I love Capcom. Really, I do.
I think they make some of the best, most fun games out on the market. Also, Capcom really knows how to stretch their properties to the fullest extent. Who can forget the seven thousand different combinations of Street Fighter II that hit shelves in the 90s and early 00s? How about the mega-popular (in Japan, mostly) Monster Hunter franchise, which has only three numbered console games (and three numbered handheld titles), but has TWELVE games (so far) in the series. And don’t even get me started on the Mega Man franchise… because I can’t count that high.
Then there’s Resident Evil. If there was one franchise to solidify the argument of stretching an idea too far, it is Resident Evil. Although there are only five numbered RE games, and one canonical side story (Code: Veronica), there are actually over TWENTY-FOUR games that make up this franchise, which also includes every remake, director’s cut, and port. This also includes side-story games like this spring’s Operation Raccoon City and 2004’s Outbreak and Outbreak 2, which all took place during the Raccoon City events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. I know, I know. It gets confusing the more I talk about it.
And now, as the fall release of Resident Evil 6 looms, Capcom has once again dusted off an old subseries, rubbed some spit on it, updated the graphics for HD and tossed it onto the PlayStation Store as a digital download. And the results are both hit and miss.
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles and Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles were released in 2007 and 2009, respectively, for the Nintendo Wii system. Both games are an on-rails shooter that takes the player through the story of Resident Evil.
Now both games are repackaged as Resident Evil Chronicles HD exclusively for the PS3. They can be purchased separately from the PlayStation Store, or together as one package, and are designed to be played with the PlayStation Move controller.
The Umbrella Chronicles focuses on the story of the Wii exclusive Resident Evil Zero, as well as Resident Evil and Resident Evil 3. Each game is separated into three chapters, and each game also has a character-driven sub-level or two to help flesh out the story.
Umbrella Chronicles moves the player through set scenes, and using the 1:1 motion control of the Move controller, the player shoots zombies and monsters, as well as background items to uncover hidden files and herbs. Each level ends with a boss fight, and each “game” ends with larger boss fight. There are online leaderboards, and four difficulties, and so many hidden things to find that the replay value is relatively high.
What drags the game down is the decidedly NOT high definition graphics. The game engine isn’t strong enough to power what is one screen and cut-scenes look just as muddy here as they did on the Wii. If there is any difference, it is in the frames per second. But blur-less movement doesn’t matter when every level looks like you’re playing under an Instagram filter.
Also, the reticle has horrible hit detection. Point blank headshots seemingly miss, while a glancing reticle can behead even the biggest zombie. It makes no sense.
These two issues don’t detract too much from a fun romp through the RE universe. The action is intense, and there is simply a TON of stuff to unlock by shooting paintings off walls and blowing out light bulbs, boxes, and whatever else can take a bullet.
The music and sound effects are taken straight from the original games represented here. Also, the horrible acting is still very much in the forefront, as is the schlocky b-movie writing.
For everything that Umbrella Chronicles does wrong, Darkside Chronicles gets right. From presentation, to gameplay, to pacing, Darkside Chronicles is head and shoulders a better game.
Darkside Chronicles tells the story of Resident Evil 2 and Code: Veronica, and a new story chapter to the mythos that leads right up to the events in Resident Evil 4. Darkside Chronicles also features a wraparound story that creates context (which is important since the games are not told in linear order, and the wraparound replaces the character-driven sub levels in filling in the story).
The upgrade to HD is much more evident here. The graphics use the Havok engine, and each character pops in true next-gen beauty. Even the gore is sharper and there is a greater sense of trying to create tension and fear. Visually, everything in this game screams top shelf, and Capcom was right to bring this to the PSN.
Even the reticle issue has been corrected, as headshots are more prevalent (and there is a separate tally for headshots on the leaderboards) and hit detection, as a whole, is cleaner and more realistic.
But even Darkside Chronicles has its issues. There is a feature implemented by Capcom to give the player an immersive experience by creating a realistic camera shake during the chaos of a zombie apocalypse. It fails miserably. Unfortunately, the developers added this feature as if the player is holding a camera, and not busy shooting monsters. So, the jiggle-screen would make sense in a found-footage movie, such as Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project, but does not work in this context.
All in all, Resident Evil Chronicles HD is a decent upgrade from a company that has mastered the exhaustive “franchise rehash” movement. As with any rehash/remake/reboot, the question should always be asked: Is this version better than what came before. In this case, the answer is yes. The Move controls are smooth and the Darkside Chronicles graphic upgrade to HD make the package worth your time.
Resident Evil Chronicles HD is available exclusively on the PlayStation Network and can be purchased for $14.99 each or both for $26.99.