On a dark night plagued by torrential downpour, Rebecca Chambers and her S.T.A.R.S. comrades are called in to investigate the circumstances of a crashed inmate transport vehicle. It is also their duty to apprehend Billy Coen, a discharged marine who has been institutionalized in the past, and currently resides on death row for the murder of twenty three people. Rebecca boards a train in the area while searching for Billy. Before long, she becomes fully aware that something far more sinister is occurring. The train suddenly jolts into motion, and Rebecca and Billy are forced to cooperate if they wish to survive against the onslaught of flesh eating zombies and parasitic leeches that have infested the train. Bringing the train to a grinding halt and surviving the horrors on board is only the beginning.
If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. But polishing a dull spot here and there never hurts, and that’s precisely what Capcom has done with RE0. The control scheme, pacing, objectives, and somewhat antiquated save system will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played a Resident Evil game in the past. “Survival Horror” is still the name of the game, and you still have to think before you shoot, as ammunition and health items can be scarce depending on your location. You will also have to contend with the limited inventory space available, but that pain is eased by the big new feature in RE0 - the ability to control two characters in tandem. Previous titles have featured brief segments where you were able to play as another character, but RE0 takes it to the next level.
The ability to control both Billy and Rebecca affords you several options in many instances. You can separate them and use the new “zapping” system to change between them instantaneously, or have them work together. When together, you can switch between characters, and have the computer AI handle your partner’s combat and movement. You can also use limited control over your partner by manipulating the c-stick on the Gamecube controller, allowing the AI to take over once you’ve finished. More interesting are the puzzles and item acquisition that require the use of both characters. This can include obtaining a grappling hook or reaching the next floor in a building by using a disheveled crank elevator. These cooperative elements will remind many of the PlayStation 2 cult hit “Ico,” but RE0 takes it further by putting the characters in far more tense situations, and giving them both the ability to wreak havoc would-be attackers. There is even a sequence where as Billy you must fight a large enemy that has taken hold of Rebecca. Its large size makes it an easy target, but each shot must be taken carefully, as not to hurt your partner while in its grasps.
The final improvement is one that many have been hoping for, which is a much better inventory system. Characters can now drop unwanted or unneeded items wherever and whenever they choose. This eliminates monotonous “supply runs” and having to deal with the bizarre inventory chest that somehow magically transports items from one location to another. The only downside is that you must go back to the specific location where you left an item in order to retain it, but you cannot fault a game for common sense realism. This new inventory system also compliments your ability to use two characters at once. When in close proximity, Rebecca and Billy can exchange, give, or combine items. This helps to free up a character’s inventory in order to carry certain environmental keys, share ammunition so both will be able to fight, or combine items such as a gas tank and empty bottles in order to make a new weapon like the Molotov cocktail. This improvement to the inventory system alone alleviates many potentially frustrating situations.
The only old annoyances that remain present are the somewhat awkward “love it or hate it” control scheme, and the typewriter save system. Obtaining ink ribbons isn’t a problem and the spacing of save areas is good, but I still hope that Capcom ultimately does away with this antiquated save feature for Resident Evil 4.
On a positive note, these negative aspects are absolutely nothing that hardened RE fans haven’t dealt with in dozens of circumstances in the past. Their presence may disappoint those who were expecting a completely revamped experience, but they do nothing to take away from what is an excellent adventure game, and a fitting prequel to the later chapters of the Resident Evil saga.
When Resident Evil first debuted in 1996, it was sour eye candy as it delivered a gorgeous mansion as the backdrop for some of the most gruesome violence yet seen in a videogame. Performing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on an exquisite piano eventually gave way to fleeing from possessed dogs in a blood stained hallway. As the prequel to that very game, Resident Evil 0 does a great job in carrying the beautiful brutality into the next generation.
Although some were disappointed by Capcom returning to pre-rendered backgrounds after a brief foray into full 3D with Code Veronica, the improvements made have corrected nearly problem that was present with the standard formula. Having the character models rendered by new hardware means that there is not as much contrast between them and the highly detailed backgrounds. Rebecca and Billy cast realistic shadows that appear in different levels of opacity depending on the saturation of light, or lack thereof. The game world now feels far more alive than ever before. Rain drops through holes in the roof of the train, through windows shattered by infected dogs, and forms puddles that will cast the character’s reflection as they walk by.
The various monsters encountered throughout the game are extravagantly detailed, and sport design characteristics worthy of a Hollywood horror film. In fact, many of the creatures that assault Rebecca and Billy are far more chilling than anything seen in the Resident Evil movie itself - from a bus-length millipede to a humanoid figure that can dissolve himself into infectious leeches. RE0 also scores with minor subtleties such as a battered zombie lightly twitching after being killed for a second time, dust clouds accompanying a character’s footsteps on and old carpet, and the gentle swinging of Billy’s handcuff when a sprint comes to a halt. There are also a wider variety of zombies, which can be differentiated by their physical appearance. Early in the game, the former train conductor can stalk your character throughout the locomotive if he is not dealt with early on. Similar situations arise later in the game, and reward players with a keen eye and those who pay attention to details.
Static, unmovable cameras and awkward character animation still remain a problem, but with the corrections made to other aspects of the game’s visual presentation, this is not as much of a problem as it used to be. This does very little to tarnish the overall visual splendor of the game, and fans will be able to look forward to the fact that Resident Evil 4 will be in full 3D.
While Resident Evil 0 delivers in providing background information on ill-fated fan favorites such as Albert Wesker and William Berkin, it fulfills a more important duty by providing a fun, action packed, creepy, and sometimes jolting experience. There is nothing startlingly innovative that will attract gamers who were not already fans of the series, but it combines some of the best elements from previous games and certainly lives up to the high standard set by the original.
The new inventory system will prevent many item-related headaches, and controlling two characters adds an interesting twist that has not been fully explored in the previous games. The game is still relatively short and doesn’t provide as much replay value since you cannot venture into it again as a different set of characters, but the unlockable mini-game “Leech Hunter” is quite fun, and die-hard fans will certainly play through more than once just for the sheer experience of it. RE0 doesn’t offer the classic adventure that the first two games in the series did, but it is a well-conceived prequel, and is fully deserving of carrying the Resident Evil name.
While not as earth shattering or influential as its predecessors, RE0 succeeds where it matters most. It is certainly one of the best “survival horror” games of the past few years, and it shows why the series revolutionized the genre over six years ago. Anyone who has enjoyed Resident Evil in the past or is simply looking for a fun, well paced, and atmospheric adventure game should certainly pick this game up.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.