Game: Resident Evil: Chronicles HD Collection
Available on: PlayStation 3 Only
I have banged on about my love of light gun shooters in the past, waffling on during podcasts and such, and even dragging my other half into a dingy arcade recently for some Dr Don and Dr Dan action courtesy of an aged Point Blank cabinet. It isn’t really technically possible to play many of my favourite entries in this particular genre at home any more, due to advances in televisual technology and the “can’t be arsed” factor of digging out old hardware and hooking it up to a CRT goggle box. This is a shame, because there are some brilliant games languishing on the shelf, pure shooting arcade romps, unblemished by nonsensical control methods and simply calibrated to a decent standard.
Thankfully, developers have realised that sometimes all you want to do is just shoot the crap out of stuff, which is why there have been a number of good-quality releases during this gen, most of which have been for the Wii and, for my money, account for some of the best fun you can have on the maligned system. Ensuring that you avoid Target: Terror, a Konami coin-op conversion that represents surely one of the worst games for the system, plenty of super co-op fun times were to be had; Ghost Squad and The House of The Dead 2 & 3 provided brilliant arcade ports the likes of which went out of fashion a number of years ago, whilst Dead Space: Extraction and House of the Dead Overkill were excellent original spin-offs from existing series, that delivered plenty of Wii Zapper thrills and spills.
Capcom had dipped their toe into the lightgun-shooty waters before, with the substandard Survivor and Dead Aim titles, which were generally poorly received, but that didn’t deter Dead Aim developers Cavia, who finally achieved their vision of delivering a high quality Biohazard-themed shooting gallery when the Chronicles games emerged for the Wii in 2007 and 2009. Perhaps the most enjoyable of all of the lightgun experiences that dropped in the late Noughties, particularly if you were already a fan of Capcom’s fabled survival horror juggernaut, the Chronicles offerings served up rock solid arcade style rail shooting, steeped in excellent Resident Evil backstory, chock-full of wonderfully funny voice acting, gruesome enemies and hidden secrets.
Now, with Resident Evil 6 on the horizon, Capcom have decided to dish up PlayStation Move-compatible HD remakes of the two Chronicles games, with some little extras to go along with the improved graphics and improved accuracy. Do they still deliver the goods, or will they make you suffer, like G did?
Both titles in this excellent collection follow the same on-rails, fast moving first person shooting template, as you proceed through various scenarios from the rich, labyrinthine Resident Evil story, either by yourself or in local co-op. Each game is split into chapters covering different events that take place at various points in time across a number of existing Resident Evil classics. Umbrella Chronicles covers Resident Evil, Resident Evil Zero, and Resident Evil: Nemesis, and has twenty two stages, held together by Albert Wesker’s creepy narration, as you learn about the downfall of the sinister Umbrella Corporation. Darkside Chronicles completes the gaps by retelling events from Resident Evil 2 and Code Veronica, whilst including a brand new story starring the always-badass knife twiddling mass of scar tissue that is Krauser. The voice acting is as reliably bone-brained as ever, I am pleased to report.
Gameplay involves being led by the hand, House of the Dead-style, through the many creepy environs, destroying enemies, and eventually boss characters, in order to proceed using an array of upgradable firearms, grenades, and your trusty knife which can be slashed across the screen to take out close range foes. Controls can be handled with the standard PS3 controller, using the analogue stick to aim your sights but this is a horrific compromise that no human being should ever be expected to experience when enjoying a light-gun style game. The Move controls are superb, however, and even better with the Sharp Shooter gun attachment; proving to be a far more accurate way of exacting zombie massacre than the outdated Wiimote.
Along the way you will find weapons upgrades and collectible items hidden inside the mostly destructible scenery, and of course the inevitable vitality-giving herbs and first aid sprays so beloved of the series. After each stage you will be given a grade dependent on performance, such as hits to bullets fired ratio, items collected and suchlike, complete with full leaderboard support to upload your best scores. Most of the levels have branching paths and different routes, so replays are not only encouraged but become compulsive, as you attempt to milk every last hidden item from each stage, whilst improving your performance. It is classic arcade stuff.
The only time the game really slips up, is when it drops QTEs into the fray. One minute you are happily slashing away at some giant leeches, the next you are sat before the classic “YOU ARE DEAD” screen, courtesy of an errant Stinger claw, and your subsequent failure to waggle the Move controller, or hammer the Move button. Each stage is quite lengthy, and although there are checkpoints, it is incredibly frustrating when you fail a QTE two thirds of the way into a segment, and are forced to play through again in similar circumstances. There are QTE moments during boss encounters too, which can often feel unwieldy when you are busy hammering the trigger to peel off rounds at the blighter, only to be required to suddenly perform a different action.
Apart from the plots, there are a few subtle differences between the two games. Darkside Chronicles undoubtedly looks the better of the duo, and has the added inclusion of a slightly deeper weapon upgrade system based around finding gold hidden in the environments, a separate on-screen ammo gauge (instead of burying it within the reticule), the ability to store the herbs that you find to use later, and a status screen where you can swap weapons. It also has the benefit of a superb chapter lifted straight from Resident Evil 2, which is most evocative of the classic old-school Resident Evil atmosphere first experienced back in my days as a student, ploughing through Oranjeboom lager whilst exploring Raccoon City on the PS1. Sadly, Darkside also has an unwanted addition in the form of a ridiculously shaky camera, presumably included to up the terror levels and improve realism, but is actually more likely to induce motion sickness than anything else.
VERDICT: Aesthetically, the Wii titles closely resembled the brilliant Gamecube Resi-remakes, and looked great without troubling the best that the current gen has to offer. This 1080p HD overhaul has undoubtedly improved things. Everything is sharper, and the foggy effect you so often get with Wii games has been eradicated making it easier to see what is going on. There are still some muddy bits, particularly in the first title of the two, as well as during the cutscenes, but it is hard to complain when the gameplay is so much fun, and the Move controls work so accurately. Neither game is perfect, but they are fun, and offer a chance to compete for some new Trophies, or attempt to top the online Leaderboards and become, to paraphrase Barry Burton, the master of headshots.