Before the third-person shooter style of Resident Evil games that have become the norm, the last of the classic “tank control” games was released on European GameCube in 2003. It was the swansong of the type of gameplay that divided opinions, before the series’ reinvention with Resident Evil 4. Given the success of Resident Evil HD Remastered last year, it seems to make sense to bring this one to current generation consoles.
As far as remastering this GameCube classic goes, Capcom have done another phenomenal restoration job. What were once surprisingly blurry textures and muffled sounds back on the GameCube have now been made much clearer and crisper. Character models which were relatively detailed back then have had a quite a bit of polish, so that they either looking more human or more horrifying. The same can’t be said for the cut-scenes however, which are incredibly blurry and honestly hard to watch.
This is the Resident Evil game you have to thank (or curse) for having cooperative partners, as Resident Evil Zero introduced Rebecca and Billy, a STARS operative and an ex-con who must work together to survive a zombie outbreak and leeches. It’s not exactly the most ground-breaking of scenarios, acting more as a precursor to the events in Resident Evil, but it’s enough to get you going. The voice acting is still as melodramatic as ever, with the HD version only improving the clarity.
If you hated the controls for classic Resident Evil games, this one isn’t going to change your mind. While analogue support has been implemented to allow for more normal movement, it wasn’t designed with the camera in mind, as I would frequently be turned backwards when the screen transitioned to the next angle. Shooting is as clumsy as ever, though unlike the GameCube Resident Evil remake, this is far less of an issue in Zero as the zombies don’t get back up.
Upon its original release, the partner swapping ability and the way Resident Evil Zero handled item swapping was met with divisive opinion among critics, and that has been preserved in this release. There haven’t been any changes in this department and while cooperative puzzle solving is still a really nice touch, the item swapping is a whole different story.
At times during my time with the game, I felt like a STARS Operative or an ex-army convict just trying to survive the biohazardous monstrosities in the mansion. However the majority of the time I was a courier; bringing item after item from one location to another, then dumping it for later use. This is particularly true of the easier difficulties, where there was a weapon or item I couldn’t do without, but neither character had space in their inventory to carry it. It’s an especially cumbersome system from a gameplay perspective.
Billy and Rebecca have their own individual traits that make for their own problems. Rebecca is the only one of the two who can combine herbs to make more potent healing items, while Billy has more stamina and can move big objects. As a consequence, I spent a lot of time in the inventory menu switching items around to give Rebecca the herbs to combine.
Resident Evil games of the classic style have usually been about killing monsters and solving puzzles. While there are a few new enemies which prove a suitable challenge on harder difficulties, such as the explosive Leech Zombies and savage Baboons, puzzles usually involve finding a key and opening a door. There are a few at least that require logic and perception.
Capcom usually put a few extra modes once you’ve completed a Resident Evil game within a certain timeframe, all of which are still intact as of this version, but Resident Evil Zero HD includes the all new Wesker Mode – unlocked after completing the main game. This replaces Billy with Wesker from Resident Evil 5, powers intact; who is accompanied by a corrupt looking Rebecca.
Wesker has additional tools in his arsenal, such as a dash and the “Death Stare” – a chargeable attack that deals heavy damage, or in the case of zombies makes their heads pop. It’s intended as a silly treat and accomplishes this well, though having to lug Rebecca around is a chore. It doesn’t take Billy out of the game fully however, as cut-scenes are left as they are, so take it with a pinch of salt.
Resident Evil Zero HD isn’t exactly the most beloved game in the franchise, yet the high quality of the HD upgrade makes it well worth a look for fans of the series. It still features the main issues that the previous version had, but the detail that’s gone into the restoration work is highly commendable and the new Wesker mode is worth unlocking. If only the base game wasn’t more inventory management than surviving a zombie outbreak.
Version tested: PlayStation 4