Thursday, November 29, 2007

NGamer Review Of Umbrella Chronicles

I was e-mailed this today and I thought I'd share it with you all. I stress the words aren't mine of course, (I've yet to play it!) But it seemed like an honest and balanced review, and contains some great information about the game. for example, I didn't realise how much of the game was recycled... But any way, I'll let them tell you all about it...
Import review: "There's no doubt in our minds that at some point in the recent past, Umbrella Chronicles was a very different game to the one that has finally emerged. Far from being some elaborate mystery for us to unravel, the evidence has been there from the start - early interviews with Capcom's team suggested Chronicles would be a game more like Resident Evil 4, while later interviews changed the script. After the brilliant Resi 4, it's a shame we never got that original concept, but it's hard to fault Umbrella Chronicles for what it's not, when what it is is so ridiculously fully-featured and complete.

You are dead. Continue?You want levels? How about 12 hours' worth, all set in the midst of the zombie holocausts from Resident Evil Zero, 1, 2 and 3, and featuring a final, all-new level to wrap up Umbrella's Story? You like guns? Capcom have provided every famous weapon from the series, every one upgradable using the points you'll earn on your missions and each handling in its own unique way.And how about the characters? Every chapter of Umbrella Chronicles stars characters from the original games, with each given different introductory cutscenes depending on who you choose to play as. Even better, further unlockable missions are based around untold side-stories from the series and help patch over Resident Evil's big mysteries - like how Rebecca Chambers made it from the Umbrella management training facility to the Mansion, or what Wesker was up to while the STARS team was preparing to move on the Mansion.

Chronicles is the most blatant example of fan service Capcom could have conjured, filling in every gap in the story with new cutscenes, lengthy dossiers, files, and those new chapters that patch up the continuity holes and rewrite the questionable parts of the series' chequered past. Umbrella Chronicles is like a 1970's exploit-o-movie version of Resident Evil's story - not smart or especially stylish, with everything about it designed to appeal almost exclusively to the most niche of audiences. But, what it does offer fans of the series, it offers perfectly. Chronicle triggerAces, then. We'll have some of that. Except, as successful as Chronicles is as a fan-pleasing piece of Resident Evil cake, it's a very ordinary shooter. Sega's Ghost Squad may be pushing around fewer polygons than Super Mario 64, but it's the most exciting all-out shooter on the Wii; like two sides of the same coin, Ghost Squad succeeds where Umbrella Chronicles fails, and conversely, fails everywhere Resi succeeds. Where Chronicles is long, Ghost Squad is short; where the zombie blaster is beautiful, Ghost Squad looks like an especially unattractive Dreamcast game.

Like Ghost Squad, Umbrella Chronicles is an unmistakably cheap game, but again, in a very different way. The Zero stages use the 3D models that provided the backdrops to Resi Zero, the mansion levels are ripped straight from the Gamecube Resident Evil Remake, and since the 3D models used to recreate Raccoon City were of too low quality for a modern game, the Raccoon City stages are torn from the code for Resident Evil Outbreak on the PS2. Recycling like that might make Al Gore a happy man, but it's a cheap and easy turn-around for the boys at Capcom, and rather makes us question the price of the game.And where Ghost Squad is a thrilling rollercoaster ride of a shooter, Resident Evil is a particularly lethargic ghost train - riding along at a snail's pace, you encounter zombies and other beasties every now and again as if they were an afterthought.

It's as if Capcom were so intent upon making an atmospheric and frightening game, they forgot what it is that makes a lightgun shooter so entertaining - there's no relentless pace, no test of your reactions, and you'll even have to conserve ammo and save your biggest and most fun guns for the astonishingly resilient bosses. Chronicles, of course, is shaped like a Resident Evil game where extended periods of calm are punctuated by moments of extreme action and terror, but what works for survival horror doesn't work so well for a lightgun shoot-'em-up, and your ride on the ghost train is about as scary as a sit-down on Santa's knee.

Looking down a dark hallway on a stormy night and knowing you have to walk to the door at the end is a difficult, stomach-churning dilemma; being led down there on rails whether you like it or not is just another turn in the tracks on that ghost train, and when those dogs leap out at you, you won't even clench your bum cheeks. We like what they were aiming for with the atmosphere, but Capcom have missed their target on this one.
Although the design choices made along the way are often confusing, the game Umbrella Chronicles finally became isn't the disaster it was seemingly destined to be.

Lest we forget, Capcom has no strong record for quality Resident Evil side stories, and a particularly bad reputation for lousy lightgun games -the PlayStation Gun Survivor and Dead Aim games are notorious stinkers, Resident Evil Gaiden was a catastrophe, and those two PS2 Outbreaks were less Shaun Of The Dead and more Stig Of The Dump, so it's a miracle the clearly micro-budgeted Umbrella Chronicles worked out as well as it did. A slow start makes way for more intense action on later levels, and though it never feels like an all-out shooter or a true Resi experience, it occasionally touches on both, and when it does, it's at its best. For any fan of the series, it's a tour of a world you love with enough unlockables to keep you squeezing the trigger until the day you die, and a mountain of plot minutiae to read through once you've been reanimated again. Chronicles is no shoot-'em-up, but it's the best Resident Evil side-story in close to eight years. And since the last good one was Code Veronica, that's lofty praise indeed."


gnome said...

A fair review indeed... And it seems that this is probably the best light-gun game to ever hit a home console... Here's another excellent review:

fatherkrishna said...

Thanks for that Gnome! Great link!