Gaming Glories is a special edition gaming feature that allows writers to revisit and explore games that have helped shaped their gaming history. Each volume features a different writer examining different games within each issue. Enjoy!
The Resident Evil franchise is one of the most successful and long-running in gaming. Known as the Biohazard series in Japan, it set the standard for survival horror in the mid ’90s. It has changed dramatically in the past few games from survival horror into a more action focused game series but the new Resident Evil 7 looks set to go back to its roots.
Speaking of roots, I want to talk about Resident Evil: Zero.
Zero was developed and published by Capcom for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002. It was actually a prequel to Resident Evil, the first in the series. In the years since, it has been released for every major console and PC. The story is set a day before the ‘mansion incident’ in Resident Evil.
S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team is sent to investigate the Arklay mountains after some mysterious murders were reported. After hearing of accused killer convict Billy Coen’s escape from custody, the mission focus is changed to apprehend him. Billy was being escorted to his execution when the MPs guarding him were attacked, giving him time to escape and make his way to a train. The team is separated and 18 year old rookie Rebecca Chambers discovers the same train stopped in the tracks. Rebecca enters the train and then the actual gameplay starts. It should be noted that RE: Zero was the last in the core series to use the fixed camera gameplay system.
Zero is creepy from the get-go but is especially so when you enter the second location, the training facility. The atmosphere is brooding, you hear noises that you assume are animals, you hear moans coming from somewhere, the poorly lit areas don’t encourage your shaky heart. The music in the game really sells the creeps but it’s the times when there is silence that really amps up the tension. Capcom did a wonderful job of fusing music and silence to create a foreboding atmosphere; when you heard your footsteps in the silence like plates smashing, you truly thought you were alerting every dark thing under the sun to your presence.
Zero was original in a few ways. You played as two characters, Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen, and you could switch between them at will apart from a moment in the story were they are separated. When you were one of the characters you could give the other character basic commands like wait, follow, attack or don’t. They both had their own advantages and disadvantages; Rebecca could mix herbs to make them more powerful so they will heal the character better but she hada lower tolerance for damage and lost health much easier.Another bonus was that she’s small and could fit into spaces Billy couldn’t. She was also light enough for Billy to lift to higher spots. Billy couldn’t mix herbs but he could take a lot more damage than Rebecca so he was always a better option for combat. Zero also got rid of the classic item storage boxes in favour of a drop-and-pick-up-later approach. If you wanted to get rid of an item or you needed space in your personal inventory, you had to simply drop the item on the floor. It meant a fair bit of backtracking sometimes if you didn’t plan out where you left items.
There are five main locations in the game which you progress through to complete the game:
– The Ecliptic Express train
– The Umbrella Training facility
– The Laboratory
– The Factory
– The Treatment plant
The main story follows Rebecca and Billy as they make their way through all these locations battling the undead and Umbrella-created monsters, solving puzzles, and ultimately trying to stay alive and escape. In the background, William Birkin, a genius professor and Albert Wesker, the “big baddie” in the Resident Evil universe, monitor the progress of the two and try to contain the leaks that are happening in their Arklay mountain Umbrella facilities. A mysterious young man is threatening revenge on Umbrella, against Birkin and Wesker, and vows to destroy them. He causes all sorts of problems and is the one who infected all the workers and released all the experimental monsters including the Proto Tyrant. The Tyrant is a huge, muscular being who you will encounter a couple of times. It served as the prototype for the Tyrants we see in games that follow in chronological order. The young man also releases other big creatures known as BOWs (bio-weapons) including a giant centipede and bat. There are a few others but that would spoil the surprise. There are leeches throughout the game and again you’ll find out more as you progress. Who is the mysterious young man? You’ll have to find out yourself.
Once you complete the game on any difficulty, you unlock leech hunter. In this, you must collect fifty leech charms each with Billy and Rebecca and leave alive. This game mode took place in the training facility only. You can earn a few ranks but if you finish with Rank A, you unlock unlimited ammo for every gun you find in the story which is pretty cool.
As of the HD remaster in 2016, another awesome game mode was added. After completing the game once on any difficulty, you can unlock Wesker mode. This fun mode essentially changed the character model of Billy into the Resident Evil 5 version of Albert Wesker and changed Rebecca’s clothes into black leather and gave her cool red eyes. Rebecca had no new abilities but with Wesker, you could use a super move which would charge up Wesker’s eyes and release a laser death stare which usually kills enemies in one or two hits! This made your second playthrough fun and a breeze to complete, especially if your first run had you stressing.
Most critics praised the game for its atmosphere, music, and innovation in terms of character switching and item dropping. However, some critics criticized the game for being too clunky and outdated as a survival/horror in terms of the controls and fixed camera. I, and many others, still love the fixed camera and wish they would bring it back- it made it more terrifying not knowing where the enemy was coming from, and let you enjoy the fine look and tone of the game the background artists worked so hard on.
I highly recommend picking up the HD remaster of this game on your console of choice or PC and delve into the horror. You’ll feel better for it. Probably.
Are the faint sounds of footsteps those of survivors?
Words by Gerard Thornton