Friends, let me tell you about a game called Resident Evil: Code Veronica X. I played it, I finished it, I kind of hated it. Let's discuss why!
So, to set the scene, Code Veronica was the first next-gen Resident Evil game, being a Dreamcast game back in the year 2000 (just one year after RE3). It's a huge technical and graphical leap over the PSX games, but it's that particular kind of graphical leap where you can feel the designers saying "Look at all this stuff we can do now!" in a very MGS2 melting ice cubes kind of way. Weird one-off design ideas used solely to show off rather than making any real game design leaps. For example, you can now hold your lighter above your head to illuminate a dark room with real-time lighting... except there's only one dark room in the game, right at the beginning, and later on in the game you give the lighter away anyway. We've moved on from pre-rendered backgrounds to a full 3D game, but we're still doing fixed camera angles and tank controls (and weirdly we're back to having to press the Interact button to walk up stairs when they'd already got rid of that in RE3). And, perhaps most noteworthy of all, the characters now have actual faces and their character models can emote... but we still have 1999-era Capcom's writing department putting words in their mouths, and this level of quality is best exemplified by a young fellow named Steve Burnside:
Steve feels like Capcom bought the rights to his character from one of Sega's "rejected Sonic friend design" garage sales. Steve's dialogue has all the nuance of a tired writer who's angling for a severance package instead of outright quitting. If Steve debuted in 2018 the alt-right crowd would declare him a Capcom SJW conspiracy to further undermine the patriarchy. It says something that in a game featuring a crazed bourgeois in a castle who thinks he's his own sister and a virus-infected superman in dark glasses who travels exclusively by Six Million Dollar Man shanananana jumps, Steve Burnside is still the weirdest guy here. It makes me retroactively baffled that Raiden caught so much flak on his debut in 2001, because our friend Steve was dropping "Did you say nerd?"-calibre lines every time he opened his mouth a full year earlier. He's really bad, is what I'm saying here, and his look and voice and dialogue have just aged like milk over the years. Boy oh boy.
But how is Code Veronica X as an actual RE game? Well, it's OK. We're playing as Claire Redfield again, Hideki Kamiya's first strong and sassy female character, exploring a zambambo-infested island named Rockfort. It's a bigger place than any of the previous games' explorable areas, but since CVX keeps the standard Resident Evil exploration and backtrack-heavy game design, this isn't necessarily a good thing. Rockfort has several sub-locations (a Palace, a Prison, a Training Facility and an Airport), and you'll spend hours pingponging between them, laboriously schlepping down the same long connecting paths and bridges over and over again. There aren't any shortcuts to unlock, and if you get a little confused about where you should be going it can take an awful lot of trial and error to find your way to the critical path. Once you stumble upon a nice meaty vein of Resident-Evil-ing it's still as enjoyable as ever, but there's a lot of padding in between. Later in the game you'll switch environs to a zambambo-ridden base in Antarctica with some nice little throwbacks to the very first game. It's not amazing, but there's some fun to be had.
But let me tell you about the worst part of this game: they designed it wrong. Like, straight up, they didn't playtest this game, or the designers just wished genuine malice upon the player, because I have never in my life played a game where it is easier to IRREPARABLY SCREW YOURSELF OVER, and at so many different points! This game is bristling with design traps and pitfalls where you can permanently miss certain weapons, lock yourself out of certain subquests, waste a lot of ammo unnecessarily on certain fights, or straight up lock yourself out of half your arsenal for a huge chunk of the game. And you can never see it coming! The game signposts these things so poorly, and most of them play out in such a way that you can't even know you've walked into the trap until literal hours after it's too late to do anything about it. I feel like you'd need a flowchart to describe just how many innocuous decisions you can make with no forewarning that will have huge negative consequences down the line, but here's a little taste:
- You get a Fire Extinguisher at the very beginning of the game, use it once and empty it completely, and then the game forces you to drop it in a storage locker before walking through a metal detector. If you don't have the foresight to take this useless Fire Extinguisher back out of that storage locker and carry it all the way across the island to drop it in a proper Item Box, YOU CANNOT GET THE MAGNUM! Like ten hours of gameplay later, you're going to have a chance to refill that Fire Extinguisher and use it to access a Weapon Storage room in Antarctica with a Magnum in it, and if you left the Extinguisher back on Rockfort island you just can't do it. Better luck next time.
- Two-thirds of the way through the game you start playing as Chris, who'll show up too late to rescue Claire from Rockfort Island and have to fight his own way through a half-self-destructed facility. The important thing here, though, is that Chris will only start with a pistol, then later find a shotgun, then never find any other weapons of his own. The game simply assumes you will have left one or two guns in the Item Box while you were playing as Claire so you can fill out Chris' arsenal. If you didn't? Have fun playing the entire last, most difficult third of the game having to agonize over your extremely limited ammo count with only two underpowered weapons, buddy!
What makes this worse is that the end of Claire's gameplay section is a bossfight, so naturally you'd want to load up on heavy weapons before tackling it, thus almost making sure you won't leave anything behind for Chris to use. And then later on you switch back to Claire, and you can totally screw yourself over again if you don't put her weapons back in the Item Box, because she doesn't fight any of the final bosses and Chris needs all the help he can get!
- There's a bossfight against a Tyrant in the cargohold of an airborne plane where you're supposed to simply weaken the Tyrant a little and then unbuckle a cargo crate to knock him out of the plane. The problem is that there's a fight against this same Tyrant not five minutes beforehand where you can make him stagger and fall to his knees by dumping ammo into him. Naturally you'd assume that you want to drop him to his knees before you knock him out of the plane in the next fight, right? Nope, you're just supposed to damage him a little, then knock him out. You can quite easily dump every single round you have into this dude without knowing this and then be completely screwed for the rest of the game. And there are like three more subsequent bosses that you don't even have to fight at all; you can just pick up an item and then run straight back out of the room.
So maybe you can guess from my salty demeanour that I fell into every trap this game had to offer and ended up having a really bad time. And I wouldn't even mind if I felt like I'd screwed up due to my own incompetence, but here I don't feel like I could reasonably have been expected to have predicted most of this stuff. It's like they designed this game for psychics who'd just implicitly know what was coming up ahead of time.
Ugh. I didn't like it, you guys. I've played Resident Evils 1, 2, 3, CVX, 4, 5 and 6 now, and CVX was by far the worst one. By far.