With Capcom’s celebrated survival horror franchise controversially treading closer and closer to the third-person shooter genre with every installment (perhaps finally reaching that with 2012’s divisive Resident Evil 6), it’s refreshing to see that they still remember the series’ roots. Sure, you could call these cynical cash grabs, but between last year’s remaster of the original game and this year’s take on GameCube original Resident Evil 0, Capcom has at least proven their dedication to giving these old standards a fresh paint job. Luckily, the games hold up as well — this prequel to the first entry will be a fun nostalgia trip for those who played the original, and a welcome return to classic survival horror elements for those who didn’t get a chance to play it on Nintendo’s beleaguered box.
Since this is a remaster, let me answer the obvious question right away: yes, Resident Evil 0 looks fantastic, and is a significant upgrade visuals-wise from the original version. This isn’t just some simple upgrade to the game’s resolution; all the character and creature models have been redesigned to look more modern and lifelike, and the gorgeous environments look better than ever with realistic lighting. It doesn’t look like a game that could come out this year, of course, and there are some elements of its presentation that are decidedly more dated than others (most of which I’ll tackle in the gameplay section), but the graphical upgrades go a long way toward making the levels and monsters creepy all over again.
What’s not creepy in Resident Evil 0? The story, which follows in the series’ tradition of laughably over-the-top, nonsensical narratives. And as usual, it’s more of a delight than a hindrance, with this entry following S.T.A.R.S. operative Rebecca Chambers and wanted felon Billy Coen as they discover the origins of the T-virus and the sinister background of the Umbrella Corporation. Interestingly, the majority of your time spent playing the game will only get you glimpses of the overarching plot; collectible notes and stage elements reveal snatches of background information, while the game is book-ended by its major events. But even when you do get around to these big “revelations,” if they can eve be called that, they’re pretty damn silly — the cutscene before you fight the game’s leech-obsessed Big Bad, which purports to reveal the true cause behind all of the game’s happenings, had me doubled over with laughter at the hokey acting and ludicrous explanation. And I loved it. Know what you’re getting into, and you’ll have a great time.
Retro Survival Horror & Adventure
Let’s get onto the gameplay portion of the proceedings, which may prove to be a bit divisive in this era of gaming. Make no mistake, Resident Evil 0 blends the elements of two tried-and-true genres together to great effect. Unfortunately, if you’re not the type of person who enjoys a little old-fashioned adventuring and survival horror, there’s not going to be very much here for you. Keep in mind, “old-fashioned” is the operative word; this is the sort of game where inventory management and backtracking play a fairly large role, where puzzles consist of paying close attention to notes and using the right item in the right place. And of course, not everything lands: the game’s fixed camera angles can be a real irritation when trying to walk between areas or shoot enemies offscreen, and some of the aforementioned puzzles’ solutions are utterly ridiculous (knowing which items to combine and when is nearly always unintuitive).
If you relish this type of retro-gaming experience, however, and are willing to put up with a few annoyances, there is a lot to love here. Learning how best to manage your limited resources in a limited space adds a lot of tension, especially when you’re playing on Hard mode — rather than being able to fire at enemies willy-nilly, you’re forced to prioritize killing the really dangerous ones when you can and avoiding almost all other encounters. And while the business of swapping items and backtracking will seem cumbersome to some players, others will relish the unique puzzles created by the dynamic of two playable characters, who can split up and explore separate sections of the same level at once. Plus, revisiting old locations is more interesting than tiring — there’s nothing quite like the “aha!” moment of discovering that one room is actually next to another room, creating a more convenient path between two areas.
Players who enjoy mastering a game completely will also enjoy the challenges to be found in Resident Evil 0’s trophy set. These are the kind of tasks that require thorough knowledge of a game’s layout and puzzles, and since the game’s campaign is fairly short, I can see the hardest of the hardcore really enjoying the brutal difficulty of tasks like completing the game in under three-and-a-half hours, beating it without saving once and not using a single healing item. More than anything, though, there’s just a visceral satisfaction in exploring all the creepy places the game has to offer. The level of detail in the locations is astounding, and the combined effect of the game’s audio and visual elements reminded me of why Resident Evil became such a huge hit in the first place.
A Worthy Upgrade
Capcom’s HD reimagining of Resident Evil 0 is a glorious nostalgia trip back to a brand of survival horror that just doesn’t come around anymore in this era of gaming. Sure, that means dealing with a couple of annoyances, like the fixed camera angles and stiff combat, but those who can look past these problems will find a treasure trove of old-fashioned adventuring. Exploring the title’s creepy, masterfully detailed environments is nothing short of a joy, and sorting out the harrowing tasks of inventory management and limited resources is tense in just the right way. If you’re craving some real retro challenges, or just in the mood for some good atmosphere, Resident Evil 0 is well worth the price of admission.
Review code for Resident Evil 0 provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.