Guest Author - James Shea
Unlike the main games of the Resident Evil series, "Umbrella Chronicles" for the Nintendo Wii is a rail shooter, not unlike House of the Dead or Time Crisis. It's not unprecedented, though; there have been several Resident Evil rail shooter games before in the form of the "Resident Evil: Survivor" sub-series.
Umbrella Chronicles goes back to various points in the series - from Resident Evil Zero to Resident Evil 3 - revisiting scenes with established characters. The characters that can be used are dependent on what section of the story is being played. For example, in the early sections based on Resident Evil Zero, the characters from that game (Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen) can be chosen. However, the actual characters chosen don't have a huge impact on the game, since the entire thing is done from a first-person perspective; the only attack that lets you see your character is the "counterattack", which is unique for each character and briefly zooms out the camera to play a short cinematic before getting back to the first-person action.
The gameplay itself should be familiar to any rail shooter fan. Basically, it's a first person shooter minus the use of your legs - your character moves around automatically, and you, the player, are only responsible for shooting the things in their way. Using either the Wii remote or the Zapper accessory, the player moves the reticule around and targets enemies on the screen. There are a few different weapons in the game; the infinite-ammo handgun, the powerful but slow shotgun, the high-speed submachine gun, and the explosive grenade launcher are but some of the game's weapon types. In addition, there are two non-gun weapon types: the knife, which strikes quickly at close-range enemies, and grenades, which are limited in supply but do large amounts of damage to enemies in a wide range.
Dodging enemy attacks is done through quicktime events or, in most cases, simply shooting the monster before they can get their attack off. On-screen prompts will tell to press a button or wave the Wii remote for certain types of attacks (boss attacks, enemy grapples), but most of them simply cannot be dodged unless you shoot the enemy before they can attack.Environments can be interacted with in a limited fashion. Shooting open crates will reveal items that can be picked up - weapons, ammo, health, or files. There are two kinds of health - herbs, which give immediate revival, and first-aid sprays, which act as extra lives, taking effect automatically if the player is reduced to zero health. The last interactive part of the game is doors. Some doors can be shot open to reveal alternate paths; these doors will highlight when moused over, but generally they're discovered accidentally - there's no big indicator saying "Secret door over here." Alternate paths have different items and monsters, so in some cases finding a secret door can be a big help.
The gameplay handling is okay, but not great. There is a big discrepancy between basic zombies and other monsters that tend to have armored points and unblockable techniques. The former can be easily dispatched with a few headshots; the latter tend to require reflexes faster than actual reloading can allow for in a lot of cases. Furthermore, with the rareness of checkpoints in levels, dying can be a major setback and source of frustration.
The game does feature co-op gameplay, though, which adds to its old-school appeal. Not all modes and levels support co-op, though there is an unlockable form of co-op that expands the range of levels that can be played with 2 players.
The graphics and sound are hardly worth noting; neither has really improved from Gamecube incarnations of the series like Resident Evil 4 or Resident Evil Zero. They're not bad, just not particularly impressive, either. There's no really noteworthy music, and the voice acting is as hammy and overplayed as it usually is. If you don't take it seriously, the voice acting isn't too bad.
As a whole, the game is kind of an annoyance to play. Despite the old-school roots, Umbrella Chronicles screws too much up to really be fun. The inclusion of co-op is nice, but there's not that much substance to the game overall. If you're an old-school rail-shooter fan, then it's all right; otherwise, there's not a lot that's new or inventive about it.