Resident Evil Zero
|Resident Evil Zero|
North American GameCube cover art
Resident Evil Zero, known in Japan as biohazard 0,[a] is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002. It serves as a prequel to the first Resident Evil, covering the ordeals experienced in the Arklay Mountains by the S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team. The gameplay remains similar to other entries in the Resident Evil series, but includes a unique "partner zapping" system. The player controls both S.T.A.R.S. officer Rebecca Chambers and convicted criminal Billy Coen, switching control between them at will in order to solve puzzles and take advantage of their unique abilities.
Development for Resident Evil Zero began originally on the Nintendo 64. The "partner zapping" system was created in order to take advantage of the short load times only possible with the capabilities of the N64 Game Pak. The game was designed to be more difficult than previous Resident Evil titles. The team removed the item storage boxes present in earlier games and introduced a new item-dropping feature inspired by Sweet Home. Development slowed down when the team began to encounter memory storage issues, and so production was moved to the newly announced Nintendo GameCube. The game had to be completely rebuilt, with only the concept and story carried over.
Resident Evil Zero received mostly positive reviews and has sold 1.25 million copies. Critics praised the graphics, soundtrack, and atmosphere. Many felt the new partner and item management systems added new layers of strategy, however some found the changes cumbersome or non-innovative. The traditional survival horror controls were largely regarded as clunky and outdated. Resident Evil Zero was ported to the Wii in 2008, and a high-definition remaster for modern game platforms was released in January 2016.
First is the "partner zapping" system. Instead of choosing one of two player characters at the beginning, there are two protagonists to be controlled throughout the entire game. The player may switch between police officer and medic Rebecca Chambers and convicted ex-soldier Billy Coen. If they travel together, either one of them can be controlled while the other character is handled by the game's AI. The player may also control both simultaneously or split them up entirely to explore areas separately. Each character has unique abilities. Rebecca has a mixing kit which allows her to combine herbs and other chemicals, but she is weak defensively. In contrast, Billy can move heavy objects and has higher defense. The partner system is central to solving the game's puzzles.
The second significant difference is a new item system. Previous series installments had the player store items in boxes placed in fixed locations. Resident Evil Zero has no item boxes, and instead allows players to drop items on the floor, freeing space in the inventory momentarily until they are retrieved at a later point. The locations of dropped items are displayed on the game map.
On July 23, 1998, an Umbrella owned train, the Ecliptic Express, is attacked by a swarm of leeches while a mysterious young man watches it over a hillside. Two hours later, Bravo Team of the Special Tactics And Rescue Service (STARS) police force is sent to investigate a series of cannibalistic murders in the Arklay Mountains outside of Raccoon City. On the way to the scene, its helicopter has an engine failure and crash-lands in a forest. Bravo Team discovers an overturned military police transporter and the mutilated corpses of two officers. After the team splits up to capture the murderer, field medic Rebecca Chambers finds the same train from earlier now infested with zombies and explores it. She teams up with former Marine Billy Coen, the convict who was escorted by the military police after he had been sentenced to death for killing 23 people. The two are confronted by the same strangely clad young man from the opening of the game, who sets the train into motion and attacks them with swarms of leeches under his control. Meanwhile, two Umbrella soldiers are on the train with them and are taking it to unknown location while they are being contacted by two supervisors (Albert Wesker and William Birkin). The soldiers are then killed by leeches. As the train speeds out of control, Rebecca and Billy apply the brakes and avert its course towards an abandoned building.
The location is revealed to be a disused training facility for future executives of the pharmaceutical company Umbrella. Rebecca and Billy find out that the corporation's co-founder and former director of the facility, Dr. James Marcus, had discovered the so-called Progenitor virus in the 1960s and examined its potential as a biological weapon. He combined it with leech DNA to develop the t-Virus that causes rapid mutations in living organisms and thus transforms humans and animals into zombies and monsters. After Billy repeatedly saves Rebecca's life, he sheds some light on his past as a soldier: One year prior, he and his unit had been dispatched to Africa to raid a guerrilla hideout. When they arrived at their destination deep in the jungle, they found that it was an ordinary village. The unit's captain was afraid of returning empty-handed and ordered the execution of the innocent villagers, ignoring Billy's objections. Back in the United States, Billy was unjustly blamed for the incident and sentenced to death. Meanwhile, Wesker and Birkin are arguing with each other that Umbrella is finished. Wesker decides to leave Umbrella and join its rival company. Birkin refuses to join him in order to complete his research on the G-virus. Wesker will lead the STARS Alpha Team into the mansion and get the research data of the Tyrant while Birkin will activate the self-destruct system. Rebecca and Billy find an office underneath the facility and find an old photograph of the leech controlling man and they assume that he might be the son or grandson of Marcus. They find a gondola system, Billy is attacked by an infected primate and the two get separated when he falls over a railing into the water below. Rebecca rides the gondola to an abandoned factory/water treatment plant and encounters Captain Enrico who tells her that the rest of the team will meet up at an old mansion. He allows her to stay behind to find Billy. Just after Captain Enrico leaves, Rebecca is attacked by the Tyrant. After temporarily defeating the Tyrant, Rebecca finds Billy, half-submerged, and about to be attacked by an underwater creature, but his body is swept away by the current. She eventually finds Billy again and together they find twenty skeletons of Umbrella employees that Marcus used as test subjects for the t-Virus. Shortly thereafter, the duo is attacked by the Tyrant. After defeating the Tyrant, they lower the dam's water level and continue to navigate the water plant.
Eventually, Rebecca and Billy catch up with the leech-controlling man who is actually Marcus' final experiment, the Queen Leech. A flashback reveals that the real Marcus had been assassinated on the orders of Umbrella co-founder Oswell E. Spencer ten years prior. The Leech entered Marcus' corpse and gained his memories and the ability to shape shift. Now believing itself to be Marcus, the entire outbreak was masterminded by it as a means of revenge. Marcus mutates into a gigantic leech monster and attacks. After temporarily defeating the Queen Leech, Billy and Rebecca attempt to take a lift to the surface. The facility's self-destruct mechanism is tripped during the journey, and the two are pursued as they attempt to escape up the shaft. At the top of the shaft, Rebecca and Billy make their final stand against the Queen Leech. Just before the explosion, Rebecca and Billy defeat the creature by exposing it to sunlight. They escape to the forest where they see an old mansion used by Umbrella as a research facility. Rebecca assures Billy that her police report will list him as just another casualty of the incident. Billy thanks her and escapes as Rebecca heads towards the mansion to investigate the whereabouts of her fellow Bravo Team members, beginning the events of Resident Evil.
While the original Resident Evil was still in development, the idea for a prequel came up shortly after the 64DD peripheral for the Nintendo 64 was announced in 1995. The 64DD's low sales four years later eventually made Capcom decide to develop Resident Evil Zero as a cartridge-based Nintendo 64 release. The real-time "partner zapping" system was designed to take advantage of the console's unique features and strengths, namely the lack of load times, which are necessary for optical disc based gameplay as with the PlayStation.
Resident Evil Zero was designed to be more difficult than its predecessors, removing the item boxes to make the game more like Sweet Home. After the script had been completed in early 1999, the production of a Resident Evil title for Nintendo 64 was revealed to the public by Yoshiki Okamoto, the president of Capcom's screenplay company Flagship. Resident Evil Zero was officially announced at 20 percent completion in January 2000, after which it was presented with a playable demo at Tokyo Game Show. The game was expected to release in July 2000 and reportedly had an atmosphere close to the first Resident Evil, focusing more on suspense than the more action-oriented gameplay of Resident Evil 2. However, development began to slow down when it became apparent that the data for Resident Evil Zero would not fit on a single cartridge.
Production shifted to the newly announced GameCube, with the concept and story carried over but all of the data recreated. The platform change was confirmed in September 2000. The game's final version was developed primarily by Capcom Production Studio 3 with additional support provided by Tose. As a result of the transition to the GameCube, it was delayed so that the environments could be upgraded visually. More CGI videos were created as a result of the increased memory capacities. Scenario writer Noboru Sugimura was called back to make some changes to the story. The character designs were also adjusted: Rebecca for example lost her beret and shoulder pads while Billy received a new hairstyle. The GameCube's use of optical discs reintroduced load times, so the programmers had to use sophisticated programming to make the "partner zapping" system work. Capcom announced its intention to release a game demo in Japan around August 2002.
Resident Evil Zero for the GameCube was released on November 10, 2002 in North America, on November 21, 2002 in Japan, on February 28, 2003 in Australia, and on March 7, 2003 in Europe. In late 2008, a near-identical port for the Wii was released exclusively in Japan, having deviated from its expected July release date. This version only featured control scheme changes, and was later released in North America under the title of Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil Zero on December 1, 2009.
On May 26, 2015, Capcom announced that a remastered version of the game was in development, titled Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster. The enhanced version of the game was released in most countries on January 19, 2016 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and in Japan on January 21, 2016. A retail compilation called Resident Evil Origins Collection that includes Resident Evil HD Remaster and Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster was released on January 22, 2016.
Resident Evil Zero was generally well received by critics and has sold 1.25 million copies worldwide. The graphics and atmosphere were universally praised, being described as "wonderfully spooky" and "moody" with an "astonishing level of detail". The sound design was also complemented, with IGN noting that "Capcom uses silence at times, too, to scare, which is brilliant." GameSpot described the soundtrack as one "that will keep you in constant fear."
Game Informer called the game's script "solid" and found the plot "as a whole...quite good". They complemented the high level of visual detail, but found the gameplay to be "clunky", and a step back in some regards. GamePro found the new partner system to be innovative, lending a "unique strategy element that's lacking in other Resident Evil games." They found the removal of item boxes "cumbersome" and introducing "long-distance trips to transport key items between locations". 1UP.com felt the game was predictable and formulaic in its puzzles and monsters. They also called the plot "lame". Regardless, the background artists' work was praised along with the removal of item boxes and introduction of the item-dropping feature. GameSpot focused on the "partner zapping" feature and pointed out that its strengths lie in strategy and puzzle solving. They believed that "the mechanic [did not] really feel very innovative or interesting", describing it as mostly puzzle-related but based around keeping one character standing still or sending items up a dumbwaiter to the other. Similarly to 1UP.com, GameSpot criticized the puzzle design further, noting similarities to previous titles. IGN found some of the game mechanics to be outdated and the controls clunky, but still stated it was a "solid survival horror" title.
The Wii release was criticized for being a near identical port of the GameCube version and for not fully using the Wii Remote's motion control capabilities, instead relying largely on the Classic Controller and remote/nunchuk combo.
|Author||S. D. Perry|
|October 26, 2004|
|Media type||Print (paperback)|
|Followed by||The Umbrella Conspiracy|
The game's novelization titled Resident Evil: Zero Hour was written by S. D. Perry and published by Pocket Books in 2004. It is the seventh and final Resident Evil book to follow Perry's continuity but precedes the others in chronological order. The novel features an additional prologue story with an Umbrella employee Bill Nyberg who is killed when the Ecliptic Express is attacked by the leech swarm.
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