Review: Resident Evil Origins Collection (PS4)
Alone in the Dark might have pioneered the genre, but Resident Evil is the game everyone remembers. That moment the dog jumped and smashed through the window will forever be a moment every Resident Evil player, who played it back in 1996, will never forget. In 2002 there was a remake of the Resident Evil classic, as well as a brand new game but it only ever appeared on Nintendo consoles. Until now.
Set your mind back to 2002. Nintendo signed an exclusivity deal with Capcom that had them releasing Resident Evil Zero and a Resident Evil remake exclusively for the Nintendo GameCube (and later Wii). Now 14 years later and it’s finally being ported to other consoles in HD. Capcom are the masters when it comes to re-releasing games, but this time it makes good sense. If you never owned a GameCube or Wii then it’s very likely you’ve never played what’s offered in this Resident Evil Origins Collection package. If you’ve never played any Resident Evil games there is not a better offer to set you on your way to blood, guts and gore… with some side servings of brain.
Resident Evil Zero
The Resident Evil Origins Collection package is named that for a reason – you’ll get to learn exactly what happened leading up to the events in the original Resident Evil game (which I’ll touch on a bit later). It so happens to be that the entire series kicks off thanks to leeches. Yes, believe it. A train, infested by leeches, is attacked and not long thereafter Bravo Team of the Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S) are sent in to investigate what happened.
You get to play as S.T.A.R.S. officer Rebecca Chambers, who you might recall as the Medic in Resident Evil, as well as Billy Coen, a convicted criminal who killed 23 people and who happened to be on the train when the incident occurred. That’s where this Resident Evil is different to any other game in the series. You can swap between characters at any given time and, as with the oldschool recipe, this adds many puzzle elements to the game.
Can’t live, with or without you
Press the big touch button on the PS4 and you can have your characters separating from each other. Though separated, they have to solve puzzles that requires them to work as a team. This happens throughout the game from beginning to end and is the most important factor you need to grasp, otherwise you’re in for a tough time. Learning when to tell your partner to be idle or attack, and waste bullets, is something you’ll learn as you play. With the HD conversion there’s also been improvements made for modern players to take advantage of. The most important change is in the way you move your character. Included in this new package is the option new use an ‘alternate’ setup. Press up, down, left or right and your character will move in the intended direction, but there’s a hiccup using that method.
Resident Evil Zero is based on the original pre-rendered background design. This means that when you run to a new scene you’re generally pressing the analogue stick in the wrong direction, which can become frustrating. I reverted to the good ol’ tank controls and it worked like a charm as it did back in 1996. Press up on the D-Pad (or analogue stick) to move forward, down to move back and left or right to turn. It takes some time to master, but I highly recommend it. The other problem is that there are only so many preset controller button configurations. On the PS1, for example, you’d press square and up to run, but in Resident Evil Zero it only works with circle. Move over to the Resi Remake and it reverts to the square button. If there was a custom button mapping option it would have helped a great deal.
Once you get the controls working you’ll be on the lookout for items to solve puzzles or herbs and weapons to heal or defend yourself. These items are scarce, so use what you have sparingly. The good news is that your enemies, the zombies, are as slow as ever and you’re generally never in a rush, though there are other foes later on that changes the pace up slightly. Conserving your items is one thing, but keeping track is a another game altogether.
An inventory mini game
Both Rebecca and Billy only have eight inventory slots available at a time. The bigger weapons, such as the shotgun or grenade launcher, will take up two slots, leaving you with a measly six items in hand. The problem is that you always need a slot or two available, just in case you find something. So, what if you’re filled up? You can drop an item where you’re standing. Problem is that if you dropped an item and now require it on the other side of the planet it’s a long run back to pick it up again. And, if it’s an Ink Ribbon (a requirement to save your progress) you might just die unexpectedly when fetching it. Therefore a central point for your items work best, though there’s a limit on item drops per room. One thing is for sure, it builds the tension, and that’s something these oldschool Resi games knew how to do.
Whenever you head through a door there’s a door loading scene. This was to deal with actual load screen issues in 1996, but I can’t understate just how much suspense it creates. When entering a new door you’re never quite sure what to expect on the other side. Sometimes the camera is right up in your face, as soon as the door closes, and you have to move forward to see what’s there. Combined with the chilling music it builds atmosphere like no other game.
Resident Evil Zero is a good game, but not great. The story is not that strong and there are some terrible voice acting moments in classic Resi fashion. Unfortunately it also feels very little changed from the GameCube version, other than receiving a HD coat of paint. It’s as if it knows it’s building up to the real classic that was the original game.
When moving from Resident Evil Zero to Resident Evil (Remake) there’s an instant sense of ‘This is the real thing’. The fact that you get to play as either Jill or Chris in a very abandoned mansion sinks in very quickly. Your task ahead of you feels daunting and, after the Resident Evil Zero outing, this feels like a terrifying experience. Each and every detailed and disturbing painting, wooden floor creaking, dust particles in the slight ray of light and other various bits of detail will remind you that this is a massive old mansion that’s filled with secrets. Some of the rooms you enter will make the hair down your neck stand up. It’s so obviously apparent that Resident Evil Zero was the stepchild and that all the time and effort went into this remastered remake.
You a Resident Evil veteran? You might think you are
Compare it to the original GameCube version and the puzzles and rooms you’ll discover is an exact replica. It’s just that the lighting has been improved on enormously. It’s hard to look at this game and think it’s a 2002 game with a touch-up here and there. It’s aged so, so well. As with Resident Evil Zero I advise you to get accustomed to the tank controls, but this time you’re by yourself. You have no partner to back you up. You’re on your own. Developers even poke fun at those who played the original game in 1996. What you expect might not quite be what happens this time round. Everything has been changed up. The items you recall being located in some room won’t be there anymore. It’s as if you’re virtually playing Resident Evil again for the first time.
After having the opportunity to dump items as you pleased in Resident Evil Zero the return of the storage box can become annoying as you’re always returning to a room to drop off items in the box, or gather something you require and perhaps forgot. Because of those door loading screens it gets very tedious. Play as Chris and you only have six inventory slots to deal with, whereby Jill has eight. Jill also has a lockpick, which comes in very handy, whereby Chris has a lighter for certain puzzles. Puzzles are generally the order of the day with a good shotgun headshot here and there to make mincemeat of Zombie brains.The similarities are there, but this is definitely the best version of the game out on the market.
If you’ve not played Resident Evil at all this is a must play if you’re considering playing the series. Those who played and completed the original back in 1996 will also find this well worth the investment, especially with Resident Evil Zero being the origin story. That said, if you played it on the GameCube or Wii, and you’re not too fussed about an HD port, there’s not much here that you have not already seen. What you have here is in essence a remaster of an exclusive GameCube title, along with a remaster of a remake for the price of one. For some that’s gold and for others that’s just pure evil. Your Resident Evil history, or lack thereof, should decide just how important it is to splatter zombie brains once more.