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Resident Evil Zero

Preview By: Siou Choy

Developer:  Capcom
Publisher:  Capcom
Genre:  Survival Horror
Est. Release:  TBA
Posted:  10-10-01

If there's one thing Capcom knows how to do, it's how to keep a series alive. Just look at how long running, and popular, the Street Fighter and Mega Man series have been (and remain to this day). And perhaps nowhere is this so true as with Capcom's infamous zombie slugfest, Resident Evil. The series has the distinction of having been on literally every home console from its inception to date, and continues into the age of next-gen with the release of Resident Evil Zero for the Nintendo GameCube. In these days of ubiquitous cross-platform ports, RE:Zero will be one of those rare exclusives designed to draw fans to the Gamecube.

Originally slated for the N64, Resident Evil Zero is a prequel to the series and stars Rebecca Chambers, apparently seen briefly in the original Resident Evil. Rebecca was part of the S.T.A.R.S. Bravo team that was sent to investigate the mansion (don't feel bad; I played it less than a year ago, and I don't remember her either). In keeping with tradition, you will be able to switch between characters: the ever-popular "Billy Cohen" will be your second playable character. Trying to be mysterious and scary, Capcom's advance press informs us that (to paraphrase) "little is known about this character, except that he is a fugitive naval officer, court-martialed and sentenced to death for murdering two fellow soldiers, who managed to escape while being transported to prison". Ooh, spooky. Are you scared yet? In a series first, RE:Zero will allow you to switch between the two characters at will.

The majority of the game will take place on a train. But this isn't just any train - because this train will be filled with zombies. (gasp!) Yeah, okay, you knew it was coming. Yep, a train full of zombies. You know the whole shtick by heart now; they like to eat flesh, and you're looking tastier than a Chinese buffet at the moment. OK, so it's not much of a plot; but I'm sure it will be better than RE2 or 3 (neither of which even bothered to have one). Goofy, maybe; predictable certainly; but sounds like fun - count me in!

The controls to the game (with exceptions noted below) will be similar to the ones found in previous Resident Evil games. One of the biggest changes to gameplay will be the ability to drop items and leave them behind, whether or not you are picking up a new one. No longer will you be forced to find one of those crummy storage boxes (that always seem to be halfway across the world when you need them) to choose what you do and don't want to carry and where you want to leave stuff, so it'll be there when you come back (or better yet, when your other playable character happens by). In other words, Capcom has finally caught up with Square's 1997 masterpiece Parasite Eve (the first one, not the crappy RE knockoff of a sequel). And it's about damn time.

Although at this point, little has been revealed about the game's plot, we do know that it will deal more directly with Umbrella Corporation, the company that caused the creation of the zombies. More background information and questions left unanswered in the series so far will be filled and retrofitted in, including the mystery of the Bravo team massacre that occurred just before the events of the original Resident Evil. Perhaps most intriguing to those fans (like myself) who believe that despite certain graphical and gameplay improvements, the best days of the series were found at its inception, Shinji Mikami, creator of the series, will be returning as director (for the first time in 5 years).

A couple of things you'll need to know about gameplay (at least judging by the demo at E3):

- Somewhat unbelievably, (and I imagine this would be corrected by the time of release), there's been a distinct turn into retro gaming, in that movement appears to be controlled by means of the directional pad, rather than the analog stick. Talk about unpleasant surprises. Again, logic would dictate that this would be a factor of the early stages of development, rather than an indication of the final product.

- On the other hand, the quick turn option introduced in RE3 was present, and a welcome addition to the game, as a train hardly provides the maneuverability one would be accustomed to in any other situation. Worse, and somewhat unrealistically, you won't be able to slip behind the seats for additional cover; so essentially, we're talking narrow corridor warfare here. Is it any wonder Capcom is calling this the most difficult of the RE games?

All told, with the expected patch-up of the analog stick issue, RE:0 should be an amusing way for zombie fans (like myself) to pass the evening. And that's as much as can be expected from even the best in home video gaming. Gambatte, Capcom! Ike, Nintendo!
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