Nobody really agrees on when the Resident Evil series jumped the shark, but there is no denying that at this point it has well and truly lost its way. Even Capcom seem to realise this, if their rerelease of Resident Evil Remake and the recent announcement that they will be remaking Resident Evil 2 from the ground up. Capcom have realised what many of us did a while ago; they’ve forgotten what made Resident Evil great. Well kudos Capcom, the first step in solving a problem is admitting that it exists in the first place. Returning to the old and most beloved titles in the series is not only a way for them to cash in on some of that sweet nostalgia money, but it’s also a chance for them to rediscover what made the older titles such classics. Presumably to that end, Capcom have given Resident Evil Zero, the Gamecube/Wii exclusive prequel to the series a HD remake. So how does the old girl fair?
Before we get anywhere, I’m going to address the massive zombie elephant in the room. The dialogue and voice acting is horrendous. Of course it is, this is a Resident Evil game and they’re famous for it, especially the early titles in the series; Jill sandwich anyone? Thankfully it plays well into the campy vibe that the story brings with it, to the point where you can almost convince yourself that it’s deliberately this bad.
However, and I’m sure I’ll be locked in an insane asylum for saying this, the plot is surprisingly good. I mean we’re dealing with Resident Evil here, a series whose plot is such a ridiculous mess of contrived villains, evil corporations and viruses that even the writers had no idea what the hell is going on by the time Resident Evil 6 came out. Being a prequel gives Zero a little bit of an advantage in this regard though, as it can feed off of the pre-established story from the original title. We follow the story of Rebecca Chambers, a rookie member of STARS and Billy Coen, an ex-marine on the run from the law after being accused of crimes he didn’t commit (que the music). Rebecca and the STARS Bravo team are sent into the Arklay mountains to investigate a series of cannibalistic murders, whereupon their helicopter crash lands and the majority of the team instantly becomes air-delivered takeout for the resident zombie population. Rebecca heads to a nearby train which is mysteriously stopped in the middle of nowhere and meets up with Coen. The story is told not only from the perspective of our plucky heroes, but also via cut-away cutscenes showing us the roles of well-known series antagonists Albert Wesker and William Birkin in the incident. It’s all very camp, but the pacing of the story is well-handled and the mystery surrounding the outbreak, the weird leech guy and Umbrella is all slowly but skilfully unfurled in front of you.