Resident Evil: Code Veronica (Biohazard: Code Veronica in Japan) isn't the game you might expect from the company that made the survival horror genre what it is today.... It's better. Sure, the team at Capcom used the power of the Dreamcast to deliver what is easily the most visually impressive title bearing the Resident Evil name. However, no one could have guessed that Code Veronica would also be a step above all of its predecessors in almost every aspect, while still holding true to the established Resident Evil formula that we've all come to know and love.
The story, as in any Resident Evil game, is one of the most integral aspects of the game, and fortunately, Code Veronica's storyline stands up to its brethren. The game centers on Claire Redfield in her continuing quest to find her missing brother Chris. The events take place three months after those depicted in Resident Evil 2, when Claire is captured by Umbrella and sent to a remote Island. This is all explained in the game's opening movie, which is arguably one of the most exciting CG intros ever. From this point the game begins, and you once again step into the world of survival horror. Without ruining any of the game's surprises, here are just a few necessary points that have to be made to truly convey the game's value. Early on in the game you meet up with a Leonardo DiCaprio look-alike by the name of Steve Burnside. Steve's character is the sensitive yet tough type that, while annoying at times, grows on you. As the game progresses, you learn more and more about Umbrella and eventually end up traveling to another Umbrella base. Right around here is where the first disc ends and the second begins. While the game's story is linear, it leaves you hanging in suspense as the story picks up from Chris Redfield's point of view, who is, ironically, searching for his sister Claire. The game's story is full of surprises that will hold special meaning to fans of the first game, and it contains a lot of familiar faces and plot twists. In all, the game will take about 15-20 hours to complete the first time through, and you'll love every minute of it.
The presentation of the game - from the moment you press the start button until well after the credits roll - is of the highest standard, not only because of the amazing quality of the game's visuals, sound, and music, but also because of the way the story unfolds. The story is told through the use of cinemas, both CG and in-game cutscenes, which look incredible. But perhaps more important than the way they look is how the game seamlessly flows into a cinema sequence and back out to gameplay. You almost never feel as if you're just watching the game, even though some sequences are rather long. For instance, early on in the game you walk into a graveyard, and a cinema begins showing zombies clawing their way out of the ground to come after you. Just as you start to wonder what is going to happen to poor Claire, the sequence fades back to gameplay, leaving Claire's fate up to you. These tension-filled moments right before you have to start blasting zombies or tangle with a boss are by far the best moments of playing Code Veronica. Over the years, one of the continuing criticisms of the Resident Evil series has been that some of the puzzles are in locations that just don't make any sense. For instance, if you remember in Resident Evil 2, you had to solve a puzzle that involved a pressure-sensitive floor that, when activated, released a gem being held by a nearby statute, which seemed terribly out of place in a police station. In Code Veronica the puzzles are much more logical, and for the most part they fit nicely into the game. Many of the industrial complexes have puzzles involving items and equipment that you might actually find there, like generators and cranes. Sure, the game still has creepy mansions filled with mysterious passageways that are unlocked by placing stones in just the right spots, but at least this time the odd puzzles are found in environments where you'd expect them to be. What's more is that the solutions to the puzzles are usually a lot more sensible than in previous Resident Evil games. For example, in one area of the complex your path is blocked by a giant crate. If you have a sharp eye, you'll notice that a crane dangles from above. But when you find the control panel that operates the crane, you'll realize the crane doesn't have any power. After exploring a bit you'll find a power generator you can switch on, which supplies electricity to the crane. Upon returning to the crane you'll find that it is indeed powered up, and all that's left to do is move the crate. While a majority of the puzzles are straightforward such as this, you'll still run into a few of those red-gem/blue-gem puzzles that will have you stumped. But after solving every single puzzle, no matter how long it takes you, no matter how much you swear that the game is defective before you solve it, finally doing so will leave you with that amazing feeling of satisfaction when the light bulb goes on in your head and the solution is reached. That's what is so much better about Code Veronica than the previous Resident Evil games: the new, intelligent approach to the puzzles as opposed to the frustrating, arbitrary nature of the puzzles in the older games.
Graphically, Resident Evil: Code Veronica is absolutely phenomenal. Capcom has used the power of the Dreamcast just as well as Namco did for Soul Calibur. The game runs in true 3D for the first time in the series, meaning that what used to be rendered backgrounds are now textured polygons, which look incredible. As you make your way from area to area, you'll see objects in the foreground, which give the game a unique 3D look and add a true sense of depth to the environments. You'll come into a room that is old and falling apart, and sometimes you will just have to stop and marvel at the level of detail - the grime on the wall, boxes and various objects piled in the corner. The game simply makes the ordinary look extraordinary. The new 3D surroundings let the camera be much more dynamic than before. The camera doesn't switch from fixed positions as much as in previous Resident Evil games; instead the camera follows, pans, and even zooms in and out as you make your way through the 3D settings, much as the camera followed you in Dino Crisis. Visual effects abound throughout the game. Jumping into pools of waist-high water sends dispersing waves across the surface; real-time lighting from candles casts shadows of Claire that realistically dance on the walls as she walks down a dark hallway; and all the characters look fantastic and extremely detailed. While the animation of the characters and zombies is typical of Resident Evil games, it is a lot smoother and more convincing than ever before. The character models used during the game-engine cinemas are even more detailed and articulated than those used during play. They look so good, in fact, that you can see the expressions of the characters as they speak and interact with others. The animations for these expressions are so realistic that the sensation of fear is tangible on their faces. This, needless to say, makes the situations that Claire and the other characters face seem more real and more dangerous than in previous Resident Evil games. The audio in Resident Evil: Code Veronica, while not overly extraordinary, certainly has its moments. For instance, when strolling through one of the courtyards, you hear a faint buzzing sound that gets subtly louder as you walk and then begins to get quieter. Instinctively, you turn around and retrace your footsteps to try to track down where the buzzing sound is coming from. Just then, you notice a lamppost with a moth flying around the light, which you instantly recognize as the source of the sound. Subtle audio touches like this really add to the experience, as do the ones that aren't nearly as slight. For instance, when you enter a room that has a big battle or dramatic sequence waiting for you, the Resident Evil door-opening sequence slows to a halt. The camera dramatically zooms in on the door handle while a thundering heart beats faster and faster. If you have a surround system with a powered subwoofer, it makes for quite an exhilarating moment. The game's musical score, of course, accompanies play and greatly enhances key moments with music that is either just plain scary or frantically paced for action sequences. While the game has improved in just about every aspect, the control still remains largely unchanged. As in Resident Evil 3, the game has an auto-aiming feature, which really doesn't take any fun away from blasting zombies but instead keeps you from wasting your ammo while trying to line up a shot from a tricky camera angle. A quick 180-degree spin has been added for those moments when you just don't have the time to turn around and shoot a zombie who's just about to take a bite out of your neck. It would have been nice if Capcom had put true analog control into the game, like the N64 version of Resident Evil 2. Unfortunately, analog control, along with the defensive sidestep from RE3, isn't in the game. In any event, the control in Code Veronica is fine, especially for players already acclimated to Resident Evil's style of control. It just would have made playing the game all the more enjoyable if Capcom had included all of the features from the earlier games.
In the end, Resident Evil: Code Veronica is the best game in the series, thanks to features like dynamic real-time camera angles, a wonderful linear story, and some of the best graphics seen on the Dreamcast. To call it a must-own game is a definite understatement.