The Resident Evil series is one of the forefathers of the Survival Horror genre, spanning back to the release of the original game in 1996. For the first time many players were thrust into an atmosphere where ammunition was precious and save points were few and far between. These games have changed a lot over the years, most notably with the switch in play style seen in Resident Evil 4 with the over-the-shoulder precision aiming, but the franchise is still going strong with the release of Resident Evil 6 last year. Younger fans of the series may be unfamiliar with the style of the original Resident Evil games, but thanks to the HD release of Resident Evil Code: Veronica X on the Xbox Live Marketplace and Playstation Network they can now be introduced to the origins of one of the most successful horror series ever made.
Developer: Capcom Production Studio 3/ Capcom Production Studio 4
Platform: Xbox 360 (reviewed), Playstation 3
Players: Single Player
Genre: Survival Horror
Release: September 2011
Code: Veronica was the fourth installment of the series and was originally released on the Sega Dreamcast in 2000. An updated version of the game, the similarly named Code: Veronica X was released a year later for the Playstation 2, which included more cut scenes and slightly improved graphics. It is this version which is now available on current generation consoles. However, it should be said immediately that this HD version of the game may not be fit for the tastes of many gamers. It is a dated game, and the HD release serves more as a nostalgic experience for those who have already played it. It is not up to the standards of games which are currently being released, but it is a fantastic introduction to the origins of the characters and underlying story-lines which have continued through the series.
The story follows Claire Redfield, the brother of Chris Redfield whom fans will recognise from the original Resident Evil and the more recent Resident Evil 5/6. The game predominantly takes place on a prison island run by the unstable Alfred Ashford who has a habit of cross dressing and a seemingly unhealthy interest in his twin sister Alexia. A version of the T-Virus has broken out here, meaning the general population are zombified prisoners wanting to chew on your brains.
Players are eventually taken to the Antarctic, a new environment not seen before in the series, holding its own shocks and surprises. Here, the game breaks from the classic creepy and sinister haunted house to an atmosphere of desolation in a broken down facility in the middle of nowhere. The game also sees the return of the villain Albert Wesker and it is in this game where he first appears super powered and inhuman.
For the second half of the game the player plays as Chris searching for his sister, giving an opportunity to revisit previous locations which have differed after the events which took place after Claire was there. This is a nice touch for the game as the player can pick up items they saw previously but couldn’t get to, or stumble upon items they missed. Some may say this is just prolonging the game time by rehashing old textures, but this is integral to the story-line and players will have to find new routes around as some rooms are now blocked and others are opened.
The gameplay is classic Resident Evil. Older fans will feel at home with the systematic progression through the game. After all, the game itself is effectively a string of elongated and linear fetch quests. Puzzles and obstructions must be overcome or bypassed while defeating or avoiding zombies, dogs and other enemies. The lizard-like ‘Hunters’ make a return and new enemies such as the ‘Bandersnatch’ are introduced, which is an agile and rubbery enemy that stretches its arm to attack. As with most Resident Evil games, Code: Veronica X has its fair share of memorable boss fights too. These require some form of strategy, whether that’s to use a certain weapon or even just to run away. Lack of health bars make these fights tense, and many come to down to the last few bullets in your inventory.
The HD version has been up scaled graphically which is most notable in the menu and inventory screens. However, some gamers may be put off as in essence the game still looks the same as it ever did. The game itself is over a decade old, so visually it is nowhere near the levels of other HD releases which are available today. The cut scenes are still badly animated for example. Unfortunately, Code: Veronica X did not get the graphical overhaul such as the one the original Resident Evil got when it was re-released on the Nintendo GameCube. Some may see this as a wasted opportunity as this would probably have attracted more interest for the HD version.
The controls do take some getting used to. The right trigger readies the selected weapon, and the X button is used to fire once the player has aimed. Holding the A button enables the player to run, and a quick turn feature is also implemented to enable more agility when the player is under pressure. However, the analogue sticks do not feel as precise as they should and players may find themselves frustrated when trying to aim precisely at an item to pick it up. This problem is negated during combat by the auto-aim feature which is assigned to the left trigger. This new element may almost feel like cheating to Resident Evil purists, as manual aim is rendered useless in combat and the only threats to the player are running out of ammo or not avoiding attacks rather than missing and wasting ammo.
The game unfortunately has many frustrating moments that may put off some players except the die-hard fans. The ink ribbon saving system can mean that if you’re caught out by an unexpected zombie you can lose a substantial amount of progress as you chose not to waste saves. Also, the game does not always tell you what items are useful or not. An example of this is a fire extinguisher which is used at the beginning of the game. If you forget to leave it in an item box, then you can miss out on an opportunity for a VERY effective item much later in the game. You are also unable to change the control scheme, so if you are finding it difficult you have no choice but to get used to it.
The HD version of Code: Veronica X does implement a leader board system which adds replay value to the game, as in essence most Resident Evil games are about getting the best time with the least deaths; least first aid sprays; least saves etc. Battle mode is also unlocked upon completion, a mode where players choose a character to play as and move through random rooms killing enemies for a high score. Despite this though, there is not much to do after finishing the game, and for the price of $19.99/£14.99 you do not get much other than a 13 year old game.
6.5 – Above Average. Enjoyable and nostalgic for those who have already played it, but a steep price for a game which fans may have already owned without a great deal of HD improvement.