Resident Evil - Code: Veronica

Year: 2000
Alternate Title: Biohazard - Code: Veronica (Japan)
Platform: Dreamcast
Developer: Capcom
Genre: Survival/horror
Rating: ****

Whew! I finally made it through my first "Resident Evil" game! Now I suppose I'll have to go back and visit the previous three titles... "Code: Veronica" is a continuation of "Resident Evil 2" (1998), which has Claire Redfield travelling to Umbrella's facilities in Europe in order to find her lost brother, Chris. Unfortunately, she gets captured and thrown into a detention compound. Luckily for her, the facility gets attacked by outside forces and she manages to escape from her cell. The bad news is that the attack also unleashed the T-Virus, resulting in the entire complex being overrun by zombies and other nasties. With the aid of a completely annoying teenager named Steve, Claire continues to investigate what the mysterious Umbrella Corporation is really up to and finally manages to escape the island, only to end up in ANOTHER Umbrella facility in Antarctica. It's a good thing that her brother Chris finally shows up to lend a hand. Brother and sister are finally reunited, but there's still plenty of work to be done...

Games like this infuriate me. The graphics are absolutely stunning, the music is excellent, the level design is superb, the writing is intelligent and thoughtful, and the gameplay is tight and responsive. But the game is just too friggin' hard! The only way I could survive more than ten minutes into this adventure was to have an infinite health cheat enabled and have the strategy guide sitting in my lap the whole time. Even with that, it can still be a considerable challenge. Fans of the "Resident Evil" series will find themselves comfortable with the interface and controls, which are identical to previous entries (although the buttons are mapped differently on the Dreamcast controller). Graphically, the biggest difference in this game is that the environments are truly 3D and the camera isn't static. The game looks totally amazing, and the biggest frustration is not having the ability to freely look around your environment and see all that it has to offer (however, this would break the cinematic feel that the developers have always tried to capture with the series).

Apart from the absurd difficulty, I do have several minor complaints about the game. First of all, Claire's outfit isn't nearly as cute as her RE2 duds, which is sort of a bummer. Secondly, and more importantly, the English dubbing is pretty awful. Only Claire, Chris, and Rodrigo are remotely tolerable. Steve is about as flat and annoying as his character is, Alfred's maniacal shrieking is just embarrassing, and Wesker's evil laughter is about as horrible as Goldman's from "House Of The Dead 2." And finally, more horrifying than any of the monsters in the game is the inclusion of an awkward love interest. Ack!!! Other complaints about the series as a whole include the limited number of saves, and having to play as different characters through the course of the game. I'd much rather stick with Claire all the way through and avoid that kind of schizophrenia - it messes with your head. Apart from these quibbles, the game is immensely satisfying to play, and it's arguably even more satisfying to watch someone else play it because you can take in so much more of what's going on without having to deal with the pressure trying to stay alive. Even if you suck at survival horror games like I do, this is definitely a "must have" for your Dreamcast collection.