The gameplay for Umbrella Chronicles is incredibly simple – which is pretty much a requisite of the light-gun genre. There are two basic controls which players have to master – point and shoot.
Without the zapper, players use the Wiimote in their dominant hand and use the trigger to fire while the nunchuck goes in the other hand and is used for looking around. Don’t get too excited by the prospect of actually being able to control your FOV in an on-rails game though – you can only ever change your view by a few degrees and once the game sets you moving you can’t stop yourself. There’s nothing as sophisticated as turning around on the spot.
I didn’t honestly see the point of being able to look around in the game. It’s occasionally useful for a last minute attempt to grab a power-up, but rarely does it actually help at all. I can only liken it to being pushed along in a wheelchair whilst paralysed when you find out that you’ve got feeling restored in your left arm – only to find that that arm is tied down. It’s an unusual analogy, I grant you, but accurate.
The controls do actually get a little bit more involving as the game moves forward. Unlike most games of the genre where players have only a single, fast-firing pistol and the occasional non-reloadable guns, Umbrella Chronicles lets players amass quite an arsenal.
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Every character starts off with two firearms – a pistol with unlimited ammo which is slow-firing and weak, and a more powerful primary attack which has finite ammo. Most of the time the primary weapon is either a shotgun or a machine gun and both of these behave as you’d predict in terms of range, accuracy and power. More ammo and extra weapons can be found by grabbing them from smashed parts of the environment by using the A button, and players can carry a large number of weapons if they are quick enough.
There’s a whole load of different power-ups and extra lives available to quick fingered players, including Umbrella icons which unlock extra files and backstory.
There are also a few secondary weapons which can be pulled out for the most dire of emergencies or the smartest of makeovers. Grenades are rarely unearthed, but prove excellent for crowd-control and are thrown by pressing both A and B whilst swinging the Wiimote – something which took me a while to get used to.
Then there is the knife, which is mostly good for hacking at leeches and bats that cling to the screen. Swinging a blade is something which sounds like fin, but in-game is enormously disappointing because it’s so easy. Just hold A and swing the controller around – a mechanic which is pleasantly easy to get to grips with, but awfully easy to exploit.
The only thing stopping you from killing some enemies without firing a shot is the strength of your wrist muscles and, since the target audience for the game is a load of Resident Evil obsessed geeks…well, you can probably see where I’m going with this.
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The one thing which does stand out as a little bit interesting and new for Umbrella Chronicles is that the weapons can be upgraded between levels via points. The number of points which you can plough into your weapons is based solely on your performance and accuracy in the game, and can be used to increase the weapon's reload speed or firepower.
Umbrella Chronicles makes use of the motion sensitive aspects of the controller in some areas, and there are more than a few sequences where players will have to shake the controller or bash the buttons in order to avoid an enemy or dodge a hazard. It’s something which gets very tired and dull after more than a few times – especially since the instruction is given to you at the bottom of the screen and it rarely corresponds to the required action. I, for one, never try to escape zombies by hammering ‘A’ or shaking my left hand.
However, the main problem I had with the game was the difficulty. I played it on the default, normal skill setting and I struggled to make it past the first boss for the first hour or two. Finally, when I did crack it, it was more because I’d memorised the sequence of attacks than because of any really talent.
As I delved further into Umbrella Chronicles I found that the pace rarely let up and I was forced to rely more and more on my shotgun and machine gun – leaving my ammo depleted by the time I reached a really hard stage or boss battle. When you’re forced into using the handgun, you really notice how pixel-perfect the game requires you to be.
The game does try to help you out by flashing the crosshair when you hit an enemy's weak spot, but there’s often so much happening on the screen that you don’t have time to soak up the information.