Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles HD
June 26, 2012
2012 is the year of Resident Evil. From the previous releases of Revelations and Operation Raccoon City, to the upcoming launch of Resident Evil 6, Capcom has made it very clear that they intend to keep the series alive and well for the near future. However, with so many new titles being released, it can be a bit easy to forget just who Chris Redfield is, what’s so bad about the Umbrella Corporation, and what the difference is between the T-virus and the G-virus. In order to give players a chance to revisit the initial appearances of some of the series’ most iconic plot devices, Capcom has re-released Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles in HD. Does this game manage to play well, or is nostalgia its only strong point?
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles is an on-rails shooter originally released for the Wii in 2007 that details the downfall of the Umbrella Corporation. More specifically, it retells the events of Resident Evil 0, Resident Evil, and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, while also adding new levels that shed light on characters such as Albert Wesker and, again, the end of Umbrella. As players fight zombies, rotting dogs, and other monstrosities, they will trek through classic locales such as the Arklay Mansion and, of course, Raccoon City itself.
Unfortunately, in terms of story, nostalgia really is its only strength, for the most part. Each game’s retelling only lasts roughly an hour – sometimes less – which means that the stories of each had to be greatly condensed, and even altered. Remember the Nemesis from Resident Evil 3 that hunted you down no matter where you were? In The Umbrella Chronicles, it’s only seen or mentioned in one level. You know how in the first game, Chris and Jill were separated throughout the entire game? Here, both characters team up the entire way. Additionally, as mentioned before, each story leaves out a great deal of details that really helped add to each particular plot. For the most part, The Umbrella Chronicles only shows the biggest moments of each game, but unfortunately, this makes it not very engaging in the story department. I say “for the most part” because the new scenarios included in the game are fairly entertaining story-wise. Without giving away any spoilers, the game shows a lot of previously unseen events in the series, particularly for antagonist Albert Wesker. If you’ve been a fan of the character so far, the new levels featuring him will likely satisfy you. Other characters make an appearance as well, offering more glimpses at behind-the-scenes events.
While the story isn’t something to praise, the gameplay is better, though not great. While much of it is a typical on-rails shooter, with you simply deciding how to kill enemies rather than where to fight them, the game does give you a bit of freedom; using the right analog stick on the DualShock controller allows you to move the camera around a bit, while occasionally, you will be able to decide which path you would like to take, though the overall level will typically remain the same no matter what. As you move through a level, you will be able to shoot objects such as lights, dressers, and statues; some of these items contain ammunition, new weapons, and “archive” files that help give details on some aspects of the Resident Evil lore. The game also allows you to upgrade your weapons and give them more power, ammo capacity, and more. This is essential later in the game, where some enemies can take you out in just a few hits if you aren’t powerful or careful enough.
Speaking of being careful, no matter where you are in the game, you must be on your guard at all times. The game can be a bit difficult, with swarms of enemies meaning sure death if you don’t think before you shoot. This is particularly troublesome given that herbs, which restore your health, are few and far between, and each level only lets you die once– and even then, that’s only if you can find the first aid spray. Thankfully, the game has a checkpoint halfway through each level, and if you die during a boss fight, you start at the beginning of it with full health. Even so, the difficulty ensures that in most boss battles, you will die several times; it took me eight or nine tries to finally kill the Yawn from Resident Evil in one of the game’s bonus scenarios.
Another thing that makes the game difficult is the controls. While they are simplistic and easy to grasp, actually using them can be a hassle when using a DualShock controller due to the fact that in order to move the targeting reticle, you must move the left analog stick. Despite it being quick and responsive, it’s troublesome in that many enemies don’t stand still long enough for you to shoot them, nor is it easy to line up a headshot since you must keep the reticle on the head for several seconds. While using the DualShock controller doesn’t make the game unplayable, it does make it frustrating; it’s obvious that it was developed with motion controls in mind, so if you have a PlayStation Move controller laying around, it’s best to use that.
Thankfully, the game does have replay value. At the end of each chapter, you are presented with a ranking based on how quickly you completed the level, how many enemies you killed, and how many objects you were able to destroy. These rankings can be uploaded to a global leaderboard, allowing you to attempt to top the best scores of other players.
As with the previous HD updates of Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil Code: Veronica X, Capcom seems to have done the bare minimum in getting the game’s visuals running properly on PlayStation 3. While character models look decent, environments are largely lacking in detail, especially during the game’s Raccoon City segment; what detail there is is comprised of blurry textures and rigid models. This is surprising given the fact that even before the HD release of Resident Evil 4, that game had sharper visuals than The Umbrella Chronicles does on PS3. Unfortunately, the pre-recorded cutscenes don’t look particularly well, either; environments still lack detail, and the videos themselves are extremely grainy due to upscaling from the original Wii release. While nothing outside of the cutscenes is painful to look at, the majority of the game does look very bland, and is one thing the PlayStation 3 edition could have improved greatly.
The game’s music is just as bland, as well. While nothing sounds bad to the ear, the majority of the game’s music sounds very uninspired, and simply doesn’t fit, given the horror background of the series: many of the game’s tracks feature an upbeat guitar playing in the background. The game’s voice actors are typically underwhelming as well, though in a sense, this makes sense, as the games it is based off of were well-known for having campy actors reciting cheesy dialogue. Regardless, the game’s sound simply doesn’t match the story and atmosphere it tries to convey.
Overall, The Umbrella Chronicles isn’t particularly a bad game, but it definitely isn’t a great one. The stories of previous games have been more or less butchered to make way for new events in the Resident Evil plot. Meanwhile, the gameplay can be fun, but if you aren’t using a Move controller, chances are you’ll be left frustrated; even if you do use one, the difficulty may put you off often. If you’re looking for pure arcade-style action, The Umbrella Chronicles may be for you, but if you’re looking to experience the stories and atmospheres of past Resident Evil games, you’re better off actually hunting down those games instead of playing this.
New scenarios involving Wesker and Umbrella.
Fun arcade-style action.
Decent amount of replayability.
Greatly condensed stories.
Clunky DualShock controls.
Bland visuals and sounds.