Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles
Sony PlayStation 3Also available on Nintendo Wii
Light gun games are a strange if not wonderful breed. The comforting clackety clack of the Time Crisis guns, the rush of toppling six axe-wielding zombies in row in House of the Dead, and the sheer magic of peering down a sniper scope in (funnily enough) Sniper Scope. Light gun gaming was the cornerstone experience had by all in the childhood mecca that was the old school arcade. Their injection into the home through consoles was both a blessing and curse. By bringing these brilliant experiences to the home we got to experience them in our bedroom but also lost the joy and wonder of the classic arcade. The flashing lights, the tinkle of two pence pieces, and the groan of parents as they remove more pound coins from their pockets - priceless.
On-rail shooters in the home don't come close in terms of experience but you can have a great time nonetheless. Especially when they take advantage of the home console’s strengths. Like Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles HD which does a great job of making the most of the light gun game genre, along with the rich subject matter of the Resident Evil franchise.
The game is a retelling of the initial mansion incident, outbreak of the T Virus and the eventual fall of Raccoon city. Told through the on-rails shooter style you take down wave after wave of zombies and bio weapons to escape the Arklay mansion, and eventually the city all leading up to the fall of Umbrella. In the shoes of some of your favourite Resident Evil protagonists you dispense hot lead fillings to your foes at twenty paces.
You can do this with classic Resident Evil weaponry such as pistols, shotguns, SMGs and rocket launchers to name a few whilst munching on the ubiquitous green herbs to keep you standing. The weapons are upgradable and ready for when you progress and the lickers and hunters come out to play.
The first thing you notice about the game is the pace, unlike the high pace of its arcade cousins Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles HD is quite slow and measured. From the slow creep through each environment ensuring a level of tension is maintained, to the rather modest fire rate and slow reload time making sure you have to keep track of your ammo and the bullets left in your clip when you line up the perfect head shot. I have to applaud Capcom and AQ Interactive for sticking to the old formula and trying to maintain some of that Resident Evil vibe by refraining from turning it into a full on action romp through Racoon City.
It wouldn’t be Resident Evil without the story and this is essentially what this game serves as, a vessel in which you can experience the Resident Evil story with a friend and in a more lively gameplay experience. The chapters in the game span from Resident Evil 0 through Resident Evil to the end of Resident Evil 3 in a somewhat condensed form, culminating in a chance to experience the new chapter in the saga written specifically for Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles HD filling in some of the gap between Resident Evil 3 and Resident Evil 4.
The story serves its purpose well guiding you through the main plot points; it does however have one confusing and rather major oversight. The removal of any story campaign from Resident Evil 2 throwing the story off towards the middle of the game. As you would expect with a large chunk missing and if you’ve read our retrospective Resident Evil 2 is possibly the best chunk - I was somewhat disappointed however you can get a Resident Evil 2 campaign in Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles sister title to the umbrella chronicles.
The game throws up many other titbits of information in classic Resident Evil style, with special item drops you can collect when your keen eye spots a cracked statue or crooked painting to shatter with your shot gun. These drops are usually files and documents filling in more back story of the main characters like Chris, Jill and Albert Wesker.
If you are really good at popping zombie heads you are rewarded with the extra bonus chapters which allow you to replay the environments you have just cleared but with a new character i.e. Wesker or Rebecca, again giving you more back story to get your teeth into. This was a very nice inclusion and very welcome as you get a real buzz playing the bad guy for a change.
The gameplay is satisfying and not as shallow as other light gun games with the slow pace allowing you to take your time and get that critical hit, you do have branched paths to take advantage of but these are not utilised enough and seem to have been last minute additions to the game rather than a must have from day one. You can utilise a Dual shock or a Move controller to partake in some zombie blasting, having acquired (borrowed) a Move controller for the review I would say this is my preferred method of control but fear not if you don’t have the luxurious brightly lit wand, the controller method is good and very playable but could have used more options such as analogue sensitivity adjustment at the very least. The down side of these for players limited to the controller is the difficulty can be quite high due to the controls especially on the greater settings.
The challenge to collect all the documents and items across the stages is motivation for most Resident Evil fans to revisit levels multiple times, if you aren’t a fan of the story you may feel a little cheated as your interest may falter in the light gun elements themselves due to the slower pace not suiting your tastes when compared to other more frantic games. You are scored when you complete a chapter and are given a rating, these can then be uploaded to the online leaderboards which are a nice addition and will keep you coming back to better your previous results and get some more trophies for you collection.
The presentation of the game is very pleasing and it’s nice to see the old mansion recreated in full 3D along with some of the other locations in Raccoon City, the HD element of Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles HD does its job but due to the nature of the port coming from a four year old Wii game it won’t blow your socks off, some textures are crisper and it is in 720p but the nature of the game means you probably won’t notice it. The sound design is subtle and a bit generic so it won’t wow you either but does contain all the classic Resident Evil sounds which the series is famous for .
Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles HD is a mash up of two big things, a big brash light gun shooter with the rich and powerful Resident Evil lore. Overall this concoction is successful in its goal to give the fans another way to experience the Resident Evil universe but with perhaps a bit more excitement. The HD re-release of this game onto PSN doesn’t really take advantage of the PS3’s power or do anything new with the game but the name alone guarantees some quite well presented storytelling, coupled with a surprisingly satisfying shooting mechanic. Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles HD is a surprising and quite charming title and worth any Resident Evil fan’s time. Its inclusion to PSN is welcomed, allowing more people to experience what some might say is the thinking man’s light gun game.