The problem with The X-Files as the seasons wore on and on was that the mythology got so convoluted that when Mulder found his sister, there was absolutely no sense of direction or narrative cohesion. There used to be stand-alone episodes and mythology episodes. Early on, you would have six mythology episodes in a season, but toward the end of the series, every episode had a piece of the mythology. If you missed one episode, you had no idea what the hell was going on. Pulling all the story elements together and weaving them together with new information is the blessing of Umbrella Chronicles.
One thing that this title does well is deliver some serious fan service in the form of Resident Evil mythology. Tons of information files to unlock and a huge focus on fan (and personal) favorite Albert Wesker means that there are tons of extras to soak up. Half of the narrative focuses on what other characters are doing during sections of the previous titles you’ve already played. Although most scenarios take you through rehashes of existing RE titles, the newer stuff is reasonably interesting provided you have a basic knowledge of previous events. Strangely absent for a game labeled as a chronicle is any recreations from RE2 and RE4, the all-star titles in the series.
Sadly, when you strip away the huge fan boy magnets, you’re left with a fairly substandard rail shooter, and this is where the game falls apart. The genre of rail shooters itself is pretty tired, and Umbrella Chronicles does very little to bring new life into it. Aside from some RE4-style “push the A button or you will die in one second” challenges, there’s really nothing new. It’s simple point and shoot. Ironically, the game involves Wii-mote waggling for counterattacks and knife attacks, which renders the Wii Zapper attachment a hindrance to gameplay.
For a game that relies heavily on targeting, there are some sketchy issues. The targeting cursor is a bit jumpy, so it’s not always easy to hone in on your targets. This shouldn’t even be a problem, since there are so many other games currently available that have mastered this aspect. Enemies have sweet spots that require pinpoint precision to perform one-shot kills, but this area on most enemies is remarkably small, requiring less skill and more luck. Combine this with standard RE ammo conservation issues, empty weapons needlessly clogging up your scroll menu, and terrible reload times, and you’re already struggling before the game even throws its first boss at you.
The enemies’ graphics are fairly substandard as well, below the precedent set forth by the original GameCube titles. Maybe I’m spoiled from playing my rail shooters in the arcade, but zombies typically lose limbs and suffer from knock back when I shoot them in the arms, head, and shoulders, and these effects are absent here. The environments themselves are well done and recreated faithfully to the original maps, and they involve some good use of lighting. Only the mansion seems to be a bit dark and drab, though the whole game suffers from the occasional poor texture.
The sound effects are really well done, realistic, and very fitting, but the music is awkward. It doesn’t fit in with the atmosphere or in the RE series at all and feels more like it belongs in CarnEvil, as it seriously detracts from the experience. However, even with these setbacks, UC is still able to deliver more than a coffee break of gameplay, standard fair for arcade shooters. You can look forward to about six-to-10 hours of basic play and up to about 25 hours of unlockable content and replays.
If you enjoy the occasional rail shooter or are a casual RE fan, then this title is an ideal rental. The lack of overall polish on menus, graphics, and presentation prevents this from being a purchase, but if you’re a hardcore fan of the series, then you could do a lot worse than this title. At least pick it up used so you can be thrifty while you’re trying to unlock all the secrets of the evil Umbrella Corporation, because, after all, the truth is out there.