Blast the undead senseless in this blood-stained stroll down memory lane.
Since graphics aren't going to be a huge focus on this review, let's just get them out of the way. No, this is not a huge improvement over Resident Evil 0, the remake or 4. In fact, the characters generally look the way as they do in their Gamecube games. However, considering Capcom was able to keep a constant and smooth framerate while keeping the character that pretty and using destructable real-time backgrounds which faithfully reproduce their pre-rendered counterparts, The Umbrella Chronicles shows that the Wii is far more than just a GameCube. The shadows are actually nice this time around too. Even the cursor necessary to aim (since the Wii remote will never be as accurate as a true light gun) is a pleasant red dot sight surrounded by graphical representation of the amount of ammo left in the current clip.
That done, let's get to the core of the game. Rather than create an entirely new storyline a la Gun Survivor and Dead Aim, The Umbrella Chronicles takes us on a whirlwind tour of Resident Evils 0, 1 and 3, along with several behind the scenes scenarios starring our favorite evil triple-crosser Albert Wesker. Now the 1-3 scenarios don't faithfully reproduce the storylines of the original games, with edits necessary to facilitate co-op play. Perhaps most atrocious of the edits is the Mansion Incident, which could have been more creatively played with for a Chris/Rebecca and Jill/Barry pair of scenarios instead of a single Chris/Jill scenario. However the endings are pretty much what they were in those games, and do a great job integrating the sub-scenarios and the completely new fourth chapter, which is about as close to a new Gun Survivor game as we're likely to get for a while. With the exception of Carlos Olivera, the original voice actors all return for their roles, which is sure to set off nostaligic tingles. And of course, Wesker kicking butt the way he's prone to do is sure to set off a fangasm for the Resident Evil faithful. It's only sad that Resident Evil 2 wasn't given a scenario as well, but one can at least hope for an Umbrella Chronicles 2.
Like most light-gun games, Umbrella Chronicles sends the characters on a set path, obliterating horrific creatures left and right on the way to a boss battle. Thankfully, this game cuts out any pretense that the player wants to do anything other than shoot like mad, and there are thankfully no parts in any scenario that require people to aim around bumbling, idiotic civilians. That isn't to say that there isn't any strategy involved. While players start off with a basic pistol with unlimited ammo but somewhat poor stopping power, even this pea shooter can deal massive damage when hitting an enemy's weak spot, such as a zombie's head or a massive serpent's mouth. Common enemies can also be taken down instantly by targeting a very specific critical hit box, but these spots are extremely tiny and require something of a crack shot to hit them with any consistency. In addition, special weapons with limited ammo but plenty of ammo can be found by destroying objects in the surrounding environment. Shooting out a pictureframe could reveal a rocket launcher! In addition to special weapons and grenades, files and other history items can be found in the environment, which adds a nice little layer of fan wank and expands the game's replay value immensely. To break up the constant shooting, levels and fights are littered with quick-time events where button presses and controller gestures are used to break out of or avoid attacks. Thankfully, the quick-time events never require the use of the nunchuk, which is only used for minor camera pivoting. The knife can also be used to hack at leeches or other similar enemies that like to cling onto players' faces. The only annoying part of the gameplay is reloading. Rather than have players shoot off-screen like a traditional light-gun game, it is necessary to give the remote a violent shake to manually reload a weapon. Weapons will reload automatically when the clip empties, but that's obviously a tactical disadvantage, so players will be left shaking the controller like mad and quite possibly injuring their Wii remote wrist.
Each main scenario is divided into three stages, which each have one checkpoint - not counting the boss at the end. Most of the time, bosses will be a massive creature that requires targeting a weak spot to damage at all. This can be incredibly frustrating at first, but the bosses are just slow enough where cooler heads will be able to spot a pattern and go to town. This isn't to say that they're easy. Indeed, at normal difficulty the game packs a wallop from start to finish, requiring dogged perseverance to get through the stages. At the end of each stage, players are awarded star points that can be used to upgrade the special weapons, making them even more powerful against the undead hordes.
The game features co-op play, where two players sharing the same life bar will be able to blast away together. This makes the game a good bit easier, but it's still a heck of a lot of fun compared to most games. The game's difficulty, however, is an issue, as differences between easy, normal and hard are limited to the amount of damage taken per strike. Normal and hard earn the same amount of star points, and have the same monsters behaving the same way. It's best to use hard only as a co-op mode.
While it's certainly no Time Crisis, Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles is a fine game that any light gun enthusiast or Resident Evil fan would do well to get. Now if only Capcom could port Resident Evil Survivor 2: Code Veronica to the Wii and finally release it in the United States...