E3 2002Resident Evil 0 hands-on

We play the next installment in Capcom's survival horror franchise for the GameCube.

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Capcom is showing a playable version of Resident Evil 0 for the GameCube at E3, and we had a chance to play it. The game started as a Nintendo 64 project but was quickly moved to the GameCube when it became obvious that the console's life span was quickly drawing to a close. However, the GameCube version of Resident Evil 0 features the same graphical style and gameplay found in the recently released remake of the original Resident Evil.

The game is a prequel to the first Resident Evil. The story begins as S.T.A.R.S. team member Rebecca Chambers is traveling via train to investigate the disappearance of her fellow Bravo team members. She quickly meets with Billy Cohen, an AWOL naval officer who has been condemned to death for the murder of two fellow soldiers. The game takes place predominantly within the confines of the dual-layered train, which is ripping along the tracks at too brisk of a pace for either Rebecca or Billy to jump. When the undead make an appearance, the pair teams up to try to find a way to stop the train. Ultimately, they survive.

The playable demo on display at E3 is composed of just a few rooms, but we were able to get a good feel for Resident Evil 0's gameplay. Most of the enhancements that are included in the previously released Resident Evil remake will be included in Resident Evil 0 as well. You'll be able to perform quick turns by tapping down on the directional pad or analog stick and pressing the B button. Bringing up your weapon to fire is accomplished with the R button, and enemy targets can be cycled through with the L button. The A button fires weapons, but the defense weapons that were added for the remake of the original Resident Evil were strangely not present in this current demo of Resident Evil 0. There are, however, other additions that will remedy many of the complaints that have been lodged against the franchise's gameplay in the past.

The most obvious change is that you will now have the ability to drop weapons, items, ammunition, and any other collectibles via the game's menu system. The item will then be dropped where your character is standing and will remain there until it's picked up once again. Both Rebecca and Billy are playable characters, and you can swap between the two at any time by pressing the X button. When the X button is pressed, the screen will freeze, become blurry, and turn to black and white. The process repeats in reverse until the new character is standing in the same exact spot. Another addition to the gameplay is the buddy system. By pressing the Z button, the computer will take control of the character you're not controlling, and the pair can proceed through the level as a small squadron. The feature was fairly limited in the E3 demo on display, so we were unable to discern just how smart the artificial intelligence is. You'll be able to equip the computer-controlled character with the weapon of your choosing or take ammunition away so that the character does not attack at all.

However, the rest of the franchise's gameplay has remained intact. You'll have to collect crests, keys, and other strange items and attempt to figure out where to use them. The typewriter save system that the series is known for has also made a return appearance. The demo was limited to just a few rooms, so it was impossible to know if other staples of the franchise--like box-pushing puzzles--will be included as well. Zombies move much more quickly in Resident Evil 0 than in other installments in the franchise, and they will knock each other down if you push one of them into another. The demo does provide ample ammo to blast zombies with, and it will be interesting to see if ammunition availability will be toned down for the finished game.

While Resident Evil 0 makes use of the same technology used for the remake of the original Resident Evil, the game isn't looking quite as sharp so far. Billy Cohen's character model doesn't feature as much detail as the models from the last game, though Rebecca's model does look quite good. The game's graphics are incredibly dark, so it was hard to get a good look at the zombies in the E3 demo, but other details were prevalent, and they help set the scene. Dishes will rock back and forth on tables to denote the movement of the train, and when you venture outside the train, you'll see that the weather effects are some of the best yet seen in a video game. Occasionally, static bitmaps will be shown of areas outside the train, and they look a bit awkward when compared with the rest of the game's visual offerings. Hopefully, these are simply placeholder, as the game appears to be rather early in its development cycle. The loading screens of doors and stairways are included in the E3 demo, but there's been no word concerning whether they will remain in the final code.

With multiple control schemes, a variety of improvements to the gameplay formula, and stunning graphics, Resident Evil 0 is worth keeping an eye on for both fans of the franchise and action fans in general. Resident Evil 0 is currently scheduled for release in October of this year. We'll have more on the game when it becomes available. But until then, check out the latest screenshots and movies of the game.

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