Resident Evil Zero has more in store than gore

Resident Evil Zero, the new prequel to the popular PlayStation game, is the latest in the ground-breaking survival warrior series exclusively for Nintendo GameCube.

The storyline behind the game is simple, if a little far-fetched: a rookie agent responding to the escape of a criminal ex-marine being transported for execution comes across a wrecked train infested by mutant dogs and zombies. The agent, Rebecca, and the ex-marine, Billy, team up to stay alive and destroy the source of the zombies.

Though the plot may seem contrived, the game is actually quite fun. Essentially, Resident Evil Zero is a series of puzzles broken up by several brief fighting scenes. The puzzles range from insultingly simple to frustratingly difficult, and often require using both characters to solve.

Rebecca and Billy each have different strengths and weaknesses, and switching back and forth between controlling the two is thus recommended to move on in the game. Changing characters is easy, and while you control one individual, the computer controls the other. It is an interesting alternative to the standard single-character, third-person exploration game, and one that adds a whole new aspect to puzzle-solving.

Besides the insight necessary to conquer the defined puzzles in the game, Resident Evil Zero also requires the player to make strategic decisions concerning item usage and storage. Adding a realistic aspect to the game, Billy and Rebecca may only carry a certain number of weapons, medical supplies or strategic game items at any one point. It is definitely inconvenient, but a player soon becomes accustomed to leaving behind items that are not absolutely essential. Luckily, the game includes a built-in mapping system that keeps track of where items were dropped.

The major downside to the game is the method of on-screen movement. Control of the characters is frustrating, even after you get used to the various buttons that determine action.

The particular third-person view offered by the game acts in concert with the controls as an impediment, offering obstructed or incomplete views of the action.

The layout of specific rooms also creates problems at times when you cannot see nearby enemies due to the viewing angle. Thankfully, a dedicated aiming button allows you to target zombies or other antagonists even when not in clear sight.

The only other disappointing aspect of the game is the long loading time, an anomaly on for the platform. Movement between rooms requires a brief cut scene while the game loads the new setting, and the cut scenes soon become stale. You can only witness so many opening doors and moving ladders before getting anxious, though fans have since made their peace with this aspect of inter-room travel.

Aside from the load time and somewhat difficult controls, the game is great. The graphics are spellbinding. The makers paid great attention to detailing the rooms intricately, and most spaces give off an eerie feeling complementary to the plot. During gameplay, details give the game a very realistic aspect, such as puddles forming when rain comes in through broken windows. The sounds accompanying the graphics are well-timed and effective, if not as impressive as the graphics.

The cinematic scenes between important events are, unlike the cut scenes during loading, incredible. The detail in these scenes rivals those of computer-animated movies. Capcom did a fantastic job with the graphics for this game.

Having to figure out puzzles in order to advance is what makes the game so much fun. The tricky scenarios make you pay attention to detail, and there is just enough fighting throughout to avoid getting bored with all the strategy. Despite difficult controls and all the load time, Resident Evil Zero is a winner, and fully worth the wait.