Greetings, and welcome back fellow Resident Evil fans, to Part 2 of my admittedly long-winded review of the HD “remake” of the Survival Horror classic, Resident Evil: Zero. Last time I went into detail concerning the game plot and its relation to Resident Evil mythos as a whole. This time I will be focusing on the mechanics as well as what Capcom and the team behind Zero have done to spruce up this aging creeper and usher it into the next gen console era. As I recall last time I mentioned the ability to drop objects anywhere. This time we're going to take a look at the Partner Zapping System.
The “prototype” idea for this can be traced back actually to Resident Evil 2. While making the original Resident Evil director/ creator Shinji Mikami was always unhappy with the way the two different scenarios where incongruent with each other. So, when he began developing Resident Evil 2, (At this point still Resident Evil 1.5 - But that is a tale for another time…), he and the development team started to work on an idea he called the “Zapping Feature”. This was the feature where whatever you did in Scenario A would somehow effect Scenario B. In the case of Resident Evil 2 this was simple and restricted to carry over puzzles, (The dual finger print lock), or which character you wanted to leave what for, (Such as the MAC-11 and the Side Pack in the Armory Locker). Mikami would reuse this idea in Resident Evil-CODE: Veronica again, but with a twist – this time, albeit very briefly, you could transfer items from one character (Chris) to another (Claire) via the Item Box.
When Mikami and team began work on Zero this was something they wanted to push to the limit with the ability to switch characters on the fly. The cart-based system of the N64 allowed them to do this without the load lag that would have been present in the disk drive consoles of the time. However, memory limitations put Zero in Development Hell until it was moved to the Game Cube where, even then, programmers had to utilize clever little tricks to pull it off on the disk based ‘Cube. Because of that the switch over from Rebecca to Billy in the original version always had a drag when it was done on the fly. But if you did the switch in the Item Screen the transition was seamless. Thankfully, due to the power of the new generation of game systems this problem is almost* completely non-existent in the HD version. (*I say ‘almost’ because in my first play through the game froze once in the switch-over. But it was only for a second and thankfully during a more subdued point in the story.) Of course the biggest innovation to this feature is that you will need to coordinate your two characters to solve certain puzzles such as activating twin locks or ferrying items between locales via a dumb-waiter.
Like all Resident Evil games each character has strengths and weaknesses of their own. Billy, like most male characters, can take more of a beating than waif Rebecca. He’s also a better; quicker shot given his extensive military background where as Rebecca is slow on the draw and will only score a headshot once in a Blue Moon. However, Rebecca can craft meds and chemicals, (which are needed at certain points to complete puzzles), and because of her diminutive stature she is the only one that can use the grapple gun and fit into small spaces Billy can’t reach.
There are also points in the game where you will be cut off from your partner. At one point Billy is attacked by an Eliminator BOW and is then MIA for a long stretch and you must soldier on with Rebecca alone. This makes such things as the first confrontation with the Proto-Tyrant “fun” to say the least. Thankfully the designers have left an array of weapons for you to use and while ammo is never at the level to be found in say Resident Evil 5, you rarely have to sweat a lack of bullets. One feature you must watch though is how much of a loose cannon your AI controlled partner can be in battle. The ammo they use is at full impact but it is also counted in your supplies. So if left unchecked, they will burn through all the ammo you’ve given them rather quick and then stand there and let themselves get attacked. The alternative to that is to set the AI character to IDLE. But doing that again makes them stand around with their thumb in their butt while you’re doing all the fighting. And in the game your partner’s health is tied to your own. So if they die it’s Game Over.
As far as HD additions go, the development team, (Sans Mikami as he has long since left Capcom), took great pains to give the game itself a really nice face lift. But, for some bizarre reason, they did not extend this make over to the CGI cut scenes as well, which look a bit dated by this point. This isn’t bothersome as much as it is simply confusing. They also added in a Trophy System and few other little extras like costumes. But of course the biggest addition is the all-new Wesker Mode.
Accessed only after you have played the game through once, this mode switches Billy for legendary series villain Albert Wesker and reskins Rebecca with an outfit like Jill’s from RE5 but with spandex leggings instead of pants and glowing red eyes like Wesker’s. Also odd is the fact that you play Wesker again in the form of his RE5/ Matrix Outfit model but his in-story character is dressed in his STARS uniform. To make matters worse, Wesker’s voice is portrayed by two different actors – Voice Originator Richard Waugh in the cut scenes and post-RE4 replacement DC Douglas as the playable Wesker. And you can tell the difference. Waugh’s portrayal of Wesker was always more spot on than DC. Richard was smooth as ice and just as cold with Wesker’s voice. Douglas was always a hambone who butchered the role. Sorry, that’s how I feel.
My biggest disappoint was the apparent lack of effort put into Wesker Mode. Wesker is given two extra in-game abilities. He can do his famous Matrix-style sprint-which takes a minute to get down. And he can do an Uroboros Pulse which will cause enemies heads to explode when discharged. This sounds more fun than it is as it takes a few seconds to charge completely and inflict maximum damage. This leaves you open to attack, especially when dealing with fast enemies like Hunters and Eliminators. Beyond that it’s a straight reskin. That’s all. The CGI cut scenes still feature Billy, but in game dialog scenes are changed to look like Wesker but still speak in Billy’s voice. I was under the impression that Wesker Mode was to be a “dark version” of Zero with new cut scenes, dialog and its own unique-if non canon-story. WTF? It actually reminds me of the Game Shark hack you could do on RE4 to replace Leon with Wesker but without the glitched abilities. And really, exploding heads?! No thrust punches, no leg kicks that bust skulls, no teleport moves? I guess all this stuff went out the window when Capcom decided to keep the games price tag at $19.99.
As it is though, Resident Evil: Zero to my mind still marks the apex of perfection with regards to the classic games in the series. They literally took it as far as they could so it’s fitting that Zero became the swan song for the old guard of the RE series. From Resident Evil 4 onward we would be saddled with the now famous, (or infamous depending on you outlook), over-the-shoulder POV shooter type of games. Now this is not to say that these types of games cannot be scary. They can. Capcom and the post Mikami development teams have had this bad habit of second guessing themselves. In my last review I had worked up in history to the point of RE4’s massive over haul. This was something that would happen again and again in development for future RE games starting with Resident Evil 5. For RE5 the game designers were struck a blow when main series writer Noboru Sugimura died in 2005. The plan had been to utilize the some of the elements from the scrapped “castle” version of RE4 to create the story for 5. With Sugimura’s death they were forced to work from notes in crafting the story.
The original beta version of Resident Evil 5 featured zombies as well as Las Plagas victims now called Majini. But the zombies were scrapped when designers decided to focus more on the Majini, who could stage believable coordinated attacks as opposed to their brainless undead counterparts. Also jettisoned were classic BOWs like Hunters, Web Spinners, Crows and even an upgraded Tyrant near the climax. The main plot point was always to be the confrontation and defeat of Albert Wesker by Chris Redfield. Capcom believed the Wesker story needed to be tied up so the series could “reboot” again and start a new direction. However, they underestimated the character’s appeal and were a bit taken aback by fans shocked reaction to his death. So, when then DLC Lost in Nightmares was created the mention of the hitherto unheard of “sibling” of Albert, Alex Wesker, is further expanded upon to the point we are led to believe Alex is still alive.
Resident Evil 6 took people by surprise because it seemed to come out of nowhere. While it brought back zombies in Leon and Ada’s scenarios as well as a grown-up Sherry Birkin, Chris was saddled with a Gears of War style shooter against Plagas stand-ins, the J’avo. Most confusing was the character of Jake Mueller. Created to appeal to the younger crowd, it was speculated in the beginning that Jake was Alex Wesker. Instead, Jake is revealed to be Albert’s bastard offspring. Wesker always seemed too sociopathic to really have much use for relationships beyond those in the workplace. I can’t see him wining and dining an Estonian peasant girl while working for the Umbrella Information Desk in Europe, and from the tenor of online comments I’ve read a lot of other RE fans couldn’t either. Worst of all, Jake and Sherry’s scenario was again an over actionized shooter. Between a disjointed story with bad plot calls, (An evil Ada Wong clone created by an uber-stalker? Really?), and an over complicated control overhaul that relied more on QT actions than skill, Resident Evil 6 was a bloated mess.
However, between the time of Resident Evil 5 and 6 Capcom decided to branch out and create a new side series called Revelations. It was their intent that Revelations, besides bringing the game to the Nintendo 3DS, would return Resident Evil to its horror roots as opposed to its now action mindset of the main series. They achieved this to a mixed degree and the game got enough praise and sold enough copies to warrant it being ported in HD to the PS3/ Xbox 360/ Wii U. It also warranted a sequel. Resident Evil-Revelations 2.
As a long-time RE fan I can honestly say that Revelations 2 was a true return to form for the series. Scary, creepy and disturbing in spots it finally brought Alex Wesker into the picture, (And toyed enough with her backstory and personality to where she just didn’t seem like Albert in drag) and brought back fan favorites Claire Redfield and Barry Burton as well as balancing the old style of game play with the newer one and returning the Zap Feature seen in Zero with updates and a new tag-team battle system. I’m also not alone in my thoughts on Revelations 2 as it outsold Capcom’s expectations. Which brings us Resident Evil fans to – What’s Next?
Now, a year ago on a different site I reviewed Revelations 2 at the time of its release and in the final post I made some predictions, based on what I’ve seen from this series since 1996, about what to expect in the future. Here is a link to that thread: http://www.campblood.net/forum/index.php?topic=12660.0
Just pay attention to the last part and scuttle the rest. I predicted an HD version of Zero, I also predicted the ground-up remake of Resident Evil 2. And I actually predicted Alex was going to be the villain in Revelations 2 and that “he” was a “she”. I must say I was both surprised and horrified, (And not in the good way), by the announcement of Umbrella Corps, though. I guess Capcom didn’t learn their lesson with Operation: Raccoon Shitty. But I digress. The game we all want to hear about is of course Resident Evil 7. All Capcom has said is a cryptic “Stay Tuned”, (It’s almost as cagey as the way Lionsgate is being with the next Saw film.) But I think Capcom has learned its lesson. I think with Resident Evil 7 you are going to see a return to more straight, in-your-face Survival Horror. It looks to me like Umbrella Corps might be their way of throwing a bone to the action-heads out there, but I honestly don’t see it making Revelations 2 sales. I still say that RE7 is going to be a side-story, with lingering ties to the original/ Umbrella mythology. But a more focused one like what we saw in RE4. And like RE4 I do believe a Wesker will be pulling the strings behind the scenes, hiding behind the face of a now teenage girl. And I think we will be seeing the return of some older characters, like Rebecca and maybe even Billy, who’ve been on ice for a while now. And, my last prediction, Alex Wesker will reveal herself inside sweet innocent Natalia at the end, kill Chris Redfield in revenge for Albert and disappear. Setting the stage for Resident Evil 8. You heard it here first, folks! Place your bets!