As I explore the atmospheric hallways of Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster, I’m conflicted. I’ve always enjoyed the games from the early years of this series — the original take on survival horror made clever use of fixed camera angles, limited resources, and stiff controls to create a distinct style of fear. And this HD update looks and plays like a modern game, and so is certainly the best way to experience this particular game. However, the superficial improvements that successfully update this old school Resident Evil game’s look and feel can’t cover up its deeper underlying problems: predictable pacing, weak story, and forgettable enemies. None of what was wrong with the original is fixed in this version.I’ll give it this much: Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster looks good, thanks to improved lighting and updated textures that bring character models and environments up to modern standards. I noticed only occasional framerate hiccups on the Xbox One version. PC players get a better visual experience, with support for higher resolutions and an option for smoother 60 frames-per-second animations.
Originally released for the Nintendo GameCube way back in 2002, Resident Evil 0 is a prequel set before the events of the first game. This PC version features upgraded visuals, modernised controls, widescreen support, improved sound, a new mode, and other tweaks, but the game itself remains unchanged. It’s a slow-paced, challenging survival horror in the mould of the original—recently given a new lease of life in the superb Resident Evil HD Remaster—but is ultimately an inferior game.You can now control two characters simultaneously: STARS medic Rebecca Chambers and escaped convict Billy Coen. Rebecca can mix healing herbs and squeeze into small spaces, while Billy is better with guns and has more health. You can freely switch characters at the touch of a button, even if they’ve been separated—which happens almost constantly. Or, if they’re together, the AI will take over the other character and obediently follow you around. You can also change how the AI behaves in simple ways, like firing at enemies if they encounter them, or not if you want to conserve ammo.It’s a system that creates some tense moments. Sending a character into an area the other can’t access, forcing them to go it alone, is always nerve-racking. And it factors into the puzzle design too. In an early level, Rebecca is trapped in a room and Billy has to help her escape by sending items down to her through a dumbwaiter. In another Billy has to hand-crank an elevator while she rides it. But with the exception of a few set-pieces, it feels like a gimmick included for the sake of it. It doesn’t change the Resident Evil formula in any meaningful way and becomes a chore.Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster has the look and feel of a modern game, but its real problems started in 2002 and were never solved. It’s a forgettable entry in an outstanding series that just doesn’t measure up because of its story problems, overwhelming inventory management, and horrible predictability. Reanimating this limp corpse of a survival game in high definition only brings back the disappointment I felt when I played it the first time.It’s a shame, because it looks stunning. This is a lavish, loving remaster, and the combination of detailed, atmospheric pre-rendered backgrounds and real-time lighting and shadows is masterfully done. I love the subtle animations too, like the wine bottle rolling around on a table in the train’s dining car.
As well as the option to switch from the old ‘tank’ controls to a more modern movement style, there’s a new mode that lets you play as regular series villain and sinister sunglasses aficionado Albert Wesker. He has a range of superpowers, courtesy of the Uroboros virus, including running really fast and unleashing a blast of energy from his creepy glowing eyes. It’s one of those classic Resi gimmick modes, but doesn’t make up for the fact that the core game is so disappointing.Resident Evil 0 looks amazing, especially considering it’s almost fifteen years old, but it feels like a pastiche of a much better game. Some people might find the need for constant, careful item management satisfyingly challenging, but to me it feels like unnecessary busywork. Throw in a messy, ludicrous storyline (even by Resident Evil standards) that clumsily tries to slot itself into the larger series mythology, unimaginative enemies, and a general feeling that you’ve done all this before, but better, and you’re left with a game that’s very hard to love.