To those who say the Wii doesn't have enough games for those over 17: you are so wrong. However, if you were to say there are too few M-rated titles that aren't on-rails shooters, we'd probably agree with you. That said, Dead Space: Extraction and House of the Dead: Overkill were among the best Wii games this year. Hoping to round out this trio of excellence in bloody, on-rails shooting is Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, which we recently played in a near-final demo.
Above: Some brief highlights of the first stage
The sequel to the capable Umbrella Chronicles, this one covers – via flashback – Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil Code: Veronica, which were both left out of the first game. The framing device for the multiple flashbacks is an original story that takes place in South America before the events in Resident Evil 4. We began our demo in an eerily quiet South American village as Leon Kennedy, with our co-op player taking the role of Jack Krauser (first seen in RE4, trying to kill Leon). As you'd expect, the silence was quickly broken by zombies coming out of the woodwork, just asking for their heads to explode.
As we got accustomed to running down the many alleyways while either holding off zombies or waiting for them to pop out, the action was fun, and we liked how the weapons selection was mapped to the d-pad, like in RE5. The village featured a small, branching paths and lots of killer fish to add to the excitement, with an encouraging focus on story as the adventure paused several times for dialogue. After wrapping up the adventure with a giant, fish-based boss fight, Leon began to tell Krauser what he knew about the monsters they were facing.
This led to the next chapter, a particularly long one (about a half-hour) from Code: Veronica. Taking place in the first half of that game, Claire Redfield and the ever-annoying Steve Burnside are trying to escape an island prison filled with the infected (and whackjob Alfred Ashford). This led to our favorite part of the demo, as we went through a haunted house/shooting gallery Alfred built to screw with us. Zombies and booby-trapped targets alike popped up and needed to be quickly shot down. It was a slightly meta moment, as the characters went through a fake/real shootout on a set path as we did the same.
Last was the Resident Evil 2 section of the demo, which had Claire and Leon, at the beginning of their team-up, exploring the underground of the Raccoon City police station and running into the mysterious Ada Wong. As we “explored” the linear path, there were several thrilling and scary set pieces, including a massive worm boss and the return of the Lickers, the hideous and loveable enemies first seen in RE2. It was great to see Claire and Leon together again, even if it was kept to a flashback.
Graphically, what we saw looked good, but not great, though the cutscenes were a little better than the average Wii video. Obviously we can’t directly compare Dead Space: Extraction to a 50-minute demo of an unfinished game, but even if Darkside so far doesn’t look as good, it makes much better use of its co-op feature. Extraction was designed to be single-player, with a story that doesn’t really jibe with a second, independently controlled shooter involved. But the levels in Darkside look designed to tell the story of two characters experiencing the plot together, and it might even feel a little “off” to play it solo.
We do want to see more of Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, as it not only illuminates parts of the muddy history of past RE games, but also acts as a prequel to RE4. With the possibility of later appearances by fan favorites Wesker and Chris Redfield, here’s hoping that the game has enough tricks up its sleeve to make for a thrilling and fulfilling adventure when its Nov. 17 release date rolls around.
Oct 20, 2009