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Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles is a 2007 rail shooter released for the Nintendo Wii. It explores the events of classic survival zombie horror titles Resident Evil 0, Resident Evil I, and Resident Evil III, as well as touching briefly on Resident Evil II.
The player assumes the roles of myriad classic characters from the franchise, including Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Ada Wong, and, for the first time ever... brace yourself, Albert Wesker. I didn't know anyone who played through Resident Evil I without wondering what it would be like to see the events through Wesker's standard-issue Umbrella sunglasses, and now you can.
The player blasts their way through dozens and dozens of levels, revisiting environments from all of the games, with quite a few more added in. The player also, by virtue of the incredibly destructible and immersive environments, can uncover text files along the way which detail the downfall of the Umbrella Corporation. These can later be looked at, (as well as various trophies in the form of collectible items from the previous games,) in the Archives section of the game's menu. These are well-written and quite expositional, so unlike most unlockables in this sort of game, they're actually worth unlocking, as are the hidden levels.
The levels are, interestingly enough, played out through solo or multiplayer modes. For example you might play as "Chris and Jill" or "Rebecca and Richard" or just "Rebecca" or "Wesker," depending on how many of you are playing. This hasn't to my knowledge, been done before in a rail shooter, and works really well.
Multiplayer is great, and encourages a lot of teamwork which is always a good thing. Sometimes you'll even find yourself occasionally barking orders at your fellow player. Perhaps the holy grail of the game is that difficulty is actually accounted for by changing the enemy's defensive and offensive power depending on whether one person is playing or two. I always found it quite unforgiveable that House of The Dead: Overkill, and Dead Space: Extraction didn't bother examining this, but thankfully, Umbrella Chronicles does.
There's some cool, very tactile melee attacks and counterattacks, as well as a pretty extensive arsenal of upgradable\customizable weaponry; assault shotguns, magnums, grenades and missile launchers, Capcom really haven't missed a trick on this one. Sound effects are all very visceral, and critical hits are a lot of fun to shoot for. It really feels like you're firing a gun, which is why if you're going to play this title, it is DEFINITELY worth investing in a light gun or even two. Personally, I would recommend the House of The Dead: Hand-Cannon or the Nyko Perfect Shot to give a much more authentic combat experience. No light-gun shooter of this kind has such intuitive controls. Trust me, I've played them all.
The game's graphics look nothing short of fantastic. There's plenty of variation in enemies, especially zombie skins\costumes, and there's endless fun to be had assigning nicknames to different ones, especially when they look like people you know. For such an early engine too, the physics look completely realistic. You'd be hard pressed to find any graphical glitches, bugs or crashes of any kind. This is a title that's obviously been beta-tested into the ground.
It's got to be said that in terms of longevity, you won't get much better than this. As a seasoned first-person shooter gamer, it took me over thirty hours of game-time just to finish it, very impressive for a spin-off rail shooter. Character development is also quite good and for once Capcom is using voice actors who they didn't just drag in off the street. Strangely enough though, they've changed Wesker's voice to a sort of low-pitched, camp, wisecracking tone, and given him perhaps the thickest posh English accent I've ever heard. (After all, all evil geniuses are always British.)
The scoring system Is great, and it's got to be said that it's highly addictive too. You are graded on your performance throughout each level and chapter, from the shameful 'C' grade to that highly elusive 'S' grade. Factors that determine this include things like amount of headshots, (going for headshots is so much fun.,) clear time, enemies killed, and files collected. This adds to replayability to no end, given the amount of unlockable content that no fan of the franchise should by any means sniff at.
Unlike its successor, Darkside Chronicles, which I have to say is much less entertaining and wholly more juvenile, Umbrella Chronicles is an intelligent, well-layered, original approach to the format, with hours of fun to be had, an immersive storyline, and superb graphics and visuals, definitely the superior game. The amount of features that UC has that it would have been just fine without definitely shows it to be a labour of love. Changes in costume, slight variation in weaponry, and individual skills possessed by all the playable characters simply warms the heart of any Resident Evil veteran or newcomer. It's great.
Linear as it is, the entirely on-rails style actually enhances the level of fear and impending dread. The graphics, weapons, terrifying atmosphere, ambient lighting and great character development utterly encapsulate the feel of the Resident Evil franchise. When you're in the Mansion, it totally feels like you're in the mansion, when you're traversing the burning rubble of Raccoon City, the same. Excellent environments and flawless attention to detail.
So much focus and care has been paid to the design and style of this game that it simply can't be faulted on any plausible grounds. I wholeheartedly recommend this title to any fans of the franchise, or even just first-person shooter enthusiasts, since an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Resident Evil canon is definitely no prerequisite to enjoy this faithful spin-off title in its entirety. It's without a doubt one of the best games for the Wii. Buy it.
Summary: A superb rail port with great longevity, perfectly capturing the atmosphere of the earlier games.
Pictures of Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (Wii)