So, the logical place to start with this is the beginning, and by beginning, I mean the ZERO (the prequel), because you know… Capcom wouldn’t George Lucas our asses, and introduce a load of bullshit like
Resident Evil was actually planned as far back as 1995 during the development of Resident Evil 1 (calling bullshit), and was going to be part of the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive system, (HA, because Mega CD was such a success).
The story that was finished in 1999 is the almost exactly the same as what made it into the final release. But due to hardware limitations of the N64, the development was shifted to the Gamecube.
As I mentioned, it is a prequel and takes place in the hours/days before the “Incident at the mansion”. Basically, the story is a little flimsy/shoehorned:
An Umbrella TRAIN is attacked by LEECHES, and hilarity ensues as the “original odd couple” (Rookie recruit with heart of gold/convicted murderer) try to escape the nightmare. There is a bit of nonsense about conspiracy theories, such as Billy’s character being framed for murdering 23 people (why not just kill him and blame him? Seems easier), and deals with the development of the T-Virus, and the Progenitor Virus under Professor James Marcus, and involves a lot of LEECHES, seriously, I hate the leeches.
I’ll be honest here, I do not like the story. There are plot-holes aplenty, but at least they attempt to tie up loose ends.
One example of awesome loose-end tying… is Billy just straight up Incredible Hulks it, and walks off into the distance at the end.
Other examples include new enemies, HOW CAN THERE BE NEW ENEMIES???
Zero, introduces Crab People (one), Killer Frogs (one) (not hunters), Killers Apes (for about 10 minutes), Leeches, and Leech Zombies (annoyingly hard and appear throughout, and only die from fire [I think these appear in RE5]). None of these appear in the other games, which is puzzling.
More serious plot holes, like the open discussion of one of the bad guys being Wesker is puzzling. I know Rebecca is a rookie and new to the job, but you’d think she’d know the name of her boss. That way, in Resi 1, when she meets Chris, she could just say “Wesker is the bad guy, lets just get the fuck out of here. Those Tyrants are hard MUTHA-FUCKERS“.
But then, this is her first day on the job! Maybe she didn’t get the memo that said, “Hey, here is Al, he is your new boss, here is Brad, he looks dashing in a yellow gilet”.
In a new twist on the formula, you control two characters. This adds a new dimension to the puzzles, as you have to have the partner do something differently. It is refreshing, but these puzzles are obvious and easy to solve.
The two characters play slightly differently too. Billy is big and strong (manly), so can take more damage and can push heavy objects (grrr). Rebecca is small and weak… Can’t lift heavy objects, and can mix herbs… So way to go Capcom for introducing a useless female character. Hats off to you. In a series with awesome female leads such as Claire, and Jill (and a MUCH lesser extend Sheva), it does seems to be a little regressive on the equality front.
Due to controlling two characters, the game limits you to 6 items per person, this is both a blessing and a curse! There are no item chests, instead, you can leave items on the floor (this is good). This means, that you can leave a breadcrumb trail of ink ribbons to areas that are a little annoying to get to, but it does mean you can loose your weapons (this is bad)!
The Shotgun and the grenade launcher both take two slots (of 6), so you will often dump one of them at the start of each area in order to collect all the keys/puzzle stuff, now this is a pain in the arse. Because:
- unless you know the game, you can easily proceed too far in the game, and go to a point of no return (cable car)
- LOTS OF BACKTRACKING
You know a really fun feature of a game? Spending 10 minutes navigating back through 9 levels to go pick up the grenade launcher because you don’t know where the final boss is. SAID NO ONE EVER!
Zero is also a departure from 2/3/Veronica/4/5, in that ammo and health are pretty scarce. However, there is always a convenient amount of bullets in the room adjacent to a boss, so progression is not really hindered.
Zero looks BEAUTIFUL, and is perhaps the best looking of them all.
The water effects are possibly the best I have ever seen in any game, and I genuinely spent 5 minutes admiring the sink in the kitchen, on the train.
The cut scenes are brilliant for the time, and still hold up well. Certainly better than the ones in 5. However, the general animations are a little weak. For example; when you shoot your pistol, is feels like you’re firing a pea shooter, there is a flimsy amount of recoil, which grates, especially when your pistol in Zero is the most powerful of all the Resi games (Zombies die in 4 shots, rather than 8-9).
The animation for drawing your weapon is a little slow too, this means you can and probably will, get cornered by a Hunter, and die as he constantly swipes your face off, while you try to draw the magnum to put the fucker down. But there is a dodge feature, which I sucked at.
The controls are a little fiddly to get used to. This isn’t a bad thing though, as with the addition of the 2nd controllable player it does require extra input. So…
The start button doesn’t pause it! It tells your partner to follow you or stay.
The C stick controls your partner, and is necessary to navigate them onto switches, or LIFTS!
X swaps who you control.
The rest are standard Resi layout, but you will press X a lot by mistake, and can be deadly in a boss fight. And the C stick is required, as sometimes, when you get in a lift and press the button, your partner will inexplicably miss the lift. This is annoying, as you will have to ride the elevator down and then move him onto the lift. (If you go up on lift, then they can’t use it from below.
You might not have guessed from what I have written, but Resident Evil Zero is amazing. It is genuinely one of the best. The plot holes are annoying, and the 6 items thing causes a few headaches (especially planing a boss fight), but it tried something new. People give 4 a lot of credit, but to me that just took a Dino Crisis 2 approach and changed the series into a silly action game. Zero returned Resident Evil to it’s roots, and is a must for any gamer.
Pros: Novel use of swappable main characters, still looks great, item swapping, made Resident Evil hard again leaving items…
Cons: Lots of backtracking, no crates, plot holes galore