Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles delivers refreshing blood and gore-fueled light-gun fun to family-friendly Wii
Before you run to the clinic for that T-Virus immunity injection or start experimenting with those red, green, and yellow herbs in your garden, understand that Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles is not the next chapter in the classic story-driven, puzzle-solving, zombie-killin’ survival horror series. Instead, this light-gun-style shooter offers an appetizer to the flesh-eating main course Resident Evil 5 promises to serve in 2008.
This isn’t to say Umbrella Chronicles doesn’t deserve your attention and a coveted spot in your Wii library. On the contrary, it’s a gloriously gory, zombie head-poppin’ blast that, while not perfect, delivers a must-own entry for fans of the series as well as anyone tiring of the Wii’s saccharine mini-game fair; this ain’t no Cooking Mama, and you certainly won’t be training your brain, but you can count on splattering plenty of gray matter all over Umbrella Chronicles’ many macabre missions.
It’s not entirely fair to categorize UC as merely a light-gun game or House of the Dead ripoff, as it offers much more than your typical point-and-shoot arcade-style entry. While on-rails gunning is definitely the meat of this package, there’s also tons of grisly goodies that raise the bar high above that of other titles in the genre–including the series’ own previous entries, RE:Survivor and RE:Dead Aim. The story, re-telling the events of previous Resident Evil entries 0, 1, and 3, offers much more narrative substance than other such games in this action-focused category. We’re not suggesting the RE canon is ripe with high-brow storytelling, but reliving some of the fleshy franchise’s most memorable moments will be a must-buy draw for faithful fans. Whether you’re creeping up on that very first zombie encountered in the original RE’s mansion–the one crouched on the floor, feasting on a corpse, who slowly turns to greet you with his decayed face–or taking on leather-clad monstrosity Nemesis, you’ll experience a nostalgic twinge of undead-eliminating joy. Furthermore, some never-before-seen chapters, shedding light on the back-story of the mysterious Albert Wesker, as well as a visit to Umbrella Corporation’s Russian-based virus-producing stronghold, ooze with fan service extras. And the story yields many alternate pathways–unlocking tons of bonus chapters–that’ll get most fans queuing up for multiple play-throughs in order to experience every last drop of gory goodness.
On top of the story and its branching playable paths, UC separates itself from the generic light-gun pack with nicely detailed levels littered with destructible items. While your sites will usually be beaded between the eyes of your shuffling foes, you’ll also want to plug a few rounds into the breakable vases and light fixtures, splintering crates and furniture, and just about anything else you can break with a barrage of bullets. Doing so will unleash some slick shrapnel-flying effects, as well as plenty of secret-filled stashes. Some, such as life-restoring herbs, weapons and ammo, provide immediate–and usually desperately needed–gratification. But others, like detail-crammed documents, bleed with franchise facts; what Resident Evil fan–worth their weight in decomposing corpses–wouldn’t want to know the origins of the series’ most famous characters and creatures.
The Wii-specific aspects of UC also elevate it beyond the usual on-rails, light-gun fair, as using the Wii-mote to point and shoot is incredibly immersive. Hitting enemies’ too-tiny weak spots for one-shot kills occasionally poses some hit-or-miss frustration, but filling foes full of lead is generally a blast, and small touches, like shaking the control to reload, really ratchet up the adrenaline-stoked sense of urgency. The Wii-mote also affords some minor analog stick camera control, offering zombie hunters a bit of freedom from the usually set-path of other such games. Additionally, the motion-sensing tech is used to execute maneuvers somewhat reminiscent of the peripheral-shaking done in RE4: Wii Edition; as you frantically shake the controller to free yourself of too-close-for-comfort brain-eaters you’ll instantly recall Wii-waggling memories from Leon Kennedy’s quest on the Wii. While the Wii-specific bells and whistles certainly enhance the lock-and-load action, the bare bones, shoot-anything-that-moves formula works quite well on its own. Who can argue that just shooting zombies in and of itself isn’t one of the greatest pleasures in life? Whether you’re frantically unloading you’re unlimited-ammo pistol on a single target or taking out a crowd of flesh-craving clones with a single, well-place grenade, RE fan or not, you’ll continually feel warm and fuzzy over the carnage you’re creating
Seeing that UC is essentially an abridged retelling of RE’s previous terror-fueled tales, you’ll have the opportunity to play as several of the series most famous zombie-poppin’ protagonists. Jill Valentine–sporting both her S.T.A.R.S. garb as well as her ready-for-battle, skin tight tube top–, Chris Redfield, Ada Wong, Rebecca Chambers, and Albert Wesker all join the virus-fighting fray. And despite the action unfolding from a first-person perspective, cutscenes and in-game third-person animations–like Ada taking down bloodthirsty baddies with a player-triggered flip kick–allow ample opportunity to ogle your favorite zombie killers.
Of course, you can’t have the familiar cast without RE’s trademark, cheese-slathered dialogue; longtime fans might appreciate Capcom stubbornly sticking to the cult-status-achieving bad banter, but newcomers will likely respond with a sarcastic “Yeah, ya think!” upon hearing Chris Redfield casually utter “We’re in trouble.” when facing a cluttered corridor of brain-hungering bad guys.
UC’s many weapons–shotguns, automatics, grenade launchers–can be upgraded with ammo-adding and power-punching stats. You’ll be thankful for this as you fight your way through all sorts of T-Virus infected foes. Sure, you’ll be stacking those run-of-the-mill walking-dead corpses like cord wood, but UC also brings plenty of variety to the blood-spewing buffet. Small annoyances–leeches that stick right to the camera, flocks of eye ball-pecking crows–, mid-size menaces–it wouldn’t be Resident Evil without packs of drooling, infected doberman pups–and bigger badasses–giant spiders, snakes, and a shark that makes Jaws look like a guppy–all offer fright-filled encounters. Plus, some of the series’ most iconic bosses return to hinder your progress; the aforementioned Nemesis and Tyrant, complete with pumping heart on the outside of his chest, are just as terrifying as ever. The familiar fun continues as nearly all the action unfolds in classic RE stomping grounds. The train from RE0, RE’s mansion, and RE3’s Raccoon City streets will all be heavily decorated in blood and guts by the time your play-through is complete. We just wish RE2, Code Veronica, and RE4 were included in the macabre mix. How awesome would it have been to silence RE4’s chain saw-wielding crazies in UC’s in-your-face first-person perspective? It also would’ve been nice if UC’s visual and audio presentation were ramped up a bit higher. The game looks good, on par with RE4’s graphics, the sound track is appropriately eerie, and weapon effects are ear-popping, but after experiencing the polish and production of recent Wii offerings (we’re looking at you Super Mario Galaxy), it’s hard not to hold UC to a higher standard.
Everything we love about this game only gets better when you factor in its cooperative play mode; playing alone is creepier, but having a bloodthirsty buddy by your side really ratchets up the fun factor. At its heart UC is still an on-rails light-gun game, albeit one with several genre-evolving traits, so it’s inherently hindered to offer an entirely fresh next-gen experience. But what it sets out to do, it achieves with near flawless execution, offering visceral, gory, balls-to-the-wall fun for any Wii owner, especially those with a love for this classic franchise. We love Nintendo’s long line-up of mini-game fair, but we’ve been dying to get some blood on our Wii-mote-clenching hands, and, despite its minor flaws, UC nicely fills that void with its blood-soaked brand of zombie-crushing combat.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Not the Wii’s best, but on par with RE4: Wii Edition. 4.5 Control
Nice, fluid implementation of the Wii’s motion-sensing tech. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Creepy music and power-packed weapons. Cheesy dialogue will be appreciated by longtime fans, but may make newcomers cringe. 4.5
Decent length for this genre. Plus tons of replay value for fans looking to unlock all the series’ secrets. Co-op is a blast!
4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.