EDGE REVIEW: Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles
The Resident Evil series doesn’t have a great track record with lightgun games – can Umbrella Chronicles buck the trend?
Often the Survivor offshoots are little more than poor trundles wedded to a setting reminiscent of, but not directly connected to, the ongoing series. The Umbrella Chronicles aims to offer a more competent shooting experience set within the earlier games of the series, both expanding and concluding a particular story arc that has always been in the background: the fall of Umbrella.
Because of this, RE2, RE4 and RE: Code Veronica are not featured, the emphasis being on the incidents and fallout from the Arklay Mansion and Raccoon City storylines. The game begins with RE Zero, offering truncated versions of particular settings from that game, bookended by expository cutscenes and full of information files that can be picked up for backstory, and continues in much the same manner through the stories of Resident Evil 1 and 3, before ending with a new storyline centered on Chris, Jill and Albert Wesker. In terms of the storyline, the game’s a love letter to fans, with hints and mysteries from the series explained and dispelled, new information filling in blanks you never knew were there, and all loose ends generally tied up. So far, so expected.
Those zombie flavorings aside, though, The Umbrella Chronicles stands up surprisingly well as a simple shooter. The controls work as simply and efficiently as they should, with QTE moments of shakes and single button-presses, and easy navigation through weapons. The faults that do exist, minor though they are, come from design. The impact of your handgun never feels weighty, and lining up headshots is particularly difficult (though always worthwhile to see a zombie head flopping uselessly from the neck).
The window of opportunity for destroying a location’s scenery, essential for finding items, also seems cruelly small on the occasions when a specific file is being hunted down. And the bosses prove to be relatively simple to take out after their too-familiar attack patterns become clear, while having your companion shouting ‘Hit their weak point!’ is as cringeworthy as some of RE1’s dialogue.
Visually the game is a more than solid effort, and the atmospheric locations and grisly enemies are particularly praiseworthy in the context of other thirdparty Wii efforts. The camerawork throughout is excellent, and goes some way to solving one of the main conceptual problems associated with Resident Evil gun games: that is, somehow grafting a tense horror atmosphere to the immediate gory thrills and threats necessary for the shooting experience. And in terms of atmosphere, special mention must be made of the voice-acting in one particular scenario involving Hunk: so often the bane of the series, here it provides some dramatic moments as his radio intercepts a number of desperate pleas from those trying to survive in the midst of the zombie plague, including his dying teammates.
The Umbrella Chronicles will inevitably attract attention for its roots above all other considerations, but it’s a good game on its own terms, bringing together distinct genres and making it all work. It’s not an essential title, but its atmosphere and one or two moments that wouldn’t have worked in any other context make it a fine adjunct to the main series.
Verdict: 7 / 10