Riding The Ghost Train
My decision to buy a Wii (finally) was made after having played a small part of this game on a friend’s Wii over the recent Christmas break. I was impressed. The visuals, the presentation, the light-gun style game play via the Wii Remote, they all conspired to hook me and encorage me to hand over the cash. And thus, did Darkside Chronicles become not just the first game I bought for my new system, but the first game I’ve completed on it – and, coincidentally, the very first RE game I have ever completed. Yes, I made it all the way to the end credits, gentle reader, and I’m feeling quite chuffed.
But I did play on ‘Easy’. That’s the good news for others like myself who have traditionally cast an envious, but hesitant eye over other RE games; all too aware of our own limitations and misgivings when it comes to facing the kind of challenge RE games usually pose. But Darkside Chronicles is different. It’s that rare beast: a game that wants you to play it all the way through to the end and actually goes out of its way (on ‘Easy’ at least) to make sure that’s just what you will be able to do - but more of that later.
The game is split into three sections, each section further subdivided into several ‘Chapters’, any of which, once completed, can be replayed at any time for practice from the main menu. This is especially useful if the player wishes to improve the Chapter score, or just to earn more gold with which to upgrade favourite weapons. The three sections and their respective Chapters each cover seminal moments from previous RE games (RE2 and Code:Veronica), as well as introducing a completely new scenario set in South America. Fans of the series will no doubt thrill to revisiting well-trodden scenarios in the Wii’s new first-person mode, while newcomers like myself simply along for the ride will try to make what sense they can of the fetching cut-scenes and hamfisted in-game dialogue in between the real meat of blasting zombies with a very useful shotgun.
And fun it is. Dark Chronicles doesn’t do ‘scary’. This is a funfair, ghost-train ride of a game. On-rails, but with a queasy, hand-held camera that whilst stylistically admirable and spot-on for the game (that can, conversely, also frustrate and even nauseate), the game play is measured and always entertaining. Moments of relative calm helpfully intersperse the more frenetic combat sequences and end-of-level Bosses. There are also a ton of collectibles distributed liberally throughout each Chapter such as ammo, health and gold. Of course, not being in control of the camera means also having to be quick to spot and collect (one click of the ‘A’ button) these items before they pass by beyond recovery, but that’s half the fun when you’re also being chased down by a mob of homicidal zombies.
Visually, Dark Chronicles sets itself apart from most other games on the Wii. It simply oozes quality and finesse. This is one good-looking puppy. Capcom are one of the few developers to have seriously tinkered around with the Wii’s innards and cooked up a veritable delight of detail and texture within their game engine. But the Wii handles it all with considerable aplomb. The frame-rate is another absolute joy; this game is deliciously smooth and in the entire time I played I encountered no screen tear, no stutter, no discernible glitches at all. Character models are particularly impressive, whilst interiors and exteriors never look less than satisfactory, on a system we’ve sadly been led to expect so little from. And the view from the top of the Dam? Just wait until you see it for yourself...
I found control easy – and remember this was my introduction to the world of Wii gaming and my very first light-gun game. With the player able to use just the Wii Remote (optional Nunchuk if required) and all operations mapped to the Remote’s buttons, I quickly got to grips with the game’s various button-mappings. The cursor – in ‘Easy’ only – can even be locked to an enemy to make targeting manageable – handy for those difficult Boss fights, whilst reloading is simply a matter of shaking the Wii Remote (and things like reload speed and weapon capacity and power can be upgraded via the Customisation screen, just to make things even easier).
But what I really must mention is the way the game understands you might not be the world’s best killer of Bosses. I cannot over-emphasize this enough: this game knows when you might be finding the Boss a bit of a b*stard to finish off and it wants to help you. Every time you die trying and opt to ‘Continue’ the game makes it just a little easier to finish off the particular brute you’re facing off against, so progress is always made, each time you return to the fight. I want to hug and squeeze every single one of the game’s developers for this thoughtful gesture. I’m sure this kind of assistance is not available on the harder settings, but for a n00b like me playng on 'Easy' it really was a most welcome godsend.
What seasoned RE players will make of all this, I have no idea. Perhaps they will decry the game’s affable, helpful attitude to players, perhaps they don’t consider this a ‘proper’ RE game at all (which would be a shame as there is a ton of collectible files, texts and other RE paraphernalia unlocked to ‘Archives’ in the main menu as one makes progress). One thing I do know: I really enjoyed my time at the funfair with Darkside Chronicles – it was a pleasure to be shooting the infected hordes with a control system that was easy to handle and fun to use within a game world that was an absolute joy to watch pass by from start to finish.