The Resident Evil series is a funny old tale. Both a symbol of Japanese ingenuity and of Japanese gaming industry rut, the series has broken through one moment and broken down the next. The 1996 original made such an impression with its precisely crafted atmosphere, dual story campaigns, zombie dogs, Jill Sandwiches, hardcore item management, and doors being locked from the other side that Capcom seemed to have felt the way forward for the series was to turn everything up to 11 rather than to re-innovate. Indeed, it was not until Resident Evil 4 in 2005 that the series got some much-needed revitalization.
Even at its 2000 launch Code Veronica was hardly forward-thinking, and this HD re-polish does almost nothing to accommodate the decade of advancement that has since occurred in videogames. So despite a still-strong atmosphere, sense of place and flashes of ingenuity, Code Veronica feels clunky and plodding in too many of its elements.
Anything that constitutes “gameplay” is either dry, frustrating, or a combination of the two. Stripping away atmosphere, story and nicely designed environments leaves Code Veronica as a game of bringing key item A to keyhole B while making sure you fill your six/eight-slot inventory with the right combination of power weapons, normal weapons and health items. Figuring out which key to bring to which keyhole is either obvious or trial & error, seldom logic. The combat is never challenging, it’s only a matter of having a correctly managed inventory. If you do, it’s piss-easy, if you don’t, you either die or lose enough health/ammo to warrant reloading a save. Don’t even think of trucking on without those resources, as it’s very possible to save yourself into a no-ammo, no-healing items corner, forcing a full restart. The only real way to be skillful at Code Veronica is to have played it already, and if you haven’t, regularly reloading saves is a necessity. Great fun, repetition does not make.
You’ll push (and re-push) through this gameplay by means of Resident Evil’s infamous “tank controls”, whose presence in this game is utterly nonsensical. See, the original Resident Evil had these controls because there was no other decent way to navigate shifting pre-rendered backgrounds. Those pre-rendered backgrounds were there because the original Playstation couldn’t handle a fully 3D environment of the detail the game required. Code Veronica, however, launched on the Dreamcast and subsequently has polygonal graphics. Yet, bizarrely, the uncontrollable camera angles stay the same. They might occasionally pan, turn and zoom, but the controls of old remain, ensuring no player movement ever goes smoothy.
The framing for the gameplay hardly excels either. Opening with some cheesy, grimy CG, the plot centers on Claire and Chris Redfield discovering an organ of the Umbrella corporation headed by a cartoonishly evil aristocratic family. True to tradition, the voiceacting and script are both horrendous. Though not featuring classic lines of the “Master of Unlocking” calibre, cringe-fans will find plenty to enjoy here nonetheless, specifically in the astoundingly awkward interactions between Claire and supporting character Steve. Even when separated from the dialogue, the plot is uninteresting, not that it’s a signifanct bother.
Though the central narrative is trite, the world in which it takes place is as great as it tends to be in Resident Evil. Every location is designed with masterful nuance, instilling a sense of discomfort through audio and visual design that inspires images far more disturbing than the game’s reality. The eerie ting of flies hitting against a glass lamp and the steam-filled concrete corridors dotted with shadowy corners will sculpt in your mind a monster that no amount of health-spray or flame grenade rounds can slay. But instead, the game presents a monster easily taken down with a shotgun and some corner-camping techniques. Oh well.
In Resident Evil: Code Veronica X HD (gotta love them Capcom titles), enjoyable moments are the exception, tedium is the rule. It might be a worthwhile pursuit and purchase for historic or nostalgic purposes, but otherwise, it’s difficult to enjoy with any consistency.
Pros: Thick atmosphere, brilliant level design
Cons: Consistently clunky and tedious gameplay
2 out of 5