, but it sometimes hangs it up in place of its story and the need to provide answers. This isn't a bad thing, but it does result in RE 0 being one of the least scariest entries in the series.
"RE 0 remains a surprisingly enjoyable and tense adventure, even in 2016."
It isn't long into Resident Evil 0's story where you'll be introduced to the "partner zapping" system, a new character switching mechanic that really shakes things up. Unlike early RE games that involve playing entirely with one character at a time, RE 0 forces the player to take charge of Rebecca and Billy in tandem. You can swap between both characters on the fly with the press of a button, which comes in handy when faced with the game's many puzzles. Some of the puzzles are simple, such as pushing two buttons at the same time to unlock a new path. More complex puzzles involve taking control of each character separately in completely different areas, usually in order to fetch an item that can be used by the other partner. Combat presents new challenges and strategies this time around too. You still mainly control one at a time, while the other is relegated to becoming an AI co-op buddy. You can choose to work as a team and fend off creatures together or opt to have one partner stay put, leaving the other to explore the spooky environments solo. Just make sure you don't leave your partner alone for too long when zombies are close by, otherwise you'll be greeted to the iconic GameOver screen faster than you can say "Green Herb."
Item management in Resident Evil games have always been a love-it-or-hate-it affair, but Resident Evil 0 was the first to scrap those blasted storage boxes and offer the player a little more freedom. Both Rebecca and Billy can carry a limited amount of items, but items can now be transferred to and fro with relative ease. If there's an important item you need to pick up but don't have the necessary room, it's as simple as dropping another item you already have on the floor. Did Billy run out of handgun bullets? That's okay, because Rebecca can transfer some over as long as Billy has the available room. The RE series has never had the cleanest or intuitive of menu systems, so transferring items isn't quite as easy as we would've preferred. It first requires both characters to be in close proximity with one another, then to open the inventory screen, then to transfer or exchange the items. On paper it sounds like a time saver, but now that you're managing the inventory of two separate characters (and sometimes splitting them up), you'll still go slightly mad with how many times you'll need to backtrack for items you dropped and now need in a hurry.
"It's a bigger game indeed, and fans will appreciate the new changes as well as the tie-ins to the first game."
Despite these grievances — grievances that just so happen to remain a staple of the series — part of the enjoyment of RE 0 is uncovering what items go where and how you can use them to advance. Just how the Spencer mansion in the original game felt like one giant puzzle, so does RE 0; but this time the puzzles range from a train, to a research facility, to another mansion, and so on. It's a bigger game indeed, and fans will appreciate the new changes as well as the tie-ins to the first game.
Returning one more time are the new optional modern controls from last year's port that basically remove the tank controls for a more approachable full analog system. Due to RE 0's insistence on controlling both characters, the alternate control method actually works a whole lot better here. The left stick controls your main character, while the right stick controls the secondary. That means its entirely possible to flank zombies and get the upper edge if you play your cards right.
After the 10-12 hour campaign is complete, players can play as famed villain Albert Wesker in a new mode called Wesker Mode. Okay, let's back up for a sec. No, it isn't really Albert Wesker. It's actually a Wesker character model that replaces the skin for Billy Coen, except during pre-rendered cutscenes. Wesker has a few new tricks up his sleeve, including a dash move and a close range super ability that can kill enemies in a flash. We don't recall this new mode being present in the original Gamecube game or Wii re-release, so it's nice to see this little extra thrown in for the fans.
Resident Evil 0 is a worthy entry in the Resident Evil franchise even though it lacks the scares and originality. It's often overshadowed by the first game, but not giving it a spin would be a grave mistake. RE 0 makes some notable changes to the core gameplay like controlling and swapping between the two main leads at any time, as well as a complete revamp of managing items. The systems can feel archaic and occasionally cumbersome, but various new challenges and puzzles make it worth the effort. RE 0 is a stunning looking game and the new HD visuals ensure that it looks better than ever. Whether you're playing for the first time or looking for an excuse to replay it, Resident Evil 0 is absolutely worth your time and investment.