Review from Issue 18 of NGamer magazine, on sale Wednesday, December 5.
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.
Aces, 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.