20. Resident Evil Code: Veronica
Developer: Capcom Production Studio 4
CV was a game of firsts – the first proper Resi (i.e. we’re ignoring Survivor here) to remove itself from Raccoon City completely, and the first in the series on a 128-bit machine – thus, the first one to be in full 3D, rather than using bitmap backgrounds. This made it hugely atmospheric, especially on the first disc, as Claire Redfield crept round a mist-swathed prison island splattered with mud and blood, before picking her way through the musty confines of the Ashford family household. Then disc 2 pulled a brilliant blindside by suddenly decamping to Antarctica. As you do.
Brilliant blindsides were pretty much what the game was about, actually. First off, there was Alfred Ashford, a super-creepy villain clearly in love with his twin sister, who you keep briefly glimpsing – then you find out she actually died 15 years ago and he developed a split personality and started dressing up as her. Then she comes back to life anyway, as a giant ant-human hybrid that can spit fire, because this is Resi. Then original hero Chris Redfield, missing for two games, finally returns to the series. And then the completely unexpected revelation that the first game’s villain, Albert Wesker, didn’t die back at the Spencer Mansion, a surprise that starts to pave the way for his becoming the series’ main antagonist. Blimey. Even for a series known for its fruitloop plots, CV is formidable (I’d argue only Zero and Revelations are more ridiculous). And I love it.
Plus, of course, it’s great to play. The combat is tense but satisfying, with great new weapons and enemies to test them on; the puzzles are satisfying to work out without being quite as elaborately, irritatingly tough as earlier games in the series (hi, Nemesis!), and the general scope of the game is pleasingly expansive. Before long after this, old-timey Resi would start to look rather knackered, and Capcom would retire the gameplay style. But CV was a glorious high.
MAGIC MOMENT: the utterly terrifying Private Residence, a musty, threatening mansion with startling decor. Giant doll hanging from the main staircase, anyone?