Capcom has just re-released the fourth Resident Evil title, Resident Evil CODE: Veronica X HD, into the Xbox Live marketplace. They didn’t just pull it from the original 2000 Dreamcast game – but instead they polished up its more recent 2001 iteration, Resident Evil CODE: Veronica X (or Complete in Japan) from the PS2. It was furnished with graphical and audio improvements. Before I go too far into this review I must tell you that while I had played this game on past consoles for a period of time, by no means does the game hold much nostalgic value to me. As this review will show, I’m not sure misty-colored memories are good enough to earn your hard earned 20 bucks.
The problem with taking a game from 2001 and merely giving it a facelift is that the expectations of what we want in games has changed so drastically. Quick history flashback: the same year that Resident Evil CODE: Veronica came out, Counterstrike was just released along with The Sims, Deus Ex, Diablo II and Final Fantasy IX (in Japan). The PS2 was just out, and we were still reeling from Episode One and the realization that Darth Vader may have gone over to the dark side simply because his childhood name was Annie. Microsoft had just acquired Bungie, console games were still plagued with bad camera angles, and no control schemes had yet emerged to dominate the world of first-and-third person action games. This was a time where we didn’t need to forgive awkward controls – we didn’t know any better.
While CODE:Veronica’s graphics don’t look like 2001, they haven’t really bumped anything past the last console generation. The graphics in-game are pretty solid, but some of the video footage has a disjointed feel. For example, the very first in-game cut scene has Claire running out into a prison yard. There is a shot of her, and then zombies getting up and shambling towards the camera. On the first viewing, the background light level was totally different – it was so entirely different in quality and lighting I wasn’t sure if it was a flashback from a previous game or if it was the same narrative scene (which it was).
But this isn’t where CODE: Veronica misses the mark. I found the game to be almost unplayable. Even after several hours of gaming, the frustrating controls paired with poor aiming and resilient enemies (and let’s not get started on knife-fights with dogs), I had to set the controller down and say enough. I’m OK with games needing you to walk into objects to find things, I can tolerate invisible fences to some extent, but Claire would have had her face sanded off with the brick walls that she was constantly running along. The steering mechanism is handled with ‘up’ being used to move forward and ‘down’ being used to move backwards. Left and right pivot you on the spot rather than moving you in a direction relative to the camera position. To compare this control to a modern game would be like using forklift controls to steer race cars in Forza. It’s a bad fit, and Capcom had a real opportunity to make it better.
The other sad fact is that this girl can drop human attackers with speed that would make Sam Fisher proud, and yet only manages to discharge a handgun at a rate of a bullet a second while being swarmed by slow-moving zombies. Sure, you can often run around or past them, but since the game requires so much backtracking the issue you’ll face is popping into a room you hadn’t cleared and the zombies had all congregated to the door you had run through. They pile on you, you push some back but then get piled on from the other direction. You can shoot downwards at ones you’ve pushed down, by the time you get a shot off or even try to move away from the crowd another zombie has grabbed you. Lather, rinse, repeat, and swear.
If you can get past the controls due to some dormant stubborn gene or years of preparing for the re-release, the game is long and has a lot to offer. You play as both Claire and her brother through quite a lengthy campaign along with some unlockable combat modes. The storyline gameplay is basically heading from room to hallway to room, looking for key items to allow you to double back and get through the next barrier. You’ll spend most of your time worrying about ammo and health conservation and figuring out fetch puzzles. For the amount of game included the cost is relatively cheap, however, you might have to factor in the cost of at least two controllers that you will invariably throw at the wall while playing.
Capcom had a hit with this game in days gone by – the question is whether it’s worth it to even play it again, let alone shell out twenty-odd dollars for it. Let’s face it, Resident Evil CODE: Veronica X HD isn’t for everyone. Heck, I don’t think it’s for most people, simply because there hasn’t been enough updates in it to appeal to today’s gamers. Nostalgic gamers and those who simply must have every Resident Evil game out there only need apply – the crippling game control, the frustrating game structure and the minimal overall improvements will likely bring buyers remorse.