By Eric Bodrero
Considering how quickly things can change in the world of technology, especially videogames, three and a half years is a long time. It's long enough to see major leaps and bounds in graphics, sound, and gameplay from the PSX to the Dreamcast, and from the Dreamcast to the PS2 and Gamecube. Unfortunately, Resident Evil Code: Veronica hasn't been too keen on change. The original Code: Veronica on the Sega Dreamcast was an excellent game, being released in early 2000. A year and a half later saw the release of Code: Veronica X for the PS2, which basically gave us an enriched story and enhanced visuals. Now we see what is no more than a straight port of Code: Veronica X for the Gamecube, and while the same creepy atmosphere and gory details remain intact, so do the same graphics and control scheme, which isn't necessarily a good thing. For the most part, Code: Veronica X is still a technically sound videogame and continues to offer the same great experience as the first two Code: Veronica games, but it does nothing to advance the Resident Evil series as a whole, and with all of the great advances we've seen in games lately, it's difficult to justify playing through again.
For those unfamiliar with where Code: Veronica X fits within the Resident Evil time line, it actually takes place three months after the events in the second game, even though it was released after Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. You start the game with the familiar Claire Redfield, who went to Racoon City in search of her missing brother Chris. After escaping the ordeal in Racoon City, Claire heads to Europe in hopes of finding Chris there, but is soon captured by the Umbrella Corporation and thrown in the corporation's own scanty prison on an isolated island. So begins your adventures in Code: Veronica X.
Right off the bat you'll notice the graphics, and how dated they really are. They're in dire need of a facelift by now, and even on as powerful a system as the Gamecube they've remained virtually unchanged since early 2000. Everything looks just fine, but after playing third generation software, it all looks pretty bland and stripped down. The whole game is rather dark to begin with, but bland textures and uninteresting environments don't do much for the cause. The zombie models are still decent and do the job though, as seeing a sickly, lumbering zombie coming toward you is something that will forever frighten me.
As far as the controls go, if you've played any Resident Evil game you'll be right at home here. Everything functions the same as any other of the other games in the series, just with a different button layout. You move just as painfully slow as you do in other games, but with the option to do a quick 180 degree turn by tapping the C-stick, which is definitely a plus when you're surrounded by flesh-eating zombies and frothing, festering hell hounds. Sure, it all functions just fine, but the whole system could use a 21st century upgrade.
The game plays like every other Resident Evil game as well. You control either Claire or Chris Redfield, and you progress through the game by collecting items that you can use to attack an undead creature, heal yourself or others, unlock a door or desk, or solve a puzzle. You can only lug so many items with you at one time however, and once you pick up an item you can't discard it unless you combine it with something or use it (like an herb or ammo). Once you find an Item Box you can place items you don't need inside of it, and the items are magically available in any item box you find throughout the game. The joy I experienced when I found my first item box in this game was something of exuberance, as they are few and far between. Also, you still solve the same old predictable puzzles you've been solving for years now, which weren't that great to begin with.
One significant gripe I have to get off my chest is in opening doors and walking up or down steps. Why am I still punished in seeing every single door opening painfully slow or watching steps being taken up or down? It worked in the first couple games, but it's extremely archaic now and serves little purpose other than slowing down the pacing of the game.
The sound in Resident Evil Code: Veronica X is fairly poor, but by now that's almost an expected thing. The cheesy voice acting is as poor as it ever was and will have you chuckling in some places. The sound effects get the job done, but barely. The firing of gunshots seem like they were made with a cheap synthesizer, and the noise you make while walking or running sounds like the same effect I heard in the original Resident Evil game. However, the music is still fairly solid, and does a decent job of setting the creepy and moody atmosphere, startling you in one room and soothing you in another.
Although, despite all of the flaws this game has, this is really as good as Resident Evil has ever been, as outdated as it may be. I'm still sucked in to the addictive gameplay, and my curiosity still gets the best of me, having to solve just one more puzzle or open just one more door before I go to bed. However, I can't recommend this game to anyone that has already played either of the first two Code: Veronica games including die-hard fans, as there just isn't enough variety to warrant a forty-dollar purchase nor a five dollar rental. To those who for some reason haven't played a Code: Veronica game yet, or are just curious to see what Resident Evil is all about, this is as good a place as any to start. Obviously though, the series is becoming rather stale, and needs some new innovations to keep it alive.