A few weeks ago I reviewed the new HD version of Resident Evil 4 for the Xbox 360 and PS3, and I liked it. RE4 aged gracefully, with both visuals and gameplay that managed to be just as great today as they were when the game was originally released. The same cannot be said, however, for the other HD Resident Evil revision, Code: Veronica.
Now, before you classic-style Resident Evil fanboys lynch me for (rightfully) preferring RE4 over one of the older entries in the series, calm down, take a Midol to calm your irrational rage, and let me explain myself. While I do love RE4, I’m a big fan of the classic styled Resident Evil games as well– I’ve been a fan of the series ever since I played the original back on PS1, and I absolutely adore RE’s 1 through 3, I simply feel that 4 was a necessary revamp to reinvigorate a series that was dangerously close to becoming permanently stagnant (see also: how Symphony of the Night changed Castlevania for the better.)
There’s nothing that illustrates that point better than Code: Veronica, which shows the diminishing returns that the series was experiencing at the beginning of the previous console cycle. Code: Veronica isn’t a bad game, but when compared to all of the Resident Evil games that came before it, it’s simply lacking; it doesn’t have the atmosphere of the original game, the breakneck, relentless action or polish of Resident Evil 2, or the innovative, fresh feel of the third game. Code: Veronica is simply the awkward middle child of the series, positioned between it’s classic, iconic older brethren and it’s younger, more exciting successors.
Take for instance, Code: Veronica’s narrative. While it’s important in terms of the series’ overarching storyline, much of the game’s cutscenes are spent on the err, *ahem* “romance” between protagonist Claire Redfield and the blatantly Leonardo Dicaprio-based newcomer Steve Burnside. Now, the early Resident Evil games are (in)famous for their awkward, Engrish laden translations and voice-acting, but Code: Veronica crosses the line from unintentionally hilarious (like RE1,) and into cringe-inducing, embarrassing awkwardness. Some bad-assery from series antagonist Wesker helps alleviate some of the face-palmingly bad garbage from the Steve subplot, but not by much.
In terms of gameplay, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with Code: Veronica, provided you’re used to all the usual archaic Resident Evil idiosyncrasies like tank-controls and limited saves, but at the same time, there’s nothing particularly memorable about it either. The puzzles are just as obtuse and impossible to figure out as they were in earlier games, and none of the game’s locations are as memorable as the original game’s mansion or 2 and 3’s Raccoon City. Most of the enemies are pretty much recycled from earlier games, and the new additions, like the long-armed mutant “Bandersnatches,” are pretty forgettable. The game has it’s moments, like an awesome fight with a Tyrant on board a cargo plane, but overall, it lacks anything as memorable as RE1’s famous “dog hallway” or the edge-of-your-seat thrills that running away from the Nemesis in RE3 had. Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with anything that Code: Veronica does, but almost everything that Code: Veronica does was done before (and better) in previous games.
Visually, the game is a mixed bag. New lighting effects go a long way in making the game look substantially more dramatic than the original Dreamcast and PS2 versions, but pretty much everything else about the game’s visuals serve as a constant reminder that yes, despite the “HD” in this version’s title, you are still playing a ten year old game. Pixelated textures, bland, often sparsely decorated environments, and robotic (even by series standards) animations are all unpleasant, nostalgia-shattering reminders that while the Dreamcast was a powerhouse in it’s hey-day, graphics technology has come a long way since then. Furthermore, while the in-game graphics have been upscaled so that they don’t look completely blurry on a modern HD TV, the game’s prerendered cut-scenes haven’t, and they’re still shown in their original, highly compressed, sub-480i resolution, and it’s an absolute eyesore. Some games from that era have actually managed to age gracefully, but Code: Veronica is not one of them.
At $20, Code: Veronica X HD is a hard sell, especially when you consider you can get the entire PS1 trilogy on PSN for just a few dollars more, or RE4 HD for the same price, either of which would be a far better choice. Code: Veronica isn’t a terrible game, but it lacks that certain je ne sais quoi that make the numbered entries in the series so great (sans the equally mediocre Resident Evil Zero.) Code: Veronica is still worth a play-through if you’re in the mood for Resident Evil but have already played through all the other games to death, but new fans would be better served with either RE4 or the remake of Resident Evil 1, while older fans looking for a nostalgia trip will likewise be happier with one of the PS1 games.
Final Score: 7/10