After the success of last year's Resident Evil HD Remaster comes Resident Evil 0 HD. It's a prequel to the game in a series, that for the longest time, codified the horror genre as we know it. And while it might not have the same sense of uneasiness and tension that typified the first game, it's well worth playing all the same.
Resident Evil 0 HD starts off much like a slasher flick. Except a summer vacation home is replaced with a train, a bunch of naive teens is substituted with special operatives, and a serial killer with a slew of zombies. It's has a corny, almost satirical feel to the proceedings not too dissimilar to B-grade horror flicks. The overall tone harkens back to a time when the horror genre didn't take it too seriously.
The low rent vibe extends to the level design as well. It's rare to find yourself squared up against legions of the newly contaminated. Instead, interactions are limited to just a few enemies on screen at best. With ammo being scarce as it is and limitations on the number of weapons you can carry, the game feels pared down compared to Resident Evil 4 or its spiritual successor, The Evil Within. Horror junkies would be right at home with the approach while first-timers get to experience a now extinct portrayal of horror where less is indeed more.
It doesn't stop here. There's a return to conventions the modern gamer might find preposterous, such as the game moving into first-person view when you open a door or go up a flight of stairs and a save system that requires you to find typewriters and ribbons to record your progress. In an age where games pride themselves on the ability to let you jump in and out of them at a moment's notice, the adherence to old school design is charming and adds to an already atmospheric game.
Although less is more, the one area where Resident Evil 0 HD is generous in is the number of characters at your disposal. You control Rebecca Chambers a field medic and special operative and Billy Coen, an ex-marine and convict on the run. Both characters have unique strengths and weaknesses. Rebecca can combine items such as herbs to make potent additions to your arsenal but she has lower defence. while Billy can take more damage but can't craft items. From time to time you'll switch between them, useful for solving the game's many intricate puzzles.
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Doubling the character count also doubles your inventory. Much like Resident Evil HD Remaster, true horror does not lie in squaring off against a towering mollusc-like creature of slime and bones, rather by ensuring you can carry the necessary keys and health sprays without having to backtrack. What you can carry is as limited as ever but the ability to swap guns and typewriter ribbons (a necessity to save your progress) between Rebecca and Billy makes all the difference. Character switching was a great concept when the game first released and it's still just as solid this time around. It makes us wonder why more horror games didn't adopt such a feature.
On the topic of backtracking, there's a fair share of it in Resident Evil 0 HD. You'll find yourself revisiting old locales ever so often. It never feels monotonous thanks to the fantastic amount of detail put into the game's backdrops. Small things like broken bottles and messy suitcases go a long way it making the claustrophobic confines of the game a whole lot more immersive than they should.
The controls have received a much needed modern day rehaul. You could play it with the traditional "tank" controls of the series - something that was dropped completely from Resident Evil 6. This control scheme allowed you to either move, or turn - something that was necessitated with a fixed camera system that changed perspectives because of character movement.
This is there in the remaster as well, so you have to stop, then turn, and then move back or forward. Some people will appreciate the authenticity and the added tension these controls create, but we were pleased to see that a modern control scheme that lets you move and turn at the same time using the analog sticks is also there in the options, and it makes the game much more accessible, especially to a newer audience. However it isn't perfect. If you're playing with a controller, you'll notice that firing a weapon demands you to press a button. In an age where triggers usually let you shoot guns, it's an odd choice. And while you can change your control scheme, it won't let you use triggers to dish out lead.
And this isn't all, as the name implies, Resident Evil 0 HD has received a visual overhaul. From the shambling undead to blood splattered walls, every single inch of the game has been spruced up. Safe to say it looks like one of the better remasters this generation.
Although it's a treat to look at for most part, the cut-scenes - videos created using in-game assets, looks just like it was on the GameCube- the console on which it originally released. It sticks out as a sore thumb compared to the rest of the game.
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Clocking in around 10 to 12 hours, Resident Evil 0 HD gives you a reason to come back with Wesker mode. When you finish it the first time you can play as series villain Wesker, pummelling your way through most monsters in your path. A nice way to add some replayability.
If you have played a Resident Evil game before or are a complete newbie to the series, there's enough of a reason for you to check Resident Evil 0 HD out. It's a good starting point for newcomers while managing to retain a host of systems and conventions to keep old-timers satiated.
Rating (out of 10): 9
We played a review copy of Resident Evil 0 HD on the PC. The game is available on the PC for Rs. 1,499, and Rs. 2,499 for the PS4 and Xbox One at retail (which includes Resident Evil HD Remaster). It's also available standalone digitally for Rs. 1,199 on Windows PC, Rs. 1,664 on the PS4 and Rs. 1,640 on the Xbox One.