|Title||:||Resident Evil 0|
|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
On the outskirts of the small Midwestern town of Raccoon City, an unspeakable terror is about to be unleashed. Rebecca Chambers, the greenest member of the Special Tactics and Rescue Squad (STARS), and Billy Coen, a convicted murderer, must team up to face a legion of zombies — and worse.
Before the mansion… before the outbreak… there was Zero.
Resident Evil 0 (Zero) for GameCube is the latest in Capcom's hallmark survival horror series; it's the first original Resident Evil game in almost three years, and the first ever to appear exclusively on a Nintendo system.
To discover the cause of the mutating virus that's caused such mayhem, players must explore a train, a corporate training facility, and more. Their path will often be obstructed not only by monsters, but also curious puzzles, locked doors, and the like. Exploring the grounds will reveal the items necessary to unblock the way deeper into the mystery.
Characters can hold only so many of these items, though. In previous Resident Evil games, items could be deposited and retrieved from a rare few storage boxes. In Zero, items may be dropped anywhere. Though this system also has its disadvantages, it is overall a convenience to players, allowing them to more readily manage their inventory.
The greatest innovation exhibited in Zero, however, is the "Zapping" system. At almost any point, gamers may switch control between Rebecca and Billy. These two heroes can split up to search different areas, or work together. The computer assumes control of the player's partner, allowing the two characters to fight monsters simultaneously.
The Zapping system is exactly what was needed to make Zero a truly new Resident Evil. Though the series is known for its visual quality and interwoven storylines, the gameplay itself has stagnated somewhat. And while the circumstances in which Zero's heroes find themselves may be no different from previous Resident Evils, at least the approach is new, qualifying Zero as a step in the right direction — or in any direction.
It's not just the software that shows off, but the hardware, too. The GameCube demonstrates its graphical prowess here with the same graphics engine used in the remake of the original Resident Evil, released for GameCube earlier this year. The attention to detail is absolutely astounding. Despite (or due to) the undead denizens, the environments couldn't be livelier. Flickering flames, swinging limbs and handcuffs, rolling bottles, and splattering rain combine with characters that breathe and light sources that cast shadows to create far from static surroundings.
Despite its innovations, Resident Evil Zero is Resident Evil nonetheless, with situations and surroundings that are almost uncomfortably familiar. But its gameplay and graphics are improved over its predecessors, while adding new depth to a plot that has run through the entire series. Zero is just the beginning.
This article is copyright (c) 2002, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 18-Nov-02