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E3 2007: Hands-on with Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles

8:36 PM on 07.12.2007 // Aaron Linde

With Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition, Capcom showed Wii gamers that their flagship zombie-slayin' series certainly benefits from some innovative new hardware. But could that hardware carry the series through the transition to an on-rails shooter? Being the deathly curious little imp that I am, I hit up the Capcom booth for some hands-on time with Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, complete with the new Zapper peripheral.

After a fair sampling of gore, guts and mayhem, is Umbrella Chronicles a marked improvement upon the RE lightgun games that preceeded it? Hit the jump for my impressions.

Contrary to popular belief (it was an above-average score, jerks!), I really dug RE4: Wii Edition. It was a solid title that truly showcased the benefits of the hardware at work. The success of the game for yours truly helped catapult my interest in Capcom's Wii follow-up, Umbrella Chronicles. After having given the game a shot (with the new Wii Zapper peripheral, no less), I've come to the following conclusion: Resident Evil and on-rails shooter, at least insofar as the demo is concerned, don't mix as well as I'd like, even with the Wii in tow.

UC's first hurdle was finding a way to incorporate the tension and "oh holy god" play scheme into the on-rail shooter model, which is typically oriented as fast-paced action -- something that comes up in many RE titles, but not as often as, say, Time Crisis. It certainly looks like Resident Evil -- the demo features Jill Valentine moving through Raccoon City, eliminating the bloodthirsty dead in her path as she goes along, but without the fear that usually piggybacks the experience that Resident Evil has come to represent.

In slaying the legions of the hungry dead, the demo offers the player a handgun with unlimited ammo, a machine gun, and a shotgun. Close encounters are dealt with by holding the C button on the nunchuk (positioned as the stock of the Wii Zapper) and shaking the remote, and pressing B on the remote in combination with this motion lobs a grenade, great for taking out those big zombie parties.

Aiming feels loose and imprecise, which might be chalked up to the greater range of motion and jitter caused by the remote mounted on the end of the zapper. On the other hand, RE4's aiming feels tight, because your grip is so high on the device; small adjustments are easy to make. When aiming with the zapper, however, motion is guided and controlled by your entire arm via the grip near the front of the remote, which makes getting a precision headshot much more difficult to achieve. It's nitpicky and perhaps easily remedied by simply using just the remote and nunchuk, but it's hard not to complain when you've been spoiled by Capcom's previous efforts.

Taking out these hordes, also, feels somehow less satisfying than in RE4 Wii Edition -- it didn't seem as though shooting particular parts of a zombie made any difference in their slow shambling towards my POV. A headshot would send them staggering backwards, but truthfully, this is one area that I'd like to see explored as much as possible. In a genre in which scripted events and enemy groups reign supreme, giving the player more options in how to deal with these enemies would serve well in engaging the player. Providing different possibilities for shot placement, ranged/melee combos (as in RE4) and so on would go a long way in taking this game from fairly simple fun to an absolute romp.

Umbrella Chronicles differentiates itself from other light gun games by taking advantage of the rich universe that Capcom has created in Resident Evil. But in embracing this form of on-rails gameplay, the ways in which that universe has captivated gamers over time seem somehow diminished -- with any luck, Capcom will rope that magic back in before the game hits shelves.

Aaron Linde,
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