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Resident Evil Zero (GameCube) artwork

Resident Evil Zero (GameCube) review

"There was a fullblown coup in the latest generation of video gaming consoles. Developers who had stood steadfastly with Nintendo over the years, particularly Rare, were jumping ship to produce titles on the Playstation 2 or the XBox. At the time, it seemed like the end of Nintendo. But there was one shining ray of hope: Capcom announced their intentions to not only continue developing games for Nintendo, but their flagship Resident Evil games would be available exclusively on the system. Ultimat..."

There was a fullblown coup in the latest generation of video gaming consoles. Developers who had stood steadfastly with Nintendo over the years, particularly Rare, were jumping ship to produce titles on the Playstation 2 or the XBox. At the time, it seemed like the end of Nintendo. But there was one shining ray of hope: Capcom announced their intentions to not only continue developing games for Nintendo, but their flagship Resident Evil games would be available exclusively on the system. Ultimately this proved untrue, as Resident Evil: Outbreak still appeared on the PS2 and a port of RE4 was made available on the Playstation as well.

Nevertheless, bitter Playstation fans reluctantly purchased a Gamecube so they could continue playing the franchise. Luckily, their purchase proved justified. The brilliant remake of the original Resident Evil was more then worth the long wait since Code Veronica was released, and Resident Evil 4 is regularly hailed to be one of the greatest games ever. With other games like Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy VII to bump shoulders with, that's good company. But there is a third title in the second generation of Resident Evil games which regularly gets the short end of the stick. Which is a shame, really. Resident Evil 0 is in many ways the best of the 'classic' Resident Evils.

Resident Evil 0 feels very much like an experimental game. The developers went to great lengths to create a new gameplay experience in a familiar environment, and they succeeded with amazing results. At its core, RE0 is classic Biohazard. Fixed camera angles, bizarre controls and limited ammunition are all present here. Having two playable characters isn't really a new concept either (both RE1 and RE2 had two playable characters), but RE0 puts a spin on this concept by having both characters playable at the same time.

Capcom could've shot themselves in the foot with the cooperative gameplay, but luckily it rarely feels awkward or tedious. Players can switch between Rebecca and Billy at the press of a button, and can choose to either have the 'Partner' character (the name given to whichever character you are not currently controlling) tag along closely behind you or stand idly in one place. Players have free will to send either character wherever they want; have them watch eachother's back in the same room or go out independently and explore different areas of the game apart. At some point through the game, players will invariably find themselves taking both options. Taking on large Zombie armies is much easier with a second character to help out, and a number of very clever puzzles which require both characters to work together (even when they aren't necessarily in the same room) are lots of fun as well.

Some of the most memorable puzzles in the game take significant advantage of the game's cooperative gameplay. For example, very early on one of your characters becomes trapped in a room, separated from the other. In this room, they find a key which they must send down a dumwaiter to their partner, who in turn must use this key to access the rest of the area and find a way to break his partner out. Several puzzles of this nature rear their heads throughout the game, and each is a fun and refreshing spin on classic Resident Evil faire.

Each of the two characters have their own unique attributes, as well. Rebecca is defensively weak compared to Billy, but she is the only one of the pair who can mix healing herbs together, as well as mixing chemicals to solve a number of puzzles. Billy, on the other hand, can take by far the most punishment of any character in any Resident Evil game yet (on Normal difficulty he can take a shot to the face by a Tyrant and not drop below Green health), and is also the holder of this game's lighter.

The new depth of strategy does not stop here. Up to this point in the series, Resident Evil games featured a series of interlinked Item Boxes where players could store items. These are gone now, and the player is given free will to drop items wherever he pleases. This is both a good and a bad thing. Many items, particularly the game's most powerful weapons, take two item slots to hold, plus another slot for ammunition. Since each character has only six item slots total, it becomes difficult very quickly to pick up all the extra items you come across along the way.

The constant backtracking to pickup items really isn't that different from item boxes, but now it takes almost three times as long while you sort through everything that litters the floor, stopping to drop something so you can pickup something else. The nice thing is, the ability to drop items anywhere lets the player prioritize and drop a less important item to get a more important item. Personally, I prefer the Item Boxes to this 'Real Survivor Plus,' but the new item dropping setup is refreshing to say the least.

Each second generation Resident Evil has introduced a new kind of enemy. The REmake introduced the Crimson Heads, RE4 had Ganado. RE0 introduces what is possibly the creepiest and coolest new enemy in Resident Evil to date: Leech Zombies. Leech's appear periodically throughout the game, and when they gather in large groups they can form together to create a human-like form. These Leech Zombies move quickly and have the ability to stretch out their limbs, striking the player from a distance. They can take a severe amount of punishment before finally dying, and when they do they explode with damaging results. Leech Zombies are easily the creepiest, most dangerous and most annoying enemy in the series yet. In addition to the Leeches, there is a host of classic Resident Evil baddies including Zombies, Hunters and Giant Spiders, joined by a few new faces (giant man-eating frogs and killer baboons among them).

In addition to the reworked gameplay, the game features several new areas which are very refreshing to see. The game begins on a train, which is arguably the coolest and best crafted environment in the series. Unfortunately this sequence is all too short (experienced Resident Evil gamers will speed through the train in under a half-hour), and quickly the player finds himself in an eerily familiar mansion. No, not the Arklay Mansion from the original Resident Evil, but a smaller, evil twin. This 'Umbrella Training Facility' is classic Resident Evil, with keys to find and batteries to plug into outlets. Past the training facility is a water treatment plant, which is unremarkable in the series but is still entertaining to be in.

When the game begins, the player finds himself looking upon a pale man in a white cloak. Standing high on a mountain, he looks down upon a train with apparent amusement. The train is suddenly attacked by a huge army of leeches, who break through the windows and begin eating everyone on board. Cut to a chopper, whom on board are the S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team. Though it isn't very well explained in the story, they aren't going to check out the train - they're investigating a series of murders which happened in the area. Bravo Team's chopper crashes for unknown reasons, though everyone on board survives. Almost immediately, they find an overturned army vehicle with two dead soldiers inside. A clipboard nearby reveals that a convicted criminal, Billy Coen, is being transferred to another prison to be executed. Coen is nowhere to be seen.

So with a convicted murderer on the loose and a forest full of unknown dangers who are also murdering people left and right, Bravo Team does the only natural thing: They split up. Rebecca Chambers, a medicinal prodigy and Bravo Team's medic, goes out alone. The logical impossibility of sending the team's only medic out alone is one I won't even bother addressing. She eventually happens upon the train. Stepping inside, Rebecca is almost immediately attacked by a pack of former passengers, who have all become zombies. Eventually coming across Billy Coen, the pair agree to cooperate and survive... for the time being.

Resident Evil 0 tries to sell itself as the game which explains how Umbrella got started, the origins of the T-Virus, as well as how Wesker and Birkin became involved in the project. And it sort of succeeds. Buried within the game's story and dozens of notes are subtle references to all of the above. The game frequently intercuts to shots of Birkin and Wesker, both of whom seem slightly offset by the fact that one of their old colleagues has apparently returned to life and is trying to kill them. It's fun to see this pair together (especially since their friendship is only alluded to in previous titles), but in the end they don't offer much to the storyline except to detail exactly what they were up to before the events in Resident Evil 1 & 2. Which, it turns out, wasn't much.

With the exception of Resident Evil 4 and the Gun Survivor spinoffs, RE0 has the weakest storyline in the series. Rebecca has almost no story around her at all - she just shows up, and stumbles through the whole thing. This isn't really that different from other Resident Evil games, however, particularly the first one. Billy, on the other hand, has an entire backstory to go with him that isn't really resolved. At all. Turns out, he was innocent the whole time. Gee, didn't see that coming. Any closure to add to that? No, not really. Luckily, RE0 has a good excuse for this. Rebecca and Billy are in this game for the sole reason to propel the storyline forward. Resident Evil 0 is the story of Umbrella's origins and the origins of the T-Virus. It is not the story of Rebecca or Billy's survival. And in this sense, the story is strong.

The controls from the REmake return here, largely unchanged with a few exceptions. Characters still pivot and move relative to the direction they are facing, not necessarily the direction the camera is facing. Holding down the R button readies the weapon, while pressing A fires. The C-Stick can alternately control your Partner character (an ability I have not used once in almost a dozen runs through the game), while the X button changes control between the pair and the Start buttons causes them to split up or work as a pair.

Resident Evil 0 began its life on the Nintendo 64, so it's surprising to say that it has some very good graphics. Many games which began development on the N64 and were moved to the Gamecube suffer graphically (take Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem as your biggest example). Taking a note out of REmake's book, the game was recreated from the groundup graphically to take full advantage of the GCN's processor, and the results are wonderful. The graphics are a bit crisper then they were in the REmake, but in a sense they are more or less the same.

If there is one fault with the graphics, it's in the CG cutscenes. These cutscenes are all well animated and are great to look at, but they were polished just a little too much. The characters all have a slightly plastic look to them, which clashes greatly with the 'grittier' character models used by the game engine. There is some instances early in the game where dialogue doesn't match up with the lips very well, but I'm still not past blaming that on my own copy of the game (which I purchased used).

The sound is impressive. Each weapon has a very distinct sound to it, making them instantly recognizable in combat (Rebecca and Billy's guns even sound remarkably different, despite being statistically identical). When it comes to music, Resident Evil 0 is at its best with the most impressive soundtrack in the history of the franchise. The winding, whirling flute anthem which plays when Leech Zombies appear is as wonderful as it is creepy.

Bonuses are traditional Resident Evil stuff. Hidden guns can be unlocked by completing the game under target times, as well as additional costumes for each character and a bonus minigame. The minigame this time around is the fantastic Leech Hunter. In it, the player is tasked with collecting all 100 Leech Charms in the Training Facility, which come in Blue and Green varieties. There are 50 of each color, and Billy and Rebecca can only carry one color respectively. Here's the real catch, however: Once a character picks up a charm, they cannot drop it. Since they only stack up to 10, to carry all fifty charms leaves each character with only one free item slot. Completing Leech Hunter with one of five different ranks unlocks a number of different rewards. Leech Hunter is possibly the most enjoyable and well made minigame in the series.

Like any Resident Evil game, the whole thing is easily conquerable in three or four hours if you know exactly what you're doing. The cooperative gameplay and the ability to pickup and drop items anywhere lets the player pick many different routes to go through the game, and three difficulty levels enhance the replay value greatly. Add to that the great fun of Leech Hunter, which partially randomizes where certain weapons and charms drop, and there's a lot of reason to keep playing Resident Evil 0. There hasn't been a Resident Evil yet which hasn't been fun to replay, and luckily RE0 isn't the first example.

Gameplay: 9 out of 10
Story: 4 out of 5
Controls: 9 out of 10
Graphics: 5 out of 5
Sound and Music: 5 out of 5
Extras: 4 out of 5
Game Length, Difficulty and Replay Value: 10 out of 10
Overall Score: 9.2 out of 10

The Good: Cooperative gameplay adds a refreshing twist to traditional Resident Evil puzzles. Finally learning the origins of the Umbrella Corporation and the T-Virus is a great plus for diehard Resident Evil fans. Leech Hunter is a great new time trial twist on classic Resident Evil gameplay.
The Bad: Cameo appearances by Wesker and Birkin seem silly and ultimately pointless. Rebecca and Billy seem equally unimportant in the storyline, with Rebecca having no character progression at all and Billy having an unresolved backstory. New item system is liberating at first, but quickly grows tedious. As fun and challenging as Leech Hunter is, there is very little incentive to complete it more then once.
The Ugly: New Leech Zombie baddies are a cool new enemy, but they are very difficult to kill even with items specifically designed to kill them. Limited inventory space makes retreating to restock on ammunition and healing items an all-too constant occurence, particularly when the player is controlling only one character.

To me at least, Resident Evil 0 is by far my favorite of the 'classic' Resident Evil titles. Resident Evil 2 is dethroned at last. The cooperative gameplay is a blast to play, with some puzzles that will make your eyes bug out at their cleverness. The sheer ingenuity of the Train portion of the game, while all too brief, marks a highpoint in the franchise, and some cameo appearances by old characters (Wesker, Carlos and Birkin among them), as well as a brief stopoff in a classic RE2 environment are sure to thrill fans. If this truly turns out to be the last of the 'classic' Resident Evils, then a worthy Swan's Song it is.

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Community review by mrshotgun (March 15, 2007)

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