Well I can already tell this part is going to be incredibly short. I’ve spent the last three hours staring at a blank word document trying to figure out how to talk about Resident Evil Code: Veronica X. It’s taken me that long to put just these first words down because I seriously have no idea what I can write about it. Hell, I even gave myself an extra week just to play through Code Veronica X again to try and take anything away from it beyond my original single sheet worth of notes. Even after all of that, all I know is that Code Veronica X definitely isn’t a bad game, but it sure as sweet hell isn’t a good one either. At first I was ready to stick this game’s head on a pike with how frustrated I was after finishing it, but after going through it the second time, I think the best way that I can describe Code Veronica X is simply deeming it as just another Resident Evil game.
Over the last three parts of this retrospective I’ve praised and, ultimately, enjoyed seeing the interesting progressions that the Resident Evil series was able to make with each new addition. As the games went on, they slowly shifted their tone to include more action-focused elements, improving gameplay and controls in turn to fit that change in tone. For example, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis became so action-heavy that the gameplay allowed for the player to get out of hairy situations much easier by implementing a 180 degree turn and the ability to dodge enemy attacks. But in the case of Code Veronica X, there are no improvements to be seen besides better graphics. And besides keeping the 180 degree turn, Code Veronica X doesn’t even seem to include any of the gameplay improvements from Nemesis.
Code Veronica X essentially took the action-heavy tone from Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and somehow made it even more over-the-top, but stripped away any of the necessary gameplay tweaks that made Nemesis so enjoyable. As a result, Code Veronica X ends up looking like even more of an action movie than Nemesis ever did, but when it comes to its gameplay, it’s on about the same level of the first Resident Evil in terms of playability. Despite having numerous action-packed set pieces, you can’t dodge attacks or even auto-target screen-clearing environmental hazards. Instead, Code Veronica X goes back to the more irritating days of relying on the, at this point, incredibly clunky tank controls in order avoid enemy blows – something I can tell you from experience is infuriatingly difficult in this game. In the end, it tries to be both a survival horror game and an action game at the same time, but ends up failing to do both as a result.
Code Veronica X even regressed back to having mind-numbingly awful voice acting again. The best examples of how bad it could get is seen in the game’s exclusive characters, Steve Burnside and Alfred Ashford – especially in the case of Alfred Ashford.
I know that’s an odd criticism to give when I make no excuses for enjoying the cheesy and clunky voice acting of the first two games, but at least there it was charming. After Nemesis made such a surprisingly impressive forward bound in terms of its voice acting quality, you expect that the team behind Resident Evil would have learned their lesson by now. But instead I ended up sitting through clichéd line after clichéd line, delivered by voice actors whom I can only assume were all from the same high-school drama club. It just feels like the series should know better by now, which makes it all the more disappointing.
To be honest, that’s all I can really talk about. Code Veronica X didn’t add anything new or interesting to the formula like its predecessors. Instead it backtracked on the improvements that the past games have made which, in my mind, would have made the gameplay a lot more tolerable and fun. All I see here is a game that got stuck between trying to go back to its series roots and following the trend that its predecessors had been setting up. It played like a game the series itself outgrew and it’s nowhere as scary as it thinks it is. I can imagine that this may have been tolerable five years into the franchise when it first came out, but fifteen years later it’s just inexcusable.
I’ve often wondered why Resident Evil 4 was such a change from the previous entries in the series. Why did it change up its gameplay style so drastically and go all-in on being a pure action game? Now that I’ve played Code Veronica X, I think I understand why a lot better now. The series had to change itself to not only stay relevant, but to save itself. Resident Evil, as a series, was overdue for a makeover that just didn’t come in Code Veronica X. Resident Evil 4 needed to happen because, as Code Veronica X shows us, even a great game series that pioneered a genre will eventually start to show its age.
Writer: Tristan Venables