||Resident Evil: Code Veronica
Wanna see something really scary? - Review By Subskin
Although games like Alone in the Dark explored adventure gaming in a horror setting, the Resident Evil series was the first to earn a massive audience. Resident Evil named the genre "survival horror," and dozens of imposters tried to cash in on RE's success. Unfortunately, very few offered anything new (see Penny Arcade). Try out this Mad Lib for an instant survival horror plot:
Humans are turning into [insert creature name] because of [insert fictional chemical], and you are trapped in [insert enclosed place] with limited ammo! Uncover the conspiracy behind [insert fictional company and/or government agency name], but watch out because one of your teammates is working for them!
Now Resident Evil: Code Veronica is out for the Dreamcast. Does it justify the months of hype, or will its imitators drag it down?
The opening sequence of RE:CV is the most impressive pre-rendered cinema mine eyes have seen. Graphically, it is magnificent despite a near zero load time. The sound is so realistic that I was afraid the police would come to investigate a shoot-out. Instantly the game reminds you why Capcom owns the survival horror genre. Through the opening sequence, RE:CV provides all the background you need to begin playing. At the same time, Claire Redfield establishes that she could kick Kasumi's ass.
Claire Redfield, star of RE:CV. And would you believe this is the in-game model? She looks even better in the cinematics.
In case you are one of the four people who haven't played Resident Evil, I'll start with the beginning. S.T.A.R.S agent Chris Redfield infiltrated the Umbrella Corporation's Raccoon City laboratory. He found them producing a biological weapon that turns humans into zombies. His sister, Claire Redfield, followed him to Raccoon City in Resident Evil 2. After uncovering more of the Umbrella conspiracy, Claire was captured by Umbrella and taken to a secret prison. When the prison is attacked by unknown forces, a sympathetic guard releases her.
This is where you take over. It's tempting to sit back and enjoy the dark beauty of the game, especially after the wonderfully orchestrated opening. RE:CV doesn't allow that; within minutes you are surrounded by five zombies with only a knife to defend yourself. I was slightly disappointed with RE2 and 3's increase of enemies, as I felt Capcom sacrificed some suspense for more action. The added enemies in RE2 and 3 seemed to change the mood from Evil Dead to From Dusk Till Dawn. Not so in Code Veronica - even in a room full of ghouls RE:CV retains the claustrophobic nightmare feel that highlighted the original.
Graphically, Resident Evil is almost perfect. Just be sure to turn off the lights to get the full effect.
These zombie-infested areas appear frighteningly realistic. Code Veronica has the most impressive graphics in any Resident Evil game -- maybe the best graphics in any adventure game. First, Capcom switched from pre-rendered environments to a three-dimensional demonic paradise. Code Veronica uses the Dreamcast's power to move seamlessly throughout the game without sacrificing any of the series' marquee backgrounds. In fact, the levels are rendered so flawlessly you might think they are pre-rendered -- until you find the weapons that use first-person views!
The jaw-dropping graphics extend to character models. Close up, main characters are near Soul Calibur quality. They are so lifelike that it's sometimes difficult to tell when a scene is a pre-rendered and when it is an in-game sequence. The detail on the zombies is menacing -- their sores and rotting flesh are enough to shame their 32-bit counterparts (and Sega's own Zombie Revenge).
The familiar Resident Evil interface is back, with a few enhancements. Beginners may find the layout confusing at first, though.
Cutting edge lighting effects further enhance Code Veronica's graphics. All elements of CV, from characters to enemies to environments, are dynamically affected by subtle light shifts. Everything that should cast light on its surroundings -- carrying a lighter, a swinging overhead lamp, a burning zombie -- does light up its area.
The crispy crackle of that zombie's burning skin demonstrates Code Veronica's sonic excellence. The sound of your footsteps changes across every terrain; zombies scrape their feet on metal like fingernails on a blackboard. Rain falling in a gentle drizzle highlights the game's surround sound capability. The now classic creaking doors are back (although not as slow as the Playstation's slow level loading required). CV sets the tone with very subtle, occasional music, and crescendos to whenever triggered by the action.
The gameplay is nothing new, so expect to be fighting zombies once again. I crave human flesh!
Code Veronica's action follows traditional Resident Evil gameplay. Since they are undead and all, zombies keep coming like Rosie O'Donnell at an all-you-can-eat buffet. The L trigger acts as an auto-targeting button, finally conserving ammo somewhat. You're still going to run out in classic RE style, so the knife is crucial. Code Veronica incorporates awesome collision detection that prevents you from swinging the knife through walls. Now when you hit a wall or other hard object, the knife clangs off with an animation appropriate to your position. It's little things like well-executed clipping that make a game great.
When you are bit, you seem to take less damage than in previous Resident Evil games. The VMU displays your current health situation -- a great addition. The complete lack of on-screen status bars retains Code Veronica's horror-movie impression, and now you don't have to pause to check your health. Also, saving only takes up eleven VMU blocks for a two-disc game! Compare this to Soul Reaver, which takes up 50 blocks (thanks to Joshua Shagam for the extra nit-picking in our 3/17 mailbag).
Code Veronica retains the Resident Evil "typewriter" saving system. You are allowed so few saves and there are even fewer places where you can save your game. This limitation is bothersome when you have to quit playing for some reason, as you can either: (1) turn it off and lose your progress, (2) continue playing and lose your friends / job / relationship, or (3) leave the Dreamcast on and lose your VMU battery. Granted, this prevents people from saving the game so frequently that death isn't a penalty. However, there must be some kind of middle ground, and I hope Capcom can figure one out.
Eeek! The typewriters are back! Saving your game is a minor pain in the ass.
Also, you still cannot aim or shoot while moving. I understand why: Capcom does not want to turn this into Dynamite Cop. Still, I would like to see some ability to fight while moving, at least with the knife. Seems to me that the extremely limited ammunition would be enough to prevent Resident Evil from becoming a run-n'-gun game.
The Final Word
Code Veronica is the best single-player game I have played. Now that I've finished this review, I'm going to turn out the lights, unplug the phone, and play this till I pass out. Trust me: go buy this game!
Genre: Survival Horror
Highs: Life-like graphics, creepy sounds, great plot.
Lows: Cruel save system, limited fighting ability.
Other: 1 Player, VMU Compatible (saves 11 require blocks), VGA Cord, Jump Pack Compatible, 2 Discs.
(out of a possible 10)
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