BY CAPCOM, 2002
25 WORDS OR LESS:
S.T.A.R.S. rookie Rebecca Chambers meets up with an escaped convict aboard a zombie-infested train and must cooperate with him in order to successfuly escape.
I’m going hunting / I’m a hunter
There’s really not a whole lot that can be said about the Resident Evil series. The fans know who they are and line up dutifully whenever Capcom announces another one, while those with little interest in the games save their hard-earned cash. But with this latest installment, Mikami and company have incorporated some new elements that stray from series tradition and make the game more interesting than previous ventures. The RE die-hards probably already own this one, but are these additions enough to warrant a purchase by a curious newcomer? In a word, no. In two words, hell no.
Of course, Resident Evil Zero was designed from the ground up to be a prequel to the original RE. The plot leads directly up to the mansion incident, with several series plot points illustrated along the way to shed light on what happens both in the mansion and in Raccoon City. The game stars Rebecca Chambers, field medic for the S.T.A.R.S. Bravo team, and an escaped convict named Billy Coen. The two meet up inside a train that was attacked in Raccoon Forest and Becky reluctantly agrees to cooperate with Coen in order to escape alive. As the rest of the Bravo team is picked off one by one, the pair find themselves scouring the train, exploring an Umbrella training facility, a chapel, and the requisite Umbrella lab.
As for the game’s features, players have the ability to switch between Becky and Billy at any time during the game by employing the "Zapping" system with the X button — the screen will distort out and refocus on the other character, much like this. If both characters are in the same room, they may freely exchange items through the subscreen. There are a few dumbwaiters located in various parts of the game for trading items when characters are separated, which adds an interesting element to the puzzles; a key item needed by Billy might only be located on the portion of the area where Becky is isolated. If you’d like to leave a gift for the other unavailable character, items can be dropped anywhere on the ground for reacquisition later on. The drawback to this is that there are no item boxes to be found in Resident Evil Zero. Players can only take to the next area what they can carry, or must be willing to make several trips to lug everything over. This is only an issue at specific points in the game, but it can be a royal pain in the ass making that extra trip because there was no room in your inventory for your grenade rounds when you toted your equipment down the first time.
The graphics are just as beautiful and detailed as the Resident Evil GC remake, with one glaring exception: the FMV sequences. Why Mikami chose to use prerendered FMV for some of the cutscenes and not the in-game models like he did in the remake is puzzling. The FMV models are a bit on the awkward side, staring at you through tiny eyes and motioning with chubby fingers. Rebecca’s FMV alter-ego in particular is a dissapointment, looking more like a 9-year old Korean boy than an 18-year old American girl.
The storyline is pure gibberish, carried only by a few glimpses into Billy’s past, as well as Wesker’s presence in the odd cutscene. Fans of the traitorous team leader may be saddened to know that the voice talents of Peter Jessop — the voice of Wesker in the remake — are replaced by those of Richard Waugh, responsible for Wesker’s dialogue in Code Veronica (referred to by some as "a searing, debilitating cancer on the series"). The fact that the game’s prime evil is less than intimidating and hardly puts up a fight doesn’t do much for the endgame’s contribution to the story, either.
Despite this, the overall challenge of the game is very high. Managing your ammo and healing items is an important task that demands at least one auxilliary save file for the careless, as these necessities are scarce. Some new additions to the enemy roster also make things a bit tricky, as illustrated by the wriggling leech zombies. Until you get their patterns and movements down, expect a few beatings by the leech zombies, as well as the infected monkeys. It’s like Outbreak, only there’s lots of them and they hate you.
Those who manage to complete the game will be rewarded with the Leech Hunter minigame, which can earn you infinite ammo for some or all of your weapons in the main game depending on how many crystal leeches you find in the training facility. Billy and Becky are given a finite amount of ammo and healing items and must contend with monsters from all over the game as they scour the area to find all 100 leeches. The monsters regenerate when you have about 10 leeches left to find, meaning that checking areas where you think you overlooked a leech or two earlier could be lethal. Leech Hunter is very difficult, but fortunately there is no time limit; I took my sweet time and strolled out after three hours of hunting.
So what’s the deal with Resident Evil Zero? Zombie lovers know that Capcom can be counted on for potent doses of their drug of choice, but strangers to Raccoon City shouldn’t bother. And for our readers in the UK — Don’t let the spooky zombies get to you! Capcom has a counseling line in case you forget that giant man-eating frogs aren’t real. 08700 46 55 20! Same price as a national phone call! That is, of course, if you buy into the notion put forth by a Capcom representative that the game is "ridiculously scary." Hint: it’s not. —Alex Fraioli
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