Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles - WII - Review
Survival/horror games come in all shapes and sizes. In 2007, Capcom proved that Resident Evil was ready for one more variation and released The Umbrella Chronicles, a Wii-exclusive on-rails shooter that splattered thick blobs of blood on The House of the Dead’s grave and made no attempt to apologize for it. The Umbrella Chronicles was by no means a new concept, but when a game makes the same-old-thing fun again, players will take notice.
They took notice so quickly that they found the plastic Wii Zapper contraption to be worth its $20 - $25 price tag. But alas, after two years of replaying some of the most exciting lightgun shooter battles ever conceived, gamers were in need of a sequel. Capcom is not one to hold back, thus releasing The Darkside Chronicles earlier this week.
Well, don’t you look familiar.
Starring Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield and other familiar faces, The Darkside Chronicles is very much the game you expected it to be, plus a few changes. This sequel, more than the first game, is a shooter with levels that are more fun to play after you’ve been through them once. It’s a strange development choice – those who haven’t played The Umbrella Chronicles are probably scratching their heads and wondering, “How can a level be fun later if it isn’t any fun now?”
Well, that’s the thing. The Darkside Chronicles is fun in the beginning. But it gets better with time.
Like the first, Darkside is horribly brutal, and not in the visual sense. Even on the easy setting, the boss battles aren’t too forgiving; on medium or harder, prepare for a serious fight. Item placement and retrieval is a bit weird – you can’t hold more than one health spray at a time, which means you won’t survive death more than once. Green herbs are dispersed so infrequently that you’ll be lucky if you have the strength to avoid using every one you find. Bullets are acquired in the same manner as before: you must find them on the screen (often in plain sight but additional weapons/ammo can be found hidden within the destructible portions of the environment) and manually click on them.
By the time you make it to the sixth or seventh stage, it’s going to be very difficult to survive. Capcom knew this would happen. The developers saw the torture coming a mile away. Accordingly, they once again included the replay-a-level feature that lets you re-experience the thrill of previously conquered adventures while keeping every piece of ammo you find but don’t use. This also gives you the chance to earn more gold, a very scarce resource, which can be used to upgrade the painfully weak weapons you’ll acquire throughout the game.
Hey! You look familiar too! What is this place!?
New – or perhaps I should say different – monsters are found all over the place. Zombies are just the beginning; the oversized spiders are back, as are two versions of the lickers from RE2. There’s a creature that resembles a frog (several of them, actually), and there are dozens of cockroaches, mutated fish, giant maggots, and a cluster of boss battles that’ll make you want to replay old levels just to stock up on ammo.
As you play through those old stages, stronger with new and/or upgraded weapons and likely more powerful with a better stock of ammo, the game is much less frustrating. Suddenly, the shooter-fest that it was supposed to be, it has finally become. With a dozen magnum rounds, a few dozen shotgun shells, and a few hundred Uzi bullets, you can run around and shoot without worry that you’ll run out of ammo later.
Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t hoping The Darkside Chronicles would be like RE5, where ammo was so plentiful the game was practically a cakewalk. But this isn’t a distinct sequel in the franchise; it’s an offshoot series with an entirely different gameplay style. If limiting our ammo was the only thing the developers could do to make the game tough, then they surely knew the difficulty wouldn’t last.
But as it turns out, that isn’t the hardest part of the game. The boss battles are surprisingly enduring, and their health meters (most have more than one!) are just one of the challenges. Many of the bosses can only be killed within a scripted event, forcing the player – or players, if in a co-op game – to fire repeatedly until the boss is in the game-designated position. It’s fairly confusing and frustrating, to say the least. But it isn’t the hardest part of the game either.
Players will be stopped dead in their tracks by a sneak attack they never expected: the camera system. The developers must have thought of The Umbrella Chronicles was a low-key experience since they decided to turn The Darkside Chronicles into a visual roller coaster. Basically, what you see is what the character sees. Consequently, if someone were to fall down the stairs, get knocked down by a zombie, or nearly lose a limb in an explosion, the camera will jerk around to correspond with the view that character is experiencing. Every footstep, every time the character looks up, every time he or she decides to turn around – every part of it is displayed on screen.
Boss battles are everywhere.
While this might sound cool for a survival/horror game (it’s definitely something other developers should look into), it doesn’t work too well in an on-rails world. In these kinds of shooters, the player controls the gun, nothing else. Unlike The Umbrella Chronicles, you have zero control over the camera, which would be fine if the camera stayed still. I’m not looking for sluggishness – nobody is. But what’s the fun in trying to score a headshot if the camera is moving so fast that it’s all but impossible? Where’s the fun in noticing a key item on the screen if the camera is going to prevent me from getting it?
These are not the kinds of questions RE fans should have to ask, especially when they didn’t have to while playing The Umbrella Chronicles.
By now you probably know the story, and if you ignore the rest of this review to avoid any details, you’d better avoid the back of the box as well. Really though, there isn’t much to reveal since the majority of the game is a ridiculous re-creation of Resident Evil 2, bits and pieces of Resident Evil 3, a slice of CODE Veronica, and a hint of some others. I say “ridiculous” not because the shooter action doesn’t deliver, and not because the environments – which are now made of polygons (let’s not forget that the RE series began with stiff, pre-rendered CG backgrounds) – aren’t any good.
Rather, the absurdity comes from the developers’ unexplainable choices. Every fan knows how corny this franchise can be. We’re also well aware of the cheesy dialogue that fueled Resident Evil 1 and 2. But the RE remake for GameCube gave us hope for a darker, scarier, and more realistic tomorrow, as did RE4. Those dreams were squashed with RE5, but still – did this series have to get any cheesier? You can’t pass a stage without hearing badly written and horrendously acted dialogue. Though it may have nothing to do with the way The Umbrella Chronicles plays, it is a distraction to the gameplay, and that makes it inescapably detrimental.
He’s coming for you.
Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles doesn’t surpass the quality of the original. In some ways, it takes a couple of steps backward. But if you loved the carnage of The Umbrella Chronicles, would like to re-explore the joys of older Resident Evil games, and have been dying for another replay value-driven on-rails shooter, The Darkside Chronicles is worth playing.
Review Scoring Details for Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles
Fans of The Umbrella Chronicles will thoroughly enjoy most of what The Darkside Chronicles has to offer. But they won't be blown away by it, and they won't in any way think of this game as a replacement – or even a true successor – to the original.
Dark and gritty, The Darkside Chronicles is a good-looking game that could have been a visual showstopper if the backgrounds and characters weren't so washed out.
Nowhere near the caliber of the standard Resident Evil music, and the voice acting is unexpectedly worse.
One of the more challenging (and also more frustrating) on-rails shooters for Wii.
Capcom made some ballsy choices in trying to create a survival/horror on-rails shooter that was played from behind the eyes of a character. It didn't work out very well in this environment, but the camera perspective is still quite unique.
Two-player co-op that allows you to party like it's 1995.
Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles is a good on-rails shooter, but it’s only a decent sequel.