Resident Evil 4 HD was a poor upgrade of a fantastic game that is still just as brilliant today as it was upon its original release. Resident Evil: Code Veronica X HD, on the other hand, is a marginally improved HD upgrade of a decent game that feels every day of its eleven years.
Although originally released on the Dreamcast back in 2000 and later re-released as Code Veronica X on PS2 and Gamecube (upon which this release is based), Code Veronica still feels, looks and plays like a PSOne Resident Evil title. Caught somewhere between the past and the future, Code Veronica was the first game in the series to use fully 3D backgrounds rather than the pre-rendered environments that the franchise was famous for, but still has its mechanics stuck firmly in Resident Evil’s past – the forced, often disorientating camera angles, the tank-like controls, limited inventory and loading screens masquerading as slowly opening doors are all present and accounted for.
Despite some improvements to the character models, lighting and water effects, Code Veronica isn’t what you would call a pretty game and, like Resident Evil 4 HD, doesn’t benefit greatly from the HD up-scaling. Like that game, the up-scaling has been done with little to no effort to bring the rest of the games visuals in line, leaving a game that is shown up for every poor texture and iffy animation. The surroundings, enemies and cast of overtly hammy key players have clearly been crafted with a great deal of love and care, but there’s little doubting that this is a game built on obsolete hardware. Resident Evil 4 HD may have got by on its ahead-of-its-time gameplay and visuals, but Code Veronica was never what you would call ahead of the curve and is, without question, antiquated by today’s standards.
Still, despite the old school design and dated visuals, Code Veronica is still an enjoyable experience. Newcomers might find the controls and camera work too awkward to find merit, but for those with fond memories of classic Resident Evil gameplay, Code Veronica’s more measured pace, puzzle heavy gameplay and survival horror trappings will likely make this an intriguing proposition.
If nothing else, this HD upgrade will likely prove the first opportunity for many to experience this largely forgotten piece of Resident Evil history. Originally planned as Resident Evil 3 until the big wigs over at Sony decided to kick up a fuss, Resident Evil: Code Veronica was released to critical acclaim but inevitably diluted sales thanks to the relatively poor performance of the Dreamcast at retail.
Following Claire Redfield and later her brother Chris (allowing certain scenarios to be seen from different angles a là Resident Evil 2), Code Veronica opens with one of the finest CG cutscenes of the series as Claire escapes an Umbrella facility in Paris to continue on with one of the most ludicrous, ham-fisted stories that the franchise has ever delivered. With hammy dialogue, terrible voice acting and, believe it or not, a completely re-created take on Spencer’s Mansion (don’t even ask how they managed to write that into the game), Code Veronica delivers cheese in abundance but also manages to instil the game with a great deal of dread thanks to some very clever camera work, a fantastically ominous score and a limited inventory that suggests that death could be around each and every corner.
While a selection of weapons can be fired from a first person perspective, this is a game that will be played primarily from an obscure camera angle chosen by the developers for each specific situation. While this can lead to disorientation, zombie hugging and unintentional running into walls, it also gives the game a sense of dread lacking from its immediate sequel. Rather than the action/horror hybrid that the series has now become, this is every part the survival horror with item management playing a huge part in the experience. This isn’t about being gung ho, this is about survival, and for that reason alone makes it a pleasing return to a bygone era in which developers used the limited technical abilities of the hardware to make the player feel truly powerless. Action hero or not, in Code Veronica, you’re just trying to survive.
Resident Evil: Code Veronica X HD is antiquated, often ugly and completely out of touch with modern game design. It’s also scary, intense and full of fantastic set piece moments. The story is OTT and the dialogue laughable, but this is still a tale you’ll want to see through to the final credits. The £14.99 is a big ask but for those relishing a return to Resident Evil’s roots, this forgotten gem will be worth the admission.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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