Two player co-op light gun game set in the Resident Evil universe.
Reports of bizarre murders began to surface outside an American Midwestern town. The S.T.A.R.S. Raccoon City Police Department Special Forces send in Bravo Team to investigate the case but engine trouble forces their helicopter to land in the middle of the night in a forest. Bravo Team began to investigate the area and soon found a wrecked prisoner van with the military police officers dead.
Soon after that the newest member of Bravo Team, Rebecca, gets off on her own to investigate an abandoned train – The Ecliptic Express – and that’s where she discovers strange giant leech-like creatures, zombies and the missing convict Billy Coen.
From here all hell breaks loose and after a few incidents the international pharmaceutical Umbrella Corporation is somehow linked to these otherwise unexplainable events and new investigations are started to find those responsible…
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles is a light gun type game where you play as various people in select scenarios from the long running Resident Evil game series. The game is played from a first-person camera view and the ultimate goal of the game is simply to make it to the end of each stage. On your way there you’ll need to shoot zombies and other monsters that come in your way. As such this is a very hectic game that requires precision and quick reactions.
In its core this game is a simplistic arcade style shooter meaning that the game follows a very well-known formula; as a player you only control a cross hair on the screen while the protagonist walks along the stage by itself. If you have a Nunchuk connected you may steer the camera view within strict limits which sadly isn’t very useful at all.
Certain monsters have weak spots so you can learn to kill them easier by studying them and placing some well-aimed shots. The cross hair will change colors when you’re aiming at such a weak spot and if you’re lucky you can get critical hits which can put down even the toughest monsters with ease.
The game takes place in many well-known locations from the previous games Resident Evil 0, Resident Evil and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. If you have played those games you’re sure to feel right at home but in this game the developers have used the opportunity to explore new details within those familiar locations. The game also introduces some new plot lines which are exclusive to this game. This takes the Resident Evil lore further and is perhaps the sole biggest reason to play the game.
During the course of the game you will be faced with many different monsters – not only zombies. Some of the dangers you will be fighting are; giant bees, giant spiders, zombie dogs and other Umbrella research experiments gone wrong.
All in all there are eleven scenarios and ten secret optional sub-scenarios to play. Through the game you will get to play as key characters such as Rebecca Chambers, Jill Valentine, Albert Wesker, Chris Redfield, Carlos Olivera among others.
You will often be swarmed with enemies so you need to have super fast reflexes to keep ahead of all the freaks trying to take a bite out of you. To aid you in this struggle to survive you will be able to find and use numerous items and weapons such as shotguns, sub-machine guns, grenade launchers, magnums and hand grenades. Using the Wii Remote as gun pointing on the screen works effortlessly.
You can also use the knife to deal with close combat encounters. Using the knife will most certainly make you take damage but when it connects with a monster it’s very powerful.
When you are caught by a zombie you can get yourself free by quickly shaking the Wii Remote. Reloading your weapons is also done by shaking the Wii Remote. When your clip runs dry you can simply press the fire trigger to force an auto-reload of the weapon. But this is a vast disadvantage over manual reloading because it is important that your weapons are reloaded and ready at critical moments. Shaking the Wii Remote to reload a weapon will of course mean that you will need to take new aim as your cross hair may very well fly off the screen while you’re reloading.
The game can be played in a co-op mode with two players fighting side by side against the zombie threat. Two players will then share the same health bar but separate inventories, scores, statistics and ranks are kept for each player. Clearly this game is best played in the co-op mode, but the sub-scenarios only supports one player.
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles is pretty challenging to begin with and death can come easy if you’re careless. The scenarios do have check points about half way through that allows you to resume your game from there if you happen to die.
Every now and then during a cutscene you are prompted to quickly press a button in order to escape a threat – failing these tests will typically kill you and force you to replay a section of the scenario which of course feels cheap every time it happens.
There are numerous secrets hiding throughout the stages including health power-ups and archive files containing information about past and recent events in the game world. Finding these will basically require you to shoot every prop you can see in the game world, because that’s where they’re usually located. This takes away some of the atmosphere of the game.
Archive items can also be unlocked by attaining a certain rank (each played scenario will calculate your total score and rank) and are stored in a special menu outside of the game itself. Collecting them will give you a close look on various items, background and story behind key persons and events in the game – typically intended for hard-core fans of the Resident Evil lore. Item collecting seems like a cheap way to try to add replay value to an otherwise typical one-time game. Because of the limited nature of the game replaying the same few stages isn’t very rewarding at all.
Collecting the said items is sadly poorly implemented in the game; once you find an item you must point at it and press the A button. Since you have no direct control over the camera you need to be fast in order to pick the item up to begin with – otherwise the camera tends to look away from the item. If you’re fighting monsters and at the same time try to pick up an item, there’s a risk that you’ll press the A and the B button at the same time, meaning that you’ll unintentionally throw a hand grenade. If you’re playing co-op you won’t have time deciding who shall pick what up; rather, it’s a matter of “finders keepers”.
Between scenarios you will be able to purchase upgrades to your weapons by using special stars that you earn after every completed scenario. The better your rank is, the more stars you will earn.
Weapons will typically start on level 1, and you can upgrade them to level 4, and even level 5 if you fulfill the right criteria. Each weapon must be upgraded individually and typically the first few upgrades are somewhat redundant such as increased ammo capacity and increased clip size. This means that you’ll have to spend lots of hard-earned stars to get the desired fire power upgrades – which in turn means that your only viable option is to keep using the weapons you’ve upgraded, potentially leaving half of your arsenal untouched for the rest of the game.
The game can be played in three different difficulty levels, but it’s obvious that some of the optional side stories are pumped up quite a bit on the difficulty. Overall though the game is manageable if you keep calm and concentrate on placing your shots right – those critical hits can really make a difference! And you’re also pretty much dependent on finding the hidden First Aid Sprays, as they provide you an “extra life” so to speak.
The graphics in this game are mostly really good. The stages all look creepy, so the typical Resident Evil atmosphere is very much intact. A formidable load of work as been put on crafting these levels. There are, however, moments when the lighting looks strange or textures look smudged and blurry. Moreover there are a few occasions when the frame rate suffers some brief slowdowns. Luckily it never hampers your play experience as it only appears to be happening between action scenes; that is, when the game is loading in new sections of the level.
The game is pretty gory, but it’s clear that they have toned the gore down in this one comparing to other Resident Evil games.
The animations are mostly lifelike and convincing, so it’s a blast to watch how the zombies and monsters get hit by your bullets.
The way the camera moves is a mixed bag – some times it feels really natural and fluid, but other times it deliberately looks away from hiding enemies, which just tends to frustrate you as a player.
The soundtrack in this game is very eerie and well done. It does deepen the whole experience and suits the game perfectly – it sounds like it comes from a horror movie.
The voice acting is also a nice effort but it doesn’t coincide at all with what’s happening on the screen. For example, your character can calmly talk and speculate about some unraveling of the Umbrella conspiracy while a huge monster is attacking and big explosions go off in the background. Likewise there are conversations that are hard to follow because it happens to occur at the same time as you’re attacked by monsters.
The other sound effects such as guns and zombie groans are nice though – and there’s also a fair share of sound effects coming from the Wii Remote, which adds some extra feel to the game.
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles is, for what it’s worth, a great co-op light gun type zombie shooting game. But more importantly, this game portrays and deepens many of the key plots previously seen in other Resident Evil games.
Playing through the game will only take about four or five hours, so it does fall a little short – and the archive item unlocking just isn’t motivating enough to justify playing the game over and over again.