While there is an option on the PSN store to purchase Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles and The Darkside Chronicles as a single entity, I’m going to say upfront in this review that I think you’re better off going with just picking up The Darkside Chronicles. For this review we were given a code for the whole package, which is how I’m going to review and grade the game here, but if I were to break these down into two entities, Darkside Chronicles certainly ranks much higher for reasons I’ll explain in a bit. And this has little to do with the actual port here, which seems really solid and definitely benefits from being upscaled as far as both games are concerned.
But first, for everyone that isn’t familiar with these titles or didn’t play their original Wii releases, let’s talk a bit about what the Chronicles Collection actually is. Both titles in this set are basically trips down memory lane in the Resident Evil universe, covering your main entries like the original game, RE 2, 3, 4, Code Veronica, and even Resident Evil 0. However, instead of using the tried and true Resident Evil gameplay, these revisits are presented in the form of a light gun shooter, not unlike something you’d find in an arcade. And while publishers like Namco and SEGA generally have the market cornered on that particular niche genre, Capcom does give it a pretty good shot with both titles.
But being made for consoles only comes with both benefits and consequences here. On the plus side, you feel like you’re getting a fair amount of game for your money, especially at $15 a pop for each game, or $30 for the whole deal. It’s a much beefier experience than say, House of the Dead, and will take you a number of hours to get through each game, which is certainly much more than the typical one or two hour experience found in arcade light gun titles.
But on the flip side of that, the games do tend to wear out their welcome a bit too soon. There’s a reason while light gun games seem to thrive in arcades, and have managed to continue on even in an era where the arcade is little more than a novelty for most. It’s because they’re pretty much perfect quarter crunchers, providing difficulty steeped in reflex, skill, and showmanship that helps them stand out, along with cool plastic toy gun accessories that continue to get more and more ridiculous which each successive release. They’re not meant to be played for hours on end, and their gameplay is so paper thin that spending more than an hour or two at one machine will lead even the most devout fan to the occasional fit of boredom.
So spreading that experience out over five or six hours tends to get a little tedious. And for this particular duo, Umbrella Chronicles fares worse than Darkside Chronicles. At least Darkside tries to carry over some type of arcade feel to its shooting mechanics, including a visible, on-screen bonus multiplier for headshots. Umbrella Chronicles, on the other hand, feels a little bare bones and its overall experience, from the actual shooting to the weapon customization, feels a little bland. It’s also overly reliant on the previous Resident Evil storylines, whereas Darkside Chronicles at least tries to show you new stuff and is more willing to go off the rails to some extent.
Umbrella Chronicles also suffers greatly from some kind of awful shaky cam effect that really makes the shooting more troublesome than necessary. Darkside Chronicles has a bit of this too, but to a much lesser extent. I also find that UC suffers from a number of segments that literally involve doing nothing, in an effort to build up some type of suspense or jump scare that never ends up paying off. Its need to be cinematic is often anti-climactic, and takes up far too much time that would be better spent just blasting zombies to hell.
One other aspect that I don’t care for in either game is that sometimes the enemies just take way too long to kill. What really works in arcade shooters like House of the Dead is that most enemies can be taken down in one to two shots, and head shots are almost always instant kills. In both UC and DC that’s certainly not the case, as you can unload an entire clip almost into a single zombie or creature just to take them down. Headshots do take a little less, but still don’t always result in an instant kill. This is with the default weapons though, as the game advances and you upgrade your stock this becomes less of an issue, but it certainly takes a while to get to that point.
And the really annoying thing about that is that neither game is particularly hard on their normal difficulty settings. But every shootout you get into, especially against bosses, tends to go on far too long. This is less of an issue with Darkside Chronicles bosses than UC though, as the weak spots and tells are a little easier to capitalize on, and you feel like you’re making some type of discernable progress as opposed to just chipping away at a monsters health in most of UC’s boss fights.
As always, both games are more enjoyable when bringing a second person into the fray and playing with someone else via local multiplayer is a pretty seamless experience. Both games allow for some odd controller set-ups, one of which will mimic the Wii set-up by using a Move controller and a Navigation controller, but you can swap out the Navigation controller for a standard DualShock 3, or opt to play with just the Move controller. I found myself only really needing the Move controller here, but if you use either of the secondary methods you’ll be able to pan your view around a bit more than normal, which helps in shooting up the destructible stuff that often hides some additional items or secrets.
Calibration is also really easy to do, and again shows that the Move works extremely well as a light-gun accessory. At this point it’s pretty much the only use my Move controller really gets, and it does the job well with Resident Evil Chronicles HD.
Visually both games are certainly a step up from the Wii versions, with Darkside Chronicles being the clear winner. DC also looked quite a bit better than UC on Wii, so that’s really no surprise. But both games definitely benefit from a more crisp looking presentation, and run really well on the PS3. Same goes for the audio, which really doesn’t stand out much, but has no noticeable issues with either the sound FX or music used. Voice acting in both games is notably worse than what you tend to find in the core series though.
Overall Darkside Chronicles is pretty fun, and while not without its own set of flaws, it’s clearly the part of this collection that’s going to be worth checking out. Unless you’re some type of Resident Evil die-hard though, I’d urge you to avoid Umbrella Chronicles, as I find it to be a pretty weak entry that does little more than retell you the plot highlights from a few of the previous Resident Evil titles, and certainly feels less polished when stacked up against Darkside Chronicles. And at $15, Darkside Chronicles is easily worth the asking price, and makes for a pretty fun experience.