Another title in the new trend of re-releasing classic titles on the Wii, Resident Evil Archives: Zero is the prequel to the whole Resident Evil series. Events take place before the original game’s incident at the Arclay mansion and stars Rebecca Chambers as the main character. Aiding her is Billy Coen, an escaped military prisoner who’s found himself involved in the zombie-filled events.
Acting as a fill-in-the-gaps kind of story, Zero‘s primary focus is to beef up the back story and tell the tale of how the events of the first game came into being, and being a classic Resident Evil, this is old school survival horror, complete with fixed camera angles, masses of item-based puzzles and classic, shambling zombies – hurrah!
As this is an old Gamecube title, many will have already sampled what Zero has to offer, but if you’ve yet to try out this instalment, then let me elaborate a little. Zero uses many of the same conventions as the classic Resi series, and if you’ve played Resi one, two, three and so on, you’ll know what to expect. However, Zero does have a couple of unique mechanics, most notably the partner system.
During the majority of the game you’ll be in control of both Rebecca and Billy. You can control each independently, or at the same time using both control sticks on the classic and Gamecube controller), and you can also set the AI to control the other character, choosing such options as follow, stay, attack or hold fire.
This tandem gameplay makes for an interesting dynamic, and many of the game’s puzzles make use of this, requiring the use of both Rebecca and Billy in various ways. For example, one character may be locked in a room and the other will need to find an object to free them, or you may need one character to operate a lever while the other is free to proceed.
Both characters have their own life bar, and if one dies, it’s game over, so you need to be careful about leaving them unattended or in a potentially troublesome location. Characters aren’t limited to the same screen, and can be left in totally different locations. You can switch between characters with a single button press, taking total control of the other character from anywhere.
Another change is the item system. Whilst the other games use seemingly magical item boxes in save rooms to store items, here you need to use both characters’ inventories strategically, and can exchange and even drop items on the ground for the other character to grab later. This item management adds a new level of tactical planning, but it could irritate some players who are tired of having to repeatedly jump in and out of item screens, or backtrack to previously explored locations just to pick up an herb or key.
As far as the rest of the game goes, this is vintage Resi. There’s a whole collection of creatures above and beyond zombies, and boss fights include imposing battles against such things as giant scorpions. The initial setting of the Ecliptic Express passenger train is also unique, and a novel and interesting way to kick off events. Due to the partner-based system, Zero is also quite puzzle heavy. It’s also a very challenging title (possibly the hardest classic Resi), and may not be the best first exposure for Resi virgins.
So, what about Wii-specific additions? Surely there are alterations to the controls, added areas, new enemies and the like… isn’t there? Nope, there’s nothing, a big fat, erm… zero. Whilst you can use the Wii remote and nunchuck, there are no motion controls. The original control system is merely mapped to the new hardware. You can also use the Wii classic controller or a Gamecube remote (my preferred option). As for extra content, there’s none. This is essentially the Gamecube version on a Wii disc, pure and simple. Even the visuals are the same, and aren’t optimised for HD or the Wii’s higher maximum resolution, creating a visually jaggy and clearly dated title.
If you’ve glanced at the score already you may be surprised that I’ve given Resident Evil Zero such a low rating. However, please be aware that this does not reflect Zero‘s quality as a game; not at all. Zero is a truly great game, and is well worth playing if you’ve haven’t done so already. My gripe here is that there’s simply nothing extra added to the Wii version. It’s a re-release, and that’s all. This isn’t so bad, as it’s only around £20, but when you consider that you can find the original Gamecube Zero second hand for as little as £5 (which, of course, will work on the Wii anyway as long as you have a Gamecube memory card and controller), you realise that this simply isn’t right, and even a little polish applied to the visuals would have helped sweeten the deal.
As it is, this is worth buying if you’ve never played the game, or don’t have a Gamecube controller and memory card, otherwise this isn’t a particularly attractive option.
Resident Evil Archives: Zero is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.