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An Enjoyable but Slightly Diluted Prequel
on 3 August 2004
The fact that the Resident Evil franchise has, somewhat unpopularly moved over to Nintendo (for all but the forthcoming Outbreak) has left some distinct problems. It seems that the manufacturer is unwilling to believe that Nintendo gamers have had access to Resi titles on other formats and have, therefore not borne witness to the development of the franchise. Resident Evil on the PS1/PS2 moved from pre-rendered backdrops to pre-rendered backdrops with knobs on to glorious 3D for the series finest hour - Code Veronica X. So it seems that the first two exclusive Gamecube titles Resi Zero and likewise the remake of the original game are already a little mired in the past. Fresh from just playing through Pandora Tomorrow on Xbox and Manhunt on PS2 I was immediately bogged down but the sluggish controls and stodgy menu system of Resi Zero. Despite the, as you would expect, wonderful visuals, gloriously familiar sounds and the initial spellbinding set-piece your characters pivot sluggishly on the spot, lurch forward and generally collide with invisible walls in the scenery. Avoiding your often fast moving and far-reaching opponents is sometimes essentially impossible meaning that combat is reduced to a battle of endurance as you slug it out on the spot.
None the less, its Resi, right? So it has too be good? Well, yes okay. Although Zero is undoubtedly its father's son there are subtle changes to the feel. The same old key, card, lock puzzles are all in place as are the spectacular cut scenes but the whole thing is drawn a little differently. As we proceed from the train to the mansion to the church I felt that the whole thing had a less techno and more gothic feel that it took me a while to get used to. In fact I found myself enjoying the game significantly more when I moved from the totally new locations back into an area taken directly form Resident Evil 2. I think much of my nagging doubt hinged on the fact that the locations are not quite as intricately drawn and imaginative as other games in the series. There is even a suggestion of repetition at times. Disturbing.
I was also extremely disappointed to note that Zero discredits and undermines a piece of the series' lore regarding the inception of the Umbrella Corporation, established in Code Veronica X. Now this might not seem like a big deal, but to hardcore series anoraks that type of thing can really upset you. In this case the plot thread in question only serves to reduce the scope of the story.
While all the key elements are in place to a greater or lesser degree the overall package feels just a little diluted. The opening cut scene and train sequence are truly gripping but beyond that the set pieces are few and far between and the opponents less imaginative than we are used to. New innovations like the character swapping system and the ability to drop objects anywhere you like are nice, and very, very welcome but why haven't they updated the truly woeful movement system. Or better still, presented the game in 3D. Like Code Veronica X that would have been totally jaw-dropping.