Ever since it unveiled a version of Resident Evil Zero running on the N64, Capcom has played a vital - if largely unsuccessful - role in convincing the more hardcore gamer that Nintendo's latest chunk of hardware isn't just one for the kids. Maybe Resident Evil 4 didn't drag them over in their millions to the Gamecube from the PS2, but it proved that that cute little box could handle cutting-edge graphics and next-generation gameplay just as well as Sony and Microsofts' hardware of the same period. Unsurprisingly, then, there was a frisson of excitement when Capcom announced a brand new Resident Evil, Umbrella Chronicles, for the Wii. Given the astonishing success of the system and the power of the brand post-RE4, it seemed like the stars might finally be aligning for the Nintendo/Capcom alliance.
Equally unsurprisingly, disappointment followed the news that Umbrella Chronicles is not a traditional Resident Evil game - nor as some hoped a Metroid-style Wii FPS. Instead, it's a straight-up, ride the rails lightgun shooter, using the Wii remote instead of a plastic pistol. We've seen this approach before in the Dead Aim/Gun Survivor RE offshoots, but it's still hard not to feel a little sad that what we're left with is just a glorified light gun game. On the plus side, it is one that offers a whistle stop tour through and behind the scenes of Resident Evil Zero, 1 and 3, with nods to 2, 4 and Code Veronica. The question is, once you get past the fact that it's not quite what you hoped for, is Umbrella Chronicles good for what it is?
Well, it's certainly good looking. Resident Evil 4 was probably the visual highlight of the Gamecube's short existence, and still puts most of the Wii's line-up to shame today. Umbrella Chronicles is basically the same. Perhaps there's not the quality of lighting and texture that we expect from today's PS3 and 360 big-hitters, but the characters and backgrounds seem to have more detail and surface grit than we see in other Wii games, and some of the wet surface effects and melodramatic lighting schemes still hold up in an age when Crysis, Bioshock and Uncharted rule the graphics roost. If anything, you're left wondering why nobody seems able to make a Wii FPS that looks this good - with the possible exception of Metroid Prime: Corruption.
The Wii remote actually works fairly well as a lightgun. Pointing it controls the onscreen sight as your character trundles along his preset path through the level, and you fire with the B trigger while using the A button to pick up power-ups. Press A and swipe the remote and you slash with your knife at close quarters. Press A and then B and you can throw grenades. You can cycle between your main pistol (hurrah for unlimited ammo) and other weapons using the D-pad, and also use the nunchuk analogue stick to shift your view slightly (though it's not usually worth bothering with). The almost constant pumping of the B trigger does result in an attack of the stiff and painful crab-hands after an hour or two of play, but arguably Umbrella Chronicles is a game to dip in and out of rather than dedicate whole days to in any case.