Thursday, May 2, 2013

VGR Umbrella Chronicles

I promise I will be going back to the main Resident Evil series pretty soon and finally finish up those on-going reviews.

...But first, allow me this slight detour to refresh things up!

VGR: Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles aka Biohazard: The Umbrella Chronicles 
From Cavia/Capcom
Played on Wii
Also available on PS3

Type Rail shooter
Year 2007

Now that both Keiji Inafune and Shinji Mikami have left Capcom, the main Resident Evil series has "evolved" (to put it kindly) into a more action-oriented direction.

While it is a good or bad thing, it certainly made the series distinct enough from its roots. That is why whenever the situation presents itself, be it in a remake (on a new console or a handheld system) or compilation, Capcom never hesitates to sell some good old school nostalgic Resident Evil. From HD ports to simple returns to the original mansion or the streets of Raccoon City.

With Resident Evil 4 coming up at the time, Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles was the perfect occasion to refresh the story. Bring back the classic storylines for a new generation. And try something different while we're at it.

Umbrella Chronicles is a rail shooter game for the Nintendo Wii originally.

It was developed early on around the launch of the system. The Resident Evil had its fair share of history with Nintendo consoles, Mikami always wanted to give Nintendo fans some more mature games amidst legion of All-Age titles.

To follow up this mentality, since the Wii library seemed mostly composed of first party games and familial party games, Capcom wanted to offer the system its own original Resident Evil like in the past.

Umbrella Chronicles started as a third person game not unlike RE4. But during the development, to make use of the motion controllers and make something more unique for the system it was changed into an on-rails first person experience.

There has been several other rail-shooter Resident Evil games in the past. Such as the Gun Survivor  trilogy (which featured a Dino Crisis-inspired title) and Dead Aim (basically Gun Survivor 4 in a way).

But Chronicles is a whole different idea. Instead of offering a spinoff and or filler story, it is actually a recap of the events leading to Resident Evil 4, which was developed alongside it.

Umbrella Chronicles' story follows the big villain of the series Albert Wesker recapitulating the events of Resident Evil Zero, Resident Evil 1 and Resident Evil 3 while omitting the Leon and Claire storylines entirely leading to the fall of Umbrella Corporation which explains the new status quo as seen in part 4.

The game is 4 chapters long which makes for a total of ten stages or "scenarios".

The game was developed by ex-members of Clover Studio, behind Viewtiful Joe and Ōkami in the past.
Since it was published as an exclusive title for the Wii and not for the arcade, Capcom tried to offer a radically different experience from the usual games of this genre.

It's a rather long game for a rail shooter and there's more exploration and grinding that you'd expect.

First, the game plays like most shooters on rails. You can aim at the screen directly with the Wiimote to shoot the various types of enemies. From the usual zombies to the bigger tyrants and bosses. Most chapters end with a boss fight. But unlike more traditional rail shooters, these enemies take a lot more hits than usual. Or you can try finding their critical spot (the head for the zombies, it's always logical).

You can also pick up the usual ammo, more weapons and halth kits.

You can also find some hidden documents in true Resident Evil fashion, which offer some background information and more.

Sometimes a Quick Time Event will prompt you to press a button rapidly or shake the controller. Adding some new cinematic cutscenes in-game. You can also shake off enemies in close range.

And you can also explore a bit more, while still following a pre-defined path. You can slightly move the camera around with the analog stick.

And sometimes pick up alternate paths. (a whole level in an underground base offers the exploration of an entire building, sadly at the end of the game though)

The game is full of secrets. You can destroy most of the environment, shooting at lamps, desks, tables, windows, etc. That's the only way to find enough weapons and ammos. And other secrets.

The game looks really impressive. It's a great looking game, on par with the Resident Evil Remake. Exploring these classic setting from a first person perspective is a joy!

The game was clearly designed for fans, there's a lot of "fan service". From old time classics such as the original mansion to Nemesis. You will see and control many familiar faces, such as Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Rebecca Chambers, Billy Coen, Carlos Oliveira and even Ada Wong!

The game mostly follows Chris, Jill and Whesker's encounters with the T-Virus.

While the main chapters recaps the story seen in the original games, the sub-missions give an insight on Whesker's whereabouts during those games. As well as the others, such as a chapter for Ada Wong..

It's a very cinematic experience.

Chronicles has a lot of story going on for a rail shooter. It all adds to this longer and deeper experience they tried for this game.

Capcom took advantage of this special occasion to attempt to change the history of Resident Evil.
Meaning this game set the stage for all new recent games since then. Developing and expanding Whesker into the dangerous mastermind foe he is now. 

It prepares the setting for the modern action episodes but it still retain the survival horror tone of the originals.
This is the new "canon" for Resident Evil. Some changes appear in past stories. It resumes and simplifies Resident Evil's backstory for newcomers. And introduced new ideas to the series.
Some directly taken from the live action movies. (the "Hive", some segments directly taken from Paul Anderson's movies..)
Honestly, it didn't detract much from the experience and didn't annoy me.
That's a screen you'll see a LOT of times!

Umbrella Chronicles ends before the events of RE4.
While the first couple scenarios explore familiar grounds, the final one is a whole new story set in Russia. Umbrella's End.

The game is very, very difficult. To add some replay to an already long enough game (some levels taking from 10 to 15 minutes) boss fights can get really hardcore and the ranking system is very punishing.

Some chapters will only be unlocked if you finish all subscenarios or rank a score better than A. (it goes as such: S, A, B, C, D, with S being the best you can get)

You can upgrade your weapons with the Stars you will obtain from playing. That means that while you will be playing earlier chapters to obtain better rankings, you might as well unlock better guns.

It's a bit complicated for a rail shooter, but after some playthroughs you'll get used to it.
The game has some super secret chapters such as the usual Fourth Survivor chapter! Yay! The return of HUNK!
The music at first doesn't seem to suit a rail-shooter, but it fits a survival horror. It was composed by Grasshopper Manufacture's very own Jun Fukuda. Moody. Creepy. Perfect.

Overall, it's a pretty good unique rail-shooter game.

Usually these kind of games are either very short or very repetitive.  This one wasn't developed for arcade, it's nice to have something more. An experience perfectly tailored for a home system.

The 2 players mode is super-fun and recommended when you're starting this game. It doesn't help that to unlock more 2 player main stages you might need to finish Whesker's solo missions sometimes... That's my only real complaint. (but once the game's cleared, all chapters will become playable by 2 players!)

Leon and Claire missing from the overall story is a bit sad... but at least they could start in the later sequel! The pre-Resident Evil 4 & 5 chapter is a great bonus to have. It ties up the old series with the current one. Umbrella Chronicles also introduces a new character, Sergei Vladimir, an Umbrella officer. And despite the several retcons, it feels like a great addition to the series. 

This game alongside its sequel were re-released for the PS3 later on as part of the Resident Evil Chronicles HD Collection. It's basically the same game, with some minor HD cosmetic changes. Cleaner textures, etc. Beside that, it's the same game. It does add gameplay on a regular pad - which you should avoid! - but you can use Sony's Move controller to recreate a fairly decent Wiimote experience (although there's apparently some critics to the slight precision lost in translation, but not much that should only matter if you're familiar with the original game).

The game gets really difficult in its second half, to the point it becomes almost frustrating. The enemies never stop coming at you. You get ambushed from all sides. And the boss fights... The boss fights will need you to bring some serious fire power.

But, hey, it's Resident Evil! I never expected it to go easy on me, it's supposed to be hard!

And it's fun!

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Pacmans!


  1. Hmm, a good review, but RE is pretty dead in my book. I feel its time has passed.

    1. Same here, bro!

      That means you'll love my future review of RE5 or 6.

      Which doesn't mean you can enjoy a little side game like Chronicles. (plus it's an old title by now)

      Like I said, with both co-creators of the series out of Capcom, it's been going downhill...