21 January 2016

Review: Resident Evil 0 HD

To me Resident Evil 0 has always been the last real Resident Evil. However unpopular the following opinion can be, I think everything went wrong with Resident Evil 4. I can't understand the massive popularity and critical acclaim it's still enjoying as I see nothing more than a shallow and clumsy action game in it, not survival horror.

The follow-up, Resident Evil 5 upped the ante with real "next-gen" graphics and explosive action. The game looks gorgeous even today (and Sheva is hot) but controls, largely untouched from clunky RE4, are dated by now but nevertheless I liked the game for what it was. And it wasn't for survival horror as you can find only little of it.

Resident Evil 6 only revved it up to big Hollywood action movie standards with great production values and spectacular set-pieces. You can even move while shooting and do melee attacks. This great action game enjoys a bad reputation only because it really shouldn't be called Resident Evil. Spin-off series Resident Evil Revelations has echoes of old school but even they rely more on action than exploring and puzzle-solving.

And so we come back full circle to RE0. The original Gamecube version is my series favourite and of my favourite video games of all time and thanks to the new Resident Evil 0 HD, the game is timely as ever. I anticipated the remaster with mixed feelings. While I thought it's great they introduce RE0 to a whole new generation of gamers and consoles (HD remaster is available for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 and PC) I was afraid it might lose some of its charm in crisp 1080p.

It's true the game mechanics might feel outdated but in this age of streamlining everything to almost non-gaming I find it only refreshening. In HD remaster you can choose between alternative analogue controls or classic "tank" controls. The last time I played through original RE0 was in July last year and while I thought it holds up to modern games just as well I must admit the alternative controls are more than welcome.

RE0 introduced partner swapping and exchangeable inventory between the two protagonists. You could also drop items from your inventory to the surroundings for later to pick up again. I can imagine the inventory system can be a nightmare for gamers pampered with things made too easy for them. If Capcom had changed the limited inventory to some kind of infinite model of modern games though it would have thrown the balance of the game out of the window. The intrigue gamesmanship of managing what items you currently need in each given situation is core part of the gameplay.

The game has all hallmarks of a great Resident Evil experience, including controls and inventory controversy. A cheesy story (check) taking likeable heroes (check) to a closed surroundings (check) where they have to navigate through a series of physical or item-based puzzles (check) all the while fending off zombies (check) and hideous mutated creatures (check) culminating in sub and end of level boss fights (check) with limited resources available (check). While S.T.A.R.S rookie medic Rebecca's and falsely convicted felon Billy's voice actors are actually quite good everyone else is hilariously bad (check).

As for my fears regarding HD graphics, they look gorgeous for the most part. Pre-rendered backdrops with animated environmental effects evoke a haunting and tangible stage for Rebecca's and Billy's struggle for survival. Character models and animations have transitioned really great as well and complement the visual flair. It only goes on to show how great the Gamecube original was and indeed when I played it last July I thought I wouldn't have minded if graphics never evolved any further. Most of the remasters don't look half this good.

I bet the majority of modern audience has no problems with Rebecca's pretty looks. It's just I was fond of her Gamecube face. In HD remaster she really is a "doll-face" Billy calls her due to her unnaturally smooth skin (they've even photoshopped her moles and pimples away) and big, gazing eyes surrounded by fake-looking lashes and heavy eyeliner. It's as if she has had too many botox shots for her own good, losing the original innocent looks.

Some of the monsters suffer too from remastering. Centurion for example used to be disgusting and slimy atrocity but in its new and shiny red carapace it looks like a cheap prop from a Sy-Fy channel original.

But all these are minor and external gripes really and more matter of a taste than anything else and don't concern players who never saw and loved the original. In my books Resident Evil 0 HD is a winner, a brilliant addition to once great series as much now as it was upon its original relase. We really had it good back then, didn't we? However, people looking for just cheap and easy thrills are better off with cheap and easy games streamlined to please mass audiences. You have to actually think your actions in RE0 as nothing is spoonfed in its sinister world.


//planeteer J