Way back in 1996, the first Resident Evil kick-started a franchise that would come to define the “survival horror” genre in gaming. Now, 15 years and countless sequels, prequels, re-releases, and console ports later, we’re getting high-definition versions of two of the most popular installments of the franchise: Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil Code: Veronica X.
The two games arrive as downloadable titles for Xbox Live and Playstation Network this month, with RE4 available now and Code: Veronica X available Tuesday, September 27. Given both games’ critical acclaim, it’s no surprise that they’re getting a fresh coat of hi-def paint for the franchise’s 15th anniversary — but are the latest iterations worth the dent in your wallet and space on your hard drive?
In short, the answer will likely depend on your history with the Resident Evil franchise, but here’s what we found on our playthrough of both games.
Resident Evil 4 2.0
While most gamers have already played Resident Evil 4 in one of its incarnations, this is the title that clearly benefits the most from the high-def treatment and re-release. Originally released in January of 2005 as a Nintendo GameCube exclusive (then later ported over to the PlayStation 2), the game’s latest iteration is a great reminder why the original RE4 was so far ahead of its time — mainly because the HD version doesn’t feel like a six-year-old game.
At its core, the new RE4 offers all of the same great elements that made the original such a hit, with players on a mission to rescue the President’s daughter from a village populated by a freaky cult, and a mix of exciting action and RPG elements that set it apart from other games of the time. It’s also as likely to make you jump out of your seat today as it was six years ago, which shows how well the game accomplished what it set out to do back in 2005.
In its HD iteration, RE4 gets a nice visual upgrade that does more than just smooth the rough edges — it brings the whole game up to the same level as today’s titles that it’s competing with for gamers’ attention. The graphics get such a boost, in fact, that anyone who’s not aware of the original release would be excused for thinking the game was developed for high-def consoles.
Along with the visual tweaks, the HD re-release also comes with all of the same bonus features and play modes present in the later installments of Resident Evil 4 — including the wild Mercenary Mode — as well as the requisite XBL Achievements and PSN Trophies.
However, therein lies one of the few faults to be found in the new version of the game.
Both Resident Evil 4 and Code: Veronica X each offer 12 achievements/trophies for players. And while it’s nice to have any unlockable goals at all, it feels like Capcom missed a golden opportunity with this element of both games.
The bulk of the achievements created for the game are of the checkpoint variety and not the sort that encourage creative play on subsequent playthroughs. You unlock one achievement when you complete a certain chapter or defeat a boss, then another at a later point in the narrative, and so on. The absence of achievements that unlock after killing a certain number of zombies (or infected villagers) or upgrading your weapons to a certain point is definitely conspicuous, given how common these types of achievements are in most games today.
Given the emphasis the game puts on targeted shooting and combining your use of weapons with hand-to-hand combat, the lack of achievements that recognize this aspect of the game is even more noticeable.
Even with that criticism, however, there’s a strong case to be made for Resident Evil 4 as not just a great re-release of a classic game, but as an excellent standalone game altogether. Not only does the HD version of the game hold its own among the available library of downloadable titles, it manages to prove yet again that it’s a great game overall, sans console or format qualifiers.
Sadly, the case for Code: Veronica X isn’t as strong. Originally released back in 2000 and later released in 2001 with upgraded graphics and additional cut scenes (among other tweaks), Code: Veronica X definitely shows its age in its HD re-release.
While the character control in Resident Evil 4 felt simplified but intuitive, control of the multiple characters you play as in Code: Veronica X is the sort of nostalgia many gamers would be happier not revisiting. For those who haven’t spent much time with the Resident Evil franchise, the clunky, limited mobility of your character (and the very capable movement of the creatures looking to bite out of you) will likely be a harsh — and occasionally frustrating — reminder of how far we’ve come in the last decade.
And though Code: Veronica X has also received a significant upgrade in the graphics department, it’s clear that there’s only so much you can do with a game released more than ten years ago.
One thing that’s interesting to note about the HD version of Code: Veronica X is the way in which the footage added in the later version of the game (when it went from Code: Veronica to Code: Veronica X) appears to play nicer with the high-def upgrade. At times, the game seems to offer two very different styles of cinematic: one filled with sharp edges and errant pixels, and another with a smoother (albeit more blurry) take on the action. This was an issue with the original Code: Veronica X, and the high-def treatment seems to have accentuated the difference between the cut scenes rather than helping them to meet in the middle.
Still, even with these criticisms, there’s a lot for faithful Resident Evil franchise fans to like about the re-release of Code: Veronica X.
Despite its shortcoming by today’s standards, Code: Veronica X was a bona fide hit when it originally hit shelves, thanks to an immersive story that starts you off as a prisoner on a remote island prison complex filled with shambling zombies and other assorted creatures. The game featured a number of innovative (at the time) elements that gamers take for granted today, and the bonus game modes and extra features that accompanied it and are included in the HD re-release remain a great example of how to encourage play well beyond the main narrative arc.
As we mentioned earlier, the achievements/trophies are a nice addition, though they’re just as checkpoint-based in Code Veronica X as they are in Resident Evil 4.
All things considered, the takeaway on Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil Code: Veronica X is this: For anyone who hasn’t played Resident Evil 4 or has played it and enjoyed it, the game’s HD re-release is a must-have title for your console’s library. Not only is it one of the best games from one of the industry’s most popular franchises, but it’s a great game on its own, capable of holding its own against the best games available on Xbox Live and the Playstation Network.
As for Resident Evil Code: Veronica X, the real appeal of the HD re-release lies in both its nostalgic value and its place in the greater Resident Evil franchise. Diehard Resident Evil fans will enjoy the touch-up the game received, and both the story and replay elements retain a lot of the fun that made the game such a hit when it was first released. However, it seems unlikely that anyone without that personal attachment to the game will find the same level of enjoyment in revisiting Code: Veronica X.
Resident Evil 4 is available for download on Xbox Live and Playstation Network now, while Resident Evil Code: Veronica X will be available Tuesday, September 27. Both games will cost $19.99 or 1600 Microsoft Points.
(This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 on a copy provided by Capcom)