Nostalgia is a double edged sword in gaming. Old school games bring back memories of the golden years of jamming the Playstation and Gamecube. These same games are often frustrating in their archaic mechanics and design, and can, in contrast with this generation’s games, be a tiresome and angering experience. Therefore, with remastered games a balance must be made between trading off outdated mechanics and retaining the same feel and experience that made the game great in the first place.
Resident Evil Zero HD retains most of the gameplay and tone of its source game, but not to the extent that it is frustrating and unplayable, this remake merely sharpens the experience of the game. Resident Evil Zero HD establishes a dark tone and carries it throughout the game with haunting settings and a bleak colour scheme. This remastered game is terrifying with updated graphics and textures, but nostalgic in that it keeps the same gameplay and story as Resident Evil Zero. However, there are aspects of the game, notably the camera angles and the combat mechanics, which drag the game down in quality.
Graphically, Resident Evil Zero HD is, as one would expect, a lot sharper and more detailed than Resident Evil Zero released on Gamecube. However, not as clear and sharp as one would expect for a PS4 release. The PS4 and Xbox One are both capable of breathtaking and immersive graphic design. This “HD” remaster is not up to the standards of this generation of gaming, but it is at least able to deliver a sharper experience than its Gamecube predecessor.
Resident Evil Zero is a dark and horrifying experience and you are hauntingly reminded of this throughout the game. With a dark colour scheme and drab textures masterfully showcased, the game is constantly pulling the player into a dark world plagued by the T-virus, zombies and monsters. The ambient audio and subtle soundtrack create a creepy, isolated feel for the player, while the camera angles are organised to showcase the sombre setting. As such, the different locations are all emphasised and stress the dark and morbid tone of the game. The design of Resident Evil Zero is so that it immerses the player in a dark world which will inspire a hint of fear at the idea of of turning the next corner or transitioning to the next area. This is key to the allure of Resident Evil Zero and what makes it such a thrilling horror-filled game. In this sense Resident Evil Zero is similar to other earlier games of the Resident Evil canon.
Resident Evil Zero has novel and interesting character mechanics as well as commendable characterisation. The strong characters and fluid mechanics around the playable characters enhance the Resident Evil Zero experience. The three playable characters are S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team medic Rebecca Chambers, her companion Billy Coen, and an additional character for the remastered version Albert Wesker. The relationship between Billy and Rebecca adds an interesting depth, while the overall development of the characters alongside the story development adds interesting dimensions to the game. The characterisation may not be quite as in depth as games of this generation, but for a gamecube era game, the characterisation stands out and complements the cinematic nature of the game. It’s worth adding that ‘Wesker Mode’ is an add on to the base game for the remastered version which substitutes Coen for the previously mentioned Albert Wesker, and makes the game a lot easier while making you a lot stronger. However it does not add any depth, it merely makes the game easier.
The mechanics of the playable characters remain novel to this generation, let alone in 2002. The AI in Resident Evil Zero is average at best, but this is compensated for by more versatility and control over Billy/Albert and Rebecca. While playing as a character, your teammate will follow your direction or run on AI, however, at any moment you can switch characters and play as them. This allows a smooth and easy flowing gameplay and helps complements a lot of other mechanics such as the practical puzzle solving.
Puzzles and practical riddles are a trademark of the early Resident Evil canon and Resident Evil Zero is not an exception to this. The practical puzzles in Resident Evil Zero were not as complex as puzzle games and other more difficult games, but as a part of the overall game, the mental challenge, albeit small, added a depth that makes the game a great experience. The mental challenge offsets the horrendous combat which plagues the game, and really is essential to the Resident Evil experience. The puzzles force the player to think, and not just simply engage with the game but think about it and commit it to memory. Whenever you are stuck, you are forced to explore and engage with the environment in a deeper way. The mental challenges make Resident Evil Zero and the series itself stand out as a bulwark of the survival horror genre.
Resident Evil Zero is similar to early Resident Evil games in that it has a basic and frustrating combat system. The combat system in Resident Evil Zero is as a rudimentary third person shooter, but frustratingly reminiscent of the original Resident Evil and its slow point and shoot system. The system is restrictive and frigid, allowing little control and no fluidity. The combat mechanics are limited to literally maintaining the aiming stance and then shooting. This redundant system allows no input of skill or precision in combat.
The infuriation felt from the blunt combat system is exacerbated by poor camera angles. The camera angles in Resident Evil Zero are used for the purpose of displaying or showcasing the dark setting. Additionally, the camera shots are more cinematic in nature and are used for establishing tension or horror. The camera angles add to the cinematic experience, but it often leaves the character in an awkward space and with a vision deficit. At times you can be attacked and not even see your enemy, this is ridiculous and frustrating and reduces the sombre and serious tone of the game. The combat is rigid and frustrating and the camera angles are blinding. These two archaic mechanics are remnants of the Gamecube version of the game, and should have been remastered away or at the very least changed.
The high definition remastering of Resident Evil Zero retains some outdated aspects from the original game, but the most outrageous and frustrating of these is the transitions between areas. It may appear to be a small aspect, but it can grow to be incredibly frustrating and slow down the progression and stop any fluidity of the game. Seeing a first person animation of moving up the stairs or of opening a door is not interesting and distracts from the experience of the game. These animations may be nostalgic, but I don’t particularly want to remember the worst elements of the original game.
Resident Evil Zero was a great game for its time, and Resident Evil Zero HD Remastered attempts to bring this game to this generation. It succeeds but also fails in many ways. While the HD remaster improves the graphics that the game relies upon to establish a grim aesthetic, it fails to utilise the capability of PS4 and Xbox One, which is a let down. The game still pulls the player into a really dark and grim world though, to the game’s credit. The practical puzzles enhance Resident Evil Zero and offer a challenge that compensate for the uninspiring vanilla combat. The game itself was well rounded for its time in 2002, but this remastered version failed to fix problems and simply ignored them, whether for nostalgia’s sake or from bad design. As such, Resident Evil Zero is a great game and intense horror experience as well as a nostalgia trip., but far from a perfect experience.