Friday, 4 March 2016

That's officer Chambers to you!

Resident Evil: Zero

Platform tested: PlayStation 4

I went back. Yes, I delved back into a game I gave three stars. If you've followed my blog I reviewed the Gamecube games a few years back here. Somehow, I felt some strange need to give it a second chance, a sort of re-review. Well I do really like the old style Resident Evil so. This time I learned to ignore or at least not take the story too seriously and seemed to enjoy RE:0 more for it this time around. 

Last years HD remaster release of REmake, where the original background assets were lost forever, forced Capcom to use slightly improved Gamecube backgrounds as source material to upscale them into Full HD. While they did remake some of the rooms entirely with more 3D details like foliage, it looked a little blurry on my huge HDTV. Though, considering what they had as source material, they did a fine job and it ended up looking much cleaner than the Gamecube original. Luckily for Zero though, they have re-rendered all the backgrounds in 1080p and the visual result is a far more rewarding one. Quite impressive in fact, especially for such an old game.

The backgrounds look incredibly sharp and hold up well compared to modern graphics. Just like in REmake HD, the characters are remodelled and look way more detailed than their Gamecube counterparts. Visually Zero is a treat and very pretty upgrade for fans of the original release. Once again you can choose to let the game show the original boxed 4:3 aspect ration, or a "pan and scan" widescreen, which zooms in and moves the camera to follow the character across each background image. I prefer the first option, as I want to see the whole picture and it's more true to the original, however the panning option looks better now as zooming in on the 1080p backgrounds doesn't degrade their visual appearance.

HD upgrades aside though, the game still has it's core problems intact. The same negatives that bothered me first time around resurface on my second playthrough in the remaster. The main story is laughably bad and as such I choose to ignore it entirely this time around. I believe my perception of the game came out better for it. I just can't let it go that it revolves around a white robe wearing guy whom sings opera to mind control leeches. It's just a idiotic and completely ridiculous story that can't be taken seriously in any way.

To think that a prequel to the excellent setting of the first RE game could be such a missed opportunity and destroyed by a so badly written storyline like RE:0 saddens me. They could have made something truly unique here to build the tension up towards the events in the mansion of RE1. The only remotely positive story arch is the interaction and development in the relationship between Rebecca and Billy. Everything else is trash.

The gameplay nuisances are still present too; the kind of pointless one player coop switching between Rebecca and Billy, gives little extra towards something original gameplay wise and ends up being a pointless feature. The randomly designed boss fights that just occur with no tension built or introduction beforehand, leave a lot to be desired. Take for instance a giant scorpion dropping through the roof of a the moving train at the beginning, where did it come from and what on earth placed it there?! Or the part where Rebecca is captivated by a worm like boss, it's an unfair bitch of a battle if you previously placed all the superior weapons and healing items in her inventory. Leaving you stuck with Billy to suffer. I said it before; it's a coop game without the cooperation.

Item management is perhaps the most a flawed idea in the game. Gone are the magic chests that held everything and let you access them in other locations. Instead you are left with cluttering rooms full of items, and if that wasn't enough, there's an annoying limit of them in each room. They could have added a chest option for this remaster, or raised the item limit for eeach room to an infinite number. Maybe added an option to skip the door loading screens while they were at it? I agree the animations build tension for newcomers, but as a frequent RE player I've seen enough opening doors to last me a lifetime. I'm daring to say that the PS4 and Xbox One are more than powerful enough to quickly load up each room.

So it may sound that I actually don't like this game. I've tried a second time to love it, and I do actually like it, but I also hate it's flaws. This HD version looks beautiful, adds the controversial, but in my opinion more enjoyable, 3D movement and has a ton of amazing locations to explore. The train and main mansion are wonderful to explore and admire visually. The factory section with the huge train lift is a great chance to see a location from RE2 in Zeros pretty visuals.

While I mentioned it in my previous blog entry about the Gamecube version, perhaps this game showed the world that the RE series had stalled and needed a drastic change into something different to survive. If that change was a good one or not with the release of RE4, can be discussed from a gameplay standpoint, financially though it was a stroke of genius.

Many years later and a decrease in the popularity of the more action oriented RE games in the main series has brought us to the  point where Capcom are looking aback at what made RE so popular in the first place. Thanks then, to the remaster of REmake last year with it's high sales, then this remaster of Zero, we as customers have changed Capcom's mind that perhaps, yes it is indeed time for more traditional RE games. I believe Capcom actually are moving in that direction of though too, considering they're remaking RE2 as we speak.

Maybe it's this change of mind and rediscovery of RE's roots as a survival horror game that made me more acceptable to some of Zero faults this time around and simply let me enjoy the old style gameplay with camera angles, limited ammo and lots of exploration puzzles thrown in. It's a slower paced, more relaxed game I can lean back in my couch and enjoy. A true statement of how well it's formula holds up as something alternative and interesting in-between modern titles. I give RE:0 an extra star upgrade from my last review, simply because of the excellent remaster job Capcom have done visually and the fact that more recent games like RE6 have left me thinking it's not the worst I've played in the series.



    + Plus points

    • Wonderfully re-rendered backgrounds in 1080p
    • Rebecca and Billy are a nice departure from overused RE characters.
    • The train and mansion are really interesting and visually pretty locations.

    - Minus points

    • One of the weakest RE storylines, with a laughable main bad guy.
    • Controlling two characters feels unnecessary and adds little to the old RE formula.
    • Storing items, with a room per room limit, on the floor is almost a game breaker.

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