For people wondering why the new slogan for Resident Evil 7 is ""return to horror"", this is because the first Resident Evil games had been focused more on horror instead of action. It is a natural progression however, after your first few skirmishes with zombies, you start acting less like a hapless victim and more like an action star (just look at how the characters in The Walking Dead have evolved over the span of a few seasons). With all that being said, the title Resident Evil Zero tells you that this game's narrative pretty much predates everything else, and so yes, while your main characters are certified toughies (one is a member of an elite police task force and the other is a convicted felon with a military background), do expect the game's pace to be a little more horror-inclined than RE5 or 6.
Rebecca Chamber's name is known to RE fans -even back when RE Zero was originally released. She had already appeared briefly in the first game and is mentioned in the second. But this is the first time where she appears as an actual playable character. Billy, the second playable protagonist is a completely new character for Zero.
The game starts out with Rebecca's team being deployed by helicopter towards the Arklay Mountains just outside of Raccon City. However, due to an engine failure, they crash into the forest. Rebecca survives, finds a train that is full of zombies, and ends being forced to team up with Billy who is also aboard the train. Together, they try to survive against the hordes of the undead and try to figure out what is really going on.
As a prequel it is very understandable that much of the story expositions and content all point towards the events that would unfold in the later RE games (the ending for RE Zero pretty much explains how Rebecca manages to reach the Mansion in the first game -and brings her whole story to a full circle). Expect a lot of explanation via long and winding dialogue sequences that Japanese games tend to be known for (especially when you finally meet the game's big bad, Marcus). Being an RE title, you should expect a lot of bio-engineered undead horrors to get in your way.
Bringing Back the Past
This game is a remaster and not a reboot, and thus, everything that was present in the original game is still here. The only thing new are the higher resolution textures, better lighting, and new options for camera and game controls. Fans of the classic game might want to try out the old tank control scheme while those of you who prefer their gaming to be a bit more intuitive will appreciate the adaptation of the more standard movement options. The camera has a new 16:9 aspect ratio, but considering that the game was originally made for a 4:3, the cropping at the top and bottom is a little less functional.
Much of the great details in the original game are still here -slight details in the backgrounds (RE's pre-rendered backgrounds were amazing back in the day), the tactical use of inventory (by forcing players to make use of limited slots, you cannot play this game as a pack rat and just item-spam your way to victory). We noticed that the AI seemed to be a bit more responsive now (Billy or Rebecca will move automatically depending on who the player is currently controlling).
Much Love from the Past
Not surprisingly, most of the players who appreciate Resident Evil Zero are those who already enjoyed the original version of the game. Current RE fans would certainly appreciate the experience to delve a little deeper into the sci-fi zombie mythos, but ultimately, there is not much in Zero that makes it a critical part of the story. We do like the inclusion of a new Albert Wesker mode that allows players to go through RE Zero's stages as the iconic sunglass wearing villain.
Of course, when played in succession with other HD remakes, like the original Resident Evil, the events of RE Zero create the perfect accompaniment to the story. If you played the shooter RE Chronicles, this game adds a whole new layer of depth to the storyline that is briefly shown in the Wii action shooter.
Made for the Fans
It is very obvious that this is a game that is best played by the fans. If you are completely new to the Resident Evil franchise, you can start off with either the remake of the original, or RE4. Resident Evil Zero is more of a niche pick, created to be familiar to the current players and fans of the series. Sure, it is possible to start off with this game, but there are so many references and little bits of details that will certainly go by unnoticed and unappreciated if you have yet to try the other games.