How much you enjoy Resident Evil 0: HD Remaster will very much depend on your fondness for the series -- including the less successful entries -- and your tolerance for outdated mechanics. While much of the game obviously looks much better than it did in 2002, playing through Resident Evil 0: HD Remaster is a good reminder of how far games have come in story, character, and systems.
Resident Evil 0: HD Remaster is the spruced up version of the franchise’s prequel and follow’s 2015’s well-received Resident Evil: HD Remaster. The prequel is a bit of an origin story for the Umbrella Corp, the STARS team, Raccoon City, and the T-virus. In the end, it leads us to the mansion that is the setting for the first game proper, while along the way we play as mismatched dual protagonists Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen as they investigate the horrors and monstrosities lurking in the mist-filled forests.
Back in 2002, the dual-character device was still genuinely innovative and many games -- including other entries in the series -- have since taken its cue, giving us gameplay situations where the talents and abilities of one character complement and complete those of another. If either Billy or Rebecca die, it’s game over, so there’s a strong element of tension and strategy in keeping both characters alive, and Resident Evil 0: HD Remaster makes it pretty clear how to best use each character to solve a puzzle or fight effectively.
Where Resident Evil 0: HD Remaster isn’t so effective -- and moves into the realm of actually frustrating -- is in some core gameplay systems and mechanics that were partly function of limited technical resources, partly deliberate choices. Let’s start with the camera angles, designed to obscure areas of the scene so as to make the appearance of enemies more surprising. The problems come when the camera reorients itself and the direction in which you’re moving reverses, causing you to mistakenly backtrack into the area you were coming from. This happens over and over. It wastes time and breaks immersion.
The inventory system is excessively limited and coupled with the way in which the game requires the player to be overly precise when trying to interact with an object, picking things up and moving them in and out of your inventory without reorienting the camera by mistake is constantly frustrating. The save system -- trying to find a typewriter and using the ever-present ink roll -- necessitates a lot of needless and time consuming backtracking and makes saving before boss encounters excessively difficult. To be fair, the inventory problem is still an issue in game design -- every system is ultimately “unrealistic” -- but it’s particularly clunky in Resident Evil 0: HD Remaster.
Since 2002, the survival horror genre has passed through many incarnations and variations, in general becoming much more cinematic and action focused. We’re used to lock-on, precise targeting and a camera that moves and flows with the action and weapons that pack a visceral punch. Resident Evil 0: HD Remaster’s weapons and battles both feel pretty limp, and in terms of enemies, this game did not feature the most impressive roster of creatures. In fact, some of the insect morphs are downright silly.
Of course, the main improvement to Resident Evil 0: HD Remaster is in the area of graphics, and character models and environments do look good, running smoothly at 1080p/60fps. They're not anything close to the best contemporary standards, but certainly much better than the original or the Wii re-release in 2009. The cut scenes, on the other hand, are still blurry and look dated. Resident Evil 0: HD Remaster packs in a few extras as well, including some new outfits for Rebecca and Billy, and the “Wesker Mode,” allowing a play through replacing Billy with the character from Resident Evil 5.
Looked at as a contemporary game sitting on the shelf, demanding playtime alongside the Tomb Raiders and Until Dawns of the world, Resident Evil 0: HD Remaster isn’t probably going to impress anyone, unless they're simply a die-hard fan of old school survival horror mechanics. As a gussied-up artifact of another gaming era, it fares conserably better and anyone who loves the series, is a franchise completionist, or missed it on either Gamecube or Wii, should check it out.