Resident Evil Code: Veronica X review
One element ruins what could've been the best Resident Evil game
I don't know about you guys, but when a franchise makes the jump to the next generation, I'm like a mother watching her son score that 3 point shot that attracted the attention of the NBA. It's great seeing a franchise get another shot, and with a fresh coat of paint, it should be able to attract a newer, younger fanbase to carry the torch once us fossils become too busy with life to play video games on a consistent basis. But Code Veronica was always a strange one for me. It's not all that different in terms of gameplay, but it didn't feel quite as good as the PS1 Resident Evil games. At first, I was like 'what is this, I thought this was going to be like Resident Evil, only bigger, better and uncut!!", but eventually, I sat down and accepted what I was given - a game that was good, but made a couple of mistakes that really dragged it down.
A few months after the events at Raccoon City, Claire Redfield is still out looking for her brother, Chris Redfield, but suddenly, she gets captured by some thugs from the evil Umbrella Corporation and gets sent to a prison compound on a remote island. After a while, a guard lets her out... while he's bleeding to death, but in a shocking revelation of M Night Shyamalan proportions, it turns out the prison compound... is overrun by zombies! Oh, and there's this guy named Steve who Claire falls in love with, and it partly turns into a love story that, although cheesy in nature, takes itself too seriously, which leads to a problem I've had with this entire franchise - Resident Evil was never really that good when it comes to the more serious, dramatic elements of storytelling because the writing and voice acting always seemed more suitable towards cheesier, B-grade zombie invasion stuff with themes of friendship and conspiracies strewn throughout, and Code Veronica only serves to show this at full force as even on its own terms, it really does feel like it takes itself too seriously. I honestly found it hard to get invested in this relationship between them because the writing just felt so stilted and wooden, as if the writers did this up for their first year final creative writing assignment. The characters are mostly one dimensional, with Claire still having some charisma about her (although not as much as before), and that's not to mention a certain character who comes towards the end of the game. In fact, towards the end of the game is when the story has a chance of really paying off, but then comes the ending, which just feels like a brick wall to the face. Oh, it's conclusive, not only concluding itself but also the PS1 trilogy, but anything that was even remotely interesting about that bit is all but gone here. It feels weird harping on a Resident Evil story as if it's a legitimate story, but that's what it tries to be at the end of the day, and it's not a very good one.
Fog, fog everywhere.
Code Veronica plays a lot like the old school Resident Evil games in that you move like a tank, have to explore a big level or two to find things to put into slots or move objects around, and shoot zombies down. Even though you'd expect a then-new generation game to try something really cool to make it feel new, it just feels like Resident Evil 2 if it had better graphics and even more zombies - so no badass monster will be relentlessly chasing you, but that's okay, as long as the core gameplay is good, right? Right? Well, let's just say I hope you don't find yourself missing the dodge feature from Resident Evil 3. As Code Veronica was practically developed side by side with Resident Evil 3, they didn't put the dodge feature here because they weren't too sure that it'd work with Resident Evil 3. Funny enough, it worked out so well that I kept on trying to do that here, only to end up getting hit and eventually gang banged. Whoops. But in general, things do feel the same - there's still that feeling of helplessness when confronting monsters has you standing still, scared out of your mind while holding a gun, hoping the next thing you do involves pulling the trigger to permanently put them to sleep. There's also that feeling of being an explorer as you make your way around to find ways further into complexes and such. For what it's worth, if you liked Resident Evil 2, it's almost a guarantee you'll like Code Veronica too.
Oh wait, there are some differences, and both come under the difficulty umbrella. Simply put, Code Veronica is significantly harder than the PS1 trilogy. There are even more zombies to take down and definitely not enough ammo in the prison compound, and that's not to mention the fact that they can take a lot of bullets. That's also not to mention the amount of quick moving and flying enemies who will have you wasting bullets before you even get to shoot them. For the first time in the series, the knife is actually very, very useful! Usually, it's just a substitute while you look for more ammo, but here, it's imperative in surviving the onslaught. This game really drives the idea of survival haaaaard, as there are some enemies that can and will make your time here hell if you don't save your guns for them - Bandersnatches are one of them with their stretchy limbs. Christ, even Dahlsim from Street Fighter doesn't reach that far with his attacks, that's how annoying they are when it comes to fighting them (especially with the knife) AND when trying to avoid them. All I can say is KILL THEM WITH FIRE... literally; fire's their weakness. That's not to mention the bosses you'll have to face, as some of them aren't going to go down too easily with just the knife. THIS, I like. Resident Evil coined the phrase "survival horror" and this game really showcases it as it has you really thinking about surviving with whatever guns, ammo, consumables and key items you can hoard with you at any given point.
The other difference is how they implement the zapping system that was in Resident Evil 2. You know how in Resident Evil 2 when you complete Leon's campaign, you then get to do Claire's campaign? Well, they changed it up so that at the halfway point, control will switch from Claire's to Chris's as he makes his way up to the point you lost control of Claire, and there's a little back and forth after that point. That's pretty cool. Also remember how if you got greedy with Leon, you'll screw Claire over? Well, now Claire can be greedy and really screw Chris over, and I mean REALLY screw Chris over. See, if you get a lot of weapons as Claire and don't leave any of them and their ammo inside the ammo boxes, you'll be doing yourself a great disservice when you get to control Chris. Oh... and it's not just at the halfway point, but also towards the end that you'll have to switch characters, and it's even more important that you stash the right items in the item box before even thinking of progressing beyond a certain point. If you get greedy as Claire, don't utilize item boxes and get good with the knife, then once you control Chris and find yourself getting destroyed, especially towards the end of the game, then you'll have to start the game again from the very beginning and make sure not to make those mistakes again! Now, at the risk of making my diatribe seeming pointless, you can amass a lot of ammo for the handgun as Chris when you first play as him, plus there's the ever so awesome assault rifle to find and use. It's really the second time you make the switch from Claire to Chris that this can really kick you in the ass as if you don't prepare him adequately enough, the final boss will be hell to beat, and that's IF you can beat it. I really wanted to like this feature, but its execution, not to mention lack of any sort of heads up, is enough to drive first time players insane, myself included back in the day. That's some fine artificial difficulty there, guys.
Hold on Shawn, I'm just blowing Ed's head off.
The original on the Dreamcast took advantage of its capabilities and managed to use them in order to create a bigger and better experience with everything being in 3D and the models looking almost realistic (at least by 2000 standards - believe me, this was a groundbreaking looking game at the time). The models don't only look smooth, but their animations are also smooth. The zombies are especially well animated as their movements really make you think that you are facing the walking dead. I should also point out that the camera has taken inspiration from Silent Hill as it moves around when you walk towards certain points, only to snap at a different angle when you get to a certain area. I've always liked that about the old school Silent Hill games because more often than not, they tend to give you a better view of segments of where you happen to be as you make your way around, and Code Veronica keeps it up. Sometimes, it makes combat annoying when you can't see what it is that's trying to kill you, but at other times, it gives you a good enough view to see what you ought to kill. The PS2 remake does give it slightly better textures (and I believe the Gamecube version ups the ante here as that's a more powerful system) and gives you a few more FMVs. Said FMVs looked brilliant on the Dreamcast with there being plenty of detail, especially in the lifelike animations, and the PS2 version... just adds smaller, more detailed textures to make things look a bit better. But generally speaking, it looks excellent.
The sound design is same old same old - ambient music (whether it's quietness or a more low key piece in the background) that sets up the tension and more full on music during action and chasing sequences, especially during cutscenes involving plenty of explosions. They manage to provide the right atmosphere as during the quieter moments, you could hear some noises and think "hmm there might be a zombie here", and while there are usually monsters there far more often than not, it still lends itself to some tense moments before some payoff that eventually gets underwhelming - yeah, I'm starting to get sick of it myself, but new people will find it scary, and said new people may have started their Resident Evil journey with this game. But then there's the voice acting, which actually feels like a downgrade from Resident Evil 3. Whether it's the writing or the direction is anybody's guess, but for my money, the voice acting was pretty mediocre. Like the writing, it's being taken too seriously, but it either sounds somewhat forced or really irritating. Thankfully, not too many voices fit under the latter, but it could've been a lot better, especially since this was when voice acting was starting to get taken a lot more seriously.
Resident Evil: Code Veronica gets a 7.5/10 because of how the zapping system was implemented. Seriously, having to start the whole game all over again because I didn't realize I had to change characters AGAIN for the final stretch? Are you KIDDING!? It's a shame, because this had the potential to be the best Resident Evil game ever made - it's tricky as hell but it really, really puts emphasis on item management and survival - especially when you have to make the switch between characters - which is exactly what the series has been about since the beginning! My other problem was the story, which I thought was dull because it took itself so seriously but didn't have the writing to back it up. But damn, it was so close to being a great game and then there's the whole zapping thing that just came out of nowhere, and since first impressions are everything, it's not like everybody's going to want to play again after realizing that they screwed themselves pretty badly. I know that's a bad way to think about it, but it's human nature and while not everybody is easily discouraged, a good amount of people are. But hey, those who aren't easily discouraged will have a very good time with this game once they figure out how to play that part out right, and they'll be the ones who get the last laugh... so should I recommend it? Yes, but only with a guide.
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