Replay Value:
Overall Rating:
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Number Of Players:
Release Date:
January 19, 2016

If you say the name “Resident Evil” to a long-time gamer, a myriad of memories rockets through that person’s mind. From the moment the dogs jumped through the window and scared the ever-loving sh** out of all of us, that series has remained an integral part of the industry. It has also been the focus of much argument and debate in the past decade or so, as many horror aficionados believe the series has lost any sense of focus and direction. Well, if you want to return to the roots of this popular franchise, Capcom has offered several remakes and remasters in recent years, the most recent of which is Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster , an updated version of a classic title that didn’t fare quite as well as other entries.

As a bit of history, the first Resident Evil Zero was a prequel to the original game – that’s right, the very first Resident Evil – and when it first arrived on GameCube back in 2002, it met with substantial critical acclaim. In fact, hardcore horror fans might tell you they purchased a GameCube for the express purpose of playing this game. The only problem was that the timing was bad; it released between Resident Evil Remake and Resident Evil 4 , two of the most revered titles in the franchise’s history. RE4 went on to be a giant seller on PS2 and Xbox and for the most part, Resident Evil Zero was forgotten. Now it’s back and despite the unfortunate remnants of the past (awful camera, terrible voice acting, etc.), it’s still an effectively terrifying adventure.

Back in 2002, the graphics were a triumph. Or, if not exactly a triumph, many would argue it was the best RE had ever looked. The remarkable attention to detail amped up the tension to ridiculous levels and with excellent lighting and shadows, the immersion had never been more pronounced. In this high-definition remaster, we get a refined presentation that cleans things up and offers fans a sharper and – unless I’m hallucinating – brighter atmosphere, which brings the chills and thrills to the forefront. It’s not the best visual upgrade you’ll ever see, especially in the increasingly competitive world of remasters and remakes, but it’s sufficient. The character models and creepy backgrounds obviously got some love and the result is a solid if not impressive update.

Terrific sound is essential for any truly terrifying game, and Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster doesn’t disappoint on this score. The effects are as bone-chilling as ever and the background and ambient effects do a magnificent job of freaking you out. The soundtrack is good without being great and for the most part, the emphasis is on the most important aspect: Combat and atmospheric audio. The only downside is the aforementioned poor voice performances, which, by today’s standards, are downright laughable. Okay, so they were laughable back then, too, but at least it was on par with the rest of the industry at the time. Now, it’s hard not to smirk and roll your eyes whenever a character opens his or her mouth. Bad dialogue doesn’t help, either.

At its core, this is indeed a true-blue horror classic because it was released before Resident Evil underwent a metamorphosis. It now labors within a serious identity crisis and I think we’re all waiting with bated breath; what will Capcom do with Resident Evil 7 ? RE5 split the die-hard fans right down the middle and RE6 only served to alienate old-school fans even further, while somehow still managing to cater to a younger and more action-hungry audience. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that you just can’t make a ton of money by giving a tense, taut, smart thriller to the masses. There needs to be an abundance of action and flash and if that means leaving the very tenets of horror and fear behind, so be it.

You don’t have to worry about that saddening trend here, though. This remaster can be frustratingly clunky and downright annoying in its old-fashioned way, but it’s unabashedly pure. The zombies, spiders, crazy-ass mutated monkeys, and hellish bosses can still strike terror in your heart, and the exploration and minor puzzle-solving only serves to increase the tension. In other words, the game understands that fear is rooted not in what we can see, not in gore or nightmarish phantoms leaping into our grill, but rather in the anticipation of all that. The best horror productions, be they games, movies, or books, keep us in suspense by toying with our minds, by being subtle, by not giving away the farm, by realizing that an assault on the senses isn’t half as scary as that which our imagination can construct.