I first played Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles in early 2009. Even then the game was dated, having launched for the Wii back in '07. But the excellent House of the Dead: Overkill had just come out, infecting me with light gun fever. I was eager to play the Wii's slim selection of on-rails shooters.
I remember forgiving the rough graphics and laughable dialog, but the difficulty was harsh. My wife and I stopped playing after the first level. Our weapons seemed useless, crippling quick time events sapped our shared life bar, and the checkpoints were few and far between. Since we had gotten The Umbrella Chronicles on the cheap we quickly moved on. It was so bad we passed on Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles when it came out later that year.
Despite our unsatisfying experience with RE: TUC, I was eager to give the Chronicles titles another shot when I heard they were coming to the PSN as the Resident Evil: Chronicles HD Collection . Recent re-releases of the House of the Dead 3, 4, and Overkill: Extended Cut have once again turned us on to light gun shooters. I’m happy to say that this time we had a much more enjoyable experience.
When you purchase the Resident Evil: Chronicles HD Collection you’re actually getting two games. That means two downloads and two installs. Not that big of deal, but I thought I should mention it. Both games can be played with a regular controller or a PS Move. You can pair a normal controller or a navigation stick to the Move for camera control. It’s actually required that you use an extra controller if you use a shooting attachment, because you’ll need the face buttons to change guns. Reloading is handled by shaking the controller. I found a quick upward flick of my wrist could get the job done. You can also hold the Move button and flail your arm around to wield a knife if you're feeling especially brave. (Just don't. You will die. Often.) We kept it simple and each used a Move motion controller. But that’s enough about the controls. Onto the games!
We dove into The Umbrella Chronicles. The HD polish really did nothing for the graphics. It’s simply not a good-looking game. The voice acting is Capcom bad: charmingly cringe-inducing. RE: TUC offers two player local co-op and a new perspective on the events from the early Resident Evil games. We played through several classic scenes as different characters from the franchise. Unlike our 2009 experience, we had no problem shooting our way through the game.
Instead of the plodding, ammo-conserving crawl that was the Resident Evil: Zero, 1, 2, and 3 survival horror experience, we were whisked through memorable areas while raining lead upon T-Virus infected monstrosities. Zombies, Hunters, decomposing dogs, and an assortment of other horrible creatures crawled forth from every corner. I had forgotten that there was so much to the original Resident Evil than just zombies. Remember the shark tank? Yeah, that’s in there.
Each level culminated in a QTE-heavy boss fight. The QTE's are very unforgiving, requiring you to shake the controller, hit the Move button, or pull the trigger with precise timing. Of course, if you're pulling the trigger to shoot you'll fail these events. It can get frustrating, but it's manageable.
RE: TUC is still a little slow-paced for an on-rails shooter, but considering the source material it’s a veritable roller coaster. We blasted through the train of RE: Zero, battled the Tyrant in the mansion that started it all, and pressed back the hordes on the streets of Raccoon City. Once we figured out how to score critical hits we were unstoppable (Protip: Aim for the forehead. Anything below the eyes may as well be a body shot!)
Health items, data files, and most importantly, new weapons and ammo can be picked up along the way. Weapons can be upgraded with Stars earned after completing a stage. You’ll need to play through each level multiple times if you want to collect everything. This adds a longevity to the title, something absent from Sega's HotD counterparts (with the exception of the Overkill titles). That crazy Capcom scoring system is in full effect. You just know you’ll unlock something sweet if you score an “S” rank on each level. Or will you?
You’ll also unlock bonus side missions that tell more of the Resident Evil story. Oddly enough, these are single player only stages. There are special weapons available only in these missions, so it’s worth it to go it alone and check them out. It's kind of a bummer if your partner wants to play everything. You can ask them to go make you a sandwich while you play, but I wouldn't suggest it.
Speaking of partners, players share a health bar in RE: TUC, so feel free to grab a Green Herb or First Aid Spray when you see them. Ammo is not shared. Be sure to communicate with your partner. At the beginning of each stage you’ll be armed with a pistol which has infinite ammo along with a better weapon of your choice. I stuck with a shotgun while my wife used a submachine gun in the early levels. Plenty of weapons become avaiable as we progressed through the game.
Overall, the nostalgic fun factor outweighed the game’s flaws. We really enjoyed our time with Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. I'm happy to say The Darkside Chronicles is superior in almost every way. .
After having our fill of RE: TUC we attacked RE: TDC. The gameplay is very similar, with a few exceptions. First of all, the game looks much better. It’s still a 2009 game with a little bit of HD slapped on it, but at least it didn’t make my eyes bleed. The voice acting is still groan-worthy.
The events of RE: TDC focus on RE: 2 and Resident Evil: Code Veronica, along with a few extra areas for good measure. Shoot bad guys in their weak spots and try not to die. Unlike RE: TUC, each player has their own health bar, so don't be that guy that grabs everything on screen. Ammo is shared this time, so if you do feel the urge to stuff your pockets, do it with bullets.
There are numerous extras to pick up in each level, including more data files and gold pieces. You'll use this gold to upgrade your guns. Once again, this is shared between you and your partner, so don't be shy. If it's shiny, shoot it, or take it, or both.
RE: TDC features a much more dynamic camera than RE: TUC. The game feels more polished than its predecessor. It does a great job of conveying the desperate mood of the older Resident Evil games. It's still and action-packed on-rails shooter, but the horror level is ramped up.
Light gun fans should definitely pick up the bundle. Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles is a little rough around the edges, but The Darkside Chronicles more than makes up for it. Oh, and fair warning to single players: these games are tough solo. It's better to bring a friend.
Resident Evil: Chronicles HD Collection is available exclusively on the PlayStation Network. A review code was provided by the publisher.