Friday, March 13, 2009

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (Wii) Review

I'm slowly moving the review database to SuperPhillip Central, leaving the Invisionfree forum as but a memory. Not only is today the release date of Resident Evil 5, but just recently this week it was announced that the sequel to Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (the subject of this review) is going to be hitting the Wii. Let's take a look back at this on-rails shooter.

Resident Evil: House of the Dead

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The light-gun genre-- a once prevalent form of gaming dating back decades. The genre has since been gunned down essentially, but with the Nintendo Wii's new motion sensing capabilities and most notably IR pointing, a cornucopia of light-gun shooters have gone locked and loaded. Old arcade shooters have gotten a new life such as Konami's Target Terror and Sega's two titles, Ghost Squad and The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return-- the latter of which is most similar to Capcom's newest entry into its long-running and highly-acclaimed Resident Evil franchise in the form of The Umbrella Chronicles. Now, when one thinks of Resident Evil they most likely think of the free-roaming, tank control-using, horror-fest of the main series, so how do you turn a series like Resident Evil and make it work as an on-rails shooter? Well, to put it simply, wonderfully, but not without a few bumps in the residential road.

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Zombies. Had a feeling you'd show up.

As the name implies, Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles details the fall of the once powerful pharmaceutical firm, Umbrella. The Umbrella Chronicles has you playing through the events of Resident Evil 0, the original Resident Evil, Resident Evil 3, and a whole new scenario where Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield with a team of special agents infiltrate an arctic base. There's the standard missions where you play as one of the main characters, but there's also side missions that can be unlocked which delve deeper into the story. These allow you to discover what our old buddy Wesker was up to behind the scenes, and they also give you the chance to take command of Richard Aiken, the doomed S.T.A.R.S. soldier who accompanied Rebecca Chambers during the mansion incident only to heroically be slain by a gargantuan snake. Additionally, there are files scattered throughout the game's levels to collect, each revealing detailed information regarding the plot, characters, and enemies.

Most rail shooters can be completed in the span of an hour. Blast away this notion when referring to The Umbrella Chronicles. This game will take hours and hours to fully complete. A standard mission (there's twelve main story missions total) usually takes anywhere from ten to twenty minutes on your first run through. You'll most likely get caught up, possibly die, or get stuck in a heated boss battle, so the duration can go up exponentially. The aforementioned side stories add another dozen to already impressive amount of missions to play through and/or master. While these side missions include tougher enemy groups and new boss battles, a lot of the areas you pass through are recycled from the main stages offering less new sites to see but new dangers to watch out for all the same.

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Not outnumbered, just out-zombied.

You'll want to gun through levels multiple times as not only are there three difficulty modes to shoot through but high scores to attain and grade rankings at the conclusion of each mission to score. These rankings (C-S) give you stars which can be used to upgrade your firearms to give more ammo and increase reload speed. Additionally, there's branching paths in many of the missions giving players the option of where they want to move to, and some paths are more perilous than others. Players will want to return to stages to uncover secret files hidden inside various objects such as paintings, vases, light bulbs, and small furniture.

Many dangers come crawling, limping, leaping, flying and puking-- yep, puking. The Umbrella Chronicles commands that not only that you have a fast trigger-finger but an accurate one as well. All enemies have weak points that can be shot at to immediately dispose of them such as shooting the edge of the top of a zombie's head to explode his mushy cranium (or what's left of it). The aiming recticle will grow into a larger red ball when your aim is hovering over a monster's weakpoint. And if your handgun isn't cutting the job (it's the only weapon that can score critical hits), during each mission you can pick up new guns such as shotguns, machine guns, and grenade launchers to add to your arsenal of firepower.

Controls are very good and quite responsive-- the "thank God" aspect of a shooter. You aim with the Wii remote, fire with the B trigger, pick up loot with the A button such as files, ammo, health, and grenades, shake the Wii remote to reload, cycle through weapons with the d-pad, and hold A and press B to toss a helpful grenade or hold A to draw out your trusty and rusty knife for close encounters of the macabre kind. But wait, there's more! Umbrella Chronicles borrows from Resident Evil 4's repertoire by having quick time events. These are events where you must press the specified button (or waggle accordingly) when prompted in order to dodge an attack or evade a foe. These can get frustrating when you're going for a perfect run and have one going, only to screw up a QTE and die because of it-- costing you your time bonus. It doesn't happen often if you pay enough attention, but it's happened to me and it's maddening when you fail from that. You can even utilize the Wii Zapper for this title, and it works rather well. You need not sacrifice your aim just to reload; you just need to shake the nunchuk. However, when it comes down to it, the normal Wii remote/nunchuk combo works all the same, if not better.

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When a zombie grabs you,
initiate the right button/waggle to counter!

And if you can take a break from gunning down zombies, giant spiders, and other nasties, you can appreciate the presentation of The Umbrella Chronicles. It's an impressive title in this regard. I was worried that an on-rails shooter would abandon the fear I felt from the traditional Resident Evil titles. There's less moments of feeling unnerved, but there were some occasions when I first played missions that were tense-- slowly peering around a corner not knowing what kind of monstrosity was on the other side waiting for me. And in Resident Evil, you could run from your opponent when you felt overwhelmed. This isn't the case in Umbrella Chronicles. You're stuck where the game takes you, and your aim is all that prevents you from coming to an untimely end. Oh, crap! That crimson head is charging right for me! You know, for a game that was supposed to be designed as a rail-shooter to be easier for the casual gamer, this game's quite difficult-- even on easy!

As if the usual normal enemies weren't enough, Umbrella Chronicles throws into the mix some incredibly intense boss battles to cap off almost every mission. These range from mainstays like Nemesis (necessary "STAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARS!!!" mention), the giant scorpion from the train of Resident Evil 0, and everyone's favorite snake, Yawn. This is definitely where your precision comes in. Most boss attacks can only be stopped by shooting at the boss' weakpoint, otherwise you'll get damaged by their attack. Don't worry if you have to repeat these encounters just so you have an idea of what to do-- I struggled a bunch at some of the battles. There's also a cooperative mode that local players can join. This makes enemy encounters much easier, but players share the same life bar. Also, both have to dodge attacks, so both players need to stay sharp.

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Crimson Heads are much faster and more aggressive than normal zombies.

While the graphics aren't up to Resident Evil 4's standards (which is odd since RE4 is pretty much an ancient title), they do have a lot going for them and are a pleasure to look at. Enemies are detailed, environments are nice, and they have a lot to shoot at and destroy. Lighting is very good as well, especially when you're in the dark and all you have is a flashlight to illuminate the way. There are some things that are bothersome though. There's leeches, bats, and bugs that you have to slice away from your face with the knife which sort of destroys any feel of immersion going on. Also, the vomit-puking zombies are a pain to deal with, but the vomit the project can be shot to be eliminated. Uh... what?

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles may not be perfect, but it's one of the content-heavy rail-shooters on the market. It's an excellent pick-up for any Wii owner, it beckons the player to invest countless hours just to fully experience it, and it's a welcome addition to the mithos of Resident Evil and for the fan who can't stop updating that damn timeline! I highly recommend this game to anyone searching for a quality third-party Wii title.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really only like this game for the fact that it's Resident Evil. It's not a bad game, but Overkill is so much better. But I don't have a House of the Dead tattoo. Might have to work on that...

-Zac Pritcher