For Resident Evil afficionados, this is the big one. Nintendo GameCube exclusive Resident Evil Zero turns back the clock to a time before Raccoon City became the zombie-packed horror-ville of everyone’s worst nightmares – and reveals the hows, whos and whys behind the whole spine-trembling series.
For the first time in the Resident Evil saga, ‘Partner Zapping’ allows two characters to be under your control simultaneously. Rookie S.T.A.R.S. cop Rebecca Chambers – sent to investigate a series of murders in the Raccoon City area – is stranded after a helicopter crash. Ex-Navy SEAL Billy Coen is an escaped convict, who Rebecca encounters after the truck wreck that sets him free. ‘Partner Zapping’ works very nicely: at the press of a button, you can switch between the two characters – whether they’re together in a room or far, far apart. The C-Stick gives you some control over the ‘idle’ character, so they’ll automatically attack anything unpleasant that wanders nearby, and you can trade items between Rebecca and Billy (including the ‘mixed’ items that only Rebecca can combine) if they’re close enough.
This dual character system sucks you even further into those patented Resident Evil scares. Not only do you find yourself chewing your fingernails with worry whenever your little team is separated – you’ll also be tip-toeing trembling into situations that your character is ill-equipped to cope with, when the game forces you to select Rebecca at times when having health-hero Billy to hand would be much more comforting.
And there’s more to have your neck hair standing to attention than ever before. Over two discs, Resident Evil Zero traps you in out-of-control trains infested with moaning undead; guides you into rooms crammed with possessed, madly flapping crows; and sets you up on several surprise blind dates with some of the series biggest, most revolting T-Virus-addled monstrosities yet.
The visuals aren’t as impressive as this year’s earlier Resident Evil – they’re better. The detail is impossibly good, with flickering glows from candles, dancing shadows, curtains that waft gently in the breeze from broken windows, and rain that bounces off objects and scenery. Every new room is a feast for the eyes: although with camera angles used to terrifying effect (for example, peering in at you from outside a window), you might be hiding your eyes behind your fingers too often to notice.
Every corner turned in Resident Evil Zero means a new fright, a new gobsmacking visual treat, another excellent use of music and sound (or, often, total silence) to turn the scares up to 11. The best Resident Evil yet? Dead right.