Resident Evil Chronicles HD Collection – Review
Resident Evil fans really are an unfortunate group of individuals in some respects; I can’t think of a series that has more highs and lows than this one. Starting a gradual incline with its debut in 1996 and making itself a household name for gaming horror throughout the nineties, it has had some questionable spin-offs before reaching ‘greatest game ever status’ with Resident Evil 4 in 2005. Since then though, it’s arguably been all downhill. Resident Evil 5 failed to meet the challenge raised by its predecessor and a couple of high definition re-releases, while fun, were just a repeat of what we’d had before.
So while we wait for the highly anticipated, and hopefully not highly disappointing, Resident Evil 6, we’ve got the Playstation 3 HD re-releases of Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles to tide us over. These represent not only revisiting the on-rails shooter genre, which the series has flirted with in the past, but also retreading the old stories of the series, as well as some new ones. Although packed as a combined product it is best to look at them, for better or for worse, separately, starting with Umbrella Chronicles.
As a Resident Evil fan I had high hopes when sitting down to play this. I’ve always loved the series, it being one of the reasons that I wanted a Playstation after being a Nintendo kid for years, and I fondly remember playing the second title on the Nintendo 64, exploring the police station, fending off hordes of the undead and unraveling the Umbrella mystery. This is the theory behind Umbrella Chronicles, that players will replay the areas from several previous Resident Evil titles. The story flicks through five different chronicles, including Resident Evil’s Zero, One, Three and new material shedding some light on Umbrella’s downfall.
The whole thing is narrated by series villain Albert Wesker, something Resident Evil veterans will no doubt appreciate and the brief narration before each scenario also serves to introduce newbies to just what is going on, should this be their first Resident Evil outing. I don’t recommend this though; if you’re thinking of entering the series go back and play the originals, as entering here will leave you confused and give a false impression as to how deep the games actually are. Fans shouldn’t purchase this expecting much depth; it very much focuses on the shooting and leaves the canon and back-story as an optional extra.
As previously mentioned, this is an on-rails shooter. Moving the aiming reticule is fairly easy using a standard controller and the button layout for switching weapons is reasonably simplistic. The screen prompts for the button combinations to use grenades and melee attacks do enter and exit the screen faster than I would have liked, and I found myself chopping the air like a samurai having a seizure, while the large group of zombies looked on, practically begging for a grenade. Some twenty minutes later, another single zombie experienced the meaning of the word ‘overkill’ when I threw four grenades at him instead of stabbing him through the eye.
Questionable control prompts aside the gameplay comes across as being very ‘by the numbers’. You move through each area blasting away at whatever is put in front of you. The signature opposition are all here: zombies, leeches, dogs, hunters, and Tyrants to name but a few, and they all fulfill their roles as you would expect them to. Moving around the various levels is done automatically, with the player occasionally being asked to chose an alternative path if they’re quick enough. Various pieces of the environment can be destroyed to find weapons, health and secret files which unlock bits of the back-story.
I understand this method of finding things, it’s well established within the genre, but it does grate a little at the same time. Essentially you’re asking players to destroy the world around them in their attempt to find hidden extras. Destroying the environment is usually done with the guns you have to hand, only one of which, the pistol, has unlimited ammo. Despite this, it also has a small clip and a slow reload. Considering you can’t control the pace of the player, I ended up missing more stuff than I found. I could use the machine guns, shotguns, magnums and grenade launchers at my disposal, but that comes across as incredibly stupid. Wasting ammo to find… more ammo? Sure, I want to find the secret bonus files but they aren’t going to mean shit when I’ve got to take on an end of level boss with a shitty pistol. Surely gaming has advanced enough as a medium that there is a better way of going about this?
The A.I isn’t going to blow your socks off either, not that I expected to, but it does make for some dull gameplay. The opposition tend to either come towards you slowly or at speed. That is, literally, the extent of their arsenal. Ranged attacks do occur but these are rare and generally unavoidable, making them annoying, rather than a welcome change of pace. During boss battles you do have the option to dodge out of the way and avoid taking damage, but this feels less like clever design and more about finding away around the conundrum of the opposition crowding you out and beating you to death while you reload.
The melee combat is generally rather frustrating. On occasion you’ll find yourself grappling with a zombie, escaping via a shaking of your controller, which then activates a melee move to kill the enemy. All this then puts the camera into third person view in order for you to fully appreciate the move. This is fine, but in doing so, the other enemies then crowd the space you will be occupying upon finishing the move, resulting in you taking damage without being able to do anything about it. If it’s a design decision, it’s a bad one and if it’s not then it is an error that has been largely overlooked.
At the end of each round you get scored based on the amount of items destroyed, obtained objects, files, critical hits and the time it took you to finish. The score can then be uploaded to an online leaderboard and is also used as way to unlock other levels, some of which include missions where you play as Albert Wesker. These are probably more interesting for the long time fans than the standard missions, as they do fill in some of the back-story surrounding one of the series’ most elusive figures.
From a graphical standpoint, Umbrella Chronicles isn’t doing much to promote the re-release of things in high definition. It doesn’t look fantastic at all and is far below what a Playstation 3 is capable of. The cut-scenes that you get aren’t too bad on the eyes, but the general graphics fail to live up to the current expectations. Characters models look murky rather than defined and it’s hard to tell what is a destroyable object and what is just standard background. As far as the sound goes, things are just as underwhelming, with little to actually comment on. The guns all sound tinny and lack any sort of punch, and the standard pistol sounds like a someone is pulling a Christmas cracker in an empty room. I’ve only just stopped playing and the music is so unremarkable, I couldn’t even tell you what it sounds like.
So with Umbrella Chronicles failing to impress, can its sequel The Darkside Chronicles plug the holes in this sinking ship? The short answer is “no”, if I’m being honest, but it does stem the flow of water long enough to allow the woman and children to get to safety, at least. This release features more new content than the last and would be a more promising product were it not for two horrible choices that the developers made.
Darkside Chronicles tells a more personal story, focusing on the lives of Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, mainly. The scenarios begin with events prior to Resident Evil 4, following Leon and Jack Krauser, somewhere in South America, and goes on to show flashbacks from Resident Evil 2 and Code: Veronica before finishing back in South America. This appeals to me more as I was certainly interested in just what the background between Leon and Krauser was.
The control setup for the second game is very similar to the first, with some minor changes that do serve to improve the gameplay, such as being able to use health items when you want, rather than have them automatically used when you pick them up, which is certainly a welcome addition. There is also an inventory for assigning weapons as you go through the missions, rather than having to just pick one at the start. These are subtle changes that make a bigger impact than you’d realise if you had not played the first title. The gameplay has, equally, not changed that much. I can say that the whole thing feels less disjointed, and the new content especially seems to flow smoothly and is well paced. Some new weapons are introduced but the opposition largely remains the same and the game also automatically adjusts its difficulty depending on the player’s skill level. This inclusion means that there is a certain amount of challenge involved, should you find things getting too easy. You can also get help from a friend who can drop in at any time – another welcome addition.
All the improvements, however, are undone by two major flaws and, for me, they are massive deal breakers. I’ve got no clue who got left in charge of the camera but they need shooting. Preferably with a gun rather than out of a cannon. Don’t use that shitty pistol from the Umbrella Chronicles either. I want to kill him, not tickle his chin.
For some reason a choice was made to implement a certain amount of ‘head bob’ when the characters run. This works in first person games because it adds to the immersion as you’ll notice a certain amount of movement to your own head in reality if you’re running at pace. This doesn’t work in on-rails shooters, however, because you’re not in control of the body, only where the gun is pointing and even then, that’s fairly limited. It just means you can’t hit a mother fucking thing at speed. A fucking Snorlax could park himself in my line of sight and even using a shotgun I’d still fail to hit anything while running.
The second deal breaker is the liberal retelling of Resident Evil 2. I can’t comment on Code: Veronica, having never played the original, but I can assume it suffers from the same problem. Last time I checked Leon and Claire got separated at the start of game. Police Car? Big tanker explosion? Zombie through windscreen? Any of this ringing a bell with anyone? No? That’s fine then, it’s just me. We’ll let Leon and Claire go skipping off together on their little adventure.
No, just no. This isn’t how the original worked, so why change it for this? This just seems to piss over the whole story. It merges the two story-lines together, creating several events that take place in totally different places. This only serves to re-enforce the earlier point about new players looking for a proper Resident Evil experience to stay the hell away from the this game. It may be a small matter to some people but only served to irritate me.
Unfortunately from a graphical and sound perspective things have not really improved. Thankfully the graphics are a little better and the sound isn’t as pathetic as its predecessor, but to be honest, the bar wasn’t set very high. At least the models look better and the guns sounded a little punchier. If you’re after a masterclass in graphic and sound design then I’d keep moving. There isn’t anything to see here.
The final nail in this HD collection coffin is the longevity. There really isn’t anything to come back to unless you want to be top of the leaderboards or you need to unlock the extra content. In my opinion there are better games to be the best at and I’d take an hour on Wikipedia looking up the facts rather than play this for any length of time.Pros
- It is Resident Evil I guess
- Revisits some locations you'll appreciate
- That is quite literally it
- Boring gameplay
- Poor design choices
- Sub-par sound and graphics
- Meddling with the already established classics
Resident Evil Chronicles HD Collection could have been a swansong to the last sixteen years of the franchise, visiting some of the key locations and introducing a whole new generation to what they weren't old enough to experience. Instead we've got something that feels rushed and cobbled together; a final attempt to squeeze any remnants of cash out of this beautiful template of horror and action.
The gameplay is just plain boring, the graphics and sound are duller than dishwater and the stories have been changed and condensed to be integrated into a product that never should have existed. Re-releasing all the previous games in high definition as one thirty pound product would have gone down a storm. Instead we get this hashed up mess that fails to impress and ultimately invokes the phrase 'I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed'.
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