This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee goes underground with the Umbrella Corporation.
Now here's something that hasn't graced the home console market in a snarling zombie dog's age - the rail shooter, also known as the FPS for the bone-idle. This is exactly the sort of thing the Wii was tailor-made for, but some might say that a mindless infinite-ammo approach is a betrayal of Resident Evil's survival-horror roots - until, that is, you remember that the series officially kicked survival-horror in the head around the time Resident Evil 4 was letting you mow down your first legion of unruly Spanish peasants.
Umbrella Chronicles is a difficult game to comprehend. It appears to be a celebration of Resident Evil's storyline, which to my mind is like celebrating Andrew Lloyd Webber's devilish handsomeness. Part of Resident Evil 's charm is that it still takes itself seriously, despite having the most atrociously written story and dialogue of any product of human endeavour since Hulk Hogan took one too many clotheslines to the head and decided he could act.
For the uninitiated, the Umbrella Corporation is a bioweapons giant with very gullible investors, a bizarre obsessive-compulsive tendency to build secret research labs under things, and a policy for exclusively hiring one-armed stroke victims to handle all their dangerous viruses. Do you remember what the villains from Captain Planet were like? How they'd steal an oil tanker and deliberately run smack into a beach to teach all the sea lions a lesson in complacency? Do you remember wondering why they didn't just sell the oil at huge profits and not have to get beaten up by a big blue man in little red pants? Well, that's basically the Umbrella Corporation. It's controlled by a handful of people who, in any sane world, would have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act before they could even finish presenting their proposal to murder 90% of their research staff. A villain whose only motivation is a total commitment to being a bastard is not good storytelling. It leaves plot holes the size of a catamite's rectum, like where they keep finding investment despite their inability to work out the rather glaring design flaw in a supersoldier with an enormous herniated major organ.
Umbrella Chronicles is a heavily cut-down retread of three of the major Resident Evil games, starring Johnny Bravo, a prostitute, an idiot, a mullet, a nine-year-old boy, a brick shithouse, and Carlos. And despite being given this opportunity to revise things, it's gratifying to see Capcom continue their proud tradition of unintentionally hilarious dialogue. "I have a bad feeling about this," announces Jill Valentine, after having been repeatedly savaged by the undead, demonstrating her vital intuitive ability to sense danger about an hour after it has commenced. "Where did all these webs come from?" wonders Chris Redfield aloud, while staring directly at a giant spider. And then there's the recurring series baddie (and backstabbing enthusiast) Albert Wesker, whose every line of dialogue is solid gold because he sounds like Loyd Grossman with throat cancer.
As for the gameplay, what do you want me to say? It's a rail shooter; you point at something you want dead and keep pressing the button. There aren't many ways you can cock it up. Okay, my old nemesis quick-time events make an appearance, but this is really one of the few kinds of games where they might be appropriate, since you're already being prompted to mash buttons with the response time of a paranoid gnat. On the whole, the experience has this charming retro feel to it; it's exactly the sort of thing you used to play on holiday, in some seaside amusement arcade, where your mum and dad would leave you while they walked around a nearby maritime museum pretending they were enjoying themselves.
It seems, however, that Capcom absent-mindedly forgot that they weren't actually making an arcade game and didn't have to relentlessly bilk us for coins. The difficulty is very unforgiving at times, with far too many unreasonably brief windows between a monster appearing on screen and them helping themselves to a Jill sandwich. There's one measly checkpoint in each episode, not counting the boss fight, and when you've fought through a horde by the skin of your teeth only to lose your final millimetre of health to a zombie kitten's corrosive piddle, getting warped back to half an hour ago will not do much to slow the launching of Wiimotes through TV screens. And while I'm complaining, I wanted to try this game out with the Wii Zapper, but those bastards might as well be carved from the wood of the True Cross, for how easy they are to get hold of in this fucking city. But I can't blame Capcom for that, so I'll just blame God, like I usually do.
I admire the spirit of Umbrella Chronicles, because as my Silent Hill: Origins review implied, I admire a series that tries to mix things up, not just release the same game every bloody year (in what is known as "the EA strategy"). And I'm sure Nintendo appreciate having another entry for the critically small list of games where the Wiimote controls are actually appropriate and not a gimmicky contrivance. But why a rail shooter, of all things? The rail shooter is a thing of yesteryear, a backward step down Anachronism Avenue. And let's not forget that the Resident Evil story isn't so complex that it needs reiteration.
All in all, it's a very unnecessary game, which gaming history will swiftly forget. If you like the prospect of Capcom wanking off in your face for a few hours, then knock yourself out, but personally, I reserve the privilege of wanking off in my face for only my closest friends and Valve employees.
Runner-up in the all-county cock sucking competition: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Alright fine I'll do Call of Duty 4 if you promise to shut up about it you whining twatblankets