Review: Resident Evil Zero (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewed by Ben Sellwood, posted Jun 20, 2019
Played the majority of this series when they originally came out, however I missed this one somehow.
Jun 20, 2019
  • Release Date (NA): May 21, 2019
  • Release Date (EU): May 21, 2019
  • Release Date (JP): May 21, 2019
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Genres: Survival Horror
  • ESRB Rating: Mature
  • PEGI Rating: Eighteen years and older
  • Also For: PlayStation 4
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
2002 Game Cube original to 2019 portable rendition; Resident Evil Zero was originally touted for the Nintendo 64 back in the early 2000s, and since it skipped that console I all but forgot it existed. This Resident Evil 2 gathering a lot of hype recently, what can RE0 offer for Nintendo switch players?
Ben Sellwood

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In 1996 I got my first taste of the Resident Evil series thanks to a friend-of-a-friend bringing it over to play on my PSX. I found the mixture of creepy mansions and puzzles innovative and gripping, and as a result; I was hooked. Later on, Resident Evil 2 reinforced my love for the genre, and through to resident evil 4, I was truly blown away, though more recently with Resident Evil five, six, and seven; I have massively fallen out of touch with the series as they just didn't hold up in my opinion. Resident Evil Zero was one that I missed out playing originally, due to travelling and education, so now is the time to grab it and re-immerse myself into the fixed-angled horrors of Racoon City.

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Immediately I was transported back in time to a horrendous control scheme, often described as "tank style" it's two buttons to rotate your body, one to move forward and one to move backwards; it is a rusty old relic of a control style that needs to be forever removed from gaming today. Thankfully the more modern set up also exists and it works a treat. The look and feel are extremely retro, but the graphics overhaul and widescreen visuals, make this a worthy upgrade; with silky animation and high fidelity environments and character models that really draw you into the adventure. The artistry in this game has to be seen to be believed, as it's truly pushing the boundaries in what is effectively a two-dimensional environment with three-dimensional characters. Photo-realistic backdrops and stunning lighting envelop you in the atmospheric locales such as the Church, the Mansion (not that Mansion) and the Laboratory, yet somehow it retains a gritty dirty house-of-horrors dynamic while still attaining a crisp resolution and stunning level of detail.

Being the prequel; you start off 24 hours prior to the incredible events of original Resident Evil game on a train, which is as far from a spooky mansion or desolate city as you can possibly get, but don't fret; you eventually get to explore Umbrella Corp and deep-dive into the origins of the saga. You quickly learn your purpose and do a small yet obligatory "training" section at the beginning, to get you accustomed to the controls and ethos of the game through the linearity and simplicity of the train. Once acclimatised, you're immediately thrown into an uber-simple boss fight and learn that you can switch between S.T.A.R.S Rebecca Chambers and the fugitive Billy Coen at will. This is a nice mechanic that breaks the game up into a more manageable and less frustrating experience should you get stuck or lost looking for the next item or puzzle to solve. I found that swapping characters made my experience more reconnoitre and less apprehensive, as I skulked around in the lush and varied sceneries.

I don't really know why, but Capcom has carried forward those enormous load times with the door and ladder animations. While they were a notable strategy to mask load times on the disc-based consoles of yore; on Nintendo Switch they are beyond excessive and really detract from the action you expect in this decade of gaming on fast-paced media and proprietary cartridges. They improved the graphics, improved the controls, and yet failed to modernise the pacing of the game. Some might argue that this is more traditional, but it was only like this to hide loading issues. If they could have removed it back then, I guarantee they would have to make the areas flow more naturally. The only time I found solace in the animations were when I was frantically avoiding zombies and trying to escape unscathed, though as my heart was pounding; I found myself willing the animations to end to know that I had made it. I had. Obviously.

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While it's a survival-horror themed explorative-puzzler at heart, this game forces you into a state of hoarding your overly limited resources. Majority of the time you find yourself ducking and dodging rather than wasting rounds on the bullet sponges that rattle you with a jump scare every now and then. I honestly thought this might have retained some of the thrills of the original games but I didn't feel it, it just wasn't there. The constant fight for ammunition gets downright annoying. I understand it's never going to be unlimited, but it's like there has been a mass amnesty and the zombies have handed in all the munitions and you are left with only the random scattered dregs to scrape by on. It often becomes a frustrating chore to monitor your supplies and backtrack, but while it's a steep learning curve requiring you to palm items into your partners' inventory to jostle what you need: at least you can stow them wherever you want this time around instead of having to find a dedicated storage area. Pro tip: don't forget to find the Hookshot early on!

Later on in the game, you find relatively task heavy "puzzles" to solve which involve several components being found, combined, and utilised in the right places. It makes for a lot of too-ing and fro-ing which is not very fun especially while continually battling enemies, all the while conscious you have to be conserving your precious bullets. It's the typical Resident Evil formulaic gameplay, but in a shinier environment, but it doesn't quite retain the magic of the first two games in the series.

Overall it's a decent title that looks incredible on the Nintendo switch, but while it's fun on the move, it will always technically play better on the bigger screen. Unless you are a die-hard Resident Evil Zero fan, this title could easily be overlooked in favour of replaying the first Resident Evil or even the incredible Resident Evil 4 (minus the Wii's motion controls, unfortunately), which is a real shame. Even Wesker himself couldn't save this one, with his T-Virus enhanced villainous appearance in "Wesker mode", which sees Rebecca team up with Albert Wesker if you're a sucker for a second playthrough. resident Evil Zero is a nostalgic entry into the series but, in all honesty, it never quite provides the same level of entertainment and replayability of the two original games. The final result is a game that takes the Resident Evil style and nuances and produces something that's a bit too B-movie and honestly, for all the beauty of its silky high-definition craft; it's just a little too lacklustre in its core gameplay to be described as any less than underwhelming at best.

Verdict
Pros
+ Portable Resident Evil.
+ Gorgeous visuals and animations.
Cons
- Slow loading times.
- Lack of true spook factor.
- Cheaper on other consoles.
7 Presentation
Silky smooth animations and beautifully crafted visuals mixed with intense sound design make for a captivating B-movie experience, but it's relatively short-lived.
6 Gameplay
Obscure mixtures of weird puzzles and repetitive backtracking & item finding make it somewhat of a chore to play through.
5 Lasting Appeal
Wesker mode can't even save this, and I doubt anyone but hardcore fans or speed-runners would feel the need to replay this once the story has been told.
6
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
A relatively solid game, but there are better entries in the series. It feels like it has lost its magic over the years, like an over-polished trinket that has lost its identity, it just doesn't hit the spot in terms of gameplay or creativity.


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