HD remakes (or technically, upgrades) are all the rage these days, with God of War, Splinter Cell, Silent Hill and even Ico all being the subject of re-releases this year. Resident Evil is the latest series to be given the HD treatment, with Resident Evil 4 already released, and Code: Veronica X seeing release on Xbox 360 and PS3 this week. Originally released on the Dreamcast in 2000 as simply Code: Veronica, the X comes from the subsequent PS2 version of the game, which added extra cutscenes and some minor graphical changes. Code: Veronica was the first RE game to include 3D backgrounds instead of pre-rendered backdrops, and began the move to increase action through the series with dual-wielding weapons. Veronica offers an excellent chance to see how the older, slower, ‘classic’ entries in the Resident Evil series holds up against the newer, faster, more action-packed games, and *spoiler alert*, it actually holds up quite well.
Back When I Was A Kid – Code: Veronica is Resident Evil at its zombie-loving height, and for those looking for a summary of the series, this game contains almost every element associated with the original games. First off, there’s no inclusion of weird parasites, in Veronica you’ll mainly be up against bog-standard zombies, with a smattering of weird monsters thrown in for good measure. There are also plenty of puzzles, which aren’t seen too much in the more recent entries, and exploration and discovery plays a big part, as opposed to the shooting gallery that was Resident Evil 5. Perhaps the most welcome return for the series, however, which surprised me, was the door-opening loading screens. Surely with the power of modern-day consoles, these are now unnecessary, but they work wonders at creating tension when you’re waiting to discover what’s on the other side.
The Horror, The Horror, The Horror – Like revisiting places you’ve already been? Good, because you’ll be doing a lot of backtracking during the course of Code Veronica. However, you’re not retracing your steps so much as viewing locations from a different angle, as a door you previously couldn’t open is now accessible due to a key you found across the island, or you’ve suddenly realised what you needed to do to solve a tricky puzzle. Considering the limited graphics and seemingly even more limited colour palate, Code Veronica offers a decent selection of locations: a prison, a military facility, an underwater base, and even a stately home. There’s an almost constant sense of both wonder and fear from not knowing what awaits you around the next corner.
Things Used To Be THIS Bad?! – To continue my point made above about all the classic elements of Resident Evil being present in Code: Veronica, I must clarify that I mean ALL the elements, including the bad ones. The horrible controls (compared to modern-day gaming)where moving and turning cannot be done at the same time, you aim straight ahead, then straight up or straight down, and you have to push a button to go up or down even the smallest of staircases. In addition, due to the fixed camera angles, turning becomes even more difficult when your character is facing the camera, as everything is mirrored. I lost the vast majority of my fingers to zombies before I was able to overcome the archaic controls. This isn’t aided by the fact that Code: Veronica uses the “typewriter system” to save games. You can only save your game at certain points, and each time you die, you return back here, an inclusion which can be incredibly punishing and one that I certainly don’t miss from today’s RE games.
Do I Need Glasses? – Don’t let the HD in the game title fool you, the graphics haven’t been touched in this ‘remake’, instead the game is now able to run on your HDTV without looking like a Jackson Pollock painting. The visuals are definitely dated, but manageable, yet I felt this needed clarification as the addition to the game title fooled me.
Scary for the Wrong Reasons – What isn’t quite so manageable are some of the performances in Code: Veronica. The voice-acting is cringe-worthy, and the story will leave you feeling particularly dirty, with weird references to incest, transvestism and family loss. Not that there’s anything wrong with the last two (incest is still a no-no), but let’s just say that subtlety isn’t a strong point of any of these games.
The Resident Evil series doesn’t have as strong a reliance on continuity as some other game series out there, so those of you who haven’t played a RE game before should have no problem picking up the story in Code: Veronica. Saying that, if you have played any of the games in the ‘original’ series before (excluding 4 or 5), then Veronica won’t change your mind.
Sure, Veronica doesn’t look or feel as good as modern-day games, but considering that it’s almost 12 years old, it holds up pretty damn well. If you can see through the aging aesthetics, there is a solid and enjoyable game here, and most of the problems noted above, aside from the save point issue, are eased or even negated with practice and exposure. What initially started off as frustration instead adds to the tension, as you battle with the controls as well as the zombies. If you fancy a change of pace from today’s in-your-face gaming with everything blowing up, then Code: Veronica will give you a welcome break. Just don’t expect to leave with all of your fingers.