Resident Evil: Code Veronica


   If there's one thing to be said of Capcom, it is that the company is the master of the low-maintenance formula. The solid groundwork laid down in one of the company's initial titles in a series is often the bedrock upon which multiple successful sequels and spin-offs are based, and these, in general, are well-received both critically and commercially thanks to a few simple tweaks and improvements upon the original game engine. Case in point is the venerable and prolific Resident Evil series. While little has changed over the course of 4 installments, there have been enough subtle improvements and additions, both in graphics and in gameplay, to keep things feeling fresh for seasoned zombie hunters, while offering more of what made the series popular to begin with for newcomers. And this proves to be both Code Veronica's greatest strength and largest weakness.

   The most readily noticed improvement Code Veronica boasts over its predecessors are the visuals. While all three of the titles before it have used three-dimensional characters superimposed upon flat, pre-rendered backgrounds, absolutely everything in Code Veronica is fully 3D. This is a logical progression, and proves to be a natural step forward without breaking from the series' trademark mood and overall graphical style. The benefits of this foray into the third dimension are many, and add up to quite a graphical punch. Every character is modeled beautifully, and the movement is at all times smooth. The camera moves about to facilitate a better view of the area, or sweeps dramatically at places when appropriate. The lighting is truly dynamic, and genuinely cannot be appreciated until seen in action. Such things as a single bulb swinging in place, bathing alternating sections of a dank room with light, or Claire using her cigarette lighter for visibility, look remarkable and draw you further into the game. And, most importantly, the apparent distinction between characters and other mobile objects and the pre-rendered backgrounds is finally no more. Code Veronica is simply gorgeous; if you're looking for a title to show off the power of your Dreamcast, look no further.

Code Veronica
The lighting effects need to be seen to be appreciated.

   The second category in which Code Veronica shines is that of the storyline. The characters are interesting and involving, and the voice acting is fairly good in comparison to the laughable B-movie fare seen in previous titles. There are still a few characters whose voices you'll quickly grow weary of hearing, but for the most part the acting is an improvement. Claire and Chris Redfield will be familiar to those accompanied with the continuing Resident Evil Saga, and they are joined by a cast of supporting characters who do well to aid in pushing the plotline forward. Similarly, the villains present are fittingly vile and detestable as would be expected of those who have no qualms with turning ordinary people into mobile carcasses. All in all, the story will keep you interested and continue to give you reason to keep playing -- to find out what happens, if nothing else.

   Additionally, the ambient soundtrack which has always been a common staple of the series returns in top form. Never is the background music anything less than foreboding, going into a more urgent tone when danger approaches and dropping back into a low hum when the coast seems clear. The sound effects are also complimentray, particularly the enemy noises. The zombies moan and shuffle forth as they always have, dogs will snarl as they attempt to take a piece from your leg, and the ever-pleasant sound of flesh being torn from its body by some unseen foe in the vicnity is always enough to make your flesh crawl.

Code Veronica
Naturally, the phones are out of order.

   And making flesh crawl is certainly Code Veronica's forté. Throughout the game you'll encounter various scripted events that are nothing short of horrific, and when reaching for the door handle of a room preceding some form of attack or other unpleasant occurance, it's opened very slowly with an the accompanying sound of a heartbeat. It's little things like this which either haven't been done previously, or simply not to this level, that give Code Veronica enough of its own unique feel to entice long-time fans of the series.

   Unfortunately, the game is not without its flaws. Whether to upkeep a pervading sense of danger or for some other reason, Code Veronica is the first Resident Evil title wherein zombies will continually respawn in certain rooms everytime you return. This seems a devolvement, and in a game like Code Veronica, where ammunition management is crucial, it's a pesky phenomenon; one has to wonder why it was even included. Also, despite this being the third sequel, a few quirks that have been present from the series' outset remain. The largest offender, despite the true 3D engine, is the camera system. On the whole it's functional and gets the job done, but there are many instances wherein distancing yourself from your opponenets means that a sharp change in camera focus will render them unseen, leaving you to shoot blindly in a general area, hoping for the best. This has always been the case, and it would have been nice if a solution to that annoyance had been included in the list of refinements.

Code Veronica
What Resident Evil would be complete without some form of zombie-infested mansion?

   However, such qualms are only a smaller problem next to that which plagues the title most; it wouldn't be much of a stretch to call it "more of the same." As a whole, the core gameplay model is little changed. The unusual control scheme, love it or hate it, is back, more fluid and manageable than ever. Also returning is the focus on avoiding flesh-eating undead while unravelling one puzzle after the other. And while there are some puzzles which are slightly more creative (and logical) than those previously seen, in general you'll still be collecting keys of various shapes and sizes and deciphering obscure hints to be used as passwords in order to gain entry to the next area. Fans who've enjoyed the previous titles in the series will find a lot to like in Code Veronica, but if you've never been a big follower, there's nothing here to persuade you otherwise.

   Code Veronica is essentially a proven formula refined to near-perfection. On a next-generation console like the Dreamcast it would be nice to see the series make further advancements. However, if you don't mind a more polished version of the same game you've played before, Code Veronica sports plenty of clever twists of its own, and will keep you on entertained for quite some time. Many other titles have attempted to follow in Resident Evil's footsteps since the series' inception, but the original is still the best; just don't expect to be blown away by the innovation.

Review by Drew Cosner, GIA.
Resident Evil: Code Veronica
Developer Sega/Capcom
Publisher Capcom
Genre Adventure
Medium CD (?)
Platform Dreamcast
Release Date

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