Resident Evil Code: Veronica X HD
You open the wooden door and the world melts into shadow. There is nothing but you and the door. As if propelled by magic or force science cannot explain, the door creeks open. You are thrust into a dilapidated vestibule entering a dining area. The moans of the undead rise; somewhere, beyond the limits of the fixed camera, there are zombies. These carnivorous creatures, formerly native to Raccoon City, have suddenly seen their population blossom in the remote regions of wherever Umbrella Corporation roams, and they seek your flesh. The question becomes:do you move, hoping there will be a new, more expansive camera angle awaiting just beyond the threshold of the current, or do you aim and fire, hoping that you will lock onto an off-screen zombie or two, and drop them for good?
It’s these kinds of questions that act as a reminder as to why Resident Evil was renovated as a franchise to begin with, and it’s the re-release of Resident Evil Code:Veronica X that acts as a reminder of where the series came from. There were three previous iterations which established both the gameplay and the franchise, and the majority of these mechanics are left unchanged. Tight corridors, low quantities of ammunition and scant space to store it remain (as always) on the guest list for every Resident Evil game.
This was the first game in the series to feature entirely 3D backgrounds, along with moving cameras to join the stationary ones. The difference that helped this along was the enhanced workhorse that gave it life: the Dreamcast. It had the power. The ‘X’ marks the game as an expanded version of the original: a director’s cut, featuring extra cut-scenes that didn’t quite make it into the original. Now Capcom brings their director’s cut version into the realm of HD, and the results are highly nostalgic. And slow.
Anyone who’s more familiar with the last two Resident Evil games will find that the pacing in Code Veronica is significantly slower. What drags this sequel back is lots and lots of backtracking and door opening. A military base and nearby mansions turn into minor labyrinths of locked doors and traps, coupled with passageways that lead under and around and back again. Everything can be a key, whether it’s a decorative shield, a painting or a pair of gold lugers. Once you find that particular key you’ve got to do two things: remember where you actually needed it, and get it there.
Getting there is a bit of a process, because every single time you open a door, the game makes you watch the door open. This isn’t like other games where you see the character push the door open and step beyond the threshold. Rather, this maintains the classic Resident Evil method of giving a first person view of the door you’re opening, without context of the environment around it, being pushed back slow and steady.
Back in the day, when Resident Evil made it’s way on the PS1, there was purpose to this. It was meant to hide the games lengthy load times. It’s arguable whether or not the Dreamcast needed this crutch. It’s definite that the PS3 does not need to carry over this tiresome mechanic, and of all the changes Capcom has made from previous iterations to part four, the elimination of door opening sequences is truly amongst the best.
It’s that kind of thing that drags the backtracking along. Even if you knew where you were going, chances are there’s going to be at least six to eight doors, not to mention two to three staircases separating yourself and the next step of the game. Not only do you have to make your way through the corridors to get to your objective, but you also have to stop at every single door and watch and wait for it to open. Now imagine if you didn’t remember exactly where you needed to go.
The last archaic mechanisms come across in the handling of the inventory. Your inventory is small, which is to be expected if you’ve played Resident Evil 4 or 5, but what really makes things tricky is the fact that items such as key cards take up their own individual space. For every key card you carry, that’s a health pack you might have to leave behind. An ammunition pack that you might not be able to pick up. An ink ribbon that you’ll have to forget about, and ink ribbons are somewhat important. You need them to save.
This practice was eliminated in Resident Evil 4, but its roots are in place in Code Veronica. In order to save your game you needed two things: an ink ribbon and a typewriter. Ink ribbons came in finite supply, and typewriters were scattered infrequently throughout the levels. Autosaves and loading from checkpoints had yet to make their way into Resident Evil games. It never felt as if the amount of ink ribbons were too few. It just seemed unnecessary to require an item to save, knowing that when the game is reloaded the first thing you’ll want to do is stow away your ink ribbons to free up that precious inventory space.
Graphically, it comes from that age of time when CGI was considered a reward to the player. This shows up most noticeably right from the start of the game. The introduction, blurry by the transition to HD, presents detailed models of Claire Redfield. Once it’s over and the in-game graphics take control, the detail is washed way, as if someone was a little heavy-handed with the airbrush.
Action moments work decently enough within the game’s engine, along with basic dialogue between characters. Sequences like Alfred’s ambush of Claire with a laser-sighted sniper rifle make for interesting plot and character development. Other parts of the game that try to be more emotional, especially those involving Steve Burnside, just come across as painful to watch. Luckily those moments don’t last forever, and it isn’t long before zombies and giant yellow beasts with lopsided muscular right arms leap into the fray.
The story of the game follows Claire and Chris Redfield, both returning characters. Claire has continued her search for her brother (neither of which owns either a phone with text messaging capabilities or a computer with an internet connection) and has been captured by Umbrella. After a short action sequence that was jaw-dropping at the time, she’s plopped on an island in the middle of nowhere.
What follows is a surprisingly expansive game, both in length and scope. A simple military camp on the island opens up to a military base, itself cluttered with laboratories and offices. A pathway cuts across to a mansion that resides toward the center of the island and even that pulls back to a smaller private residence. This game, unlike the fourth or fifth, demands exploration, and there is a lot to look through. By the time you think it’s all over you’ll realize that you’ve only completed half of the game and the story still has much more in store for you.
Back when it came out, Resident Evil Code:Veronica was an amazing experience. There were deeper experiences that at the time were incredible and practically unprecedented, but after games such as Heavy Rain have come out, the emotion falls flat and boring. Today this game acts as a historical piece. It lets you see where the franchise came from, and why the revision that Resident Evil 4 brought to the series was so necessary.