Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles
Remember Duck Hunt? That NES classic that made use of the light gun peripheral for the system also became a cultural icon, a simple yet effective game that showed off the capabilities of its controller. Years down the road, the Nintendo Wii has a point-and-click shooter to call its own; only this time, there are no ducks, but zombies! Hundreds and hundreds of zombies. You won’t need a new controller, either, because Umbrella Chronicles uses the Wii’s remote control for all of its gunslingin’ action. Players will experience events from Resident Evil 0, 1, and 3, and a few original scenarios to boot. To sweeten the deal even further, it features 2-player co-op. This game is basically a shout-out to all of the Resident Evil fans in the world; is it worth it for the fans to holler back?
Since you probably want to shoot me with a light gun for that joke, I’ll move on. Umbrella Chronicles features a simple setup for gameplay: point and shoot. Much like Time Crisis and other classic arcade shooters, this game does the movement for you. While this may seem a bit archaic by today’s standards, it holds up very well, especially when played with two people. The on-rails movement means that the game can set up some cheap scares, which are a series hallmark. It’s also fun to play the classic Resident Evil games from a new perspective, instead of just slapping Wii controls onto them. Basically serving as a highlight reel, Umbrella Chronicles does a good job of rewriting classic levels as arcade shooters. Resident Evil is all the more enjoyable without having to fiddle with the tank-like controls from iterations past. By putting the weapons in your hand and letting you loose in the missions, the formula has been streamlined, but the overall experience is straight-up Resident Evil.
Then again, that means that the usual quibbles are still here. Dogs? Still annoying as hell. Nemesis? Still annoying as hell. Zombie sharks? Still absolutely stupid. Resident Evil 0? Still not scary. Then again, leaping zombie sharks are very satisfying to shoot in the face. They’re kind of asking for it. Even with the game’s massive amount of content (even as a rail shooter, you’re looking at a 20+ hour game), it’s a bit of a shame that Resident Evil 2 and 4 didn’t make the cut. Perhaps we’ll see a sequel one day, but for now we’re left without Spanish villages to fight through. What’s there is there, and as silly as Resident Evil can be, there are still some genuine shock moments. The automatic camera has a knack for whipping around and revealing a gurgling member of the undead standing right behind you. Unfortunately, the game relies on these cheap shocks to be ‘scary’, rather than building a mood and actually being disturbing. Since Chronicles is best played with a friend, these jump scenes are sure to elicit a hearty laugh, not a scream.
So what have we covered so far? Rail shooter, zombies, Wii controls. There really isn’t much more to go into. Not that that’s bad at all! It’s just that the game is exceedingly simple. Zombies and guns are usually a winning formula, and the Resident Evil touch just makes it all the better. It makes good use of the Wii’s controls, too. Light-gun games seem perfect for the system, and Umbrella Chronicles is a good example of how to do it right. Given that it’s running on the Wii hardware, the game looks good. Everything is painted in the traditional so-dark-you’ll-think-your-TV-is-black-and-white Resident Evil palette, but it runs smoothly. Granted, it’s not the nicest looking Wii game, even losing a little bit of edge to the Wii port of Resident Evil 4 from a few months ago. It’s impressive how many zombies are displayed on screen. The Resident Evil 3 levels, in particular, earn the title ‘Zombie Genocide’. There’s a good variety of models, too, and there are some stellar reimaginings of classic Resident Evil bosses.
Umbrella Chronicles is a must-purchase for Wii owners. While it isn’t a killer app on the level of Mario Galaxy, it’s probably the best multiplayer game on the system. People with friends, or fans of zombies, action games, or breathing, will get a kick out of the simple and entertaining act of mowing down loads of lumbering corpses. Chock full of bad acting, cheesy writing, and hilariously stupid zombie types (sharks!), Umbrella Chronicles clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously. This best-of Resident Evil collection is a tip of the hat to all of the fans of the series that own a Wii, and it could well make some converts out of the uninitiated. Don’t expect a revolution, but expect a good time. Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles is right on target.