Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles Reader Review
Let's get one thing clear from the off. I've been playing the Resident Evil series since it's original Playstation incarnation and I'll be playing it 'til the day I day hoping and praying Jill Valentine has a wardrobe malfunction in the meantime. I know the plotline, as convoluted as it is, and I've seen all the reports and plot-fillers so I have a good understanding of the series and it's progression.
Why am I telling you this? Because I'm about to tell you why Umbrella Chronicles hurts. And hurts like a shotgun blast to the head.
If you're nothing like me and haven't been following the Evil series for the best part of twelve years, be aassured you don't need to know reams of backstory. Chronicles decides to tell the story from the beginning, filling in details from Resident Evil Zero, Resident Evil and Resident Evil 3. It's all a bit dumbed-down, diet if you will - Resident Evil backstory with half the calories - but it's there, it hits the main points well enough and is coherent. Which, to be fair, is pretty difficult when your series covers 12 years and a lot of games and spin-offs (Gaiden not included). Though to be fair, it doesn't compare to the full-fat, calorific full versions.
What appeals to the likes of me is that Chronicles also adds in new stuff - some Ada Wong story. What happened to Rebecca after Zero and before we find her in Spencer Mansion. Ada Wong. Albert Wesker's motives - a new bad guy that Wesker comes to horns with. Did I mention Ada Wong? It's enough to give a new angle on old events - events we have, admittedly, done a few times now... although I still don't think we've done Ada Wong enough...
The gameplay is a bit meh. To be honest, it's hard to believe that Capcom, for all the things at their disposal, can STILL bodge a light-gun shooter. They just can't seem to do it, and whilst Chronicles is easily better than the Survivor series - it's just not good enough. The cursor is a bit slow and sluggish, the Wii Zapper just feels awkward and clumsy and the normal nunchuk method, whilst much better, still feels clunky. You might as well walk around holding up a sign saying, "Zombies, Mutants, Free Lunch!". Thankfully, the checkpoint/restart system is pretty forgiving. It needs to be though to avoid you launching your Wii Remote into your screen in frustration, because on all settings the bosses are stupidly overpowered and the unresponsive controls really do not help.
Also, it must be said - even compared to Resident Evil 4 on the PS2, there are large parts of Chronicles which really aren't up to scratch. At times it's so monotonous and bland you'd swear that your shiny TV is broken because it all seems black and white, when it really isn't - it's just very very dull, bland, uninspired... err... boring. The scenarios are recreated well enough, but seriously, if you're going to do on-rails at least update your freaking textures Capcom! And as for Raccoon City - D-minus Capcom. Come on. You're not even trying. People thought RE4 Wii Edition was milking the golden goose a bit? This must be the last dregs left. Just... ew...
Also, why is it that the whole game feels like it's struggling with its own framerate? The animations, the speed and responsiveness of the cursor and the changing of weapons, it all feels like there's a slight touch of slowdown. This particularly hurts when you have a shotgun in your hands and the game doesn't seem to register your shot going off imnto a zombies face and he gets a free sample of you. Please don't comment to tell me I suck, I know I suck and I don't need you to tell me that but this problem really doesn't help me train my skills up to standard. The game just doesn't ever feel fluid. It never seems to hit that sweet-spot, that magical note that Resdient Evil 4 Wii Edition could hold for 12 hours, shattering every nerve in your body but making you a better person for it.
I also dislike that zombies don't react to you shooting them. Look, I hated the more recent HOTD titles but even they manage to figure out that a user likes to know that a shotgun blast has hit, a bullet has impacted and so forth. Chronicles doesn't give any impression of force used, so you fire and fire and realise even with the poor framerate, the odds of you getting enough shots off to kill anything nasty in time without offering chunks of your flesh as h'orderves. This is of course where the game becomes frustrating more than anything because you know in any other even remotely half-arsed game a well-placed shot might buy you a second or two to get a BLEEPING shot or two for free, or to reload. In a game with these production values, the absence of this kind of balance is unforgivable.
Is there anything I'm missin... oh, yes. Fair play to having a script Capcom but I must apologise, my playtime was hampered quite severely by my sides splitting over the voice acting. Rebecca Chambers sounds like she's not hit puberty, Wesker just sounds forced and the voice acting all over is just abysmal. Budget for Umbrella Chronicles - $1,000,000? Amount of that budget on voice acting - $2.50. Spending hours laughing until you hurt all over - priceless. There are some things money can't buy...
To be kind to Capcom, Umbrella Chronicles is a fair stab at another on-rails shooter - and definintely better than it's earlier attempts. It's just that I don't think they can do it. This is their fifth attempt at it (including Dino Crisis survivor) and it's not really gotten to the same standards that House of the Dead 2 managed to get to. The mechanics are borked, the game has a lot of action but no balance, it can be at times really frustrating and it's hard to put up with all the crap just to hit the sweet spots (Ada Wong).
Capcom just can't do this to save their lives, I'm sorry Capcom. But please stop. You can't do this genre. Do us a favour and remake Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 a'la RE4. And we might forgive you for this game. Whilst the new bits sweeten the mixture, Chronicles is never anything more than another average attempt at a genre that Capcom clearly can't nail.
Play Resident Evil 4. It's a better game.
And you get more Ada Wong for your money.
5 / 10