Now, I'm not talking about the setting or the games themselves. Chornicles HD combines Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles into a single package, giving them the HD treatment, trophy support and the ability to play with a DualShock or Move controller. Originally for the Nintendo Wii, I never got around to playing either of these games when they were originally released. And even though the stories are pulled directly from previous Resident Evil games, my feelings of "been there, done that" did not stem from the rehashed narrative.
But with the run-and-blast antics of the House of the Dead series on one side of the light gun spectrum and the story-driven Dead Space: Extraction on the other side, Resident Evil Chronicles fell somewhere in the middle; providing neither the over-the-top fun of House or the methodically paced perfection of Dead Space.
Available for $29.99 via the PlayStation Network, Resident Evil Chronicles HD provides two meaty experiences for a bargain price. No matter how low the cost of admission is, though, it's hard to recommend a game that provided more aches and frustration than moments of trigger-happy joy.
Our adventure begins with the remake of Umbrella Chronicles, featuring on-rails versions of the stories told by just about every main game in the RE franchise. Players are guided through dozens of levels with multiple weapon pick-ups available, destructible environments to blast full of holes, secret files and upgrades to locate and a boss battle to punctuate every chapter. With your handgun providing infinite ammo, you'll be relying on it quite often to tame the more standard threats and tear the individual rooms to shreds as you hope to pick up extra ammo or health hidden behind picture frames or inside vases. Once the big baddies show up, it's time to switch to your heavier arsenal of shotguns, machineguns and grenade launchers.
As far as light gun games go, Umbrella Chronicles manages to check off all of the basic boxes. There's lots of cheesy dialogue, horrendous voiceovers explaining the story progression, a chance to relive some of the best moments and battles in Resident Evils history and plenty of zombies, dogs, crazed monkeys, spiders, etc. to put holes in.
But there was just something about the gameplay that kept me from really enjoying what I was doing, part of which stems from the hardware itself. For starters, holding up the Move controller for more than a few minutes at a time can get pretty dang tiring on the arms. The game's stilted pace and the need to constantly shoot the environment on the hunt for precious resources prevents you from ever getting a rest, making each play session something of a exercise in exhaustion. Check points are horrendous, too, meaning that every time you just have to put your arms down to get a break, you're risking a death that will take you backwards (usually past multiple loading points) all the way to the beginning of the level. When you're dealing with constant random spikes in difficulty, too, it's hard to resist just hurling the Move controller at the next enemy you see.
Finally there's the Move controller itself. Due to the amount of pull you have on the large trigger, it's not uncommon for a shot to be yanked off-target. I've played a lot of Move shooters and that's never really been an issue. In Umbrella Chronicles, though, skillfully placed and carefully timed shots are key and, quite frequently, I found myself being pummeled to death all because (to give one example) pulling on the trigger brought my aim slightly below the spot on the snake's mouth that needed to be shot. I also experienced issues with a floating crosshair. Again, this isn't something I've had to deal with much in other Move shooters. But no matter what I did to the lighting in the room or my placement in front of the TV, I frequently had my crosshairs start to drift by large degrees across the screen. Shaking the controller around or aiming way off the screen often fixed the problem, but it occurred frequently enough (every minute or so) to become a real thorn in my side.
These technical problems persisted in Darkside Chronicles, but at least I was now playing a better game. Everything from the graphics and the mechanics to the storytelling and that all-important "fun factor" are improved here, making the second in the series a far superior light gun game. My arms still cried out for a break and some nasty leaps in difficulty persisted, but as far as shooting games for the Move go, this one is worth a look-see.
Unfortunately, you can't pick up these games as individual entities just yet. Since downloading the bundle actually provided the games separately, I'm guessing that a divided release is likely coming down the pipeline. As is, Umbrella Chronicles weighs the package down and, while improved, Darkside Chronicles still doesn't have strong enough gameplay or enough big moments to warrant a recommendation. As I said, I just didn't have much fun with either of these games.
If you're a huge Resident Evil fan who also happens to own a Move controller, you'll probably want to take Chronicles HD for a spin, and you'll probably get some enjoyment out of it. Otherwise, there are better alternatives out there. If nothing else, maybe just wait a few weeks and see if Darkside gets a solo release at a cheaper price. Your arms, and sanity, will thank you for it.
The Official Verdict: 2 out of 5
This review is based on a download copy provided by the publisher.