Resident Evil Zero HD is the re-release of the 2002 Gamecube release of the same name. It is a prequel to the original Resident Evil, which also got a HD release recently. Since Resident Evil Zero's initial release, it has also been re-released on the Wii under the name Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil Zero. Resident Evil Zero HD is releasing for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC and is being published and developed by Capcom.
In Resident Evil Zero HD, you follow the story of the S.T.A.R.S Bravo team sent to investigate a series of cannibalistic murders in the Arklay mountains near Raccoon City. Bravo team was sent in prior to the insertion of the Alpha team who are the focus of the original Resident Evil. You get to take control of Rebecca Chambers, a new recruit of Bravo team, and Billy Coen, a soldier on the run from his war crimes. On the way to the mountains, Bravo team finds Billy Coen's prisoner transport flipped and his escorts dead. Then, they stumble upon the Ecliptic Express, a train owned by the Umbrella Corporation which has been attacked. The story of Resident Evil Zero brings you to the origin of everything in the zombie filled universe, and it's a fun story to let yourself get lost in. It's a great experience to take a step back from a lot of the recent "blockbuster" Resident Evil releases like 5 and 6. This game is more about the story and the experience rather than the number of zombie head shots or explosions that occur. Billy's character is fleshed out quite well, but we don't learn much about Rebecca other than her rookie status. Of course, that's a lot more development than we see for any of the rest of Bravo team though. Instead of character development, this tale develops an understanding of the original incident that spawned the Resident Evil series.
Resident Evil Zero has the classic Resident Evil tank controls as well as fixed view camera angles, but luckily these can be changed in the HD release. This primarily means that your character moves in relation to the camera instead of their own body, but this can also lead to issues transitioning from scene to scene where it's sometimes difficult to keep walking in the right direction once the camera changes. Aside from some movement control issues the rest of the controls work well. There are five different presets control schemes from the original to ones that might be more familiar to players of current shooters. Each person might need to spend a bit of time in the menus to figure out which best suits them, but all are quite easy to get a handle on.
The game's item management will pose a challenge, as players have to decide what is worth keeping in each of their character's six slot inventory and what is better left behind. That might seem reasonable at the start of the game, but you quickly realize that this isn't enough space when you have a handgun and ammo taking up a third of your storage. It's worth noting that some of the items from your inventory that you need to interact with can be quite finicky. Keys will automatically be used to unlock doors, but objects like swipe cards need to be selected from your inventory while you're already positioned exactly where the game expects you to be. Just don't be discouraged if an item doesn't work the first time!
The different difficulty levels found in Resident Evil Zero HD have quite a learning curve to them. If you play the game on easy, you can expect it to be about the puzzles more than anything else. You will still have some tough fights, but standing in place and tanking a boss is a totally viable strategy. For the normal mode, you really need to know where you're going, what you're doing, and what you can avoid to conserve ammo. This is the proper Resident Evil mix of tense action, item management, and puzzle solving. The Hard mode is for those who want a good punishment, and you can expect to spend more time running from zombies than engaging.
Once you have completed the main story, you get access to a couple of bonus modes. The first of these, Leech Hunter, returns from the original game. In this mode, you will get full access to the Umbrella Research Center and have to go from room to room killing as many leeches as possible. Based on how many you are able to kill before you die, you will be rewarded with perks for the base game. These rewards can range from unlimited Handgun ammo, to a Magnum in the early game all the way up to unlimited ammo for every weapon. This is a fun way to lengthen the game as you go in trying to beat your previous score. In this mode, zombies also have more health so good luck taking on as many as you can. Wesker Mode is the other bonus mode, and it's new for this release. In this mode, you play through the full story but get to replace Billy with a powered up Wesker from later on in the Resident Evil games. Wesker has the same bonuses as Billy, but you also have a sprint ability that allows you to cross any room in no time. You also have an ocular blast that will deal heavy damage and cause the heads of all zombies in its range to explode. This allows you to run through the story again at a more lighthearted pace with such a powerful character to play as.
For a 13 year old game, this HD remake does Resident Evil Zero wonders. The models and textures have all been sharpened, yet they retain the same feel. This is one of those games where the HD remake looks exactly like you remember the game looking when you used to love playing it on the Gamecube. However, it's easy to see just how much nicer the new version is when you put them side by side. One interesting side effect of sharpening up these assets is the somewhat waxy look that a lot of the characters get. You won't be able to notice it much during gameplay, but it's pretty obvious once you get into a cutscene. This HD remake also formats the game into a 16:9 aspect ratio, but also supports a classic 4:3 ratio for those who prefer it.
The sound design for Resident Evil Zero HD does an incredible job of mixing with the atmosphere of the game. The audio that you will hear primarily as you walk through the game is of various ambient effects like the rain outside the train and mansion. This can add to the sense of eeriness as your game quickly transitions from near silence to the moans of zombies when you enter a room. It also gives the game a sense of realism that all you can hear as you move around is the echoes of your footprints against the floors.
Resident Evil Zero HD takes us back to before the mansion incident of Resident Evil. It not only fills in some holes in the timeline, but also creates a fun experience full of puzzles and tense fights against an undead foe. Whether you've played it in the past or are new to the franchise and want to experience it for the first time, this is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Resident Evil Zero HD was reviewed with a copy provided to us by Capcom and was played on Xbox One. It is also available on PC, PS3, PS4, and Xbox 360. It is also available bundled with Resident Evil HD in the Resident Evil Origins Collection.