Gamers not content with the ports of old Resident Evil games can at least take pride in that the Wii has started the new Chronicles series; with the second title in the form of Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles. Developed by Cavia, and published by Capcom; here is the sequel to The Umbrella Chronicles.
Personally, I love the Resident Evil series. From playing the original on my friend’s PC, to owning most of the Gamecube releases; there’s just something so classic and appealing about them. Gone are the static camera positions, and the element of puzzle-solving; and in with the free-roaming, arcade action found in Resident Evil 4 and onwards. Cavia has taken a different approach. This point-of-view style was first seen in Resident Evil: Survivor for the Playstation (a first-person shooter compatible with light-guns). Contemporary Resident Evil games on the Nintendo console have opted for the “on-rails shooter” format, reducing our input down to shooting and picking things up. With Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (the first in the Chronicles series), I had doubts whether this new format would retain the very essence that made these games so tense and enjoyable.
Although not my format of preference, I was very impressed. But now we have the second instalment, it’s time to see how it’s progressed from the first What new game mechanics we have. To know where something is going, we need to know where it’s been. This is a continuation of that methodology; as we further explore the events surrounding Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil: Code Veronica, as well as an all-new arc set before Resident Evil 4.
Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles starts off in South America; where Leon Kennedy and Jack Krauser are in search of an ex-employee at Umbrella. With this game, we’re in a position to find out the professional relationship between Leon and Krauser, and what it was that turned these colleagues into enemies.
The controls are largely the same as before. Pointing the Wii Remote on-screen and shooting with the B button. The d-pad brings up various weapons; with each button assigned to a specific firearm, so there’s no cycling as such. I prefer to plug the Nunchuk in and use the joystick bring up my weapons; this enables me to leave my thumb constantly hovering over the A button (to pick up items like herbs, first-aid kits, and money). The + button uses herbs on the character you’re in control of, although entering the menu screen by pressing the – button (or c button) allows you to choose which of the two you can use them on, as well as equipping weapons. Holding A and shaking the Wii Remote (or holding Z and shaking the Nunchuk) will perform the knife attack. And as usual, shaking the Wii Remote will reload your weapon.
One element about on-rails shooters that some gamers can get put off by is the lack of mobility. Perhaps some gamers feel restricted and almost, helpless in some way. As an old-school Resident Evil fan, I like this new direction. Just as the static camera views made us feel almost helpless, this on-rails format draws parallels to that idea. There are some things we have no control over; which is almost a nice reflection on the T-Virus narrative. We may not have the choice of where we want to move, but the game does offer us other choices we can make.
There’s a decent choice of control methods to pick from. You can opt to play using the Wii Remote on its own, or in conjunction with the nunchuk, you can use the Classic Controller, the Wii Zapper (again with or without the nunchuk).
As you play the game, there will be occasions where you have a choice of which direction you want to go in; leading to different enemies and scenarios.
There’s also in-game currency that you can collect by shooting crates and things. Using this currency, you can upgrade/modify your weapons; evolving your arsenal and offensive capabilities.
After completing a stage, your performance is scored on various factors such as points-score, clear time, head-shots, enemies killed, and archive items picked up. Any items/data that you pick up will also be saved in the Archives section in the main menu. These tend to be pages of information on characters/enemies, items, text/voice files, movies, and any titles that you have earned. All in all, there’s a nice amount of collectibles to satisfy the hoarder in all of us.
Chapters consist of varying numbers of episodes; most of which take around 10-20 minutes to complete. One thing I’ve noticed is that it seems to be easier than Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. From the overall difficulty of the episodes, to the end-of-level bosses, you’ll find yourself casually coming out on top with plenty of ammo remaining afterwards. Sure, I am playing on the “normal” setting; and there’s always the “hard” setting if you want more of a challenge, but even the “normal” mode in The Umbrella Chronicles was more difficult than this.
What I would like to have seen are interactive Quick Time Events (QTEs) during the cut sequences. This would have helped keep the players on their toes. Instead, what we have is a rather monotonous “play for a few minutes, watch a movie, play for a few more minutes, get our end of chapter score”. That’s one of the reasons why Resident Evil 4 was a great game, because even when we were watching a cut sequence, we still had to pay close attention. It kept things unpredictable to an extent and that’s what a game in the horror genre needs.
Graphically, the game is detailed and stays true to the tradition of being dark and gritty. Whilst wandering through unlit areas of the game, your character will bring out a torch which shines in the direction you point the Wii Remote in. This technique shows off the nice real-time lighting effect on the 3D models and further immerses you into the game.
The developers have included a lot of shaky camera movements which in the context of your character running around, makes sense. However, this also makes it a pain in the arse to accurately shoot objects in order to gain money and/or archive items. It doesn’t always seem as smooth (if shaky can ever be described that way) as the camera movement implemented in Gears of War, but for the most part, it’s not too annoying. It is successful in putting you in the thick of it, as does your partner being visible in-game.
The sound design is the usual moody background music, mixed with authentic gunfire noises and zombie moaning. The main problem I have is the dialogue. As there’s a fair amount of talking in-game, it nearly always gets drowned out by everything else. Probably why the developers have added subtitles, but even then, when there’s plenty of action on screen, the subtitles are the last thing you want to be looking at.
Narrative-wise, I quite like it. Not only am I interested to know the events that take place during each of the chapters, the series hints at a new direction in terms of genre. The viral infections and genetic experimentation approach has almost been done-to-death (no pun intended) but towards the end of the game, there’s a more mysterious question that hangs over our protagonist’s head. If there’s to be another game in the Chronicles series, it’d be interesting to see if Cavia take this any further, or if it was just an ambiguous way of ending a game.
As far as replay value, you’ll comfortably complete the normal mode under 13 hours. Upon doing so, you’ll unlock a “secret mode” where you play as Claire Redfield on the streets of Raccoon City. This has been dubbed “Tofu Mode”, because instead of zombies; your enemies are blocks of bean curd. This is actually quite a humorous supplement to the main game; not only because you’re killing something that nutritionists will tell you is good for your health, but also because you’ll see them fleeing from packs of hungry dogs. Resident Evil fans will of course remember the original use of tofu back in Resident Evil 2; so there’s a nice sense of nostalgia in that too. Beware, as you’ll only be armed with a pistol; so although fun, it’s also a bit of a challenge.
Replaying chapters in order to gain more money to spend on weapon upgrades will keep you coming back. Especially if you want to achieve high scores that you can post on the online leaderboards using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. The game has plenty of achievements called Titles that you can strive for too. Plus, all the character/enemy profiles, items, text files, movies, voice samples, and 68 titles makes this game a collection-fest.
Overall, there’s not a whole lot that’s new to the Resident Evil rails-shooter series. What makes it worth playing is the action and to an extent, the storyline. The latter will probably be less appealing to non-Resident Evil fans, but either way, there’s an enjoyable experience to be had here. The hard difficulty setting will provide hungry players with more of a challenge, as does the amount of collecting to be done. Two players can play cooperatively, although there are times where only player 1 can shoot. Still, I’m glad such a mode has been included.
It’s probably a safe bet that Capcom will release another title in the Chronicles series, but personally, I’d like to see a return to the 3D roaming, puzzle/action genre that made this franchise what it is today. Whether it’s more of what we saw in Resident Evil 4, or a return to static camera angles and gameplay showing more focus on puzzles as well as shooting, I’m all for that. As far as Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles goes, it’s definitely worth picking up. A nice action game that holds a decent amount of tension. Although nothing special, it’s far from being shabby and weak. Find a good deal somewhere and get shooting!
+ Dark and gritty visuals
+ Lots to collect
+ Co-op mode (although limited)
+ Resident Evil fans will like the story arcs
- Shakey camera movements don’t always add to gameplay
- Dialgogue almost always gets drowned out by other sounds
- Some gamers may find game-progression too repetitive
Score – 8/10