: Resident Evil Zero
: November 13, 2002
: Nintendo Gamecube
: M (Mature) for gore and violence
Resident Evil Zero is the latest installment in the Resident Evil series of survival horror
games to be released for Nintendo Gamecube.
As its title might suggest, Resident Evil Zero
is a prequel, taking place chronologically 24 hours prior to the first Resident Evil game.
In this adventure, you control two characters simultaneously: the cute rookie Rebecca Chambers,
and the beefy ex-marine Billy Coen. Rebecca is a member of the illustrious S.T.A.R.S. team
of elite law enforcement agents / zombie fighters. (Personally, I think that S.T.A.R.S. is one
of the cheesiest acronyms ever, but that doesn't detract from the enjoyability of the game!)
The game begins with the obligatory cinematic, in which the S.T.A.R.S. team is called in to
investigate some bizarre murders in the small town of Raccoon City. (Sound familiar?) The team's
helicopter lands in the dark, dark, scary woods that of course
are swarming with the signature Resident Evil zombie dogs. Rebecca is told that she should be
on the lookout for an ex-marine named Billy, who is accused of murdering 23 people in cold blood.
The game starts to get really interesting when Rebecca climbs aboard a train in the woods on
which all the passengers are dead (or are they?). The corpses she finds are covered in slime
and the train itself is littered with piles of what appear to be goopy eggs. There is some
fairly easy fighting early in the game; a few zombies here and there, which are simple to deal
with as long as you don't let them get too close to you, in which case they start chewing on
your face in a most unappealing manner.
For perhaps the first 15 minutes of the game, Rebecca is the only character being controlled.
Rebecca encounters Billy on the train; he presumably boarded it either to hide from possible
pursuers or to get out of the rain. Either way, the two eventually decide to cooperate; Rebecca
is suspicious at first, but Billy wins her trust by saving her ass.
Somehow amidst the zombie-shooting and exploration of the ornate passenger train, the train
begins to move. The game's graphics are stunning here, particularly when Rebecca and Billy
climb onto the roof on the moving train during a heavy rainstorm. The camera perspective is
not perfect but is certainly reasonable here, and there are no zombies on the roof of the train!
The objective during the "moving train" phase of the game is to stop the train. This process
involves some fun but not overly challenging puzzles. The train phase allows the player to get
used to controlling two characters, which is quite interesting, and in my opinion rather well-done.
The characters are designated as the "active" character and the "partner". When in Team mode,
the active character is fully controlled by you, with the controller, and the partner character
follows automatically behind the active character. You can set the partner character to either
help you in a fight (your partner will start shooting at zombies if you do) or hold their fire
(sometimes better if you are running low on ammo).
It is very easy to switch between viewpoint characters during gameplay; all it takes is the
press of a button (X, if I am not mistaken). This is very important to do from time to time,
as there are some puzzles that require both characters to be doing something in different parts
of a room, or even in different rooms altogether. At times, one character will get into a heap
of trouble, and the other character will need to rescue their partner, which can involve tricky
item exchanges. Which brings us to the subject of how items are handled in Resident Evil Zero.
In Resident Evil, items could only be stored in special item boxes when you didn't want to
carry them. This was, in my opinion, a major pain, and detracted from the game's realism; items
you put into a box in the mansion would magically be transported to an item box in the underground
laboratory. In Resident Evil Zero, you can leave a certain number of items in any room you wish.
If you want the item again later, you have to go back and get it.
Characters have a limited number of items they can hold; often it seems too limited, especially
since large, powerful guns such as the grenade launcher take up two inventory blocks. But
bear in mind that since there are two characters that can both carry items, the net amount of stuff
you can lug around is actually more than you could carry in Resident Evil.
Once Rebecca and Billy manage to stop the train, they end up in a large mansion that serves as
a training facility for the evil Umbrella corporation, which as far as I can tell is AOL Time
Warner, Microsoft, and several pharmaceutical companies all rolled into one. Anyone who
has played any of the Resident Evil games will know that the Umbrella corporation is obsessed with
virus research, and has been creating human and animal mutants with an insatiable craving for
flesh as well as supernatural strength. I don't want to include too many spoilers here, but suffice
it to say that the training facility is one freaky place. There are some new monsters here: most
notably the Leech Zombies, who are humanoid in shape but comprised of a sentient mass of mutant
leeches. These are some nasty bastards, and should not be taken lightly. Shoot at them as soon
as you see them, or if you're low on health, RUN AWAY. They suck. A lot.
Resident Evil Zero seems shorter and not quite as difficult as the first Resident Evil game. It took
my boyfriend and I about 10 hours to beat on the "easy" setting, whereas the first one took us
about 3 days! There seemed to be more ink ribbons lying around in this game, and we were able
to save pretty much whenever we wanted to; there also seemed to be more save points, marked
by typewriters on which your character records his / her progress.
This game was a good rental but I don't think I'd buy it, at least not for its current price
of $50 US. Once you have solved all the puzzles and learned where all the items are, there is
of course less motivation to play through the entire game over again, regardless of difficulty
level. There is plenty of eye candy in Resident Evil Zero; it is worth playing if only to see
the beautifully rendered running water, lush upholstery on the furniture, and dramatic lighting
effects. Oh, and copious amounts of blood!