Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster review

The Resident Evil series’ evolution towards action hasn’t gone down well with long-time fans who enjoyed the much slower pace and scarier atmosphere of the original titles. Fortunately, however, the Nintendo Gamecube gave rise to the reincarnation of that original design philosophy, as well as the re-emergence of the original Resident Evil, complete with fancy new visuals. Further still, the success of that remake gave birth to a prequel of similar design, Resident Evil Zero, and much like the series titular original Gamecube remake, Zero has also received the HD treatment to resurface all these years later on the Xbox One. And once again, just like Resident Evil HD, Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster is fantastic.

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Resident Evil Zero, like its HD remake predecessor, has its sights firmly on fans of the early Resident Evil titles. This is a puzzle game foremost, one with a superbly creepy atmosphere and oodles of backtracking. As such its slow pace and often illogical puzzle sequences aren’t going to appeal to the wider audience. However, this is what series fans fell in love with back in the days of yore, and Zero’s return to that kind of Resident Evil experience is wonderfully in sync with the original. It is, however, not scary in the slightest, the monsters look gruesome and are dangerous enough to send you to a game over screen swiftly; meanwhile the fixed camera angles make moving around the gothic architecture all the more tense, but it lacks that scare factor of the more successful modern horror titles such as Outcast and Alien Isolation.

Instead Resident Evil Zero is creepy and intriguing, which is particularly well suited to puzzle solving. Enemies are more a puzzle to figure out than a terrifying presence, and juggling inventory management, ammo conservation, and actually figuring out the puzzles to make progress is interesting and rewarding. In fact Zero’s companion system and item management is significantly improved over the previous title, and arguably better than any in the series. Items can now be put down, wherever, allowing you to pick up what you need currently and temporarily discard anything else without having to hunt down a box to put them in. It makes inventory management far less frustrating, and yet your inventory is small enough still to keep managing it a challenge.

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Resident Evil Zero also introduces a permanent companion, with convict Billy joining protagonist S.T.A.R.S rookie Rebecca throughout the adventure. This allows for inventory sharing and new two-person puzzles which all works extremely well without compromising the eerie, solitary experience. This is achieved by often having the two separated by a locked lock or other obstacle, meaning each need to perform their own independent searches and actions to aid the other who is just out of reach. It’s a great way to make the predictable Resident Evil puzzles fresh again, and thanks to a practically instant switch between the characters at the press of a button, it controls and performs smoothly.

There is, however, a pretty significant barrier to the enjoyment Resident Evil Zero ultimately provides: the storytelling and dialogue are appalling. Of course, Resident Evil aficionados know what to expect, especially of an older title like this, but even fans are likely to find their nostalgia damaged slightly on hearing the first few line of dialogue and the first hour or so of story. It’s badly written and poorly setup, however, there’s still that spark of corny, B-movie charm that does enough to keep you playing until the end.

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Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster has been enhanced with a new control system that feels far more responsive than the original system, and makes movement and combat very intuitive and flowing. However, for diehard fans of the original system you can opt for that in the options. The same goes for the aspect ratio, which can be played widescreen or the original 4:3. Audio and visual enhancements are much in line with the HD remastering of the previous title, with the textures seeing an upgrade and the harder edges smoothed out, with the stand out improvement being the lighting, which looks spectacular. Monsters also steal the show, looking wonderfully gruesome.

Indeed, Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster improves on a classic in precisely the right way to make it feel at home on the Xbox One. They simply don’t make horror titles like this anymore, largely because they aren’t scary in this form, but they still hold the ability to entertain with their puzzles and fascinatingly mutated monsters. It take a bit of perseverance in the beginning to get over the terrible voice acting and the lines they spit out, and the story isn’t great on its own merit, however, as part of the larger Resident Evil narrative it’s an important chapter that’s highly enjoyable to play.

Thanks to Xbox and Capcom for their support.

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