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Resident Evil is a popular and well-loved franchise that over the years has split into traditional survivor horror and gun survivor titles that Japanese gamers have really embraced. The PS2 Outbreak series held the attention of gamers for awhile but was only mildly successful compared to Resident Evil 4 and Dead Aim, both titles that have been praised by gamers and reviewers. Presently Resident Evil 5 is being prepared to take horror and FPS fanatics back into the battle to survive the rise of the zombies, so Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicle hasn't received much attention.
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The good parts
This game captures the feel and atmosphere of original Resident Evil titles well. It features a good evil atmosphere that puts the horror into every moment of game time, grabs the heart and mind and takes it on a ride through a world you'll be glad is virtual.
Highlights include easy to pick-up and play controls that had a short learning curve. You'll be pulling off one-shot kills before you know it.
The Umbrella Chronicles introduces a few new twists and features to the shooter experience that work well and add to the game play.
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Parts that need improvement
I would love to get a truly open environment feeling with a Resident Evil title. The shooter game play still feels restrictive in this title; you just don't have enough freedom of gun play.
Once I got use to the controls, it was no problem to pull off one-shot head kills, but it still felt randomly generated--like it wasn't really my ability, but the computer that was deciding when this feat was achieved.
Many of the tracks on the sound track didn't really feel like they were appropriate for the time and place you were hearing them and didn't create the effect of dark, unknown danger.
Certainly Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicle tries to ride in on the coat tails of previous titles in Capcom's number one survival horror franchise and they have done a good job of using elements that are proven winners, but the game still feels like an arcade game with a gun at many points.
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The game graphics
The graphical presentation in the Wii edition of The Umbrella Chronicles is pretty good. It can't compete with the look of Resident Evil 4, but still has good enough detail and texture to capture the original putrid effects in the environments well.
I did see a few ugly looking details and textures on the fringes of the screen occasionally, but I didn't experience any lags or frame-rate problems to pull me out of the moment I was in. The zombies and objects in the game all look great as their heads explode, creating the spectacular visual effects you have come to expect.
The developers did include interactive cinematic moments that are like little mini adventures that only last a moment, but many of these moments were a little bland visually and the textures were occasionally less than average.
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Sounds in the game
I found the sound track to be a little inappropriate at times considering the action on the screen and over bearing at many points, with a pace that was too fast for a horror game.
The voice acting was average at best, but they did use dialogue and lines in many of the cut scenes from previous titles to provide you with information and history on the over all story line.
The sound effects were a little dull at points, but they were all well synchronized and will often give you an audible cue to something that is about to happen, if you hear it.
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The Umbrella Chronicles begins by taking you through reports of the first games' results and the events of the final hours of the Umbrella Corporation (the ones responsible for the zombie infestation). The narrative of the story line is truncated and appears to be more concerned with recreating specific moments rather than a good and complete story line.
There are many side missions with stories that relive many moments and environments from the main missions, showing us what various characters were up to at various points during the main story.
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The Umbrella Chronicles took me about six hours to play through the missions, all the side missions, and new scenario that takes place in 2003. In this new scenario, Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield are hunting down the last remnants of the Umbrella Corporation in a frozen industrial complex, but I found it to be a little lacking in entertainment value.
The Umbrella Chronicles does have methodical pacing that is well designed and kept me involved in the game and my senses tuned at all times. Zombies will seemingly pop out of the shadows and at times you will think you're about to be over run because there are so many zombies on screen.
The developers have made a game that you need to concentrate on precision, rather than speed, to be successful. All the monsters have a weak spot you can target, if you take your time and aim properly. The boss fights are good, nasty fun, requiring you to aim true, and are far harder to defeat using the same game play you used on the weaker monsters.
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The final mark
The Umbrella Chronicles is a short adventure for sure, but certainly one with the entertainment value Wii fanatics hoped would be coming to the Wii experience. Capcom did a good job of using previous elements from earlier titles to re-create the effect for the Wii version of The Umbrella Chronicles, even if the recycled parts can make the experience feel old and used at times. The simple point and shoot game play will certainly keep Wii gamers who just want to shoot something and see if explode happy and the story may get a few of them involved more in the world, but gamers who have experienced Resident Evil titles on other machines, will probably want to stay with the previous games.