With the remake of Resident Evil 2 looming in the not-too-distant future, I officially kicked off my retrospective series run of Resident Evil (Every Monday night on 4PP.tv). Having played the demo at E3, I figured this would be a perfect time to revisit this franchise that I adore and collect my thoughts about its history as Capcom continues to push the series in exciting new directions.
For the purposes of this series run, I decided to tackle the games in order of story placement because I (like a crazy person) have always cared about the lore; as sloppy and uneven as it may be. For that reason, I started with Resident Evil Zero, a game that is often overlooked by those looking to play a classic Resident Evil because of it’s tedious approach to inventory management. With that said, the game definitely has merit and exemplifies the formula that made Resident Evil a household name in the first place.
For a game that was originally destined for release on the Nintendo 64, I was super thrilled to see Capcom piggyback off of the success of Resident Evil Remake and give the game a makeover from top to bottom before it released on the gamecube back in 2002. Despite the visual upgrade, it’s hard to ignore the atrocious writing and voice acting that feels like it wasn’t given the same upgrade treatment before making the jump to newer hardware. It’s a noticeable dip in presentation quality for the series that isn’t entirely surprising when you realize Shinji Mikami, the creator of Resident Evil, had very little involvement in the project. With that said, the game is ambitious and unique in ways that I have come to expect from a core entry in the series.
Most notably, the game took some big risks with resource management by giving the player the ability to switch between two characters on the fly and then ditching the item boxes that the series is known for in favor of a more realistic approach where items remain exactly where they are dropped. Capcom basically took this core element of the franchise to its logical extreme. It sounds good on paper and allows for some interesting puzzle solving scenarios but after several hours of playtime, it inevitably leads to frustration and serves as padding on an otherwise straight forward experience. I frequently found myself spread just a little too thin (even for a Survival Horror game) thanks to a noticeable lack of health items and several enemies with just a little too much range and mobility for the tight spaces and forced camera perspectives (i’m looking at you leech men and zombie monkeys!) that the series is known for. Of course, that isn’t uncommon for the series or the genre but I found the execution in this game to be a bit sloppier than most other games in the series.
The decision to return to the beginning of the franchise and add some backstory and context could have been great if the execution and the writing was better. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty ridiculous, and at times, cringy chapter in the franchise. To make matters worse, the game quickly abandons the Train setting that was featured in almost all of it’s marketing in favor of a much less inspired backdrop. Looking back on it, I think I would have preferred a much shorter game if it meant spending more time on the train and much less time in the Umbrella training facility.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. I do genuinely enjoy this game for the risks it takes even if they don’t all pay off. The atmosphere borrows heavily from Resident Evil remake which went a LONG way in elevating the experience and distracting me from the areas where it was lacking. Switching between characters on the fly, even at times when they were in completely different parts of the map, is still great and allows for some fun game design flourishes. The persistent inventory management element is novel and you could tell Capcom was starting to show interest in experimentation with this aspect of the series; a risk that would eventually bare fruit in the excellent Resident Evil 4 that would release a few years later.
I’m glad I got this game out of the way first. I think it is one of the few games in the series that probably didn’t age as gracefully as its peers. It’s also without a doubt, the hardest entry in the franchise thanks to the major changes I mentioned previously. Despite all that, it retains the core Resident Evil DNA which is something I consider incredibly important regardless of how much Capcom decides to experiment from game to game. In fact, I would I call experimentation a core component of this entire franchise and something I expect every time a new game is released. Resident Evil Zero embodies that very concept perfectly for better or worse.
Next Up: The next game in my series run will be Resident Evil Remake; a game I would call one of the best remakes ever made. Tune in Sunday, July 8th at 9PM (CST) on 4PP.tv to join me as I get started. I will also be streaming on Monday, July 9th after we record an episode of 4Player Plus. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on Resident Evil 0 in the comments below! I will continue to respond to all comments related to this series run!