Although extremely old-fashioned at times, Code: Veronica X represents the best way to experience a survival horror game.
The Resident Evil trilogy was released for the PlayStation One and it has defined its generation as it was one of the most successful, technically proficient and original franchises. A few years later, Resident Evil Code: Veronica came out for the Dreamcast, showing what the newer generation of consoles was capable of. This version of the title was really well received for following the previous game’s plot and for improving some of the series’ most criticized issues. Then, a while later, the “definitive” adaptation (titled Code: Veronica X) was released for the PS2, proving that it was still a really good game that was worth playing given that you’re interested in its story.
Code: Veronica X takes place three months after the incidents of Resident Evil 2. The latter featured two main protagonists: Leon S. Kennedy, a novice police officer on his first day, and Claire Redfield, a college student looking for her missing brother. In this new iteration you’ll see that Claire has been captured after she’s infiltrated in the Umbrella Corporation research facilities in Paris and she’s still looking Chris.
Apart from new footage and some exclusive cutscenes the game is pretty much the same as the Dreamcast version. The gameplay is very similar to the one in the first three games so puzzles are pretty difficult, controls are clumsy, aiming can be really cumbersome, combat feels completely uninspired and the use of cameras is detrimental to the overall experience. Moreover, Resident Evil 4 was such a great title that has pretty much rendered any previous games in the series obsolete, especially if we take into account all the aforementioned characteristics. Nevertheless, Code: Veronica X’s plot is meaningful to the series and music creates a unique ambience of suspense that only games like Silent Hill were able to replicate.
Resident Evil Code: Veronica X has the same inadequacies as almost any of its predecessors, and early in the game backtracking becomes a serious issue. Unfortunately, you’ll have to manage many items in a very limited inventory space, this iteration includes limited saves so before you even have the ability to save you are forced to find ink ribbons, and if at any point in the game you run out of them it may be game over. Some of these decisions are simply deficient and it’s really hard to understand why developers would implement elements like scarce ammunition or limited save options. A valid argument could be that even though some of these things clearly represent an inconvenience, some others help create the feeling that you may not be able to make it to the next room. This is a punishing concept indeed, but at times it works extremely well and it helps convey an atmosphere of angst and distress so proper of the survival horror genre.
In addition, some of the game’s features are more than questionable to say the least. Level design is old fashioned, so for example every single time you enter a room you’ll have to endure an animation which shows your character opening a door or riding an elevator. This element was probably included to build tension, but it ends up killing all the momentum the story has been creating so far and breaks down the pace of the game. Also, puzzle solving can be way too frustrating and it’s hard to know that you are required to combine two or more very dissimilar items at very specific locations.
Additionally, characters lack depth and are completely unidimensional. The fact that every single protagonist knows how to fly jets, pick locks, modify old weapons and prepare medicine simply seems old and bizarre (and very convenient.) This is yet another feature that hasn’t age very well, but it probably represents one of those things which Capcom developers are so enamored with, as for example Leon and Ashley (from Resident Evil 4) drive a jet sky after the island collapses, Dante and Trish (from Devil May Cry) escape on a plane after the same thing happens and so forth.
Code: Veronica X looks good and its CGI sequences really stand out. Characters have very lifelike movements, most backgrounds look vivid and detailed and both characteristics blend seamlessly. The design of the various zombies and monsters isn’t that great and boss fights aren’t memorable at all, but they serve their purpose well enough. The game sounds terrific too and as I previously mentioned, music is excellent as it creates a very eerie and unique atmosphere. Voice acting on the other hand is terrible. Voices are completely uninspired, writing is ridiculous and actors have a tendency to overemphasize what they say, making dialogues artificial and unnatural.
Once you finish the game some extra features are unlocked. The most important one being Battle Game, a minigame in which you select one of several characters in order to travel across different levels clearing rooms of monsters, and eventually fighting a unique boss in a limited amount of time. Though the main game isn’t very replayable (unless you want to get a better raking or unlock certain secret areas), this extra feature is interesting and allows you to play in both first person and third person perspectives to not only unlock more weapons, but also some new characters.
In the end, Resident Evil Code: Veronica X is a fair game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold up as well as it should have, so if you really want to play it make sure you do it for the story and not the overall experience. The title feels old-fashioned and archaic, punishing the player in unfair and completely unnecessary ways. Nonetheless, some people may find this engaging and exciting, as newer games in the series didn’t actually include any of the survival horror elements that older iterations like this one popularized in the first place. If this idea sounds interesting Code: Veronica X is probably the best way to experience that.