See Claire run. See Claire stumble into a wall.
At one point in my life, I was a master of the Resident Evil series’ legendarily clunky “tank controls”—the esoteric, inverted maneuvers that led many to give up, frustrated, within minutes of getting munched on by their first zombies. But what others found confounding, I found logical at the time; the controls even managed to regularly invade my sleep. After a marathon RE play session—which were plentiful form me in the mid-to-late-’90s—I’d maneuver around my dreams in prerendered 3D backgrounds viewed from a third-person perspective. That’s how ingrained the series’ specific movements, narrative, and presentation were in my mind.
After giving Resident Evil—Code: Veronica X another spin after 10 years, though, one thing’s clear: I’m a master of these controls no longer. And that’s going to be the major stumbling block when it comes to this HD rerelease finding an audience. Even someone like myself—and I’m as hardcore an old-school Resident Evil fan as they come—can’t forgive these dated, unwieldy movements any longer. And if I’m confounded, I can’t imagine what someone new to the series might think of the experience.
The major problem with Code: Veronica X—and this was true even at the time of its 2000 release—is that it already assumes its players are Resident Evil masters, throwing zombie magnet Claire Redfield into harrowing undead-infested scenarios from the start and arming her with little more than a lighter to defend herself. That was acceptable back in 2000 when Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2, and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis were fresh in players’ minds, but more than 10 years later, most players haven’t touched these controls in a decade. Earlier games in the series—the original Resident Evil in particular—gradually eased the player into the experience, but Code: Veronica X pulls no punches and gives no quarter from the get-go.
That said, there’s definitely a palpable tension and atmosphere in Code: Veronica X that’s just missing from the later entries, with their over-the-shoulder perspective and more action-oriented philosophies. Stepping into a room, with the camera facing Claire, and hearing the zombies moan, groan, and shamble around—but not knowing where or when they might come out of nowhere to munch down on her—imparts a sense of dread lacking from most modern survival-horror experiences.
But while the gameplay still manages to provide some spooky thrills, I’m not quite sure what the point of the HD upgrade is. We’re talking about a 10-year-old Dreamcast/GameCube/PlayStation 2 title—and it’s not like this was some sort of artistic masterpiece on the level of Ico or Shadow of the Colossus in the first place. What’s more, the HD exposes several flaws in the visuals—such as jagged edges—that weren’t so perceptible on the Dreamcast or GameCube’s standard definition.
If you’re a hardcore fan who missed this incarnation, Code: Veronica X HD is certainly worth checking out—it’s definitely still playable to an extent, especially after you give it some time. But if you’d like to give the old-school games a spin, start with the superior Resident Evil remake for GameCube and Wii or Resident Evil 2 (probably the best of the classic RE titles). Not only are they flat-out better games, but they’ll also give you some margin for error—something desperately needed if you’re new to classic RE zombie-shamblin’.
SUMMARY: Even the most hardcore RE fans will hate these clunky, decade-old controls—but it’s still worth a look for zombie fanatics.
- THE GOOD: The cheesy, so-bad-it’s good voice acting.
- THE BAD: Once quirky controls that are now just unacceptable.
- THE UGLY: No margin for error as you are swarmed by undead hordes.