Game: Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles
Genre: Rail Shooter
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles marks Capcom’s third attempt at an on-rails shooter set in the grimy, zombie-infested world of Resident Evil. Thankfully, it’s also easily their best. Of course, when you consider the extremely low quality of the first two (Resident Evil: Survivor and Resident Evil: Dead Aim), that's not saying much. Still, though, it's a decent enough game, especially for fans of the long-running franchise.
Story wise, Umbrella Chronicles is basically a recap of the original Resident Evil, Resident Evil 0 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. While it doesn’t follow the narrative exactly, it offers eight playable characters from the series, and enough of the expected atmosphere and major plot points to make players feel completely at home in the established RE universe. Side missions feature plenty of cameos from earlier games, and there’s even a bonus mission featuring Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. Devotees of the series will definitely not be disappointed with the fan service this game delivers.
RE: UC is essentially a light gun game. Using the Wii-mote (with or without the Wii Zapper), you’ll blast your way through hordes of zombies, leech-monsters, bats and other creepy crawlies. Basically, that’s all you do, as your movement is controlled entirely by the game. The nunchuk controller does allow you to alter your view slightly, but realy, you will spend the whole game “on rails.” At the game’s outset, you only have access to a handgun with infinite ammo, but as you progress, you’ll pick up more and more weapons like the submachine gun and shotgun. These are far more powerful than the standard handgun, but require ammunition. As with any good Resident Evil game, there are far more zombies to kill than bullets to kill them with, and a major part of the challenge is knowing when to use the more powerful weapons and when to conserve ammo. This is even more of a challenge when you consider the copious amounts of weapons, healing herbs and secret documents hidden throughout the partially destructible environments. You also have access to other instruments of death, like a knife that is extremely useful against smaller enemies like leeches and ravens, and grenades that are good for clearing out overcrowded rooms.
The Wii-mote is well utilized here, with standard point and shoot gameplay spiced up by various control mechanics. Shaking the Wii-mote will reload your gun while holding “A” and swinging it back and forth uses your knife. There are also some moments where you’ll be required to press certain buttons at specific times to avoid major injury or death. Most of these happen during boss battles, which are the most fun and challenging sequences in the game.
Visually, the game is sufficiently dismal, creepy and dark, and the overall atmosphere is totally appropriate for an RE title, but the technical limitations of the Wii are harshly evident here. Textures tend to be muddy and character models are blocky, suffering from low poly-count. Environments fare somewhat better, but still seem outdated by today’s standards. The only aspect of the game that does a poor job of keeping you immersed in the gloomy world is the music. It’s way too fast and “actiony” for this game, and just doesn’t fit in a survival horror game.
If you’re a fan of rail shooters or of the Resident Evil franchise, Umbrella Chronicles is a solid, if not deep title that offers about 4-5 hours of mindless fun. If you aren’t a fan of either, this one probably won’t change your mind, but still might be worth a rental.