reHorror: Resident Evil CODE: Veronica X HD review

It’s been over a decade since the release of Resident Evil CODE: Veronica, sans the ‘X’ at the end of its title. This original release was quite notable for being the first title in the series, at the time, that didn’t make its debut on a Playstation console– it instead launched originally on the Dreamcast. It wouldn’t hit Sony’s second home console until one year later as CODE: Veronica X. This updated port was more than just a nicer looking version. It also brought forth all-new cinematics to further flesh out the overall epic tale this title told. So now, here we are, over a decade later with the just-released HD version of the game for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3– via Games on Demand and PSN, respectively. So, how does this survival horror epic hold up? Find out in my review below.

CODE: Veronica X was the first main entry that immediately followed Resident Evil 3 and the destruction of Raccoon City. So, fans were quite eager to see where exactly their beloved series would go next. The answer to that query was Rockfort Island. The story starts off with an explosive display of Claire Redfield breaching Umbrella’s Paris-based HQ, in search of her brother, Chris. Claire then gets captured, ending up in Rockfort Island. Being owned by Umbrella, the island doubled as a training facility and a prison camp. After coming face to face once again with her captor (now injured) Claire is set free, being told that the island has been overwrought by an outbreak (like always).

From here we embark on what I love to call a survival horror epic that spans multiple environments, all wrapped in an engaging, sprawling tale painted by themes of history, conspiracies and family– with a very strong parallel yarn being spun as both Claire and Chris are faced with a very different set of siblings: current head of the Ashfords, Alfred and his sister, the main baddie Alexia (who I love to refer to as the Queen of the BOWs). Though the game’s side of cheese, brought about by some of the writing and voicework (thanks, Alfred), may have you think otherwise, the story is also an emotional piece. And that’s thanks to Claire and fellow prisoner Steve Burnside, the latter whom players may initially find themselves being annoyed with, but he’ll gradually come to evoke a sense of sympathy thanks to a few touching and well-delivered scenes. Hell, I almost found myself crying late in the game because of this. Oh, and the game also benefits from a good dose of Wesker, who takes part in some of the series’ most memorable cutscenes in this game.

But what still surprises me to this day is the fact that there’s no number at the end of the title– to replace the game’s subtitle. CODE: Veronica X truly feels like the fourth main, numbered entry in the series, and in my personal opinion, it really should’ve been. It feels more like a true, authentic Resident Evil title  than the actual Resident Evil 4 we ended up getting. The story continued from where the original trilogy left off by bringing back familiar and loved faces, while introducing new ones altogether. Yeah, Resident Evil 4 did this too, but that game’s story felt more like a reboot, really having no ties to the original trilogy when you think about it, other than having Leon and Ada playing central roles and the intro which told of Umbrella’s “downfall.”

Regardless, Resident Evil 4 is a classic and so is CODE: Veronica X, the latter was just a more traditional and faithful “next step” post-Resident Evil 3. Oh, and did I forget to mention that you don’t spend the whole game playing as Claire? Aside from playing as Steve Burnside for a limited time, you also play an entire scenario as Chris, too–making this game even longer than one would initially expect. I won’t delve into specifics as to how Chris comes into play, but let’s just say we can all thank Leon. And let’s face it, if it wasn’t for Chris being such a central player in the game, we wouldn’t have been graced with en epic ending fight scene that continued to fuel a classic rivalry. I won’t say with who, but if you’ve played this game before, or have knowledge of the series’ running story threads and characters, then you know who I’m talking about.

CODE: Veronica X provides an interactive experience that definitely caters to those longing for classic survival horror from this series, but it may not exactly please those newer players who have just been introduced to the game with this HD release, and who may be only accustomed to Resident Evil by way of the most recent numbered entries, 4 and 5. For that latter group, a strong sense of unfamiliarity and even discomfort may arise, making them wish they were back in a behind-the-shoulder view of what’s in front of them, with more precision in their aiming as well. But hey, this is the classic Resident Evil formula at its finest here, and for all those survival horror enthusiasts who don’t mind restrictive movement and fixed camera angles, then this will be right up their alley.

In classic Resident Evil fashion, or notorious to some,you have no control over the game’s camera (which does a good job in showing off the areas you’ll traverse in nice, cinematic ways), and you have limited control over your character. I say limited because the game adopts the tried-and-true tank-ike controls from the classic games– which is something I have no problem with, but I acknowledge that some do. You can perform quick 180 degree turns to help get you out of a tight situation where you’re about to become zombie-food, and you can also auto-aim at the walking dead. Once you bring up your gun you’ll automatically aim at whatever foe happens to be nearby. This, combined with the fixed camera that restricts you from having your complete surrounding within view, means that sometimes you’ll be able to auto-aim at an enemy you can’t even see. That may be an issue for some who prefer to always be able to see what’s in front of them, instead of opting to let the game aim for them.

But what’s a Resident Evil game without some awesome BOWs? Fortunately, CODE: Veronica X packs a great line-up of monstrosities to take care of with some of the major ones including yet another Tyrant (in an awesome fight in the back of a cargo plane), the imprisoned Nosferatu whose screams always send chills down my spine, and Alexia who serves as quite a memorable final boss. There may not be a whole lot of bosses in the game, but the ones that are present hold their own nicely with those from other games in the series. But don’t fret, you’ll have a reasonable selection of weapons to utilize in your fight against the BOWs the game will throw at you. These weapons range from your standard handgun (which can later be enhanced) to more powerful weapons like the bowgun, grenade launcher, and machine gun– amongst other guns. But this game also marked the debut of dual-wielding guns– like sub-machine guns. And trust me, you’re going to need all the weapons, health items, and ammo you can get your hands on to survive.

The reason for that is that bosses aren’t the only enemies you’re going to have to worry about, even the standard zombies have received an upgrade in damage resistance and sometimes speed. And here’s a good tip: don’t even bother using the bowgun’s standard ammo, it’s completely weak against almost everything. Aside from classic zombies, you also have the debut of an all-new threat: the Bandersnatch. These new foes have the brute strength of the Hunters and the reach of the Lickers thanks to their one long arm which can actually stretch a longer distance than the Licker’s whip-like tongue. Yeah, they’re not friendly, and encounters with them can turn out being quite tense. Then you also have poisonous spiders, moths and the return of the aforementioned Hunters. The Hunters in this game are actually used quite nicely, and in two forms– one classic and a red poisonous one. Basically, Wesker puts out remote drones in Chris’ scenario. When these drones spot Chris, their alarm sounds off and a Hunter enters making for encounters akin to the Mr. X and Nemesis battles, from Resident Evil 2 and 3, respectively.

It’s not all about gunnin’ in CODE: Veronica X, though. There’s also a good amount of puzzles, and some of them will truly lead to some head-scratching moments. This may be a negative for some, especially those players who don’t really possess a strong sense of patience and who are more used to the puzzle-free style of Resident Evil 5. A few of these puzzles may also require a pen and paper to make things easier. For example, there’s a puzzle fairly early in the game that requires you to trace the Ashford family’s lineage via pictures in a room. You have a file available that aids you in doing this, but it doesn’t exactly make it easier to fully complete. And going back and forth into the menu to pull out the file is something that can easily be replaced with a pen and paper in hand, to help you map out the lineage. I’m a true sucker for these types of trying puzzles, but I’m well aware that not many share this same love.

Puzzles is just one staple of the classic Resident Evil formula, the other is back-tracking. And oh boy is there a lot of back-tracking in this game. Therein lies another issue that can irk some players: you’ll find yourself, at times, wandering aimlessly looking for where to go due to not really receiving any substantial clues as to your next location. For survival horror nuts like me, this sense of having to figure out where to go next is one of main reasons why we love this genre, but for others it may just be detestable and frowned upon– this generation’s gamers are more used to countless explosions and linearity, afterall. I will say, though, I found one instance of back-tracking late in the game that actually led to some frustration on my part. Because it felt like a sort of fetch-quest at times. But that’s just one small personal issue. And plus, who wouldn’t want to revisit old areas when they’re as atmospheric as they are in this game– which have been noticeably enhanced, visually, thanks to this new HD version.

Now here’s where the HD upgrade actually comes into play. Whereas in Resident Evil 4 HD, the visual “upgrade” wasn’t really all that noticeable, here, in CODE: Veronica X HD it’s a different story. The end result is a very visually appealing upgrade to the game’s lighting system, making for an enhancement of the overall atmosphere, which was already effective and moody to begin with. And this all makes back-tracking through already traversed areas quite welcome, so we can appreciate every small detail in one’s surroundings. To add to that, CODE: Veronica X broke ground for the series at the time by being the first entry to fully utilize 3D backgrounds, moving away from the pre-rendered ones from the past games. This graphical leap for the series resulted in a greater sense of immersion in the environment and it also led to nice little touches interspersed throughout, that couldn’t be done with pre-rendered backgrounds– like more dynamic lighting and other effects.

And trust me, you’ll be quite pleased with the environments this game has to offer. Moving away from Raccoon City, one would’ve expected possibly another city to fight BOWs in. That wasn’t exactly the case, and we ended up with Rockfort Island serving as the main initial locale. The island in and of itself, serving as both a prison camp and training facility for Umbrella, housed several key locations like the actual training grounds, a prison, and the most notable one: the Ashford palace which is set to one of the best Resident Evil tracks that sounds a little like the main Excorcist theme, which is just one example of what may be the best soundtrack in the series. Going back to the palace, though, this area is more like a haunted house than an area where one would actually live in, especially with giant, creepy dolls hanging from the ceiling in the main hall. And speaking of the main hall, we also get to return to a very classic and beloved locale late in the game, after we get out of the island. Yeah, Rockfort Island isn’t the only setting in the game. Without spoiling too much, I’ll just say things go ice cold just when you think it’s all over.

But what happens after you beat the game? Well, let’s get what may be a negative for some out of the way first. There’s isn’t a new game plus option or even any unlockable difficulties. Basically, you’re left with only starting a fresh new game, trying to see if you could best your clear time and rank higher on the leaderboards (which is a new addition with this HD version). But starting the game over may provide a joy only reserved for diehard Resident Evil and survival horror fans, since the game itself is quite lengthy and difficult. Actually, it’s the longest of the classic Resident Evil games, pre-Resident Evil 4. You can easily find yourself spending anywhere between 10 to 15 hours your first time through, and that’s only if you find yourself not getting lost too much. And trust me, you will get lost, and yes, you will die. This is also the hardest of the classic games in the series (well, to me at least). This difficulty sprouts from both puzzles and stronger (and faster) enemies. So, yeah, replaying through the campaign may not be all that desirable for those who were already struggling to beat it initially.

Then we have the Battle Game, which is a neat extra mini game that’s unlocked after the credits. This mode is unlike the now traditional Mercenaries mode in which you’re trying to get as much kills as possible to increase your score. In the Battle Game your sole objective is to clear various rooms full of enemies, leading to a final boss fight that’s different for each playable character (Claire, alternate attire Claire, Chris, Steve, and Wesker). And you have to do all of this as fast as you can if you want to get that A ranking that’s needed for each character in order to unlock the linear launcher– and thus, get the achievement/trophy. Unlike Mercenaries, here you can’t increase the timer, you just have to make it all the way through as quickly as possible, making it a tense experience especially if you’re trying to attain the highest rank. It’s a very fun extra mode that will definitely cater to those who love besting their high scores. Oh, and let me know how fast you can clear it with Wesker, who’s only weapon (initially) is a knife.

I’m well aware of the one crucial query on your mind while reading this review (or if you just skipped to the bottom to see my final score): is this HD remastered version of the game worth it? And the answer to that isn’t as clear-cut as one would like it to be. Like Resident Evil 4 HD, CODE: Veronica X HD doesn’t really bring anything new to the table other than a touch-up of the visuals, which in this case is a nice upgrade to the game’s lighting system, and leaderboards. Not everything looks nicer than before, though, and you’ll be met with some very dated CG cutscenes in this game– which thankfully aren’t many, but they are at key points in the story. Having said that, we should understand that Capcom never really marketed these games as full-blown remakes, on the contrary, they just pushed these two HD remastered editions as two classic games now available for current-gen consoles, looking cleaner than before.

Basically, if you already own a version of this game and are still able to play it then this may not be worth it to you. For everyone else, though, who’s yet to experience the last traditional, main entry in the series before Resident Evil 4 came with its big changes, then this is nothing less than a blessing. The game is now available to a broader audience (digitally in the states and physically in Japan). You don’t have to worry about not having a backwards compatible PS3 or about never having received an Xbox port of this game. Now it’s available to both audiences in a convenient format, so long as you have internet access and $20/1600 msp (or $10 if you’re a Playstation Plus member).

New fans of the series brought in by Resident Evil 4 and 5 definitely owe it to themselves to check out this classic survival horror epic that boasts one of the most fleshed out stories in the series to date. Yeah, this HD port isn’t a more full-on HD make-over like what Konami is doing with Silent Hill, but does that even matter when the base game is as classic as CODE: Veronica X is? This may not be the scariest Resident Evil game, or even the best, but this game truly is a survival horror epic with quite possibly the best, self-contained story out of any other title in the series. Do yourself a favor and download this now, and maybe if the number of sales for this HD version exceeds that of Resident Evil 4 HD’s then Capcom will feel more inclined to continue offering traditional Resident Evil experiences– remakes or not.

9/10

               
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