Once the Resident Evil Zero scenarios are done with, the events of the 1996 classic Resident Evil unfold, this time with Rebecca Chambers side-quests available. But rather than simply work through the entire series, Resident Evil 2 is effectively sidelined into the bonus sections of the Resident Evil 3 chapter, rather than having the full focus it richly deserved. This, along with the complete absence of any of the scenarios of the excellent Resident Evil 4 (or Code Veronica) makes it feel like a needlessly curtailed offering (maybe to leave the door open for a sequel).
As nice as it is to have an all-new (new, as in set in 2003) scenario bolted onto the end of the game, I think most fans would rather this served as a full chronicle of the events of the series, rather than just the selected highlights (and rather brief highlights at that). We were expecting a rather more meaty offering, put it that way.
Naturally for an on-rails shooter, it's an incredibly repetitive experience, and not one you should think about charging through all in one go. Best played in small doses, there's no getting away from the pick up and play intensity that it offers - especially when it really starts to test you with the often monumental boss encounters. The fact that you can play the whole thing in simultaneous two-player co-op adds an extra dimension, too, and it can't be underestimated how much fun you'll get out of it with a pal round for some post-pub frolics.
In terms of how it actually feels to play, the Wii is the perfect home for such a game. On-rails shooters demand absolute precision targeting, and the Wii remote offers that for free. Not having to go out and buy an extra peripheral to play it 'properly' is fantastic news, especially as it's a game that lends itself to two-player fun. As the first 'proper' game to support the Wii Zapper, you can pretend you're pointing a gun at the screen instead of just lazily pointing the remote at the screen, but it's not a game that particularly demands that you point a gun-shaped object at the screen to get the most out of it. If anything, you might actually find it slightly easier to play it without the Zapper; as any light-gun veteran will tell you, holding your arms outstretched for extended periods isn't the most comfortable gaming experience you could ever have. Still, (undead) horses for courses.
As with the Wii edition of Resident Evil 4, you can expect top-notch visuals as an added bonus. Seeing almost the whole series re-rendered in an engine as capable as this makes me wish Capcom would re-issue the entire series like this. Presented in 480p widescreen, it's definitely one of the better Wii titles to date - though doesn't quite match the ambition of 4, if only because there's an evident desire to keep things recognisably consistent with how you remember them. On the downside, I did notice a few glitchy moments, and odd texturing, but such nitpicking is overwhelmed by the generally exceptional character model excellence and the hugely atmospheric locations throughout. As for the soundtrack, though - what were they thinking? It seems entirely at odds with the action for the most part, and does absolutely nothing to enhance the ambience.
Needless to say, Umbrella Chronicles isn't the most long-lasting affair, and in absolute gameplay terms it's probably one of the most wafer thin offerings you'll have experienced for years. But in a landscape dominated by epic, sprawling complexity, it's refreshing now and then to kick back and blast away in a game that's as knowingly brain-dead as this. The Resident Evil fans will lap it up, and those of you that fancy a good old fashioned arcade-style zombie blaster can't go wrong. Admittedly it's not everything it could have been, but taken at face value Umbrella Chronicles is a huge amount of fun while it lasts. Having taken a few left turns over the years with the various Gun Survivor titles, it's good to see Capcom come up with an on-rails game which does everything it should.
7 / 10