At this point, Wii owners should be entering the stage called “acceptance.” Your games will only ever "look great for a Wii game," and you'll never get a game of comparable graphical quality to Resident Evil 5, so let’s just move on and understand that what you do get are different, but not necessarily worse, games. With that in mind, we approach Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, the second on-rails shooter for the Wii based on RE. Be warned: adjusted expectations are necessary to get the most out of it.
Much like its predecessor, RE: Umbrella Chronicles, Darkside retells the plot of Evils past, though this time the adventures are framed by a new storyline that stars Leon Kennedy and takes place a couple years before Resident Evil 4. As Kennedy and his RE 4 nemesis, Krauser, enjoy happier times in South America hunting down zombies together, Leon decides to bring him up to date on what went down in RE 2 and RE: Code Veronica. Both games are recounted in compact form, but you experience most of the best moments, while the new South American scenario plays more like the filler story that it is.
Once the gunplay comes in between the many ably produced CG cutscenes, it's a pretty entertaining shooting gallery of zombies to blast your way through. Sure, there are at least a half-dozen times when the fixed camera slooowly pans across a group of corpses, then turns around suddenly to "shock" you with the sight of those “cadavers” lunging at you. Nevertheless, other tried and true tricks of on-rails shooters past are put into practice here with less repetition and better results, such as the multi-layered boss fights and the occasional branching paths. And seeing as all the scenarios have two characters in them at all times, it's quite fun (as well as story-appropriate) to play two-player co-op.
Above: This is from a cutscene
The overall pacing of the action is satisfactory too. There are many quiet moments, not every level ends in a boss fight, and the ones that do are mostly fun. Also, many classic RE moments are incorporated in fresh ways – but only RE super-fans will notice that, and they're the ones who will easily get the most out of Darkside Chronicles. However, those who always wanted to experience those classic games without dated graphics won't be lost as the plot moves forward. And the current graphics are pretty good, though that shouldn't be that big a surprise. One of the bonuses of making an arcade shooter like this is that the developers can just point the camera wherever they want and make whatever’s in front of it look good, ignoring the rest of the world.
One thing that doesn't feel very RE about Darkside is the fact that you’re firing off rounds almost constantly, especially if you want to find the hidden items in every stage. Ammo is normally scarce in the core games, and dramatic dialogue isn’t usually ignored while players try to shoot something destructible-looking for in-game cash to spend on weapon upgrades. As a bonus for fans, though, you can also find hidden "chronicles" that expand upon the minutiae of the series. But while that – along with a cute, Achievements-like reward system – attempts to inspire multiple playthroughs, it isn't all that compelling, ultimately.
Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles is at least worth a rental, and the unlockable extras will appeal to the dedicated treasure hunters out there who want an excuse to replay it. For the rest, it's a fun six to eight hours, even for two players on the same TV. Sure, it lacks the depth of something like Dead Space: Extraction, but if you're just looking to blast zombies with old friends, it's hard to do much better... on the Wii.
Nov 19, 2009