sunnuntai 23. lokakuuta 2011

REVIEW - Resident Evil Code: Veronica X (2001)

GENRE(S): Action / Survival horror
RELEASED: March 2001
DEVELOPER(S): Capcom, Nex Entertainment (GCN)

The Sega Dreamcast was launched in November 1998, almost exactly four years after its equally ill-fated predecessor, the Sega Saturn. What happened to the Dreamcast was simply tragic; as technically advanced as it was, some would say "ahead of its time", Sega's growing interest to focus on developing software and Sony's well-promoted launch of the PlayStation 2 dealt killing blows to Dreamcast before it even fully survived the "launch slump", the undefined period of time it takes from a recently launched console nowadays to present truly worthy games. Resident Evil Code: Veronica was a sequel to Resident Evil 2, announced to be in development exclusively for the Dreamcast about a month before the console's launch. The game was delayed to the point even Resident Evil: Nemesis got released before it - earning the title of Resident Evil 3. In early 2000, the game was finally released, and critics loved the game. However, it was too late for the Dreamcast, as its production was discontinued a year later. One of the final games released for the Dreamcast - but only in Japan - was a slightly updated version of the game, dubbed Resident Evil Code: Veronica X. To the delight of many Resident Evil fans who skipped the Dreamcast altogether, this version of the game saw release on the PlayStation 2, and later, the Nintendo GameCube. About a month ago, the game made a return to the PlayStation Network, in high definition, as the first half of the Biohazard Revival Selection. Despite the game being offered to me on a plate complete with HD graphics and 12 Trophies, I think I'll just give the PlayStation 2 version up there on my shelf a go for the first time in five-or-so years and see if it's truly as underrated as my memory serves me.

Steve needs to die

Alyson Court : Claire Redfield
Michael Filipowich : Chris Redfield
Bill Houston : Steve Burnside
Richard Waugh : Albert Wesker
Peter Oldring : Alfred Ashford
Leila Johnson : Alexia Ashford
Martin Roach : Rodrigo Juan Raval
Genevieve Steele : Computer
Conrad Coates : Narrator

Three months after the U.S. Government nuked Raccoon City, Claire Redfield is still searching for her brother, and bent on ending the Umbrella Corporation's activities for good at the same time. Her search for Chris leads her to Paris, where she infiltrates Umbrella's European headquarters, only to be captured by a small military unit deployed by Umbrella. She is then taken to an Umbrella-owned facility on a remote island, which soon turns into hell on Earth, as yet another viral outbreak turns all of the facility's personnel into a whole army of mindless zombies. Refusing to give in to the zombies, a bitter old nemesis looking for retribution, and the clearly insane proprietor of the facility, Claire attempts to escape the island, together with a young man separated from his family.

The most horrifying biological experiment ever
conducted by Capcom: Steve.
Here's the honest deal. My interest in the Resident Evil franchise was fully revived when Capcom first announced Resident Evil 4. That was the first time I truly regretted of never playing Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, but what I regretted even more was never playing Code: Veronica. I was 100% certain that the game was, and had always been, exclusive to the Dreamcast (I wasn't quite as informed of the current video game scene as I am today). I don't know how the hell my brother just happened to stumble on a used copy of Code: Veronica X for the PlayStation 2 so conveniently, and I didn't care. The fanboy in me was pushing himself out of every cavity in my body at the same time - it's painful, I can tell you. Initially, the game was a disappointment. The character and storyboard design left me speechless, and not in a good way. Once the second half of the game began, I found myself irreversibly hooked on it. The game packs just the right amount of difficulty by simply being reasonable most of the time - which immediately makes it a more comfortable play than the occasionally downright unfair Nemesis - it's got good level design, classic puzzles... oh, and it's a very lengthy game. You're in for a long night or even two if you're planning to beat this one with the same pair of eyes. You might say it saves a few climaxes for the new generation of Resident Evil, but I was never that much into the boss fights in the classic Resident Evil games; I was always more into exploring buildings, and there's a lot of that going on in Code: Veronica. Works for me, a lot better than roaming streets in Nemesis - that's Silent Hill's schtick, and it works for that franchise.

Considering that the game was originally exclusive to the Dreamcast, its story is very, almost too crucial to the Resident Evil timeline. It pretty much lead to the actual need to remake the first Resident Evil - I'm still bitter they never released it for any other platform than GameCube, since it is my favourite game in the franchise - and it also serves as a bridge between many elements in between the old and new generation of Resident Evil games, in both story and gameplay. It's a game that a serious fan must play, not by any means the sidestory it's made out to be by not having a number in its title. By far, it's the true Resident Evil 3 as far as I'm concerned; Nemesis was more of a sidestory in my opinion. However, although Code: Veronica pushes the story of Resident Evil forward, it does so with the strength of some plot twists and characters that felt awkward back then, and even while their existence was acceptably explained in the later games, including the remake of the first game, I must say they still feel awkward.

A classic moment of peace.
In three months, Claire has turned from an innocent motorcycle-riding tomboy into a killing machine with incredible agility and weapon skill, as seen in the game's flashy, but all-around corny opening cutscene. Her "partner in grime", Steve Burnside, is one of the most annoying characters in any video game, ever. So annoying he almost equals Vanille in Final Fantasy XIII. He's childish, arrogant, reckless, loud, frankly a disgusting person for whom I have absolutely no love for - the moment he first appeared, I wished a Hunter would just appear out of nowhere and slap the guy's head right off his shoulders. It would've made him none the dumber, but at least he would've shut the hell up. The only thing right about Steve is that most of the time, he stays out of your way. Then we have Wesker - not much of a spoiler there, Chris being in the game is even less of a spoiler since he's featured in most of the promotional art. Chris' strong presence in the game is explained later, but Wesker... I really didn't like what they did to him. It's great that they made him a greater villain than he was before in terms of being nasty, but I did not like his sudden superhuman abilities at all, initially. After the thorough explanation as to why he has those abilities (in Resident Evil 5), I find them a little easier to swallow. Upon his resurrection from his embarrassing death in the first game, Wesker is clearly built up to be the main antagonist of the franchise in Code: Veronica... but the main villains in this particular game are the Ashford twins, a criminally insane pair of siblings in charge of the facility, and descendants of the founders of Umbrella. While Alexia has got to be one of the sexiest video game villains in history, Alfred has got to be one of the most laughable. The voice actor (Peter Oldring) takes Alfred's insanity angle a bit too far, to the point of being just God damn hilarious instead of the least bit intimidating, from end to end. I just can't take Alfred seriously - and on subsequent playthroughs, his unintentional hilarity turns into pure annoyance. Alfred's basically an interesting villain, and at least different from the main villains of the past, just not a well executed character.

The zombies' final canonical stand in the
franchise, and it definitely counts. Zombies
to the left, zombies to the right!
General graphics are updated to meet early sixth-generation standards, but from afar, the game looks exactly like good old Resident Evil... until you realize that the camera is actually following you on choice occasions; also, the camera angle lives on the go, and doesn't take up a second of loading time just to simply change. It's still vintage, old school Resident Evil as we know it, updated just a little bit for our comfort. The characters' faces are a bit too polished, just like in the cutscenes in Nemesis, although they've definitely taken a turn for the better and are a bit more detailed to make the characters look a bit more human. The music is a bit more on the forefront, and it's great, especially the music playing in the second half of the game. The soundtrack's a joint effort between three composers, the most prolific of them being Hijiri Anze, most known for composing music for crappy anime shows. I must say I'm positively surprised. I can't say the same for the voice acting. The voice acting in Resident Evil games that came before the remake is legendarily bad - although it's not quite as bad as before, it's still quite horrid. Alyson Court reprises her role as Claire from Resident Evil 2, and she really was good enough to make it to a second round. Michael Filipowich as Chris and Richard Waugh as Wesker are way better than their predecessors, although the new Wesker laughs too much. Bill Houston as Steve, and Peter Oldring and Leila Johnson as the Ashford twins, all sound simply abysmal and utterly prevent this game from reaching the next whole level in terms of voice acting.

Let's get one thing straight right away: the only thing that separates Code: Veronica X from the original game is the inclusion of one single extra fetchquest, complete with a couple of cutscenes. Got that? Since the original version of the game was never released on anything other than the Dreamcast, no one should feel being too ripped off besides Dreamcast owners - and only Japanese ones at that. To me, on a personal level, it's just great Code: Veronica X doesn't truly differ from the original, this is what I wanted to experience, and having one brief, extra challenge to conquer is a slight nudge for the better.

Fancy a dip in electrified water?
Once again, you cannot choose your character, but in the vein of the brief surprise visit in Carlos' boots in Nemesis, a huge bombshell cuts in, in the middle of the game; only this time the protagonist changes altogether, for the most of the game's second half, as Claire's missing big brother finally returns from his exile, and has a decent voice actor this time to portray how cool he really is. Also, Steve is a playable character for something like five minutes - that's perfectly enough... too much, in fact. I just can't stand that guy! Why couldn't he be saved for later to be a pain in Rebecca Chambers' ass in Resident Evil Zero (not one of my favourite games in the main series, for an obvious reason), and why couldn't we have Billy Coen from that game in exchange? He would've been a much more plausible love interest for Claire, I think. Oh, well. The world is full of bad characters. One of the worst just happened to make his way into this game for one reason or another. Thank goodness it's a good game.

Since Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Resident Evil Code: Veronica were developed in a tight tandem - although this game became more of a mere side project as the years in development rolled by - Code: Veronica retains some subtle elements from Nemesis, such as the 180 degree turn and the ability to shoot objects, for example fuel tanks, to conserve ammo. Go ahead and disagree, but I'm still saying the whole ammo creation schtick in Nemesis was all for nothing, and there's (almost) none of it in Code: Veronica - you can only enhance your otherwise weak arrows for the bow gun with explosive powder. In every possible way, I think Code: Veronica is much closer to classic Resident Evil than its predecessor. There's really nothing new about it, it's just vintage Resident Evil, and it's fine the way it is.

Everything wrong with the game literally ain't nothing new. The inventory limit is still a huge problem, and having to use Ink Ribbons for saving the game was an useless and obsolete idea before it was even conceived; Code: Veronica was luckily the last Resident Evil game to incorporate such a retarded system. Like I said, it's a lengthy game, it gives plenty of bang for a Resident Evil fan's buck, but admittedly the story could be better, and some characters truly drag the experience down.

I get a feeling I'm about to see something eerily
Beating the game takes around 15-20 hours, which makes the game the longest Resident Evil title made in the classic style. Franchise fans will surely go at it again immediately after the credits have rolled, to try out a few alternate strategies to beating this puppy. It's not that hard, generally, but surviving the game with flying colours and the best possible rank is; it's full of deadly surprises and the boss fights are quite tough. As tradition goes, beating the game unlocks a survival mode. More characters and goodies for this "Battle Mode" are unlocked by accomplishing certain tasks throughout the main game. If you're a fan, this game will stick on you for quite a while.

The last traditional Resident Evil game, Resident Evil Code: Veronica (X) is still a great game, a crucial part of the vintage Resident Evil franchise not to be ignored by anyone. It has a couple of rotten eggs for central characters, complete with occasionally horrible voice acting, and all-around awkward dialogue, but the thick survival horror atmosphere and classic gameplay compensate for any artificial flaws. Resident Evil Code: Veronica stands as a fine testament of its kind.

SOUND : 7.8


a.k.a. Biohazard Code: Veronica Complete (JAP)

GameRankings: 64.32% (GCN), 82.77% (PS2)

Original copies of the game included a bonus DVD entitled Wesker's Report.

Alfred and Alexia were originally named Hilbert and Hilda.

Leon S. Kennedy was originally supposed to be in the game, and ultimately, killed off. Due to Leon's popularity, his part was rewritten for the character of Steve Burnside - hence the similar appearances of the two characters.

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