Review: Resident Evil CODE: Veronica X HD

Review: Resident Evil CODE: Veronica X HD

(Please pardon my cumbersome flame retardant suit as I fear I may make some rather bold claims that could potentially spark a verbal riot.)

2011 will surely be remembered as the year of the HD remake as a torrent of vintage titles are finding their way back into the limelight after wasting away the years in a dusty storage container. The most recent, Resident Evil CODE: Veronica X, was perhaps one of the most unexpected, yet welcome additions to the remake family.

Reigniting and Obsession

My obsession with the Resident Evil series stems back to my earliest memories of fully 3D games. This new fangled PlayStation thingamabob had just come out and one evening while around the dinner table, my uncle shared an article with me about the first Resident Evil game and how it was going to revolutionize the horror genre. I knew I had to have it and from that day forward, the Resident Evil series ranked in the upper echelon of titles for me. But things didn’t stay that way for long.

I tore through the first three games in no time flat, often replaying them the instant I beat them. Then came a lull in the action. I had lost a bit of hope in the series and figured that it had ended on a high note and thought I should at least be happy at that. Sadly, the launch of the PS2 came and went without a proper Resident Evil revival (I had heard rumblings of a Dreamcast version, but 14 year old friends were often considered to be unreliable sources and I wrote it off as nonsense). Then, one day while perusing the local Best Buy, I stumbled upon what I consider to be the last true, great Resident Evil game: CODE: Veronica X.

I blasted through the game that evening and several more times in the following weeks, but haven’t touched it in the 11 years since. So naturally you can imagine my excitement as I was blindsided by this remake being dropped in my lap. Not often do I miss something Resident Evil related – yes, I love all the movies and have read every single one of the novels.

However, does this game stand the test of time as so many other games have failed to do or does it simply remind us of how bad games really were back then compared to what we have now? Well, that’s where fanboyism may kick in and objectivity is tossed out the window. As I stated before, I am a huge fan of the original style of Resident Evil games, also commonly referred to as the ones with ‘tank controls’, and this game reminds me of exactly why I liked those games in the first place.

Simply put, if you absolutely loved Resident Evil 4 and 5, you more than likely will not love CODE: Veronica X HD as it is an entirely different style of gameplay, which may really put a lot of gamers off at first. However, if you are like me and appreciate the wonders of the original titles and the mastery of their execution, you are in for quite a ride.

 Familiar Faces

Resident Evil CODE Veronica X HD

CODE: Veronica drops you into the shoes of Claire Redfield 3 months after she attempted to infiltrate an Umbrella Corp. facility while looking for her brother Chris. She is taken to a remote military facility on Rockfort island to be held indefinitely. As is par for the course, an outbreak of the  T-Virus turns the whole island into a walking graveyard and she is freed from her cell by a man who figures she is far less of a threat than the flesh eating zombies meandering about outside.

Claire teams up with ex-con Steve Burnside and becomes involved in an estranged family dispute regarding the Ashfords, their awkward relationships, and devious plot to create a stronger strain of the T-Virus known as T-Veronica. Claire’s one and only focus is to escape the island and continue her search for her brother, but little does she know, he is also looking for her as well.

 A Decade of Upgrades

Resident Evil CODE Veronica X HD

If you played any of the original releases of this game you are going instantly notice the upgraded visuals. The HD behind this title is far from a simple formality. This game, for being 11 years old, still looks particularly good. It’s important to note that other games in the remake club have received much more of an upgrade to their graphics, but this one isn’t entirely left out in the cold. A good majority of the textures have been smoothed out and Claire is a bit closer to having distinguishable features. Most importantly, zombie’s guts can be seen oozing from their sides and the environments are a bit cleared making interactive objects much easier to spot.

To make an accurate comparison, I broke out the old PS2 and did a bit of side by side comparison. I found that aside from what I mentioned above, the dynamic shadows were drastically improved while the overall atmosphere of the game had been tweaked to create more of a sense of dread and despair.

That doesn’t mean that this game is the visual marvel that Resident Evil 5, or even 4 were, but still. For a game this old to blast back onto the scene and look this good is quite impressive. The fresh coat of paint actually brought back feelings of playing the game for the first time and that alone was worth it for me. However, a fresh coat of paint is really where the improvements to the game end, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

 A Human Tank

Resident Evil CODE Veronica X HD

Controlling these vintage Resident Evil games requires a section of the brain that is quickly being pruned out thanks to modern games. We are so used to having the camera set behind our character or pressing any given direction to make them move towards that particular side of the screen. Well, prepare to get your mind bend a bit here. For those of you newcomers to the series, the learning curve for controls may be a bit steep, but it becomes second nature after awhile.

Pressing forward on the joystick makes Claire move forward in relation to the direction she is currently facing. Seeing as how the camera angles in this game are entirely static and change quite frequently, you constantly have to readjust your perspective and think through your directions. Walking towards the screen while pressing forward and then having to press left to make her turn towards the right side of the screen can be a bit confusing at first. Just wait till you have to do it while evading two Bandersnatches, a Gulp Worm, and 3 Cerberus Dogs while clutching your side. You start to catch on quickly if you value life.

One of the most argued points of the RE series is the apparent inability to run and shoot. Well, that’s no different here. Your feet become nailed to the ground the second you shoulder your weapon. Fortunately, you can turn, aim up, and aim down to give yourself a bit of freedom. Just don’t expect to mow down legions of zombies while setting land speed records. It’s just not going to happen.

 Back to Basics

Resident Evil CODE Veronica X HD

This game really reminds me just how deep the roots of the zombie game genre go. The most recent zombie trend has been to pack as many living dead on the screen as possible and provide a wide assortment of weapons to cut, hack, and mow them down as fast as possible. It hasn’t always been that way. Despite being a game centered on a zombie outbreak, CODE: Veronica X HD is surprisingly sparse with its placement of zombies. That’s because Resident Evil has always been, at least back in the day, about survival horror.

Rather than overwhelm the player with armies of brain hungry meat sacks, Resident Evil takes the realistic approach and instills this sense of fear and suspense that would more than likely ensue from a mildly contained outbreak. Will there be a zombie when you open the bathroom stall? Are those scientists on the floor dead or are they just digesting a food baby of guts and kneecaps before getting up and ambling towards their next meal? I know I’m going to die if I don’t eat this plant right now, but I may need to save it for later… Just what on God’s green Earth used to be in those busted specimen tubes? These are just a few of thoughts you may find running through your mind while gingerly exploring the virus infected island, not ‘OMFG ZOMBIES! Which 6 weapons should I tape together and go running through them?”

 Think?! There’s No Time to Think!

A bit of strategy and tactics also come into play with this game as your inventory space is very limited. You can only carry 6 items initially, but quickly get to upgrade that to a whopping 8 a few hours in. That means you have to really be following along and deciding what’s important to carry with you and what you can drop in the magical, teleporting drop box. Whatever you don’t carry appears in any number of the save boxes you will encounter, but those are still quite few and far between. That means that you are probably going to be doing a lot of backtracking.

The main story, although very engaging and entertaining, can be very hard to follow and figure out exactly where you are supposed to go next. I suppose for the time being that was the norm, but after the recent advancements in video games, it seems a bit cumbersome and annoying. Fortunately, whatever you kill on your way around the island generally tends to stay dead. On the down side, that causes you to chew through your already limited ammo, so a few wrong moves and bad choices could leave you attempting to fight your way to the next area with nothing more than a couple of herbs and a tactical knife.

 Heard But Not Seen

CODE: Veronica

I have always enjoyed the audio in the Resident Evil games as it is quite spooky and haunting. In an attempt to recreate my childhood experiences with the game I turned all the lights off and cranked the volume up as loud as I could, this time with surround sound instead of a wimpy mono CRT set. Again, I was instantly sucked back to my early teens and sat completely engrossed in the environment, constantly guessing where the next shambling meat shield would stumble out of. The shuffling of feet, munching of intestines, and haunting wails could be heard from all over as environmental sound effects and tense music burst forth at the most opportune times.

The one bit of audio that obviously didn’t really get any attention was the voice-overs. Although not terrible, they tend to come up a bit short in believability and Steve’s voice in particular is about as soft on the ears as a cheese grater.

Resident Evil has been in a bit of a rut lately and seemed to take a complete left turn with Resident Evil 4, which is why I hold CODE: Veronica to be the last great, original Resident Evil game. I’m not discrediting the subsequent games, but after playing through RE4 and feeling like I was playing an entirely different series altogether, I didn’t even bother with more than a fleeting glance of RE5.

Give it a Go

If you find yourself desperately wanting to engage in more zombie slaying survival horror while at the same time returning to the roots of one of the greatest in the genre, CODE: Veronica X HD is a must play. Despite the cumbersome controls and complete lack of sufficient weaponry and health, this game truly delivers an engrossing and exciting tale worthy of playing through again, or for the first time if you happened to miss it over a decade ago.

Plenty of people may forgo this experience altogether due to their avid love for RE4 and RE5, claiming their vast superiority over a dismal and embarrassing start to the franchise. But as I have with countless others in the past, I implore you… do not turn a blind eye to this gem of Resident Evil history.

PROS:

  • Vintage Resident Evil
  • Superb Updated Visuals
  • Lengthy and Engaging Story

CONS:

  • Cumbersome Original Controls
  • Limited Inventory
  • Points of Confusion

Score: 7.5/10

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