Resident Evil 0 HD, now thirteen years removed from the original GameCube release, seldom suffers for its experimentation. I could point fingers at the item management system (and will convey its faults and fruits shortly), but Resident Evil 0 also pioneered the partner feature that would define ensuing Resident Evils. Capcom made the characters likable ‒ not dimwits or one-dimensional rookies ‒ and picked people’s brains during obtuse puzzles. The set dressing produced as many spine tingles as the original Resident Evil, yet critics grieved over franchise fatigue. Resident Evil 0 (and thus Resident Evil 0 HD) ‒ endures as the series’ dark horse.
Can I convince you otherwise?
Resident Evil 0 HD contains one of the strongest starts for a Resident Evil game, perhaps more than Resident Evil 4. A search for the felon Billy Coen endangers Rebecca Chambers and her team when she discovers an immobilized train in Raccoon Forest. Avoiding specifics, the train soon resumes its locomotion, requiring Billy and Rebecca to pool resources when the undead walk the carriage halls. This train sequence is a tutorial, getting players accustomed to the new partner mechanic. Better yet, it does so with linear fashion. Resident Evil’s maze-like mansion overwhelms first-timers with archaically locked doors. Resident Evil 0 HD changes the scenery, too, but aboard the Ecliptic Express, it is impossible to become disoriented.
Unless prohibited, players switch characters to rescue one another or solve elaborate puzzles. While I should question the practicality of sealing a laboratory behind three stone tablets, for example, the riddles offer a superb mental workout. What’s more, Rebecca’s medical backdrop allows her to combine herbs and chemicals, and Billy’s brawn grants him more health and the ability to push large objects. Using their strengths seems daunting ‒ the heroes part ways and scout separate rooms periodically ‒ but triumphing over the monsters and brainteasers is more rewarding for it. The AI follows or halts on command, attacking enemies or hoarding ammo.
Writing that last sentence gives me flashbacks to Sheva’s wasteful practices in Resident Evil 5, and yet Capcom had introduced a more sensible partner nine years prior. Ordering Rebecca or Billy to shadow you doubles your available inventory space, but exchanging items pauses the game and does not require the computer to finish the transaction. While the difference sounds insignificant, accessing menus to freeze the action and analyze my equipment saved my sanity during a couple conundrums.
Resident Evil 0 HD also ditches item boxes from the initial Resident Evil trilogy, where players stored important gizmos and ammunition for later. Objects then transferred between crates, so you only needed to retrace your steps to the nearest container to retrieve cranks, emblems, or keys. Resident Evil 0 chooses to be unique. Neither on the train, nor in the training facility and beyond do Rebecca and Billy encounter an item box. Players drop their possessions instead, in any room they choose.
The protagonist possess a mere twelve inventory slots combined, however, sometimes asking players to prioritize first aid sprays or ammo for their favorite gun. The circumstances are made worse by the puzzles. Because you cannot deposit valuables in an item box, you must return to the floor where you discarded a statue or key, locate it among a mass of loot, then run back. I recommend keeping a guide handy; I’ve mistakenly gifted the right tool to the wrong person for future riddles.
The whole two-inventories, one-puzzle-solution situation is only a concern for first playthroughs, mind you, but even Resident Evil 0 HD is not that heartless. The game labels all the items you interact with on the map, puzzle pieces included, to make their retrieval easier; it minimizes backtracking woes, since previous Resident Evils prevented you from leaving items behind or destroyed them … forever. Dumped your shotgun shells on accident? Oops. In most cases, you had more to juggle than circus performers, shuffling herbs or bullets between the backpack and MacGuffin box.
In Resident Evil 0 and this remaster, keeping track of my stock was never a problem; the ink ribbons were. Limited-use saves spike my blood pressure, so I bookmarked each ink ribbon’s position beforehand to ensure I amassed plenty. For people unfamiliar with ink ribbons, they are the source of your save files ‒ your saving grace, if you will ‒ since Resident Evil 0 HD lacks a checkpoint system. You create saves at typewriters, and death means an inescapable reload to combat the same monster-laden corridors again.
I can imagine the comments now.
“This is trash.”
“I don’t want to replay more than five minutes of a game ever!”
Substitute broken English where you will, but Resident Evil 0’s save system gets am unjust rap. With the exception of Hunters, death does not visit via out-of-nowhere bullshit. An early chess puzzle comes to mind. Move the wrong life-size piece and toxins flood the room. What did we determine? Push another pawn (specifically the king) next time. Roguelikes, even the oft-lauded Dark Souls, erase hours of character growth or narrative headway for the teensiest of errors. Resident Evil 0 poses a fair challenge by most estimates.
The puzzles remain untouched in Resident Evil 0 HD. If you recall the correct place to put the demon and angel statues, or the proper order to light the animal torches in, you will breeze through the game. As your bonus, finishing the campaign once unlocks Wesker mode. Wesker mode puts the fun first, swapping out Billy for Albert Wesker’s superspeed and non-canonical optic blasts. His eye powers, by the way, blow minds. Wesker lowers his shades, charges an energy pulse, and detonates all the undead heads within range. His glares even mince bosses, but I wish Capcom went the extra mile and dubbed Wesker’s voice over Billy’s.
For newcomers, enjoy the atmosphere. I miss the unease of walking into a room blind, unsure what failed experiments wait beyond the frame. Modern Resident Evils adhere to their action moments, and fans still revere the rotten canines and Crimson Heads of the original. I loathe Resident Evil 0’s feral primates and leech men more. Their unsettling agility qualifies them as a nightmare for one hero to fight, though the new control scheme alleviates some angst.
The tank controls that preceded Resident Evil 4 were a boss fight in their own right. If enemies trapped you in a corner, you were better off signing the funeral papers yourself. Close combat sucked thanks to the infinitely shifting camera angles. To lead Billy or Rebecca now, push the analog stick in the direction you want to go. Easy. The modern tweaks allow players to bait out zombie lunges and skirt by them reliably ‒ a vital tactic for ammo conservation. For purists, the classic controls did weather the remastering process; they are a menu toggle away.
Although the same touch-ups apply to the in-game aspect ratios, selecting widescreen is an afterthought in light of Resident Evil 0’s HD upgrade. What’s old is new again, since Capcom renovated the pre-rendered backgrounds and character models to meet 1080p standards. The uncanny valley between the two no longer exists, and the camera always picks an ideal view to show off the ambient lighting. Capcom even cleaned up the text to make it legible. I considered putting the PS4’s sharing features to the test, except the developers did all the visual legwork. Taking screenshots would almost plagiarize their talent.
The CG cutscenes, however, remain identical to the GameCube version. Perhaps Capcom lost access to those video files. That cannot make up for fact that a clay-faced Birkin and Wesker seem less attractive than a polygonal Final Fantasy game. Resident Evil 0 HD mutilates these scenes, considering the improved sound design. Far-off footsteps and faint moans taunted my imagination in 2002’s Resident Evil 0, but add some HD and those surround sound whispers blanket my body in goosebumps. Having erased the initial zombie placements from memory, I anticipated attacks around every corner, thoughts of bloodied iron maidens or leeches teasing torture or worse.
It helps that nothing like Resident Evil 0 HD exists anymore, particularly on a professional level. Horror games still feast on whatever scraps Amnesia: The Dark Descent or Resident Evil 4 dropped, resorting to a rubbish flashlight, over-the-shoulder perspective, or untold amounts of obnoxious walking to increase suspense. While Resident Evil 0 HD is not immune to that last complaint, backtracking fulfills a purpose: to commit surroundings to memory, for gameplay and nostalgia’s sake.
That also means memorizing one of the franchise’s worst villains to date. Wesker ultimately gained superhuman speed. The patchwork Nemesis struck fear into tween hearts, pursuing Jill through Raccoon City. James Marcus, Resident Evil 0’s antagonist, *drumroll please* controls leeches that somehow masquerade as humans. Riveting. His white-robed appearance causes peals of laughter, not terror, and his origins are the antonym of “novel.” Umbrella betrayed you and you want revenge, Marcus? Take a number, get in line.
The only tears I will shed are for the people that think Resident Evil 0 HD is too obsessed with primitive designs to be worth an investment. When fans mention old-school Resident Evil, they mean Resident Evil 0, its progenitors, and their water-cooler highlights ‒ namely, parsing the clever puzzles, attempting knife-only runs, or sidestepping a fatal Hunter lariat outside a save room door. Resident Evil 0 HD, even now, might not overshadow Resident Evil‘s remaster, but like a second life granted to the series’ zombies, this classic deserves another chance.
This review is based on the PS4 version, which we were provided.
Resident Evil 0 HD is a relic of the period before Amnesia’s helpless protagonists and Resident Evil 4’s over-the-shoulder camera. But that makes it an exotic history lesson for horror developers. It takes the right sound cues, splendid visual framing, and one mechanic that most people hate (i.e., inventory management) to produce a game this timeless.