Why Capcom Shouldn't Skip a Resident Evil: Code Veronica Remake
With rumors of the next Resident Evil remake swirling, we explain why Code Veronica, not Resident Evil 5, deserves to be the next Capcom remake.
Resident Evil: Code Veronica starts ominously.
An opening crawl tells us a mid-western town, Raccoon City, has been completely decimated due to a T-Virus outbreak. Helicopters fly towards a mysterious island where Claire Redfield’s unloaded and then knocked out – she was captured by the Umbrella Corporation while infiltrating a Parisian lab. She was looking for her brother, the infamous police officer Chris Redfield. In a flashback, Claire sprints down a hallway, a machine gun firing at her, shards of glass going everywhere. She’s soon cornered and captured, but not without setting a few Umbrella employees on fire.
It’s an opening cutscene as instantly iconic as they come; a brazen, action-filled beginning inspired by Face/Off director John Woo’s movies. As Claire wakes up in a dingy prison on Rockfort Island, the game’s creepy atmosphere envelops you. Unlike the previous three Resident Evil games, the environments are not pre-rendered but fully 3D. And while the tank controls are present, Code Veronica has quirks that leave a lasting impression; for instance, around the midway mark, there’s a point of no return, and if you carelessly save before the next boss – the Tyrant-078 – without any ammo, there’s almost no way to defeat the monster and no way to go back to get more bullets. If you’re a serial save-over-the-previous-save-er then prepare to start the whole game all over again. It’s part of why Code Veronica is often cited as the most difficult classic Resident Evil game.
For some of the series’ undead disciples, these elements are part of what makes 2000's Code Veronica so special. For others, however, CV’s simply too dated and the gameplay rankles with our modern expectations of gaming. Those players are missing out not only on a superb survival experience, but one of the most important parts of Resident Evil’s overarching story, and if any of the series’ early installments deserves a comeback, it’s Code Veronica.
After all, Code Veronica was meant to be the true follow-up to Resident Evil 2. Back in the late ‘90s, Capcom started developing two new games side by side. One was a gaiden-style spin-off about Jill Valentine for PlayStation; the other was the next mainline game, developed for Dreamcast, that would pick up with Claire and Chris Redfield. Due to an exclusivity deal with Sony, Capcom had to alter its plans, reworking the spin-off into Resident Evil 3 and the originally envisioned third game into a spin-off. Code Veronica, though, remained heavily tied to the main story, not only revealing what happened to the Redfields after Raccoon City, but also featuring the return of the villainous Albert Wesker.
With CV playing such a pivotal part in the Resident Evil saga, why has Capcom seemingly decided to skip remaking it? Were the studio redoing the series’ major instalments in order, we would have had a modern version of Code Veronica after Resident Evil 3. And yet, here we are, with a new version of Resident Evil 4. Don’t get me wrong, the results have been delicious, Capcom doing miraculous work making one of the best games in history arguably even better – but at what cost? Can the company go ahead and forget Code Veronica, as seems to be the direction the studio’s heading in?
There’s an argument to be made that a Resident Evil 5 remake could fill in the blanks after the events of Resident Evil 2 with an expository starting cutscene. You could also argue that you don’t need any former knowledge of the series to appreciate Resident Evil 5. Many players in 2009, when the game was originally released, didn’t have an awareness of protagonist Chris Redfield’s storied background. That’s not really fair. Resident Evil 5 only truly hits home with an understanding of the events of Code Veronica, otherwise you lose the weight of many of Resident Evil 5’s biggest moments, such as Jill Valentine’s role and Wesker’s return. In the grand scheme of Resident Evil sequels, Resident Evil 5 needs Code Veronica so much more than it needs Resident Evil 4, even with some of the teases laid down in the remake.
Of course, Code Veronica’s more than just a stepping stone towards Resident Evil 5. As a standalone game, it holds up remarkably well, its brilliant music, ensemble of enemies, and engrossing story helping create a surprisingly tense and well-paced game. The primary, non-Wesker villains – the Ashford Twins – have a theatricality about them that makes them a terrifying nemesis, and Claire Redfield’s quest to save her brother and take down Umbrella establishes her as a badass who’s haunted by the events of Racoon City. Code Veronica is essentially Claire’s Resident Evil 4, and she deserves a follow-up after Resident Evil 2 just as much as Leon.
There’s also the complication of getting a hold of Code Veronica today. On modern consoles, you can play a slightly janky emulated port of Code Veronica X, the PlayStation 2 remake of the Dreamcast original. There are lighting and emulation issues throughout, and you’re better off playing the PS3 remake, but that adds further barriers to entry. A remake would give people greater accessibility to the game and make for an extreme jump in graphical quality. With Resident Evil 4, it was tricky to argue that a remake would do the gameplay significant improvements, but with Code Veronica, there’s a very clear case that any remake could do things better, and seeing its beautiful, European-inspired gothic scenery on current-gen consoles would be a treat.
Now, Code Veronica’s not without problems. For many, the game’s slower pacing may be an issue, though like the other recent remakes, Capcom would inevitably cut some content to speed things up a bit, and would hopefully make the deeply annoying side-character Steve somewhat more human. The bigger issue comes with the Ashford Twins.
Ignoring that these two are some of Resident Evil’s most exuberant characters, Alfred would need significant changing. Inspired by Norman Bates in Alfred Hitcock’s Psycho (the name’s seemingly a homage to the director), Alfred’s a mentally unhinged man who is obsessed with his sister and, at times, impersonates her and assumes her identity; he cross-dresses and talks to himself in different voices.
Alfred is not a trans character but he amplifies harmful tropes: that people who dress in nonconforming gender clothing are threatening and that mental illness and cross-dressing are linked, which they are not (another example is Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs – and you can read about why that portrayal is so damaging here). While the game does not necessarily share these viewpoints, it reinforces these stereotypes with an abhorrent line from Claire where she calls Alfred a “cross-dressing freak”.
It’s an offensive moment that’s harmful to the trans community. A report by GLAAD in 2015 revealed that 84% of Americans “continue to learn about transgender people through the media”, meaning characters like Alfred have huge weight on people’s perception of cross-dressing, and many people could misunderstand the character as trans. Any remake would have to change things substantially. Removing Alfred’s cross-dressing entirely would be a start. He can still be a fascinating character, with an unnatural infatuation with his twin sister and a terrifying aura, without having to rely on damaging tropes. With the right rewrite, Alfred could be one of Resident Evil’s best villains.
This would be one of the more significant changes Capcom would have to make and would show that the studio is willing to update its games for modern audiences – because, when it does inevitably remake Resident Evil 5, the most controversial of all the Resident Evil games, a lot of changes will be necessary.
Where Code Veronica raised a few eyebrows in 2000, Resident Evil 5 was met with instant disdain. The plot sees a white character, Chris Redfield, going to an African country and murdering the infected Black population. The opening, in particular, was reported as using iconography described as traditional racist fear-mongering. Back in 2009, IGN published an editorial that investigated whether the game was racist. Were the remake to follow the same story, a similar discourse would rightfully ensue, and Capcom would have to make changes.
A remake of Code Veronica that updates the base game to be more in line with modern sensibilities would prepare Resident Evil fans for Capcom to make significant changes to Resident Evil 5. And with these updated narratives, both Code Veronica and Resident Evil 5 could be enjoyed by a new generation, and by generations to come, without problem.
It’s clear that, of all the Resident Evil games that remain un-remade, Code Veronica is both most deserving and most in need of a remake. And if we put our business hats on, it also makes financial sense: if Capcom remakes Resident Evil 5 then Resident Evil 6, the studio’s basically run out of games to resurrect, unless they then go back to Code Veronica, which would just be strange on a narrative level. Remaking Code Veronica just makes sense.
Jack Sheperd is a freelance writer for IGN.