Luckily, four things redeem Umbrella Chronicles and help save it from my own gaming Room 101. First, it’s a lot of fun with two players, partly because having two guns on screen relieves some of the pressure during the aforementioned irritating boss battles, and partly because the air of competition added makes the whole experience more exciting. Secondly, it’s pretty sensible about checkpoints, throwing in a save point halfway through each level plus restart points before or after major encounters. Thirdly, it’s actually a fairly decent length, with three main ‘acts’ divided into multiple chapters and based on RE Zero, RE1 and RE3, plus a fourth new act that takes the story on to the period between RE3 and RE4, and several extra chapters that flesh out the whole RE chronology from the Umbrella point of view. There’s even plenty of replay value for any sharpshooters who can dedicate themselves to achieving the top S ranking in every single chapter.
But it’s my fourth factor that will make Umbrella Chronicles an essential purchase for any long-time RE fanatic. What could have been a throwaway shooter with only a tangential relationship to the series is actually brilliantly integrated with the whole RE narrative. It’s fun to re-explore the old games from a new perspective (even if it’s all a bit puzzle-free and rushed) but the new chapters, many featuring Resident Evil’s resident bad-ass Alfred Wesker, do a great job of bringing the whole story together from its earliest days to the end of the mighty RE4.
Let’s not get carried away here. Umbrella Chronicles still leaves you wishing for a proper Wii RE, still action-packed and with the same visual clout, but with puzzles and plotlines worthy of the series. In fact, you can’t help feeling that, having put so much effort into the environments, Capcom could have given us that Metroid-style first-person RE. But when it comes to it, bar those *%~##@@!! boss battles, Umbrella Chronicles is still a lot of fun. It will keep Wii action fans and RE cultists busy over Christmas, and help alleviate the wait for Resident Evil 5.
Of course we would have preferred a proper Resident Evil or even a new first-person spin, but if we must have a light-gun game at least Umbrella Chronicles is a good one. Prepare for a few tricky moments, but otherwise sit back, take aim and enjoy the ride.