Resident Evil 0 marked an interesting point in series, both for me and for the survival horror genre as a whole. I loved the older Resident Evil games growing up; in fact Resident Evil 2 and the Gamecube remake of the first game are among some of my favorites of all time. Resident Evil 0 was when I started to lose interest in survival horror games, and while I remember certain sections of the game, as a whole the experience is kind of blurry to me. With the new remaster, I decided to give the game another chance, and at the very least see if the new high definition graphics could clear up my memory.
The new remaster features two major additions to the game: touched-up graphics, and a new control scheme. I briefly touched the Wii version of Resident Evil 0, which I remember looking pretty bad on my TV and only displaying in the 4:3 aspect ratio, so the changes made to make the game look great at 16:9 are very much appreciated. When it came out, Resident Evil 0 was a pretty impressive looking game, with its main draw being how great the train section looked. Replaying the section in the remaster, all of the little details of the train stood out to me. From being able to see the rainy night speeding by outside the windows to the objects rolling around on various tables, there’s a lot of motion in the backgrounds, which I always thought was impressive in a genre known for pre-rendered static areas. The game looks as good as I remember it looking back on the Gamecube, which is definitely a compliment to the remaster.
I can’t say I’m as fond of the controls. Growing up with tank controls, I’ve never had an issue with them and I would normally want to keep them. I can appreciate that not everyone likes them, though, so I thought I would take a step into modern day and try them out. They’re intuitive at first, you hit the direction on your analog stick and your character will move in that direction.
Resident Evil 0 isn’t really built for these kinds of controls, however, and as a result I found myself accidentally moving back and forth between camera angles as the direction I was supposed to be holding needed to change since my character was now facing things from a different perspective. There’s one nasty hallway in particular where this happened to me at the Training Facility where I was trying to run away from a zombie only for the direction to change and end up with me running directly into it. With tank controls you always have the assurance that holding forward will make your character go forward in the direction they’re facing, no matter what the camera angle is, with the new controls not so much. I will say that the controls mess with the game balance a lot less than they did for the Resident Evil Remaster that came out last year. Resident Evil 0 likes to throw a lot of enemies at you in narrow hallways without a lot of maneuverability, so it’s much harder to weave past them with easier controls compared to Resident Evil 1.
While the remastered graphics and additional control scheme are all well and good, little has been altered from the core experience, which is too bad. As I began to make progress in Resident Evil 0, everything came flooding back to me. There are no item boxes in this one, instead replaced by a mechanic where you just drop items on the ground. Things can become messy very quickly, and the absolute worst feeling is dropping a key item somewhere and not remembering which room you put it in. An early puzzle requires you to combine two emblems in order to open a suitcase for a passkey, and by the time I put two and two together to realize that I was supposed to combine those items with the suitcase, I realized I had dropped one of the items somewhere a long time ago. I had to scour about half of the map before I finally found where I left it, only to realize I had to drop something else in order to pick it up to combine it with the suitcase, requiring me to fool around with my inventory even more.
The item system in Resident Evil 0 creates tons of little inconveniences like these that only build and get more complicated as the game goes on. Ultimately your goal is to figure out an ideal room to drop things in each map, preferably a room that you know for a fact you will be passing by multiple times. The problem is you can only really figure these rooms out after you’ve already played the section, as otherwise you’re basically taking a guess, and the only section where this kind of area is really intuitive is the main hall of the Training Facility Mansion. Later maps turn into what are essentially straight lines with no real hub area, making it mandatory to constantly retrace your steps to pick up items. This tedium is only extrapolated when you have to split your characters up, and you have to just hope you brought the right items to the right place.
At this point in the series, the developers likely made so many of these survival horror games that they felt the need to increase the difficulty, but I think they focused on the wrong things. The Resident Evil Remake made the game more difficult by focusing on the creatures, giving you a self-imposed time-limit with the Crimson Heads and adding in the tension of being stalked by Lisa Trevor. Instead of that, Resident Evil 0 focuses on the most tedious aspects of the genre and the game is a pain to play as a result.
With all that said, Resident Evil 0 still has its moments. The opening train section is a pretty great introduction with a lot of interesting scenarios like having to climb along its roof and having to stop it from crashing at the end. The leeches are a genuinely creepy enemy and the first time you see a zombie that doesn’t look quite right only for it to explode into leeches is horrifying. Resident Evil 0 isn’t horrible by any means, but it’s probably my least favorite of the mainline Resident Evil games, and the trip down memory lane thanks to the remaster didn’t do much to change my opinion.
Food for Thought:
My favorite thing about Resident Evil 0 that I totally forgot about was that it mentions the events of Resident Evil Survivor in the introduction. I didn’t think Survivor was supposed to be canonical to the series, but the narrator mentions it in the same breath as Raccoon City!