Genre: Survival Horror
Release Date: Q4 2007
The really weird thing about Resident Evil 4, besides the mutated Spanish villagers, the giant acid-spitting bugs, the terracotta midget statue, and really, now that I think about it, the entire game, was how it started. After nine games and several remakes where the Umbrella corporation was the RE series' main villain, it was unceremoniously destroyed in RE4's opening cinematic.
Of course, those of you who've beaten RE4, as well as the PS2/Wii bonus scenario Separate Ways, know that it wasn't quite so cut and dried as that. Umbrella is still around; it's just not operating openly.
One of the goals of Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles is to bridge the gap between the series' status quos, taking Umbrella from a pharmaceutical megacorporation with a hidden agenda to the secret criminal society Albert Wesker is building.
To do that, Umbrella Chronicles takes the player across a series of flashback missions, starting at the Spencer mansion in the original Resident Evil, and featuring scenarios from RE2, RE3, and oddly, Resident Evil Zero. (Maybe they'll finally get around to explaining where the blue hell Rebecca Chambers has been since RE; she vanishes without a trace after that game, for some reason.) Early reports that one of the scenarios would be based on RE4 seem to have been disproven.
UC plays out a little like the Gun Survivor series (the best of which was released over here as Resident Evil: Dead Aim). Most of the time, the action's in first person, with the Wiimote serving as an improvised light gun. You have access to a handgun with infinite ammunition, and can acquire weapons from your surroundings such as shotguns, machine guns, and hand grenades; many are hidden behind destructible objects, Time Crisis or House of the Dead-style. Those weapons have a finite amount of ammunition, but offer more punch and tactical utility than the handgun does. You can also acquire herbs, which instantly restore health and cannot be kept in reserve.
Naturally, you'll be up against the trademark monsters and zombies from the Resident Evil universe. Headshots work, with the onscreen crosshairs flashing red to indicate you're pointing your remote at the "sweet spot" on a zombie's skull, but they're trickier than you'd think. Unless you have the hand-eye coordination of a brain surgeon, you're usually better off emptying your weapons into a zombie's center of mass. If a zombie gets close enough to you to latch on, you can often get it off of you with a point-blank bullet or two; characters also have access to special counterattacks. In the playable E3 demo, Jill had access to a taser gun, which instantly dropped any zombie that got too close to her.
Chris and Jill are playable during the RE scenario, and at E3, a short segment of the RE3 scenario was playable, with Jill and Carlos Oliviera shooting their way through the streets of a zombie-infested Raccoon City. (Here's an interesting note for the fans: Jill and Carlos' route takes them through the alleyways behind J's Bar, as seen in the first level of Resident Evil: Outbreak. This game seems to be full of small shout-outs like that.)
Graphically, the game's models resemble those of the GameCube Resident Evils. UC is an unapologetic rail shooter, allowing you to look around a bit but not to backtrack, with what dialogue there is often taking place during pitched shootouts. If you were one of the fans who complained about RE4 not really being survival horror, UC will give you even more problems.
What's really odd about Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, though, is how long it's taken for someone to do a light gun game on the Wii. UC is a pretty good representative of the genre, although it isn't quite as fast-paced or over the top as some recent arcade games (of course, the final version could have you shooting missiles out of the air as Nemesis fires them at you, in which case you should forget I ever wrote this). Combine that with the obvious appeal of Resident Evil and another hilarious series of attempts to close the series' many and varied plot holes, and the result should be interesting to watch.
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