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Resident Evil Zero

Score: 95%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Media: GCD/2
Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror


Graphics & Sound:

The graphics in Resident Evil Zero are, quite simply, breathtaking. If you've already had the opportunity to check out the remake of Resident Evil on the Game Cube, then you have an idea of what to expect. Curtains blow in the wind, dust is kicked up as you walk on the fraying carpet, a fallen zombie's arm swings lazily over a chair as the train he is riding in barrels ahead. It is in details such as these that the true beauty of Resident Evil Zero is most clearly seen.

The characters are fantastically rendered and look so life-like at times, it is disturbing. The areas you'll explore all have the same dark sense of decay and abandonment and really immerse you into the world of Resident Evil. It's fairly obvious that the original mansion served as a guide for the creation of these new areas, but they are enjoyable to explore nonetheless.

The voice acting is quite good and really has lost the cheese factor that was so prominent back in the early days of survival horror and the original Resident Evil. To be honest, I miss it. I know, I know I am crazy. But this was good too. As for the sound effects and background music, they are very well done and perfectly convey the eerie mood and atmosphere. Ok, so the singing guy is a little lame. Everything else is awesome. The music in Leech Hunter, a mini-game you'll unlock after beating the main game in Resident Evil Zero, gets really redundant after a while, but it isn't unbearable.


Gameplay:

Well, if you are already a fan of Resident Evil, I am preaching to the choir because, not only do you already own Resident Evil Zero, but you've already beaten the main game, beaten Leech Hunter and you are working on unlocking the rocket launcher. For those of you who are either new to the series (where have you been?!?) or are maybe on the fence about a new Resident Evil, let me put your fears to rest. Resident Evil Zero is a blast.

RE0 is actually the prequel to the survivor horror that started it all, Resident Evil. If you've always wanted to know why the mansion was overrun with zombies in the first place, this is where you need to turn. The storyline reintroduces us to plenty of characters we've seen before in the various Resident Evils and we get to meet some new ones as well. Coincidentally, I highly recommend the Signature Series Brady Games Walkthrough for RE0 as it is chocked full of backstory and detailed info about RE from start to finish, but more on the guide later.

You'll begin the game as Rebecca Chambers, who you may remember from Resident Evil as the girl who really wasn't very good at piano playing. She's an 18 year old medic on the STARS team and she's thrust into this nightmare much like everyone else who's been involved has been - dropped in the middle of hell. As she and her team begin their investigation, they encounter a military prison transport vehicle that has fallen prey to something. Everyone is dead except for the prisoner, one Billy Coen, who has escaped. Rebecca boards a train to investigate and things proceed from there. This all seems pretty typical RE-style gameplay, right? Well, soon Rebecca meets up with Billy and things soon change. After this, you'll be able to play as either Rebecca or Billy, either Team or Solo. You can switch between the two of them on the fly with the push of a button, and you often must do this to solve certain puzzles. How nice it is to be in a room full of zombies where not one, but two guns are blazing! This brings a whole new element of gameplay to the table that hasn't been seen before. Billy is stronger than Rebecca and starts off with a better gun, but Rebecca has a mixing set and can combine herbs for better healing power. You can see how this can come into play with storyline puzzles (one of which actually had me stuck for a while because I used Billy and he couldn't mix the chemicals, while Rebecca was stuck in another part of the level).

While I found this need to switch characters irritating at first, after playing this way for a while, it turned out to be a really neat feature. Another new twist is the fact that the item boxes are no longer in the game. Instead, you can pick up items and drop them wherever you want. You can also look at an item and opt to leave it where it is, but what this does is it makes the item appear on your map so that you can easily find it when you need it. Effective item management is a big part of the strategy in Resident Evil Zero and to help you along with this is the ability to exchange items with your partner. If Rebecca is hurting and Billy is a-ok, Billy can give Rebecca the herb he has stashed. Ammo and key items can also be shared this way. It's a nice feature that adds a lot to the already cool gameplay.

After you beat the main game, there's a mini-game called Leech Hunter that opens up, along with a few new costumes for your characters. It's basically a fetch quest that takes place in several areas of the game and requires you to really monitor your health, ammo and items collected. Sounds like the main game? Well, it's a scaled down version that has Billy and Rebecca each collecting 50 blue or green leech charms. The catch? Billy and Rebecca can only collect charms of the same color, meaning blue for Billy and green for Rebecca. That and they only have 6 slots each and one slot holds 10 leeches. Do the math and this leaves you with only being able to carry a one-slot weapon towards the end and no back-up ammo. Its fun stuff and adds a good bit of extra 'replay' to the game by opening up various special/unlimited weapons when you complete it.


Difficulty:

Well, Resident Evil Zero seemed to be the easiest so far to beat, in my own opinion. Don't take this to mean that the game was easy, by any stretch of the imagination. I just mean that it seemed easier than its predecessors. Certain enemies are back and still wicked fast, there are a few new ones that I could do without (Humanoid Leech - you bastard!) and the game is definitely a healthy challenge. However, having twice the health (in the form of two characters) and twice firepower really seemed to help.

I mentioned the Brady Games Walkthrough earlier and suffice it to say that it does a great job of getting you out of those sticky situations where you just can't figure out what to do next. Pictures, maps and extra info aplenty are here to help you through it. I don't recommend using the walkthrough as a crutch all the way through the game, but rather as an aid if you get really frustrated. I wouldn't want you to ruin the plot twists and surprises for yourself. ;)


Game Mechanics:

Once again, if you are a survival horror fan, than you know how the game controls. If you are newer to the genre, this is for you. Your left analog stick controls your character and the yellow right analog stick actually controls your partner, although I found it easier to allow the partner to trail behind me on their own. Your partner's AI is fairly good and they don't usually do stupid things like stand in your way, etc. There's an auto-aim feature which comes in handy for shooting enemies, however, I found that it sometimes didn't aim for the nearest zombie - you know, the one about to start chomping on your neck. That was frustrating. Surprisingly enough, the camera did a fantastic job of showing you just what you needed to see. If you've played Resident Evil games in the past, this has been a major complaint for survival horror games in general. Bad camera. To be honest, I didn't notice any problems with the camera the whole game through and it was quite refreshing. Even when you are about to go down a hall of doom, you'll get to see a tad bit of what is coming up - just enough to keep things suspenseful and spooky, but not so that you'll want to throw your controller in anger.

All in all, Resident Evil Zero breathes new life (zombie pun intended) into a tried and true series and should be in any survival horror fan's library. If you think you've grown tired of the genre, give RE0 a try. You just might be driven to beat the game. And Leech Hunter. And the main game again with new weapons...


-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

Sega Dreamcast Confidential Mission Nintendo GameCube Resident Evil: Code Veronica X

 
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