Genre: Light Gun Shooter
Release Date: Summer 2007
The Resident Evil light gun spin-offs have never been as universally accepted as the main series entries. Resident Evil Survivor for PSone was absolutely savaged by critics, and while Resident Evil: Dead Aim fared better on the PlayStation 2, it still failed to develop a positive consensus among those who bothered to pick it up. It's natural to approach Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles with significant trepidation, but the potential for success here seems higher than in previous entries. With a strong reliance on existing content and a welcome focus on the unexplored mythology of the franchise, Umbrella Chronicles may be one spin-off that doesn't disgrace the series from which it originated.
Umbrella Chronicles is, at first glance, rather similar to the House of the Dead series, but there's a bit more in the way of interaction that sets the title apart from previous horror shooters. Thanks to the infrared pointer on the Wiimote, a separate light gun accessory is no longer a necessary purchase, and its motion-sensing abilities allow gamers to merely flip or shake the controller to reload.
At key moments in the campaign, players will be prompted to hit the A button (or perhaps another button) to dodge an attack or activate something that will move the story along. Though movement is automatic (as is typical for the genre), you will be able to look around with the analog stick, which may reveal power-ups and weapons that you can fire at to obtain. The fully 3D environments (not pre-rendered) are highly interactive, as you can shoot down picture frames and lights, among other background elements.
Story elements were tough to come by at Capcom's Gamers Day event, but it has been revealed that the game will focus on the supposed downfall of the Umbrella Corporation. One very telling quote flashed across the screen during the presentation: "Witness the end of Umbrella." Though the narrative has yet to be fully fleshed out, Capcom did reveal several key details about the environments and the characters we can expect to populate them.
The short playable demo prepared for the event took place within the all-too-familiar mansion from the original Resident Evil. In fact, the visuals were carried over from the Resident Evil remake for GameCube, though it was not clear if they would be replaced for the final version. While the mansion was the only setting on display at the event, the final game will cover quite a bit more material and run in 16:9 widescreen at 480p.
Environments and characters from Resident Evil 2, 3: Nemesis, and Zero will also be represented, including parts of Raccoon City. Perhaps more interestingly, an entirely new setting will be utilized for some of the more crucial moments in the game. The Umbrella Stronghold, which was not shown at the event, is said to contain several secrets about past events in the Resident Evil lineage. Series aficionados can expect to play as, or interact with, several primary and supporting characters from the aforementioned games, including Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, Albert Wesker, Rebecca Chambers, Billy Coen, and Carlos Oliviera.
It took less than 15 minutes to play through the demo prepared for Gamers Day, but it provided a good look at the current core gameplay experience. Starting on the ground floor of the mansion, I was quickly whisked up the stairs and through several rooms until I was staring down a monstrous snake. In this situation, I had to wear down the boss a bit before I could climb a ladder and shoot down a chandelier to end the battle (and the demo).
When using the basic pistol, the firearm seemed inaccurate and ineffective at taking down oncoming enemies, but that could be polished up by the time the title hits store shelves. Headshots were few and far between, but the acquisition of a shotgun and a submachine gun really increased its speed and playability, as I could easily blow through zombies and rabid dogs alike. Aside from the three weapons in the demo, the final version is expected to contain rocket launchers, grenades, a knife, and more.
If narrative and storytelling are expected to be core elements of Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, then the demo shown at Gamers Day may not have been especially representative of what is to come. Based on what I saw, Umbrella Chronicles could be a decent arcade-style popcorn shooter.
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