PSU re-introduces Part 3 of our 'History of' series for Resident Evil as the brand celebrates its 20th anniversary.
In The History of Resident Evil, we examine the acclaimed franchise from its inception in 1996 through to present day, offering our readers a comprehensive look at each major canonical entry in the series, while delving into some of the projects that never saw the light of day. If you missed the first two installments, check them out here and here respectively. With that said, strap on your Shotgun, bag a fresh pack of underwear and fork out a First-Aid Spray as we delve into The REvolution.
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Resident Evil: Survivor (a.k.a. Biohazard: Gun Survivor)
Release Date: January 27, 2000 (Japan) August 30, 2000 (North America) March 31, 2000 (Europe)
Platform: Sony PlayStation
Global Sales: Unknown (Japanese Sales: 0.29 million)
A radical departure for the series at the time of release, Resident Evil: Survivor controversially took the survival horror franchise into the first person perspective, transporting players away from the confines of Raccoon City onto the remote metropolis of Shena Island. You play as Ark Thompson, a fellow acquaintance of RE2’s Leon S. Kennedy suffering from a bout of amnesia following a near fatal helicopter crash moments before the game begins. With no knowledge of his identity or whereabouts, Thompson eventually regains his equilibrium and ventures out into the streets only to be confronted by hordes of shambling zombies and all manner of grotesque bio-weapons.
Survivor employs 3D backgrounds and regurgitates much of its assets from Resident Evil 2. As such, the game isn’t the prettiest in the series, and the first person perspective only works to exacerbate the aging hardware limitations of the PlayStation in the occasions where you get decidedly up close and personal with your assailants. The game plays out as a rudimentary shooter, featuring branching pathways and multiple boss encounters as you progress through each area. Although the usual array of healing herbs, multiple weapons and BOWs crop up, the item boxes have been completely removed from the equation, with Thompson able to lug a seemingly infinite supply of items about his person.
Despite a heavy reliance on old assets, Capcom did introduce a couple of intriguing foes to battle, notably the MP5-equipped Sweepers, along with the obligatory new Tyrant-esque final boss. Furthermore, attempts were made to flesh out Umbrella’s global activities, with files in the game revealing that the conglomerate had been kidnapping adolescents from the around the world in an attempt top fuel its mass production facility on the Island. Further documents seemingly confirm the survival of Resident Evil 3’s unscrupulous Russian U.B.C.S. grunt Nicholai Ginovaef, though fans largely attribute this to a mistranslation of the original Japanese text.
Although heavily criticized by the gaming press and fans alike, Survivor nonetheless deserves its recognition as part of the franchise. While the game’s canonicity has been a topic of heated debate over the years, Capcom cemented the game’s events as part of the core franchise in 2002’s Resident Evil Zero, when the incident at Shena Island was mentioned in the prequel’s opening sequence as one of the many locations in which the T-Virus leaked. While a sequel to Thompson’s exploits has yet to materialize, the Gun Survivor series continued for the next couple of years with Gun Survivor 2: Code Veronica and Resident Evil: Dead Aim, both available on the PlayStation 2.
Resident Evil Code: Veronica (a.k.a. Biohazard Code: Veronica)
Release Date: February 3, 2000 (Japan), February 29, 2000 (North America), May 26, 2000 (Europe)
Global Sales: 1,140,000
Resident Evil Code: Veronica X (a.k.a. Biohazard Code: Veronica Complete)
Release Date: March 22, 2001 (Japan), August 21, 2001 (North America), September 14, 2001 (Europe)
Platform: PlayStation 2
Global Sales: 1,400,000
Resident Evil Code: Veronica was the first entry in the on-going survival horror franchise to debut on a format other than PlayStation, having been unveiled at the tail end of 1998 as an exclusive for Sega's 128-bit Dreamcast console. Taking place in December 1998 – three months after the events of RE2/3 – Code: Veronica reacquaints players with Claire Redfield as she infiltrates an Umbrella research facility in Paris on the continued hunt for her MIA brother Chris.
After a brief encounter with some of Umbrella’s armed goons, Redfield is apprehended by guards and imprisoned on Rockfort Island, home to one of Umbrella’s three founding families, the Ashfords. Inevitably, the complex is attacked by an unknown organization resulting in yet another T-Virus spill, allowing our young heroine to abscond from her dank prison cell and traverse Rockfort in the hopes of finding an escape.
Aesthetically the game boasted a number of advancements over the PlayStation games, chief among which included the presence of fully 3D rendered backgrounds, replacing the pre-rendered locales of past iterations. The added graphical prowess of Sega’s machine (itself a full generation ahead of Sony’s aging gray box) afforded various other visual delights including meticulously crafted facial animations, gritty textures and real-time shadows. Bizarrely, the sequel remained a decidedly less bloody affair than past games, removing the decapitations and limb dismemberment the series had become renowned for up until that point.
Disappointingly, the game failed to expand upon Nemesis’ innovations, removing the dodge mechanic and a couple of other inclusions, though did implement dual-pistol wielding, allowing gamers to target two separate enemies at once. A couple of interesting tweaks also managed to sneak in, such as the ability to wear a gas mask at certain points in the game, along with the chance to cap enemies in first-person view with the sniper rifle. Redfield is also aided in her quest by a second companion, Steve Burnside, a cocky, rambunctious 17-year-old also imprisoned at Rockfort who falls under the player’s control for a short period.
Interestingly, the developers seemingly toyed with the idea of offering some form of online multiplayer component, though this ultimately failed to transpire. “It can only be done by network. Even for Codename Veronica, networking is difficult,” explained the game’s producer, Shinji Mikami.
Crucially, however, Code: Veronica offered a meaty campaign, surpassing the 10 hour mark, putting it ahead of predecessors length by a considerable margin. Furthermore, the game signaled the return of Chris as a playable character, with gamers switching over to long missing Redfield sibling half way through the game while Claire remained cooped up in Umbrella’s Antarctic facility. While technically backtracking over locations previously traversed by his sister, Chris also had access to a few new areas and could arm himself with anything previously used by Claire via the item chests.
It’s also under Mr. Redfield’s command that the one of the series biggest revelations comes into light, namely the return of ex. S.T.A.R.S. captain Albert Wesker – perpetual sunglasses and all – who was presumed dead at the climax of the original Resident Evil. Elsewhere, the game also unleashed an obligatory batch of new enemies to combat including the lumbering, Tyrant-esque Bandersnatcher, contaminated bats, and the slithery, T-Virus infected Salamander known as the Albinoid. A couple of new armaments also cropped up, such as the explosive bow gunpowder rounds, dual sub-machine guns, Linear Launcher and the AK-47 Assault Rifle.
Fortunately, Code: Veronica doesn't skimp on post-completion goodies, throwing in a Battle Mode and additional weaponry to enjoy, the former of which allowed players to chose from either a third or first person view, as well as taking control of Wesker (albeit non-canonically) for the first time in the series. Ultimately, while the game was met with favorable reviews by critics, Code: Veronica fared considerably worse at retail than previous installments, a factor primarily attributed to the Dreamcast’s substantially lower consumer base in comparison to Sony’s console.
To celebrate the fifth anniversary of the franchise, Capcom launched an expanded port for PlayStation 2 (along with a Japanese-only Dreamcast version) in 2001. Dubbed Resident Evil Code: Veronica X, this update featured all-new cut scenes fleshing out Wesker’s role in the game, as well as an exclusive DVD narrated by the enigmatic villain himself detailing his exploits during the series up to that point. The port also included some minor graphical tweaks and, bizarrely, a new hairstyle for Steve Burnside, presumably in an effort to nullify comparisons between the floppy-haired hero and actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Code: Veronica X was eventually ported to Nintendo GameCube in 2004.