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Looking Back: Resident Evil 0 HD

Resident Evil 0 was developed, and published, by Capcom and originally released in 2002 for Nintendo GameCube. The HD release came out in 2016. You can purchase Resident Evil 0 digitally for $19.99 (currently $4.99 at the time of this writing on PlayStation Store) or, packaged with Resident Evil Origins Collection, for $22.00.

Set as the prequel to the original Resident Evil, Resident Evil 0 features S.T.A.R.S. member Rebecca Chamber and fugitive Billy Coen as they escape an Umbrella Training Facility one day before the Mansion Incident in the series' first title. As Rebecca is dispatched to find and arrest Billy Coen, she discovers a horrible massacre on the ruins of a train. Once she meets Billy, the two attempt to escape from the Training Facility, uncovering many devastating truths involving a conspiracy and the outbreak of the Progenitor Virus.

This title tells the origins of two series villain's partnership and origins: Albert Wesker and William Birkin. It features the Progenitor virus, bred from leeches, and the research which eventually leads into the development of the series' infamous viruses, the T-Virus and G-Virus. These viruses would be used to create Bio-Organic Weapons (B.O.W.s) for military combat purposes. The Progenitor Virus creates not only zombies, but mutated animals as well. The leeches, which helped pioneer the Progenitor virus, were developed by Umbrella's vengeful co-founder, James Marcus, whom the story focuses heavily on. Among the cutscenes and the in-game lore articles, you'll uncover much of the conspiracy that precedes the Mansion Incident and onward.

Resident Evil 0 starts inside of a train and eventually moves into a Training Facility as well as onto other areas, like a water treatment facility. The level design varies itself with each stage, featuring different obstacles and enemies. I also found the puzzles themselves to be ingenious and par for the series' course. Some will have you charging electrical currents while others have you lighting statues in a certain order.

The title instills fear in what you might expect from a survival horror title. Narrow corridors hide enemies, while monsters ambush you after taking a key item. You'll usually hear a frightening musical cue as they attack you. Sometimes they'll even just wait on the other side of a doorway with no warning. With only a small supply of weapons and healing items, you always feel the tension as you turn open the next door.

I also found the combat itself to be mostly good as per usual. Resident Evil Zero builds off of Resident Evil (REmake), the classic style of combat involves auto-aiming towards enemies. This makes tight corridors fairly easy to fight through without getting ambushed. You can use several different types of guns, a knife, and heal when you're injured. However, with "mostly" being the operative word, I'll explain a few gaping flaws, which hurt the game, in short order.

As a remaster, Capcom upgraded the controls as well. You can now freely run around using the left analog stick. For series purists, you can also switch back to the classic tank controls. Unfortunately, Resident Evil Zero introduced several mechanics which quickly became tiresome to deal with.

The first new mechanic is the partner system. You'll switch between playing as Rebecca and Billy. Rebecca has less HP, and can mix herbs, while Billy is more durable and can move heavy objects. This thematic feels similar to using Jill and Chris in REmake. Unfortunately, Rebecca is more fragile than Jill and does not have the extra item slots. It feels like playing Jill with handicaps. Her extreme fragility forces you to go through healing items quickly.

This brings up the second issue: the partner A.I. When you're controlling one character, the other can fight automatically. But they can only fight when the enemy is up close. They won't run away from danger and they won't switch weapons when out of ammo. This forces you to babysit your partner. Additionally, you can only exchange items when you move in close to your partner, making it both  tedious and dangerous.

Thanks to their limited behavioral options, you're risking your life every time your ally makes a dumb move and puts themselves into danger. While I wanted to control Billy more, I used Rebecca because, as an A.I., she'll throw herself into danger and die within seconds. With Billy as an A.I., he can at least tank damage while I cover him.

The partner system also means carrying 6 inventory items a piece. However, unlike past titles, there are no Item Boxes. This means if you run out of space, you must leave an item behind and can come back for it later. You'll be forced to do this many times.

Furthermore, this means if you need a particular item, you'll need to backtrack to grab it. Remember the grappling hook you use on the train and never use in the Training Facility? Well once you get near the end of it, you'll need it again. Couple that with the amount of backtracking you'll have to do for puzzles and you'll quickly find yourself losing patience.

Also, due to the aiming system in the game, it makes some boss fights unsuitable. One in particular is the Infected Bat. Placed where you can only bring in one ally to fight it, and with no healing items nearby, it will spawn smaller bats when it's damaged. You can't choose where to aim and must wait for it to get close just to lock onto it. I find this not only problematic, but absolutely unacceptable as a gameplay element.

You will also encounter a leech-covered B.O.W. called Mimicry Marcus. This creature can swing its whips wide and long which you cannot avoid. Unlike zombies, you cannot push past it when running. After battle, the amount of damage it deals leaves you needing herbs unless you could keep your distance, which isn't always possible. It's only weak to Molotov Cocktails, which you combine using Empty Bottles and Gasoline.

Remember how I said you need to keep space in your inventory? You won't need to keep these two together until you fight these creatures. You can only damage it with guns once you've set it ablaze. Even then, if you're not quick, it will use its last-ditch effort to walk up and explode on you. This can even bring Billy's health from Fine to Danger immediately. I found these encounters to be among the most frustrating in the series.

However, Resident Evil 0 excels at its aesthetics. Utilizing REmake's graphics, its environmental design is nothing short of superb and managed to age well over 18 years. The level of craftsmanship showcases amazing detail in each room. Plus, running at 1080p, with 60 FPS, makes every corner of this game shine. In addition to visuals, the sound effects are great as per usual for Resident Evil. You'll get to enjoy much of the satisfying sound effects, such as using your Shotgun, blowing off zombie heads, and hearing B.O.W.s screech loudly as they die.

What Resident Evil 0 does right, it does well. It's aesthetically pleasing and tells the origins of the legendary horror series. While the voice acting and dialogue remain cheesy, as expected for a 2002 title, it at least conveys the story well enough. The survival horror elements, enemy types, control, exploration, and music all fill in the standards befitting of Resident Evil.

But when it comes to the partner and inventory mechanics, it begins to fall apart. It's a chore to manage a character that cannot take care of themselves. It also completely destroys any sort of convenience when you don't have item boxes in save rooms. Fortunately, the series never had this issue again. Either you could upgrade your expansion slots or use items boxes once again in later games.

Despite being an HD Remaster I wouldn't pride myself on remastering a title without fixing some of the most obvious problems if I were Capcom. The control fixes and upgraded visuals are the best parts of the remaster itself. But if you're going to bother remastering a title, I strongly suggest fixing the most notable flaws to release the best game possible.

Final Verdict: Not Recommended
In the end, I can only recommend this to die-hard Resident Evil fan. Compared to most games in the series, it easily falls near the bottom. You'll find much better pacing from the other titles in the series. And if you want a co-op Resident Evil title, Resident Evil 5 utilized the partner mechanic magnificently. Play this one only if you want to know about the story and don't want to read up on the lore online. Otherwise, you'll have a much better time playing the other games in the series.

*All images courtesy of Capcom