Umbrella Chronicles is a fairly important game for me. Not only have I recently had my interest in the Resident Evil franchise revived thanks to Deadly Silence (a game which I finally got around to playing on the Nintendo DS), but Umbrella Chronicles also marks my first chance to use the gun-like Wii Zapper.
The game itself is essentially a more action-oriented remake of past Resident Evil games, eschewing the third-person survival horror tactic for more of an on-rails light-gun game.
Think House of the Dead but with…well, no, actually – just think House of the Dead. The two are pretty much the same.
The game covers the official Resident Evil canon, starting from the Resident Evil Zero prequel and continuing through the first, second and third games. The final stages of the game then move to a more original setting with new story stages set about a year prior to the events of Resident Evil 4.
I love zombies
The fact that Umbrella Chronicles is both a remake and an original game is one of the major strengths of the game as a whole and means that fans will get what they want no matter what their preferences are.
If you’re of the opinion that the Resident Evil series is getting too bloated for its own good – fifteen games total, plus movies and novels – then you’ll like that the Umbrella doesn’t squash even more complexities in until right at the end. If you’re a true series fanatic though then you’ll be able to lap up the extra material and unlockable information like the zombie dog you probably wish you were.
Of course, this is a Resident Evil game – so don’t expect the story telling to be flawless or even well acted. Check out this old footage, if you dare be reminded of how truly awful the voice performances were.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’re a stickler for tradition), Umbrella Chronicles lives up to the same low standard of acting and story-telling. Cinematic scenes tend to be long periods of nothingness, followed by some flaccid commentary. It’s something which is showcased excellently in one of the opening levels where Rebecca and Billy from Resident Evil Zero are attacked by a crab-like zombie monster while on board a train.
Once again, they have entered the mansion thanks to Jill, the Master of Unlocking!
There’s a staged pause as players are moved along a walkway, watching the wall on their immediate right of course instead of looking straight ahead. A scorpion claw rips downwards through the metal ceiling. The viewpoint dodges. There is a pause. Then, there is a longer pause.
“There is…something on the ceiling,” yells Rebecca, following the redundant comment up with a burst of emotion; “!!”.
Now, I’m saying this partly as a bad point and partly as a good point. Sure, the acting is terrible and the storyline is now so convoluted and cliché that it’s practically a parody of itself, but at the same time there’s also something warm and pleasingly nostalgic about the whole affair. It subtracts from immersion, but pays back in humour and familiarity.
It’s not like any on-rails light-gun shooter was ever really going to get truly innovative anyway, so what was actually a weakness for past Resident Evil games has actually become a sensible strength for Umbrella Chronicles. Or at least, it does as long as you don’t take it all too seriously.