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Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (Wii) artwork

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (Wii) review

"A light gun game might not seem like an ideal match for Raccoon City's horrors, but it actually works out quite nicely overall."

I doubt that I’ll ever be mistaken for a proper Resident Evil fan, but that’s okay because a pal of mine likes the series enough for both of us. He has a tattoo of the Umbrella Corporation and he has… an umbrella. A red and white one, officially licensed and designed to look like that fictional company’s memorable icon. There were apparently two iterations eventually offered, one with a straight handle and a second with a curved one. The handle on my friend’s umbrella is straight.

When I was prepared to play Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, I borrowed that friend’s copy of the game and also hours of his time and helpful knowledge. We sat in my apartment, him in my moon chair with double cushions and me in my fading recliner, and we pointed our Wii Remotes at my widescreen LED television and cooperatively shot zombies and mutated beasts. You know what? It was fun. It was a lot of fun.

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (Wii) image

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles benefits from that sort of setup, I think. It benefits from one guy not knowing much and from his friend guiding him through the basics and explaining the various plot twists. A decent-sized screen is also a terrific asset, but really the key components are a willing tour guide and his virtual tourist. The dynamic ensures that the two participants have plenty to talk about besides just who shot what piece of the architecture or who accidentally threw a grenade down an empty hallway or… whatever. That experience also benefits from the gun attachments my friend brought along for the occasion, because after all, this is a light gun game.

You can in general view Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles as a collection of highlights from three past entries in the series proper: Resident Evil 0, Resident Evil and Resident Evil 3, in that approximate order. Here, you gun your way briefly through those beloved stories, at a rate of an hour or an hour and a half each, and then you can play side content and a final mission that is original and fills in a gap or two within the Resident Evil mythology… which goes a lot deeper than I ever imagined it did, as someone who has had only limited experience with past titles.

As any stage begins, you select from one of two characters, with your exact choices depending on the specific story you are about to clear. There’s not actually a lot of reason I could see to pick the male or the female in particular, other than any particular attachment you might have to one or the other after playing the older survival horror titles. After all, you don’t even see your character for the bulk of the time. Instead, you typically see grimy corridors filled with shambling zombies and monsters. Everything plays out on rails and you will advance steadily toward your objective, provided you shoot and slash well enough to avoid an early demise. There are occasional forks in the road, but they matter little. The whole experience resembles a ride on a zombie-themed rollercoaster.

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (Wii) image

Checkpoints are placed throughout the adventure, and you can pick up herbs and medicine that keep your heroes on their feet if things go bad too quickly and your shared health bar is depleted. However, sometimes the checkpoints aren’t located very close together and that can result in you having to repeat of long stretches of the game. That will adversely affect your ranking for the area, which in at least one case may serve as a frustrating barrier that prevents you from unlocking chunks of the relatively brief campaign.

As I noted, you can shoot your surroundings as you move through the game. That unlocks files that grant access to some of the side content, as far as I can tell. This content focuses on a central character in the game, Wesker. He has appeared in past games also, but he was always a bit of an enigma. Here, his actions and motivations are more thoroughly explored in a way that my friend quite appreciates. Myself, I felt that the developers could have done a better job with that aspect. Wesker visits the same locations you do, so all you gain in a practical sense is the opportunity to blast your way through non-descript hallways, with fewer engaging plot sequences, shooting the same enemies as always and wondering if you even care enough to bother.

Between levels, you’re able to upgrade the various weapons from the mission menu. This is a nice touch, but not put to particularly good use, I didn’t think. Actually, throughout most of the adventure, you’ll rely on the same single weapon and will need to conserve all of your ammunition for a few in-your-face battles with particularly nasty boss enemies. They’re utilized so infrequently that worrying about their precise stats struck me as a waste of time. When I used anything other than the pistol, it was usually by accident, because I was trying to find hidden loot on the screen and I pressed too many buttons at once. Only a handful of times have I ever actually thrown a crowd-clearing grenade on purpose, over the course of several of hours now spent with the game.

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (Wii) image

Some of my trouble can be blamed not only on my admitted ineptitude, but also on the control scheme. It varies according to your specified setup. Since my friend brought along his Nyko zapper, I naturally used that and found that I quite liked it. An aiming reticule appears on-screen no matter what device and supported setup you’re using, but a plastic pistol feels most natural to me. You also need to jerk the Nunchuk around rather frequently to reload ammunition or to make sword strikes, so a more conventional Wii Zapper doesn’t seem like it would work as well (and my friend assures me that it indeed does not). Whatever control method you use, though, the game sometimes demands too much of players, most especially in a few instances when it’s possible to immediately die in a section if you don’t press a button in response to a prompt that appears on-screen in dramatic moments. Such occurrences don’t happen often enough to pose a major issue, but they still feel mildly excessive.

On a more positive note, the game looks… quite good. The corridors are dark and dreary and could mess with people who are prone to motion sickness, but they get the job done and some areas like the iconic mansion from the original Resident Evil are modeled here quite beautifully. Even for me, someone who doesn’t have a particularly strong attachment to that classic game, the effect was chilling in all the right ways. A huge fan of the series who hasn’t yet enjoyed this particular outing is in for a real treat.

Where do I stand on the game overall, then? I’d say Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles is a solid but not spectacular on-rails shooter that features enough references to classics from the PlayStation and GameCube eras that a real fan of the franchise should definitely check it out. If you’re looking for a satisfying way to spend a few hours in a virtual Raccoon City and you’re not horrified by the notion of playing through a light gun game, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger…


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Staff review by Jason Venter (March 28, 2014)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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