Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles

Resident Evil and first person shooting is a combination that has historically produced less than favorable results (See Resident Evil: Survivor). Umbrella Chronicles improves upon previous spin-offs and provides plenty of replay value in the form of unlockables and an improved co-op mode.

The major difference between previous installments in the Resident Evil: Gun Survivor series and Umbrella Chronicles is that it's an on-rails shooting game. You're taken through the levels on a controlled path, but you have control of where you aim and limited control of camera angles. The trade-off is level exploration, but this scheme works well for its primary purpose – shootin' up zombies. There are four different chapters, three of which take you through what I'd call a speed run through the events of Resident Evil 0, Resident Evil, Resident Evil 3, and parts of Resident Evil 2. The fourth chapter explores the fall of the pharmaceutical corporation, Umbrella.

Start up the game; choose your difficulty: easy, normal, or hard. You'll only have one chapter within the first scenario available at first: "Train Derailment." As you start up the first chapter, you'll be prompted to choose a character - Rebecca Chambers, a young medic, or Billy Coen, an escaped convict. Starting out, the character you choose will determine which secondary weapon you get (all characters have a handgun with unlimited ammo). As you begin to unlock weapons and levels, you'll have free reign over which weapon you bring along. Whichever character you choose, it won't have any impact on how the chapter will play out. Aside from differences in secondary attacks (Example: Chris Redfield's knife slash and reverse side kick vs. Jill Valentine's battery pack and kick in Scenario 2) and the satisfaction that you are playing as your favorite or preferred character, you're not going to notice your character much during gameplay.

If you've played Resident Evil 0, you'll recognize the recycled footage in the opening movie of the first chapter. A train passing through on a stormy night, leeches crawl on the horrified passengers inside, the train derails. More familiar scenes follow as main villain, Albert Wesker, narrates, offering his perspective on the events. Finally, the game really begins. As the zombies start heading your way, you'll be given a quick briefing on how to use the wiimote to play the game. Once you know the basic controls and have played through a few chapters, you'll have the hang of the game in no time. Combined with difficulty settings, this makes the game accessible to people of all different playing levels.

One of the worst aspects of Survivor, Capcom's earliest attempt at a Resident Evil first person shooter, was the bumpy camera movements and awkward camera angles. As someone who gets dizzy from that sort of thing, I have to say that the on-rails system in Umbrella Chronicles is a lot more comfortable. Rather than a constantly shifting view, which can give you a headache after a while, your focus is kept on one area at a time. When a group of enemies attack you, the camera will remain aimed in their direction until you've defeated them all. In some cases, the camera will switch to a new path or group of enemies after a certain amount of time. This gives you ample time to defeat enemies and look for and grab items while still maintaining a sense of urgency.

Zombies aside, you'll be barraged by tons of other enemies from the Resident Evil series including Hunters, Lickers, sharks, dogs, crows, and monkeys. You'll also recognize old "bosses" or major enemies such as the Tyrant and Mr. X from Resident Evil 2. Like in Resident Evil 4, there are also instances where you have to push a button or wave the wiimote to avoid injury or instant death.

There are a couple of changes that have been made to enemies that may leave fans of Resident Evil scratching their heads in confusion. The Lickers are a prime example of an enemy gone wrong. Previously quick attackers that could swipe your characters head off in one fell swoop, Lickers in Umbrella Chronicles do some kind of swaying dance for about thirty seconds before finally striking your character with its tongue. The monkeys are swifter and more challenging than the Lickers, which is a bit of a let down.

At the end of each chapter, you'll receive a letter ranking based on level completion time, the amount of enemies you defeated, critical hits, objects destroyed, and files obtained. As you continue to unlock new scenarios, you'll find that your ranking in certain chapters will determine if you unlock any extra or secret levels. Any weapons that were picked up during a chapter will be permanently added to your weapons list, meaning more options for a secondary weapon when you play a scenario. Depending on your score, you'll be given a certain amount of star points, which can be used to upgrade secondary weapons.

After you've had enough fun shooting solo, you can invite a friend or relative to join you in co-op mode. You work together with your partner to defeat enemies, but you're both ranked separately, making it both a team effort and a competition. Two player mode runs similarly to solo mode, except that there are two cross-hairs on the screen and minor differences in sequences where you have to evade disaster by clicking an action button. Save for getting your crosshairs occasionally confused, co-op mode works smoothly and makes the game all the more fun.

Don't expect too much in the way of major Resident Evil plot developments from Umbrella Chronicles. Most of the chapters are about filling in the blanks, like previously unexplained ways that certain characters escaped Raccoon City. Umbrella Chronicles does take the opportunity to flesh out on the stories of enigmatic and minor characters like Albert Wesker and Richard Aiken, one of the original S.T.A.R.S. members who met his demise in the original Resident Evil. In the chapter "Nightmare 2," Richard and Rebecca team up and you're given a better look at their characters and the friendship they form. These small additions to the storyline are great, but for the most part, you're going to find that the chapters are made up of scenes and story elements from the original Resident Evil games.

There are a couple additions to Umbrella Chronicles that many of us may find unwelcome. The most notable being the introduction of a new villain, Sergei Vladimir, the colonel in charge of Umbrella's Biohazard Countermeasure Service, which was referenced in Resident Evil 3. I found this character to be a lackluster additon to an already overflowing cast of characters. His cool, careless demeanor and Russian heritage are ripped right from Nicholai Ginovaef, an already existing character in the Resident Evil universe that could have and should have been brought back in place of Sergei.

Attempts to connect the Resident Evil films and online game, Outbreak, to the main series' plot fall flat for those of use who would prefer to forget these spin-offs. Every time I saw a reference to the movies – the Red Queen being the worst – I cringed. The laser room that originated from the first Resident Evil film and was later recycled in Resident Evil 4 is also back for another completely pointless run in Umbrella Chronicles.

Problems aside, the game has a good amount of replay value for both Resident Evil fans and non-fans alike. There are plenty of new levels, files, and weapons to unlock. The points you earn in each chapter can be used to max out all of the secondary weapons, and for perfectionists, you can go for getting the highest ranking ("S") in each level. The incentive to unlock all of the extra features may be higher for those familiar with Resident Evil, but the files provide background information to help to bring non-fans up to speed on the series and the characters.

Umbrella Chronicles has its flaws, but it's entertaining on those days when you just want to sit down and play something quick and fun – no long drawn out storylines or excessive frustrating moments to get in your way. One thing's for sure: Capcom has finally succeeded in giving us a solid Resident Evil first person shooting experience.

Game Data
Title: Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Platform: Wii
Release: 2007

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