Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles was a Wii exclusive, later released on the PS3 as part of a bundle, which digs into the complicated back story of the Resident Evil universe. The Umbrella Chronicles is the abridged version of Resident Evil 0, 1 and 2 with a final original chapter at the end. Focusing primarily on the main points of each game, The Umbrella Chronicles also provides extra missions that follow certain characters as they would have acted in the background. As a rail shooter on the Wii, it plays a lot like The House of the Dead at the arcade, just with low-end Resident Evil graphics. While the game received positive reviews at the time, it is difficult to understand why. I can only assume Wii players were so desperate for anything that didn’t advertise itself as strictly for kids that they didn’t much care anymore; same reason I enjoyed Red Steel.
Turning Resident Evil into a rail shooter seems like it would go against everything Resident Evil stands for. Instead of survival horror with puzzles and uncertainty of what is around the next corner, players know what is going to happen. Even as far as shooters go, it is boring because you can’t move freely, just shoot wildly. Much like the arcade version, it feels like many attacks are designed to be unavoidable, to eat up health. Also, the characters only have themselves to blame when they constantly walk by zombies on the ground and then become surprised when zombies attack from behind. Since there is no way of telling in the first play through what path players will take, it is easy to miss resources you may not have needed at the time, like herbs. The game also tends to reuse the same maps and enemies, swapping out chapter-specific things like slugs for snakes.
The story part is slightly more interesting, but very fast, with players basically rushing through the plot of previous Resident Evil games. Some parts of the games are even altered to fit The Umbrella Chronicles. The chapter that covers Resident Evil 1, for instance, has Chris and Jill sticking together for the entire game. The most interesting chapter, an original part of the game, covers the final fall of Umbrella by infiltrating their last base in Russia. The Umbrella Chronicles really pays off with the side missions, though, from the perspective of various characters who appeared in the main games and what they did in the background. Resident Evil 4 had a similar mode, where the player played as Ada Wong in order to see what she did in the background. A direct example is what Wesker or Rebecca were doing during the events of Resident Evil 1; while embellished and not necessarily canon, it is interesting to see the game from the other side.
Functionally a simple game, the original design had it more like Resident Evil 4, but it was completely changed because the game producer thought it was “too complicated for Wii users.” The producer Masachika Kawata stated that the “complex operability can be an obstacle for Wii users”. Kind of a backhanded remark to Nintendo fans, but the difficulty was drastically lowered. If not for the side missions, the entire game would take relatively little time, even though headshots, which you would think count as a critical, rarely turn out to be. Besides collectibles for further backstory, there are no other real features to the game. It is possible to play multiplayer mode, which is significantly more fun than playing alone, however, players need to beat the game and certain side missions first which can be tedious.
While only mildly interesting for those who wish to know more about the confusing universe of Resident Evil, Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles is a marginal game at best. There is a reason there are so few rail shooters anymore, and when a big name like Resident Evil can’t help it becomes that much more obvious. Some fans of the series or genre may find more amusement out of it, along with the sequel The Darkside Chronicles, which was also ported to the PS3 PSN, and with a friend it might be more enjoyable and provide that old school arcade feel… with less stickiness hopefully.