Developer: Capcom / Publisher: Capcom / Price: $19.99 / Played on: Xbox 360, PS3 / ESRB: Mature (Animated Blood and Gore, Animated Violence)
Resident Evil Code: Veronica represented a transition in Capcom’s survival horror series when it released on Dreamcast in 2000. It was the first Resident Evil game to debut on a system other than the original PlayStation, revealing the franchise to a whole new audience, and the first to use 3D environments instead pre-rendered backgrounds. At the same time, it was one of the last to use a fixed-camera system (GameCube’s Resident Evil 0 being the final title to do this). Situated in the middle of the Resident Evil timeline, Code: Veronica and its slightly enhanced PS2 port Code Veronica X, was one of the better-developed RE games with the fixed-camera. Ten years later, however, the HD remake on PSN and Xbox Live is fun to play through again, but is a testament to how far game design has progressed.
The memorable opening to Code Veronica X has Claire Redfield running through an Umbrella Corporation facility while being chased by armed guards and fired upon by a flanking helicopter. When a dozen guards with their weapons drawn cut off her escape route, she slowly drops her gun only to perform a hip dive and pick it back up before it lands on the ground. She tops that ultra-slick move with another: firing away at explosive tanks located behind the armed guards. Of course, her action movie- efforts don’t pan out. A surviving guard hauls her in.
As luck would have it, Claire is imprisoned on a remote island that experiences an outbreak of the T-virus. When almost everyone else is turned into the walking dead, she’s released and told to fend for herself. Almost the entire game is spent trying to escape the zombie-filled island while avoiding the menacing twins that reign over it. Alfred and Alexia are filled with classic Capcom charm; they’re colorful in design and personality like a pair of Saturday morning cartoon villains. It’s hard to determine which of the twins fails more in an attempt to exhibit menacing laughter. A few story twists emerge when you make friends with the briefly playable Steve Burnside and play as Resident Evil 1’s Chris Redfield, so you’re not rolling your eyes the entire game. That’s reserved for the aged gameplay.
Playing Resident Evil Code: Veronica X is jarring at first because of its fixed camera system, especially if you’ve adapted to the behind-the-back approach of Resident Evil 4 and 5 over the last five years. But this fly-on-the-wall perspective is easy to get used to after 20 minutes of mistake-filled gameplay. And as old-fashioned as the controls feel, nothing says Resident Evil more than initially walking in circles and awkwardly moving backward into zombies.
Other game design decisions can’t be excused, however. Inventory management is cumbersome. Reloading your guns, for example, isn’t an automatic mechanic as is the case in RE4 and RE5. No, here, you have to go to the inventory list and combine the ammo with the proper gun. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to grab desperately needed ammo only to find your inventory full. You need a spot for the gun and a spot for the ammo in your always-full bag, even though the ammo is going right into the gun. Apparently, the Redfield family is missing the gene that makes them capable of combining their gun in hand with the ammo that’s just sitting there on a table. Some gamers may call all of this old-school, and that’s fair. It’s just something to keep in mind before diving back into a game made ten years ago.
Similarly, UI designs since this Resident Evil title have been streamlined. “Use,” “Combine” and “Equip” are part of the submenu for items such as bullets. But selecting “Use” results in the message: “Using these bullets alone is not allowed.” Obviously, but why is this the first option every time if I can never actually “Use” bullets in the game?
Even with its flaws, RECVX’s gameplay does have a lot going for it. Steve is an exciting, automatic gun-wielding character who represents an arcade experience over the slower-paced Claire and Chris. The Redfield siblings break out the big guns in the unlockable battle mode. Although ten years old, this enjoyable time attack mode against an onslaught of zombies is combined with modern day leaderboards to add a new layer of addiction.
Every building is a horror-filled puzzle that you can’t always solve right away. There are missing levers, locks that need picking and items out of reach, and seeing these obstacles without the ability to solve the puzzle just means you’ll be back later, maybe 10 hours from that point, to take care of business. In the end, Code Veronica connects the dots better than the first three games.
Finally, RECVX lives up to the definition of survival horror with dead-end moments in which you ditch your progress and load a past save. Sometimes you find yourself facing a boss with little ammo. Sometimes you’re ill-equipped when it comes to first-aid kits. Sometimes–if you’re really unlucky–you lack both scarce items. Whatever the reason, the game may take you 15 hours straight through, but the actual play time is closer to 20 hours. For this reason, it feels more like a fight for managing your resources and solving puzzles from room to room than a battle against wave after wave of zombies. This may or may not appeal to you. Just know going into the campaign: this Resident Evil game is not your friend; multiple saves are.
Visuals & Sound
Also not friendly at times are the graphics. Resident Evil Code: Veronica X certainly looks better than it did on the Dreamcast and PlayStation ten years ago, but this port is being marketed as the first high-definition version of the game. And sure, the in-game character models received a nice touch-up, but the FMVs contain very noticeable jaggies. It also doesn’t help that the brightness has been turned up, giving these action-filled cutscenes a washed-out look. What’s even more disappointing is that the cutscenes that use the game’s engine look fine, making the handful of FMVs look even more out of place. There’s really no reason for a game to look good and, then all of a sudden, look as if your console switched to a standard definition resolution on a wide screen TV.
The audio has its ups and downs, too. The music itself is spot-on with a menacing soundtrack that crescendos at the most frightening moments. But there are other times when the audio is repetitive, especially when it bleeds through the pause screen. Imagine hearing “The self-destruct system has been activated. All personnel evacuate immediately” for 30 minutes while you’re trying to perform tasks in order to evacuate– even on pause. Having been poisoned and looking around for a blue herb to no avail (most of the doors were on lockdown), I had to restart from a distant save point and spend another 30 minutes listening to the same voice-over. Needless to say, it forced me to turn the volume down to one during that time. This is just another example of what today’s AAA titles wouldn’t do.
The convenience of modern games makes this Resident Evil Code: Veronica X feel dated. There’s nothing wrong with this port other than the washed-out, jaggy-filled FMVs; all of the gameplay from the 128-bit era remains intact. That said, slicker survival horror-style games are available on both the PS3 and Xbox 360, namely Alan Wake and Dead Space. Unless you’re in love with Claire Redfield and her skinny blue jeans, this $20 zombie adventure is only for diehard fans who haven’t played a game since last decade.