Resident Evil Code: Veronica became a significant game for a number of reasons. Though it never received a number, it was the first of the main series to debut on a non-Sony system. It was the first series entry on the Sega Dreamcast as well as the first title for that console era. It was also the first game to go with pure 3-D polygonal backgrounds but the last one to go with fixed camera angles. The game sold well, as did the tweaked PlayStation 2 re-release, which not only added X to the title but also tacked on a few graphical touch-ups and new cut scenes.
To celebrate the anniversary of the series, Capcom has re-released the game on the Xbox 360 and PS3, complete with an HD makeover and revamped name, Resident Evil Code: Veronica X HD. Die-hard fans of the series will need no convincing, but for everyone else, are the Achievements and redone graphics worth the price of admission and hard drive space?
Instead of acting as a side story, the game is more of a direct sequel to the events of Resident Evil 2. After a failed infiltration of Umbrella's Paris facilities, Claire Redfield is captured and taken to the remote island prison of Rockfort. She reawakens just in time to find the island under attack. Freed by her prisoners, she quickly discovers that the T-Virus-infected zombies have completely taken over. With the help of Steve Burnside, a fellow prisoner, her mission is to escape the island and continue the search for her brother Chris.
For those who have played the game on the PS2 or GameCube, know that the fundamental plot and modes haven't changed. The twin heads of the Umbrella Corporation are still here. Albert Wesker still makes an appearance, as does Chris, who you'll control later in the game. The game moves from the island prison to the Arctic, and there's still a battle mode after you beat the game. About the only thing missing here is Wesker's Report, a DVD documentary included with the PS2 version that chronicled the events of the first three games from Wesker's point of view.
Resident Evil Code: Veronica X relies on some basic elements that are still being used in the series' more modern entries. Unless you get in a lucky shot with a shotgun, all enemies take several hits to kill, and even then, you can only confirm a kill if blood pools up beneath a body or if something shatters into pieces. Your heroes can take several hits before dying, but well-mixed herbs and first-aid sprays can heal in a pinch. Ammo is a limited commodity, and the only melee weapon you have is a knife. What your character can carry isn't determined by item count but space, so while a machine gun is great to have around, you have to live with the fact that you can carry less because of it.
The title makes a few changes to the mechanics that were significant at the time. Previously, you could choose who you wanted to start the game with, but now, you're forced to change characters midway through the game due to events in the plot. There's the ability to dual wield some weapons. Herbs can be consumed right away instead of to picking them up first prior to use. The game also let you continue when you die as opposed to forcing you through a title screen to reload your last save. Lastly, there is a first-person viewpoint to the battle mode to complement the game's traditional view.
Coming back to the old style of the game from the new one, it's interesting to see just how different things are beyond the technical aspects. While there's still an element of combat, including a few boss fights, this one leans toward the more obscure puzzle elements of its predecessors. It's still present in later entries, but spending most of your time searching for three different switches, each one coming with a tricky solution, is what these games were all about. Inventory for each character is limited, so there's a big reliance on finding large item deposits so you have room to pick up even more stuff. It's also a HUD-less affair, so you'll rely on body language and switching constantly between menus to monitor health and ammo status.
Auto-targeting is also present here. You may be able to direct your attacks between the upper, mid-range and lower parts of the body, but as long as you're facing in the general direction of your target, you'll be able to hit it just fine. Moving from room to room often had loading screens masked with a view of the door slowly opening or a flight of stairs being taken ever so slowly to create a sense of tension. Finally, this marks the last time that ink ribbons were needed to save a game. In a time when constant saves can make a game feel easier, the fact that your saves were limited added to the tension and made it even more valuable than ammo.
Some of the aforementioned aspects still play out nicely now, mainly the puzzle-oriented gameplay for those who weren't too keen on combat. However, there are a few quirks that even series fans were glad to see fixed. As mentioned before, the camera angles were artistic but often hindered gameplay, especially during the transition points. When a room isn't teeming with enemies, you'll often be hugging every possible wall and piece of furniture while spamming the X button to see if you can find the object or switch you need. Some areas had respawning enemies, so if you had to traverse that area over and over again, you would either have to waste more ammo or try to plow through at the risk of getting hurt. While stairs and doors had understandable transition scenes, simple things like going up a short flight of stairs still required you to hit the X button. Again, some of these things were fixed later in the series, but their appearance here makes you remember why they were removed.
One can't talk about the old Resident Evil games without talking about the controls, and new fans of the series may be in for a shock. Despite what others may say, the controls are mostly the same as the ones from Resident Evil 4 and 5. Your left analog stick handles all of your movements from turning to walking. Running is done by using the left analog stick in conjunction with holding down the A button. Pulling the right trigger while hitting X uses your weapon while hitting X alone picks up objects or examines your surroundings. The big difference comes from perspective, and this is where the problems with controls originate. Because of the camera's constantly changing nature, it is more difficult to control the character without bumping into walls. You'll feel like going forward is done in reverse since you push the stick up even if your character is running toward the screen. It is this seeming lack of control and ever changing perspective that makes people appreciate what RE 4 and 5 have done even though the fundamentals haven't changed after all these years.
The game didn't receive a full-on graphical makeover, but some portions are quite impressive. The dynamic lighting, while limited, still looks as good as it did when players first saw it all those years ago. The overall visuals are cleaner but only a tad better than those lucky Dreamcast owners who were running it through VGA cables. It also maintains a solid frame rate throughout, so there's no worry about it slowing down at inopportune times. The character models look fine, though not as rounded as they are from Resident Evil 4 onward, but the textures aren't as clean as one would expect in this era. The letters on Claire's and Chris' jackets, for example, are almost impossible to read and look like smudges. The environments look good, but you can make out areas where varying colors are thrown together instead of meticulously placed for artistic effect. The biggest offender in this category is the pre-rendered cut scenes. Most look fine, but you can see how compressed they are when focusing on smaller things like fingers. Lines become jagged to the point where you have a tough time determining what you're watching. It should've been rectified for the powerful opening scene, since Capcom likely has the source material.
While the clarity may have improved, the sound is exactly how you remember it — and that's both good and bad. The music is sparse, playing only during moments when monsters appear or key scenes to help create atmosphere. The score is good, but the sense of dread and solitude is certainly amplified when you have no musical accompaniment. The effects are cleaned up, but they don't necessarily sound better. Each one is clearer, but the same pistol sound and knife slash sounds from about 10 years ago are relatively unchanged here.
The same goes for the voice acting. At this point, you can see that Capcom was trying to go for some more serious acting, resulting in good performances for some characters since Resident Evil 2. Listening to the voice of someone like Steve can instantly transport you back to the original PlayStation release of Resident Evil. That's part of the charm of the series, but those who haven't been forewarned will find it off-putting. One big flaw encountered during the review period was the presence of a high-pitched buzz during the opening company credits. While this may have been particular to press versions of the download, it is something worth noting when you first start the game.
Resident Evil Code: Veronica X is a must-have game, but only if you fall under certain requirements. You have to be fine with more puzzles and obscure item hunts than combat. There must be a comfort level with the various odd camera angles that the game seems to love. The fact that some of the dialogue is off and that some of the voices are laughable shouldn't pose much of a problem to you. You also have to be fine with the graphical improvements being good but not mind-blowing. If you can live with all of this, then you'll certainly enjoy this classic entry in the series because of the story and action. If any of the aforementioned aspects bother you, then stick with the franchise games from Resident Evil 4 onward.
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