Resident Evil 4 has spoiled me!
Capcom brings another version of a classic Resident Evil title to Xbox Live. Last time, it was Resident Evil 4 HD. This time around they reach far back into the age of the Sega Dreamcast and pull out one of the best RE games to ever grace a system; welcome to Resident Evil Code: Veronica X HD.
The story of Resident Evil Code: Veronica X HD is one element that made it good. Considered a true sequel to Resident Evil 2, the story follows Claire Redfield's search for her brother Chris. She infiltrates Umbrella's French division and is captured. Claire wakes up in a prison on Rockfort island that is horribly infested with zombies and that is run by two psychotic twins. She has to fight her way out and along the way she meets up with a mysterious kid named Steve, who is in the same predicament. I can only assure you that this is one of Resident Evil's best storylines in the original series. It flows seamlessly and quick.
Story aside, for those gamers out there that weren't old enough to experience the original four titles for the 90s consoles, then you're in for a frustrating treat.
The first thing you will notice before anything else is how incredibly different the controls are from Resident Evil 4. Two things make the controls difficult:
1. The camera angles
2. Controls are treated like flight stick controls
The camera angles are jarring when you're walking around. The game wants to keep a stationary shot between scenes that can make for a positively frustrating time when you're trying to either fire your weapon or see what's coming. Granted the latter is the point of the camera angles, as sometimes you'll run around a corner and BAM! A zombie will be waiting for you without you knowing it (good shocks, just like a real horror film). The sacrifice the game makes by going for that 'scare' factor is that aiming is positively atrocious; especially if you're use to Resident Evil 4 controls. Your natural inclination when the scene switches from one angle to the next is to change control movements. For example, if you're pushing up on the directional pad to move forward and Claire is moving towards you onscreen, the camera angle will change to show her walking away from you. You will want to push down on the controller to match the angle switch, but by doing so you'll be heading backwards. Again, it's jarring if you're not use to it.
Speaking of controls, the controls act like flight stick controls. The movement of your characters are opposite of what you might think. If you're moving forward towards the screen then you'll push up on the directional/analog stick to do so. If you're moving down the screen then you'll push down on the directional/analog stick. Much like the camera angles, it's all very jarring for anyone that hasn't played the series before.
Regretfully, these are the two most disappointing elements about the re-release. There had to be something that Capcom could have done that might have helped or corrected controls during the HD upgrade. Prior to RE4, the controls were a glaring issue with the entire original series. Therefore, the controls should have been helped in some way when the re-release was under development. Of course, I'm not expecting Resident Evil 4 controls in Resident Evil Code: Veronica X HD, but there had to be something that could have been done to improve the gameplay control experience. For me, the controls weren't much of an issue because I've done this game before, and I know this series well. My concern is that someone new is going to play this and think how awful it is because the original controls were kept intact.
So, the re-release really needed the controls tweaked or fixed. The game is so good that it deserved the fix. Some of you might disagree with my complaint and argue that it would take too long and might ruin the gaming experience. I say to you this, it has been done before to another popular series. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater didn't have a fully movable 3D camera in the original release. If you happened to play Snake Eater then you understand why that was important. Kojima Productions recognized the importance and went back and added a camera (after fans griped a bit). The result of the effort was that the experience completely changed with Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (same game essentially, but with better ways to play). I can't tell you how a simple improvement as a camera angle controlled by the player can change gameplay experience for the better. It made the world in Metal Gear Solid seem deeper, and the tension level for the stealth-based classic was heightened even more.
Resident Evil Code: Veronica X HD could have improved with tweaked controls or 3D camera movement. It could have been so darn good with those improvements.
Anyway, let's talk a little about what you should expect to see when you play the actual game.
Something that hasn't been present in the recent Resident Evil games (speaking of 4 and 5) is out-of-nowhere spawning zombies. Generally, once you clear an area then the area is clear, in recent RE games. In Resident Evil Code: Veronica X HD, and probably the original game, you will find spots of enemies appear out of nowhere, even when you already cleared that area of all enemies. Again, going back to the camera angles, Capcom does this sort of thing to keep you on your toes, but in hindsight for this day and age of gaming, that's a mistake for new gamers coming in to play Resident Evil Code: Veronica X HD for the first time.
Going along with that, you also have limited ammo, limited health recovery items, and you can only save with typewriters (scattered across the island) that require ink ribbons. Again, this is a completely different game when compared to the most recent RE titles. You have to limit your trigger happy fingers and estimate out how much damage you can take before you join the land of the living dead. All of these elements add to the challenge that the game brings you, and that's what makes it classic -- regretfully, these will also add to the game's frustration for gamers not use to the original.
Controls and gameplay aside, the visuals look so much smoother and better than the Dreamcast version of the game. No more jaggies mixed with older DC graphics. With Resident Evil Code: Veronica X HD you get improved character models, very good facial expressions, and detailed horror environments. The gameplay looks that good. For example, the first time you'll notice how incredibly nice the environments are is when you enter the prison mess hall. When you see the light swinging back and forth over a table full of rotting food, you're going to be in awe. Of course, you won't have much time to enjoy the scenery, as you're going to be bombarded with grotesque, flesh-eating zombies. Still, the details of the mess hall, and many other environments in the game, have been improved dramatically. Again, truly this is a good HD experience, in terms of visuals.
Rivaling the visuals is the wonderful sound that has also seemingly been remastered to match the visuals. There's nothing quite like hearing a pack of hungry, T-virus ridden dogs about to stalk and jump you from behind in a 5.1 set-up. Good stuff that only adds more value to the atmosphere that Resident Evil Code: Veronica X HD establishes.
While I do admit that most of this review does sound negative, please don't read it as such. The perspective I have with this game is through the eyes of someone who adored the original, and the eyes of new gamers who will be experiencing it first hand. I still think this game is worth the money that Capcom is asking, if not only for the original experience (and upgraded visuals and sound). There's a lot to be loved here with the fourth installment of the original RE games. It's got a great story, great characters (who are still leaps/bounds better actors than in the first game) and an overall fun experience that will leave you wanting more at the end of the game (which this game will happily provide -- I won't give it away).
Anyway, onto the summary!