Monday, December 10

Resident Evil Code Veronica (X) Review

I played on: PS2
I paid: £4.99
Available on: PS2, PS3, Dreamcast, Gamecube
Notes: This is the final classic Resident Evil that involves the central plot and cast of characters. I just find this interesting.

Code: Veronica follows Clare Redfield, last seen looking for her lost brother; Chris, in Raccoon City during Resident Evil 2. Chris is still missing so she is continuing the search. Clare is caught while breaking into Umbrella’s Paris lab and sent to Rockford island where Umbrella has a private prison. The base is attacked and the T-Virus gets loose causing the dead to once again rise from their graves. During the outbreak and escape from Umbrella Clare will face off against the remaining members of the mysterouis Ashford family. This includes Alfred, Alexia and what remains of their father Alexander. It’s never the central focus but you can learn the background of this family via documents around the game. I would recommend reading these as they tell you more about how Umbrella was founded and the early experiments with the T-Virus.

As fascinating as all this background is, it’s overshadowed by one member of the Ashford family. Alfred is one of my least favourite parts of not just this game but the entire series. Since Alexia, Alfred’s twin sister is missing he has gone insane and has started to dress and act as her. This is part of a very insulting and personally upsetting trope in media known as the ‘crazy tra**y’ trope. This involves a person born male being violently insane while dressing and acting as a woman. The most popular example of this would be Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. The act of being feminine and the desire to be a woman is seen and treated as part of the person’s insanity. This frames transgender people as simply 'crazy’ which is very damaging. It’s also common for the trans subject to be insulted with their transness or cross-dressing being the target of the insults. This is true in Code: Veronica when Clare calls Alfred a “cross-dressing freak”. I love this series, Resident Evil will always have a special place in my heart but this disgusting transphobia is unforgivable. Honestly, it goes a long way in ruining a story I otherwise love in this game. Without a doubt, it’s the reason this is my personal least favourite Resident Evil game. I find this plot point gross and upsetting as a transgender woman myself.

Let’s not dwell on this one point though as the slow exploration based gameplay from the first 3 games makes a return in Code: Veronica. While it feels dated and in certain regards quite a bit more clunky than Resident Evil 3 it’s still fun. The act of slowly unlocking more of an area and making slow but steady progress towards new locations is just as fun here as it’s always been. Despite this enjoyable core the rest of the gameplay around it feels outdated and rigid. Shooting doesn’t have quite the same impact as it did for the PS1 games. Previously gunshots would stagger enemies. This meant that as long as you managed your ammo well and didn’t need to reload during an encounter the monster would not be able to attack you. For some reason this is not the case in Code: Veronica unless you’re using a weapon like the shotgun or grenade launcher. This means even if you’re unloading an assault rifle into something like a spider or hunter they can still grab you and do damage. The result of this is that the guns feel weak and the times you die feel cheap and sometimes utterly unfair.

During the second half of the game, you will be revisiting old areas as Chris Redfield. Due to events that happen with Clare, the landscape will be different and so will a few puzzles. This is my favourite part of the game. You get to finish what you started with Clare, reunite with Albert Wesker and it’s past all the horrid transphobia. This second half also acts as a connecting bridge between the first Resident Evil and Resident Evil 5. Chris learns that Wesker is still alive after being 'killed’ during the mansion incident and they build up a rivalry that gets resolved in the 5th game. I love all of this because it gave me more of an appreciation for RE5 which until now had been one of my least favourites in the series.

For the first time, the series has fully 3D environments instead of pre-rendered backgrounds. This may sound like a good thing but it’s not. The 3D models all feel too simplistic and lifeless. Clare herself will stand dead still with her arms perfectly straight at her side when she’s not moving. This makes her feel far more dead inside than any of the zombies around her. Most of the areas are covered with this fog effect that makes you feel like you’re in a Silent Hill game instead of a Resident Evil one. It makes things really hard to see at times and it just has me missing the PS1 graphics. Although these certainly lacked detail they were at least clear. The simple matter of the fact is that Code: Veronica looks far more dated now than any of the PS1 games. Resident Evil would use 3D environments again on the PS2 with Outbreak file 1 & 2 with much more success. The series first attempt, however, leaves a lot to be desired.

One of the things I always mention in my classic Resident Evil reviews is exit points. These are points when it’s safe for the player to turn off the game or console without losing progress. Previously all Resident Evil games would use limited ink ribbons which could save on typewriters. When you died you would be brought back to the main menu where you could load your game again. This often leads to losing a lot of progress with no motivation to continue past more challenging parts of the game. I know a lot of people who have told me they got stuck and then never came back to a classic Resident Evil. This is a negative exit point because it reinforces psychologically negative feelings such as frustration and hopelessness. Code: Veronica introduces checkpoints and a message asking if you want to retry as well as the ink ribbons and typewriters. These checkpoints are rare enough to still make death something to fear but the simple prompt asking you to retry makes you want to continue. This is what I’ve been saying the series should do since the first game and I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one with this idea. It really solves one of the biggest problems with classic Resident Evil. It’s shame that this isn’t enough to save Code: Veronica.

I want to hate this game for how it regresses on a gameplay style that had been slowly improving since the first game. Then I think of Chris and Wesker along with the B-movie style plot, improved exit points and backstory introduced here. Code Veronica is not a bad game but it’s also not a great one like it’s earlier predecessors. I’m glad I finished this but I can’t say I ever want to play it again. Fans of the series should check this out if the grotesque transphobia isn’t too much for them. If not just read the Wikia page for the plot details or watch the cutscenes on YouTube. Code Veronica is most certainly the weakest classic Resident Evil and after playing it I can see why the series shifted gears with Resident Evil 4 into the modern era of the series.

Recommendation Rating: 5 out of 10.

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