Resident Evil Zero - GC - Review

This game needs no introduction.  It doesn't need a clever intro, or any other "hook" that will make you continue reading.  Why?  Because this is Resident Evil Zero, the first Resident Evil game developed exclusively for a Nintendo platform.  After several successful years on the PSone, Capcom struck a deal with Nintendo that would guarantee the release of one brand-new Resident Evil game for Nintendo 64.  That game turned out to be Resident Evil Zero, the series' first (and perhaps only) prequel.  Like Onimusha on the PSone, REZ proved to be too powerful for the Nintendo 64's weak processor.  GameCube's release wasn't too far away, so Capcom decided to do what other developers were doing and scrap the N64 version in favor of developing for Nintendo's new platform.  The results are quite stunning.  From slow and sluggish, to dark, deep and intense, Resident Evil Zero is the game that survival/horror fans have been waiting for.

It's no surprise that Resident Evil Zero features two playable characters.  What may surprise you is the revelation that both of these characters must be controlled (managed) at the same time!  The first character is Rebecca Chambers, the geeky, never-shot-a-gun-before-in-her-life chick from the original Resident Evil.  Apparently Capcom didn't like the idea of her being a wimpy cop, so they scrapped that idea and made her a tough rookie who's fully capable of handling herself in a dangerous situation.  She meets up with Billy Coen, a convicted murderer who is lucky enough to escape while being transported to an execution facility.  Rebecca hates murderers (big shock), but comes to the conclusion that if she doesn't work with Billy, neither of them may get out alive.  And so another chapter in the Resident Evil saga begins.

Is this a new, team-based Resident Evil?  Not quite.  Resident Evil Zero is very much a part of the classic series we all know and love.  But now they can embark on a horrifying journey with two characters from the start, alternate between them, solve unique puzzles and get a small taste of what Resident Evil Online might be like.

Players can't entirely control both characters at the same time, but they can issue a simple command to the secondary character -- attack, idle, solo or team.  Select to "attack" to make your partner fire at will when an enemy is nigh; choose "idle" if you'd prefer to conserve ammo.  Exploring can take quite a while, and it's not always safe checking out those dark and scary places alone, making "team" the ideal choice.  With team selected, your partner will follow you wherever you go.  But if you are trying to solve a puzzle that requires some teamwork, or if you would like to do a little exploring on your own, choose "solo" to make your partner stay where he/she is.  All of these commands are changeable via the menu screen, but you can switch between "team" and "solo" very quickly by pressing the Start button.

The unique gameplay additions go beyond that, involving puzzles that require the cooperation of both characters.  Resident Evil Zero demonstrates this concept early on in the game when Billy and Rebecca are separated.  Rebecca is trapped in a room with a jammed door, and it must be un-jammed from the inside.  Switch over to Billy, search the various train cars and you'll eventually come across a small, pointy tool.  Then Billy must locate an item transfer elevator, insert the tool and send it to Rebecca, who can then use the tool to break out.  This is the most basic of all the cooperative puzzles that you'll encounter in the game, so don't expect this game to be easy.

Oh, and did I mention that there are no item chests in this game?  Billy and Rebecca can hold a total of 12 items (six each), all of which can be transferred between the two characters so long as they are within close range of each other.  Additional items must be discarded, but may be picked up again once an item slot has been vacated.  Discarding items is risky though, since not all areas of the game are always accessible.  You could discard a ton of important items, leave and never, ever get them back.

Resident Evil Zero's easy mode makes it easier than the other games in the series, since it greatly decreases the amount of shots it takes to kill each zombie, but the puzzles stay the same.  The new map style is a little harder to read, and there are fewer hints than in the previous games, making it that much harder to figure out what needs to be done next.  In that respect, REZ is exactly what I wanted.  I made the foolish mistake of beating the first two games with a strategy guide at my side, and when the remake came around, the mansion's layout was so familiar that I didn't really need any help.  RE3 and CODE: Veronica both had simpler level designs and key items that were easier to find, making them less difficult than the first two games.

Zero, on the other hand, is not quick to reveal your mission objectives.  There were times when it got so tough that I was tempted to surf the Web for a strategy guide.  But that would have spoiled all of the cool surprises that awaited me in this incredible prequel.  Every scenario is a brand-new, joyous experience.  New monsters lurk in the depths of the runaway train, though I'm not about to tell you what they are.  Hopefully you're unaware of the giant [blank] that attacks you near the beginning of the game.  Hopefully you haven't seen the vicious [blanks] that surround you in [blank].  Because if you knew about all of the cool new [blanks], the shock, the thrill and surprising feeling that this game creates will be somewhat lost, degrading one of the grandest experiences you could ever have on the 'Cube.  My advice: avoid looking at more than a few of the game's screenshots.  Take my word for it -- the graphics are just as good as the Resident Evil remake.  That's all you need to know.

Resident Evil Zero's sound effects are mighty impressive.  While most of the game takes place in doors, there are a few times when you'll be forced to face the thunderstorm outside.  As the rain bangs against windows, metal and other objects, it bounces of with a powerful, realistic sound.  Gunshots are crystal clear.  Zombies groan horrifically.  Footsteps are quiet when running on carpet, and loud and obvious when running on harder, less-cushioned surfaces.

The music is eerily familiar, even though the soundtrack is comprised of mostly new material.  Diehard fans will no doubt feel a bit of nostalgia when they enter the game's first save room.  Resident Evil Zero's composers and sound designers/engineers deserve just as much credit as the graphic artists who make the game look so pretty.  Without these people, the game would not be very scary.  Sound enhances every moment.  If the somewhat intense music isn't freaking you out, then maybe the sound of a groaning zombie will.  Some scenarios are so surprising that they might even make you jump out of your seat!

As expected, Resident Evil Zero takes full advantage of the GameCube's extra horsepower.  Polygons are in high abundance, filling each monster with an unbelievable amount of detail.  If this is your first Resident Evil outing on the 'Cube, then you will be blown away by all of the intricate zombie models that Capcom has come up with.  Their faces are rotting, some more than others.  Facial scars indicate the traumatic events that preceded the humans' zombie transformation.  As former humans, these zombies come dressed in torn suits, casual shirts and other typical attire.  Aside from looking more realistic, the zombies are a whole lot bigger than the puny (but scary) creatures that infiltrated the PSone, adding an extra layer of fright to the world's greatest survival/horror series.

If you're still not convinced that Resident Evil Zero is a must-have game, let me give you my sales pitch.  "Resident Evil Zero.  Developed by the same people who brought you Onimusha, Devil May Cry and the other Resident Evil titles.  Available now wherever video games are sold."

Reviewer's Scoring Details

 

Gameplay: 9.3
Resident Evil Zero is another reason to buy Nintendo's latest console.  The new areas are awesome, and the new monsters, especially the one that attacks you at the beginning of the game, have to be seen to believe.  No survival/horror fan should be without this game (or the Resident Evil remake, for that matter).

Graphics: 9.4 
Still not convinced of the GameCube's amazing graphical power?  Then pop Resident Evil Zero into your system and prepare to be blown away.

Sound: 8.8
Dark, creepy and atmospheric, Resident Evil Zero's sound is so good that you may want to buy a sub-woofer just to experience that extra kick.

Difficulty: Medium
The familiar enemies are easier to defeat (in easy mode, at least), but the puzzles can be quite tricky.

Concept: 8 
Resident Evil Zero kicks the series up a notch by adding a number of new features.  Not only is it more difficult to watch over/control two characters at the same time, it's also a lot of fun, and adds a new dimension to the Resident Evil series.  There's a lot that could be done with this sort of thing in the future...

Overall: 9.3
GameCube owners have a lot of great games to eat this holiday season, so dig into this wonderful feast and enjoy it while it's hot.  Grab a leg of the Resident Evil remake, snag a piece of Metroid Prime Pie and bite into Capcom's most delicious GameCube dessert, Resident Evil Zero.  And don't forget to top your pie with a little Metroid Fusion Whipping Cream.

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