IGN Review of Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles
Ever since Virtua Cop, I've had a thing for arcade-style lightgun shooters, so me reviewing Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles seems like a no brainer. The game is a follow-up to Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, a Wii-exclusive title that retold classic Resident Evil adventure scenarios as action-packed, gun shootin' experiences. Darkside Chronicles continues the legacy on Wii in a really impressive game that weaves players through scenarios from Resident Evil 2 as well as Resident Evil: Code Veronica and even makes a nod or two to Resident Evil 4. Even though it's not a true Resident Evil adventure, it's a very fun, frenetic action game that's really satisfying if you can get over one huge hurdle: the camera.
The game isn't much more than a rail shooter in a similar vein to the recently released Dead Space Extraction, which is, admittedly, not much more than a glorified version of Time Crisis or House of the Dead. You use the Wii remote to aim and shoot at a seemingly endless swarm of infected monsters. Undead humans, giant frogs, vicious piranhas, enormous moths, and super-intelligent plant life are just a sampling of what you'll be blasting away in this game.
The storyline's a little convoluted, but beyond that, Darkside Chronicles is a pretty straightforward experience. You can choose to play with the Wii Remote exclusively because all the necessary controls are mapped to all the buttons: four weapon slots are attached to the D-pad, and collected health herbs can be used with a single press of the plus button. But if you attach a Nunchuk to the controller, you can add the weapon functionality to the analog stick, leaving your other hand free to focus on the constant aiming and firing needed in this game.
Darkside Chronicles has the usual "headshots for maximum points" strategy as well as the "shoot anything that seems destructible for bonuses" strategy. Hidden locations usually dump coins that can be turned into weapon power-ups between levels, but there are also Umbrella icons to discover and pick up along the way. Even though the game is a meaty 12-hour experience from start to finish, the game definitely has a lot of replay value for a design with shallow aim-and-shoot gameplay. On the second playthrough, you can choose to see it through the eyes of the other character – the challenge doesn't change but at least you can experience the familiar area in a fresh way. And then there's the online leaderboards for those that want to see how their level scores and rankings stack up against the rest of the world.
Of course, there's also the welcome multiplayer option. Though you can't have a friend jump in or out on the fly like you can in Dead Space Extraction, you can choose to have him help out at the start of a mission. The added firepower definitely helps, but then you have to realize you're sharing the same pool of ammunition. You don't want to have a friend that likes to fire his or her gun off all willy-nilly.
I'm not one that's usually sensitive to motion sickness – I could handle Cloverfield on the big screen or playing countless first-person shooters without feeling uncomfortably queasy. But Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles might even make gamers with stomachs of iron a bit nauseous, and not because the game's full of gross-out gore, either. Darkside Chronicles employs a "you are there" camera where the viewpoint is watched through the eyes of a scenario's chosen character instead of an independent pseudo first-person view used in other rail shooters. So when that character goes through his animations – when he looks up, down or around -- you're forced to see what he sees. When he runs through an environment your view bounces and jostles around like an '80s camcorder. I'm kind of getting seasick just thinking about it.
I think this camera was a good choice for tension; the game is very moody and embraces that "survival horror" feel. But this bouncy camera style is a slightly poor choice for gameplay. After all, the game's core action is all about aiming and shooting, but now you have to really focus on your targeting in a completely independent, freefloating view that constantly and wildly bobs and sways. Even though you're supposed to be playing as the character you choose at the start of the level, you feel like you're a third-party observer because you have to constantly overcorrect your aim because of the character's view. The game's easy mode is meant to help players deal with this issue with a targeting system, but on the harder difficulty, you're on your own.
Early in my gaming session I was ready to throw in the towel because this swimmy camera wasn't for me, but over a few missions I grew to accept and understand the idea behind it. If the camera goes completely over the top wild, it's usually during a point in the action where you wouldn't want to waste your bullets. There will always be a natural sway to the camera that needs to be overcome, but after giving it a little time, I got used to it and while I still don't love the decision I certainly appreciate it from a presentation standpoint.
At the very least the camera shows just how advanced the graphics engine is in Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles. The realtime visuals are pretty top notch, allowing for fantastic animation, detailed characters, and destructible environments. Head chunks explode at the blast of a gun and objects topple with realistic physics, all at a solid and smooth framerate. Even when the framerate takes an occasional dive it never really hinders the gameplay nor does it distract from the experience.
©2009-11-13, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved