After playing so many bastardizations of the Resident Evil franchise in the past decade, it’s always good to go back and remember how it used to feel—even more so now that a long hoped for remake of Resident Evil 2 has been announced.
It’s also a surprisingly easy gaming experience these days—like riding a bicycle. Even the tank controls didn’t trip me up. They felt natural as hell. In fact, the Resident Evil Origins 2-in-1 collection, which includes both Resident Evil remake and Resident Evil 0 in glorious widescreen HD, gives you the option in both games to use a contemporary controller scheme. I tried it. Lord knows I tried. But the fact is, it doesn’t work for games designed with fixed camera angles. Everything just feels wrong, and movement gets wonky, clashing horribly with the shifts in camera POV.
RESIDENT EVIL REMAKE
The 2002 remake truly is an epic expansion of the original game from way back in 1996. Aside from the gorgeous new graphics, complete with thunder and lighting that greatly enhance the horror atmosphere, the mansion setting opens up to entirely new areas that didn’t exist in the original game, which means new puzzles and new items to find to progress. Plus, there are new baddies, and Lisa, an enemy from hell, who is completely invincible every time you meet her…until the one time when you finally can and have to fight her. Not that the game clues you in to any of these minor details. Where would we be without walkthroughs? I’d probably still be stuck for the past 12 years trying to kill Lisa during our first encounter.
The remake has added the ability to ignite zombies you’ve killed on fire. If you don’t, later on when you pass by the same area, you will have to battle them again, as meaner, harder to kill “Crimson Head” zombies, which means, more ammo wasted. The downside is, you need a lighter and a canteen filled with fuel in your inventory to burn zombies, which means 2 less precious inventory slots. Plus, the canteen only provides enough fuel for three burns, which means you then have to run to a fuel canister (there are several around the mansion) to refill. What I’m saying is…it’s just easier to waste the extra ammo.
There are other updates to the gameplay as well. Aside from the addition of the “quick turn” move (a crucial feature in a tank control world), there are “defense items” you can pick up, including daggers and batteries. They have their own unique slot in your inventory, so they don’t waste the main slots. They are also used automatically when a zombie grabs you. It sure is fun watching your character instinctively zap the fuck out of a zombie’s head with a battery. One of the most nightmarish scenarios in the game for me—the SHARK tank—has been made even more terrifying here, with more sharks, an entirely new timed puzzle (you’d be screwed without a walkthrough for this one), and even an encounter with the fishy fuckers when they appear to be dead out of the water.
You get to play as either Jill or Chris. Overall, Jill’s game is easier and you have 8 inventory slots, while Chris only has 6. Sexist game thinks women need a handicap. I play as Jill. Actually, it’s worth playing through as both characters if you want to experience everything the game has to offer, because the games are slightly different. Jill and Chris interact with different characters, which makes the story slightly different and changes some of the objectives. Plus, there are differences in the weapons they find. Jill even has the opportunity to skip one of the bosses completely! Sexist game. Hmm. I wonder how hard that boss is….
It’s so satisfying to have the luxury of the good old typewriter and item box in the save room (aka: safe room), considering most games these days offer only bull shit “autosave” checkpoints. Play the remake on easy and you can rack up nearly 70 ink ribbons—I finished the game with at least 1/3 of them remaining in my item box! The most annoying part of the typewriter is that every time you click on it throughout the game, you get the prompt “There’s an old typewriter, you can save your progress, would you like to use the ink ribbon?” Seriously, that should have been removed after the first time you click on a typewriter. Of course I want to fricking save!
I’m sure glad to have those item boxes back—magic boxes that simply teleport all my shit to every box I encounter. It’s a classic, absurd aspect of the game that I fully accept. I don’t know how I’ve survived all these years without them. Even with this huge advantage, without a walkthrough telling you what items to have on hand at any given time, the game would still be infuriating. As it progresses, you’d be doing a ridiculous amount of backtracking to item boxes because you would NEVER have the items on you that you needed to get through certain areas. Compared to the fairly linear structure of modern horror games—including recent Resident Evil games—the original installments of the series sure did not hold your hand the entire way.
Personally, I played the Origins collection in chronological order, which means RE0 first, even though it was the first game in the franchise to alter some of the gameplay elements, so playing the remake second really highlighted just how different the series used to be. The one odd thing this collection is that it has slightly different control schemes for each game! While the functions are virtually identical for both the remake and REO, the button mapping on these two games in this single collection are different, so you’re forced to retrain yourself when you go directly from one game to the other.
RESIDENT EVIL 0
Even as the final “old school” RE game before RE4 drastically changed the playing style of the franchise forever, Resident Evil 0 actually made some changes to it predecessors. For starters, you have a partner. It’s not a 2-player game, only AI, and pretty smart AI at that. You’re Rebecca, from S.T.A.R.S., and you team up with a sexy escaped convict named Billy. You get to play as both characters depending on certain situations, plus you can and have to switch back and forth between them throughout the game. It’s also necessary to temporarily split up at times to get two things done at once—just make sure that you clear an area of enemies before leaving a character alone as AI, or there will be damage taken. Also, each character has unique items that only they can use for required situations—Billy a lighter, Rebecca a mixing kit (which also means only she can mix healing herbs). Good news is, as long as you’re near each other, you can exchange items.
It’s comforting to know that if there are monsters to fight, your AI character shoots at them, too. However, the character is using up ammo supply. So, you must be careful when switching between characters. For instance, if you were using a bad ass Magnum as Rebecca to fight a boss then forget to arm her with a crappy weapon after the battle and switch to controlling Billy for a while, Rebecca will be shooting lame zombies with precious Magnum ammo!
Another challenge is the removal of the good old item boxes. Sure, there are save rooms with typewriters and ink ribbons, but as for storing excess items, Resident Evil 0 gets “realistic.” If you can’t carry everything, you have to just put shit down where you stand! WTF? Bye-bye 2-slot grenade launcher. Oh. Did I mention that touch of realism? Larger weapons like the grenade launcher and the shotgun now take up 2 inventory slots. ARGH! Don’t even assume that having inventory slots for two characters is going to help, because it’s still not enough. And even if you try to be smart with your placement, like leaving items in a save room, many times, you either never return to that save room, or returning to it later requires excessive amounts of backtracking that is sure to get you lost for a while. The only help here is that this game allows you to USE a healing item without officially picking it up. So, if you desperately need health, but your inventory is full, you simply choose to use it instead of picking it up. This also gives Rebecca the option to combine healing items. So if her inventory is full and she’s holding a green herb, she can combine it with a red herb without adding the red herb to her inventory first.
If you’re not reading a walkthrough, you could very easily leave a crucial item behind when you suddenly find you’re completely closed off from going back for it. For instance, the game begins on a train—train crashes, and all your items are there at the crash site. You move ahead, into a mansion, and spend a lot of time there. You’ll eventually forget how to even get back to where you began if you left items behind. But it gets worse. You eventually move on from the mansion and end up in an entirely new area. And within minutes, you need a “hookshot” you used on the train at the beginning of the game. There was no need to carry it around with you, but if you don’t have it with you now, you’re screwed. Ridiculous. So the walkthrough suggests—brace yourself—that before you move on to the new area, you completely run around the old area and fill your limited slots over again and again with items you’ve left behind, and bring them right near the entrance of the new area to drop them there so you’ll have access to them when you are shut out of the old area!
Perhaps the worst problem with Resident Evil 0 is the camera angles. I must say, one of the biggest flaws in this stunning looking game is that you pretty much never get to see the horror of your enemies if you’re playing to…you know…stay alive. If you run into a room and the camera is preset in such a way that you can’t see what’s right in front of you, it almost guarantees there’s a zombie or other monster right there. Problem is, if you want to be sure, you have to move forward to change the camera perspective. Know what happens when you do that? You get your ass beat by a monster that indeed was there. The only option is to enter every room with guns blazing, in which case, if there’s a monster there and you kill it, all you get to see is the pool of bloody remains on the floor, and if there isn’t a monster there, you put precious bullets into a wall. I mean, the very first boss is this awesome giant scorpion, but if you get close enough to switch POV so you can see it, you’re pretty much already impaled on its stinger. Such bullshit.
Overall though, Resident Evil 0 is quite manageable (with a walkthrough), and has all the classic Resident Evil puzzle solving, item hunting, classic zombies, and Hunters, plus plenty of new, unique monsters and bosses. And there are also essentially four sections—the train, the mansion, the chapel, and finally, the lab. The train is by far my favorite section of the game. All the other areas are pretty much similar to areas from previous games.