Resident Evil Umbrella / Darkside Chronicles Review
These Two Titles Will Make You Go Off The Rails For All The Wrong Reasons
Going back to original material is something of a trait of Capcom’s, especially when it comes to the Resident Evil series. How many times and consoles have we played through the original mansion exactly now? With the HD re-release of both the formerly Wii exclusive Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles on the Playstation 3 Store, Capcom aims to bleed the cash cow of Resi dry a bit more, as well as reminding us of how mental the series is. Oh and they’re both in the form of the beyond ancient genre of rail shooter games. Needless to say, they’re both not very good.
Both games retell the current Resident Evil saga over various clipped scenarios and set pieces. Umbrella Chronicles covers Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine and Albert Wesker’s storylines before Resident Evil 5; covering Resident Evil 0, 1 and 3. There’s also a sub-plot running through the game about Wesker stealing information about the Umbrella company; the company behind all the various zombie atrocities Resident Evil is renowned for. Darkside Chronicles is more varied by replaying through 2 and Code Veronica and filling in the blanks of Leon Kennedy and Jack Krauser before the story of Resident Evil 4 kicks off.
Some of the stories contained, I didn’t really care about the first time. Resident Evil 0 is probably the worst one of the series with the mutant leeches backstory; and I don’t see the point of the addition of Code Veronica – it’s not like Steve Burnside was such a compelling character the first time around. They’re just filler to the much better episodes you play through and only reminded me of how utterly ridiculous this series has been at times. The two Wesker and Krauser bonus scenarios make up for it with new content; and I suppose it will shut some people up finally about how Rebecca Chambers got to the mansion for Resi 1 (although anyone who cares about that aspect of the Resi storyline deserves to be injected with slug T-virus… and then tossed into a salt dump).
The pacing of both games are slow. I know it’s an on-rails shooter but when you compare the speed your character plods around the various levels to, say, the original Time Crisis - it’s coma inducing. It’s nowhere near the hardcore zombie murder spree I expected either to be. I query the timing because there are places where your character will just look around a room for 30 seconds and nothing happens, there’s no pick-ups etc. However, you’ll then turn around 2 seconds later and you will be attacked by a beast, which is just too ruthless to players! I think Capcom were trying to play up to the survival horror aspect but at least with the main series you can run away from fights to conserve ammo and health. Here you’re forced to stand your ground and take damage and plug away until most of your enemies are dead.
Considering how harsh that is, both games are punishing mistresses. Since, unlike Time Crisis, you cannot “hide” for a second to reload and are forced to take shots which seems dumb. There’s no way to dodge attacks, unless the game feels like coughing up a quick time button event. Even then, a simple one button press won’t do and you have to hammer whatever shoulder button you’re commanded to, until you successfully dodge the attack. I like the way the game encourages you to play two player and you really need to, because it’s hard going as a single player! I wouldn’t say it’s tough, but with the games crippling gameplay flaws, I keep wondering if the game was gunna let off for a minute or two so I could actually enjoy it, rather than be absolutely infuriated with how unfair it is!
Since both are first person shooters and Resi has a history of “if you’re sane, you’ll get the shotgun asap and aim for the head”, I query the amount of headshots either game is keen for you to have. It’s better in Darkside, but Umbrella Chronicles is so picky as to what constitutes a head explosion. You’re better off just unloading your weapon into a zombie than actually aiming. You can shoot a creature point blankl inbetween the eyes, as close as they can get to you before you take damage and it’ll only drain the smallest bit of health!
There are new weapons to pick up and upgrade as you go through both games and you can revisit old levels to get better rankings and gain more upgrade point and money; but, to me, you have to be a crazy perfectionist to sit down and play through the monotonous levels again just for replay value. The later levels can be quite long and I query the use of just one checkpoint before you fight the end of level boss. It took everything I had not to hurl my controller across the room after dying right before what I later found out was a checkpoint, after playing through a level for 25 minutes!
It’s a decent HD upgrade on Umbrella Chronicles compared to other poor conversions like the Devil May Cry trilogy. However, they have chosen not to touch up the FMV’s from the original game and this is a bit of a mistake. It looks dated on a HD platform. Of course, being a Resident Evil game it wouldn’t be complete without some top quality awful voice acting either. The freak out moment from William Birkin during one of Wesker’s missions is up there with “Jill Sandwich” in my book.
On the other hand, Darkside Chronicles has not been touched at all from it’s original graphics and it shows. Despite being not too old, it looks bad and messy on PS3. There’s better voice acting but crumbs, it’s offputting. At least the HUD looks more slick in Darkside, perhaps representing the more commando characters you play with, rather the almost cowboy shootout menu style from Umbrella Chronicles.
I should say I didn’t have the opportunity to play both using the Move Controllers but like hell am I going to dish out 30 quid upwards for something which I probably didn’t like. The normal 6-axis controller does a decent job, to be fair, although you’ll be screaming your head off for the cursor to hurry up as it casually creeps along the screen when you have five or so zombies in a row to blow through. The buttons feel quite comfortable to move around, weirdly for a first person rail shooter, compared to some I’ve played in the past (including the atrocious spiritual forerunner to both in Resident Evil Survivor).
I think this is a true 'fan' game. You’d have to be commited to stand the amount of rough these two games put you through. I do think there is a good game between the two, but there’s far too much rubbish here to care about. Do I really want to go through the mansion from Resident Evil 1 for how many times it’s been remade or tributed to since the original back from 1995? No, not really. In fact, since this is aimed at fans to relive the storyline of the series, they surely would have the original games still anyway, yes? Making this a rather pointless exercise, barring the additional but minor time you play through the new scenarios.
A poor stop-gap until the main event of Resident Evil 6 later this year. Not fun at all to play and not one but two rubbish exercises in the rail shooter genre of video games I long thought dead. If you’re new to the franchise, you may be interested enough in the back story of Resident Evil to give both Umbrella and Darkside Chronicles a shot, but you will be much better off tracking down the readily available back catalogue from the PSN.
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