Before the stories of any Resident Evil games that came previous to this one, comes the prequel, Resident Evil 0. A team of STARS is sent to investigate reports of cannibalism and homicides in some nearby mountains. Rebecca, one of the STARS members found in the mansion of Resident Evil 1, boards a seemingly stalled train only to find it filled with zombies. Also on this train is Billy Coen, an escaped convict accused of many recent murders. Together, the two of them progress through the story, working alongside one another in order to fend off the danger they face.
After the insanity and absurdity of Code Veronica, Resident Evil 0 seems to return to its roots of conspiracy and milder, believable forms of that absurdity. It gives us the background of what led to the mansion incident of Resident Evil 1 along with a decent amount of background for the development of the original virus, its intended purpose, and how it ever got out. The game pairs us with a new character (Billy Coen) similar to how Code Veronica gave us Steve and how Resident Evil 3 gave us Carlos. Billy is given an interesting background, being accused of murder yet not by his own choosing. It gives him a moral complexity that, while often presented in a corny manner as is expected in Resident Evil games, allows for more investment in his story than some of the other previous sidekicks.
While the revelations and explanations are great (and the overall plot is pretty decent too) it doesn’t reach the same level as the first two Resident Evils. The virus escaping onto a train and the plotline with the Queen Leech is all fine but isn’t comparable to, say, the backstory of the transformation of the G-Virus and its host in RE2, or the deceit from Wesker in RE1. Nonetheless, there are still some great moments ranging from the murder of James Marcus to Wesker’s idea of luring STARS to the Spencer Mansion for combat data on the virus.
Resident Evil 0 may be some of my favorite gaming in this series up to the point of its release. It is the best rendition of the camera style yet and allows for a moving camera while still keeping areas of rooms hidden until you move into them. The controls also work incredibly well making it easy to perform in combat and to quickly move through your inventory. The use of two characters to play the game was also one of the best aspects in any RE game yet. Not only could you just choose which person to play as whenever you desired, but the ability to separate them and send them to different rooms to complete puzzles and unlock new areas allowed for more unique tasks and missions. The enemies and bosses were excellent too. Fighting the human leeches and the hunters just as exhilarating as similar enemies in previous games but with an added level of fairness while still holding onto the danger. The bosses are usually pretty simple in how to defeat them, but still pose a challenge and are significantly better than those in Code Veronica.
The lack of a storage box was one of the very few downsides of the gameplay. Although it did not end up being as frustrating as I initially believed it would be, I could not fathom why after four games that used the storage boxes successfully they just decided to abandon the idea for something that did not seem to better the game in any way. If this concept makes it sound like it would overly frustrate you and put you off from playing the game, I will say again that it’s really not all too bad. The maps are small enough that it doesn’t typically require much backtracking to pick up what you left behind.
The first half of the game has some incredible areas. The train works beautifully, serving as a single long hall yet still giving a maze-like atmosphere with the various side rooms and levels. The different cars and rooms within all feel unique enough to merit this as being one of the better areas in the game. The mansion (AKA the training facility) and to a lesser extent the subsequent laboratory are also great. While not as expansive and complex as the mansions or police stations in the previous games, it still worked as a similar puzzling setting without relying too much on unlocking the entire building over the course of a long game. Unfortunately, the final few areas didn’t work as well for me. The areas following the cable car are a bit too monochrome and repetitive to instill any interest in exploring. They’re decent, but not even close to the level of final areas such as the underground Umbrella Research Facility. Although I will say, paired with the haunting soundtrack the game provides, even the lesser areas were terror inducing.
Resident Evil 0 features some of the most exciting fixed-camera gaming in any of the games so far. The music, the areas, the enemies, and the bosses are nearly all beautifully designed which leaves you wanting to explore every part of this prequel. Billy as a teammate is also one of the better renditions of a sidekick in a Resident Evil game yet. The story itself is intriguing and revelatory, but doesn’t dive into the same level of conspiracy and complexity as the previous ones. Finally, although there are some strange changes and annoyances like the lack of storage boxes, nothing is too egregious to where it makes the game unenjoyable. This prequel is a wonderful addition to the Resident Evil story that I would highly recommend any fans of the series to play.
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