Resident Evil: Code Veronica X was originally released in 2000. To be completely honest about the game, it plays like it. Code Veronica, in spite of the stellar reviews it garnered upon release, has felt almost like a forgotten child of the long running franchise. Maybe it was because it lacked a number. For whatever reason, it is a core Resident Evil title, easily on par with any of the original three, before the major shift in gameplay brought in by Resident Evil 4. While the story holds up just fine, the gameplay unfortunately feels very, very dated.
Code Veronica stars Claire Redfield and her brother, Chris. Claire is captured in a CG cutscene at the opening of the game and wakes up in an Umbrella prison on an island. Umbrella, as many fans of the series will remember, is the primary evil corporation of the early games. Chris is eventually called in to help Claire. Players start off as Claire, and then switch to Chris for the second half of the game. The core story is actually one of the best in the RE series, and has one of the better villains in Alexia Ashford.
In spite of the great story, the game has not aged very well. Capcom’s biggest mistake in re-releasing this game was to release the still-stellar Resident Evil 4 beforehand. The opening CG, which I remember looking absolutely amazing in 2000 on my friend’s Dreamcast, looks rather jaggy. Calling this game an HD remake is a pretty big misnomer. While the resolution is upscaled, nothing else is really HD about this. The graphics are still just as blocky and the movements are still almost as stiff as they were years ago.
The worst part is the controls. While Resident Evil 4 had its own issues, for the most part, they were tolerable as the game played remarkably smooth for its age. Code Veronica does not. While it may seem unfair, Resident Evil 4 shows why Capcom and every other survival horror game abandoned the fixed perspectives of the previous games. Moving in Code Veronica takes some getting used to, as the controls are simply not intuitive. Playing from a fixed perspective, up is always forward, while left and right turn you and down makes you walk backwards. The analogue controls are worse for this type of game than the d-pad, but it is possible to get used to the analogue nubs if you’re adamant about playing that way. Still, the fixed camera angles are similarly annoying because they will often only show a portion of a stage, so enemies can, and will, be hidden off-screen. While this was a great way to build tension in the past, it does not hold up in these games, and simply comes off as annoying and simplistic.
The shooting mechanics fix some of these issues, in that there is still an auto-aim and it still does a reasonable job of compensating for the fixed camera controls. However, whereas in Resident Evil 4 and more recent entries in the genre as a whole shooting was a joy, shooting is a both, somewhat contradictory, a chore and a breeze in Code Veronica. It is a chore because Zombies are bullet sponges which creates serious issues considering the stress put on resource conservation. In spite of this, they are still easy to kill. You can just use the auto-aim and kill many of the enemies before you see them on screen if you don’t feel like running past them. Lining up a headshot in Code Veronica with the pistol is certainly not the enjoyable action it was in RE4/5. That isn’t to say the game’s shooting isn’t fun, especially once the shotgun is found. It just pales in comparison to the more recent entries in the series. Luckily, the boss battles are still one of the high points of this game.
The game is not terribly hard, and certainly plays fair. What I mean by this is that in spite of its dated nature, fun can still be had. The basis of the game was on atmosphere and not combat. While a lot of the atmosphere was created artificially by the aforementioned camera, there are still some great examples of horror in early horror games, before the focus shifted to action. Further, there are also awesome moments from characters you know and enjoy. Chris and Wesker are particularly great characters, and their rivalry in this game is at its best, even when you consider the pair in Resident Evil 5. The dialogue is still incredibly corny, with bad voice acting to boot. That is one of the things that never really got much better for the Resident Evil series, and as such, it is still fun in a campy sort of way.
Unfortunately, it is just really hard to recommend this game, especially when those looking to get into past Resident Evil games could easily buy the far superior Resident Evil 4. There were no updates to the gameplay that could have used some updates. Between the annoying amount of backtracking, standard for its day, and outdated controls, the game just does not feel worth replaying. That said, if you’ve previously played it and want the joy of beating an old-school survival horror game again, go right ahead and pick this up. If you are feeling nostalgic, there are still some great moments in the game, especially where the story is concerned (again I will point to some of the Wesker moments for this). Those of you who are curious about the roots of the series are probably better off playing one of the 7000 upgraded versions of the first Resident Evil, getting the abridged version of the story from Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles or even just going straight to the still fantastic Resident Evil 4 and leaving this outdated relic in the past. At least until Capcom decides to completely redo the game.