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Resident Evil: Code Veronica X (PlayStation 2) artwork

Resident Evil: Code Veronica X (PlayStation 2) review

"If you donít think, you die. If youíre not careful, you die. If youíre not afraid, you die. If youíre too afraid you die."

Before its fourth numerical installment, the Resident Evil franchise inspired fear not just through horrifying monsters and startling scenes, but also through mere existence. To survive, you had to be smart, conserving ammunition and health items for major battles and long stretches between saves. Code Veronica X matches these criteria in every regard, fitting in all the series staples as well as adding nuances of its own.

Claire Redfield finds herself imprisoned on a remote island where a new strain of T-Virus has spread. With nothing but a combat knife and a handgun to start, she must find a way off the island, a path that will lead her to many secrets as well as new places to explore. Her brother, Chris, follows her tracks both on and off the island as part of a (somewhat) belated rescue effort.

Through it all, youíll experience the true meaning of the word horror as it was originally intended. Itís not the horror of frightening monsters or excess gore, although those do exist; itís the horror of the unknown. To avoid unnecessary collisions with malevolent mutants, you walk instead of run. Such care is necessary because just a couple of smacks or bites can knock your health one notch. Yet, the precaution isnít always possible. To prevent over-consumption of the few arms you have, you need to avoid enemies rather than kill them. This, by nature, forces you to run instead of warily stalking about.

Unsure of what lies around the corner, you conserve your best equipment for bosses. You always know from disturbing scenes or the thumping of Claireís heart as she opens a door that somethingís going to happen, but you never know precisely when until it does. When taking the Bowgun (a kind of crossbow) from the laboratory, you watch the gruesome and startling death of the researcher inside. You know youíll face whateverís in there eventually, and itís that anticipation, that sheer uncertainty of its strength or even its physical characteristics that creates an ever-present shroud of dread and foreboding as your journey continues. Itís the sort of feeling that permeates everything and applies to every beast that appears in a similar manner. It even applies merely just to collecting key items, for these often trigger the appearance of something new, or, at the very least, the re-infestation of once-cleared corridors.

Dread is the ultimate terror here, and it wins all. It clouds judgment and befuddles the mind. Often it leads to your own destruction. Iíve often gone into situations incorrectly prepared, misjudging the kinds of weapons I needed for the next round of foes. Once, as Chris, I brought submachine guns to a room full of zombies thinking Iíd be fighting spiders and a weird amphibian lizard thing that shoots electricity. Granted, these zombies could now spit acid, but even so, I knew submachine guns were a bit heavy. Later I fought the monsters I had intended the weapon for. My mistake led to the near-depletion of one of the most powerful weapons.

The need to manage items will make you think about weapon choice as well and coupled with the omnipresent dread, it can prove costly. With an eight (later ten) item limit, great consideration must be taken for weapon choice, as the remaining space will likely be used for healing and story-progression items. I fell prey to this clever trap more than once, but one specific incident early in the game still rings in my memory. In an old warehouse, I collected a pair of submachine guns for a fellow stranded prisoner, naively thinking my handgun would be enough. I was wrong. Instead, I was jumped by a monster known only to this game, the bandersnatch. Resembling a mutant orangutan with extendable arms, it proved quite resistant to my puny weapons, nearly killing me in the process. Thinking it was a boss, I reloaded, this time bringing a more powerful gun, and found the task much easier.

Then I found out they were, in fact, regular enemies. Cursing ensued, but not much as my ammo conservative efforts meant I still had plenty of good stuff remaining. Needless to say, I acquired a great fear of these beasts, one that wasnít much abated when I learned of their weakness to explosives. A dangerous balancing act then followed where I took care to only use the grenades necessary to kill them and yet still save enough for the showdown with one of Resident Evilís most infamous creations.

I later regretted this liberal use of explosives because it would have made Chrisís half of the game much easier. But I didnít mind too much as Iíd managed to save other heavy weaponry until the very end of the game.

Despite the failures and successes that eventually allowed me to achieve victory, getting there was not easy. It involved multiple retries from earlier saves to complete a portion to my satisfaction. Simply wasting too much ammo on pesky moths and still getting poisoned could ruin my current run. I probably saw the game over screens than there are words in this review. But, frustrating as it is, thatís kind of the point. If you donít think, you die. If youíre not careful, you die. If youíre not afraid, you die. If youíre too afraid you die. However, once you reach your goals with confidence, you can win, and thatís what makes the game truly rewarding.

Rating: 8/10

wolfqueen001's avatar
Community review by wolfqueen001 (May 16, 2010)

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zippdementia posted May 16, 2010:

Nice conclusion. You nailed what playing Code V feels like. And Kudos for mentioning the Bandersnatches. They were terrifying enemies in every respect, not least because they made you waste ammo.
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wolfqueen001 posted May 16, 2010:

Thanks, Zipp. I think whenever I try to review a horror game, I try to convey the sense of horror it inspires. I think I did this well with my RE4 review, too, but that was an altogether different kind of horror and therefore much easier to write about. I'm still not sure whether I got everything across the way I wanted, but it's done now and I'm strongly disinclined to rewrite things completely once they're done.

Anyway, there is a downside to this kind of mechanic of mine. Many games share a similar kind of horror, so I'd be tempted to review others in this (or other) series the same way. But doing so would get dull, so now I've put myself in a bit of a bind. Like, I wonder what Silent Hill would be like. I sometimes think it's kind of horror is perhaps even more fitting than the way I described it here, but since I already reviewed this game that way, it sort of closes off other options. But oh well. That's a bridge I'll have to cross if I ever get there.
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zippdementia posted May 17, 2010:

I agree. It is something I'll probably comment on in the tournament. The style seems a little worn out. But I still like the areas you choose to focus on.

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