Resident Evil 4 HD is a pretty unspectacular port. If you've played the game back in the day, you know of its revolutionary brilliance. Shinji Mikami, father of the Resident Evil series and such small games as Devil May Cry or Viewtiful Joe not only reinvented his own grand jewel with the title, but also spawned an entire generation of videogames that learned their basic lessons from what they saw here. Whether it's a Gears of War, Uncharted or Dead Space, Resident Evil 4's basic shooting mechanics and over the shoulder camera are omnipresent in modern games.
But RE4 wasn't just brilliant because of where the camera was placed behind your character, or how it pulverized tank controls thus redefining the rules of an entire genre, no, it also featured a fun, fast paced, albeit cliched story and characters, memorable bosses a brilliant atmosphere, and perhaps most important of all, some genuine scares.
It's funny that the rerelease of Code Veronica is called Resident Evil: Code Veronica X HD. Not only is a very unwieldy name, but the HD part is a bit of a joke. I had to do a bit of research to see that they changed from static to dynamic lighting, but otherwise this looks like the same old PS2 game.
Code Veronica was the last gasp of the "old" style of Resident Evil games, which means it has fixed-cameras, tank-style controls and still clings to that survival horror feel where ammo is scarce and sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. Unfortunately it eschews the pre-rendered backgrounds that gave the earlier games a lot of atmosphere and instead goes for full-blown 3D backgrounds that really don't hold up to today's standards.
Looks aside, if you like the older mansion-crawling Resident Evils, then this is going to be right up your alley. It's got a huge game world and plenty of crazy puzzles with crests you have to find to make keys and statues to shove around, and scads of documents that tell the fate of the poor saps who fell victim to the virus. It's definitely a far, far cry from RE4.
Resident Evil 4 is the perfect example of a game that against all former conventions went down its own path, despite the very real danger of scaring away many of the series' former fans. The result is a game that is generally considered one of the best of last generation, and one that holds up incredibly well by today's standards. Resident Evil 4 still manages to feel fresh, and that's an incredible compliment considering it has been almost seven years since the game made its first appearance on the Nintendo GameCube. There's no question that the graphics aren't what they used to be, and the HD in the title is more than a little misleading (really, there's nothing High Def about this next-gen port - lazily upscaling these standard definition textures to fit onto an HD screen just isn't enough, Capcom), not to mention the incredibly disappointing and almost intolerable absence of PlayStation Move support, but if you've for some weird reason never played the game before, and you don't own a PS2, Wii or GameCube, then this is far from the worst buying decision you've ever made.
If you've played the game before, and you aren't dying to get your hands on it again anytime soon, then $20 may find a better home elsewhere. In fact, if you own a Wii, I'd recommend that version, as it's not only available out there at a bargain price, but it actually features the motion controls we were kind of expecting to find here.
Having played both games then and now, there is no question that most gamers would rather play RE4 again. However, I applaud Capcom for making the entire available on the PSN to fans. For those that don't know, Resident Evil 1, 2 and 3 are currently free for PlayStation Plus subscribers, and with these re-releases of Code Veronica and Resident Evil 4 PLUS the digital release of Resident Evil 5 and all the DLC it's quite the collection.
Code Veronica was always the weakest entry in the series, but one advantage it has over the later releases is that it still treats S.T.A.R.S. and Umbrella as, for lack of a better word, more realistic entities. The later entries in the series veered away from T-Virii and corrupt police stations and mutant sharks into the more supernatural elements that pervaded the newer games. There is still a sense of dread as you try and explore the strange story of Alfred and Alexia Ashford, and some genuine scares as zombies burst out of closets. The later games never had you worrying about those last 5 handgun bullets you had and when you might find more. The shift away from Survival Horror to pure action gameplay probably propelled the series to new heights, but at the same time it tore the soul out of the series and relaunched it as something new.
Play Code Veronica just to see the final gasp of what was once a groundbreaking style of game, one which admittedly will frustrate modern games with its difficult controls, wacky camera angles, punishing difficulty at times, and ability to screw yourself over if you forget something early on (make sure you get the magnum before it is too late!). But also revel in the genuine tension the game can evoke, and the at times bat-shit crazy story of all your favorite heroes and villains from the first three games. There are even the series-standard hidden modes to unlock if you beat the game meeting certain requirements.
Bottom line, if you've never played any games in the series, you'll probably be a lot happier with Resident Evil 4. If you played the old games but missed out on Code Veronica somehow, there really isn't a better way to play it, but KNOW going in that the game hasn't aged all that well and certainly seems like a relic from a time when people didn't quite know all the nuances to game design. Remember though, some of those choices contribute to making the game genuinely tense and scary to play, something that really can't be said about the newer games.
Head over here to see our final score of Resident Evil: Code Veronica X HD. For more on Resident Evil 4, read Sam's original review here! Unfortunately we must admit we never got around to reviewing the original Code Veronica X.