Compelling while it lasts
Let’s be clear on something first: I didn’t really enjoy Umbrella Chronicles as much as I thought I would. That game had an excellent premise and some new ideas, but had some poor execution. The controls felt over-complicated and the aiming just felt plain wonky. I am glad to say that most of those problems are fixed in Darkside Chronicles, to the point where they are about as good as they can be.
Now, Darkside Chronicles is very similar to Umbrella Chronicles in a lot of ways. It is an on-rails shooter that pits familiar Resident Evil characters against wave after wave of zombies with the occasional boss fight here and there. The difference here is that the controls are now smooth enough to allow you to shoot them with ease. In Umbrella Chronicles, it was difficult to maneuver the cursor where you wanted it to go; its movement was very sluggish as if there was a significant delay. Now there seems to be next to no delay and the cursor moves fluidly and allows for many more headshots than before.
This brings me to my next comparison to Umbrella Chronicles. Umbrella Chronicles was hard. Very hard. A lot of this had to do with the control problems mentioned earlier, but a lot of the monsters took a lot of ammunition to kill anyway. In Darkside, they seemed to have toned it down a few notches; monsters take less to kill, controls make it easier to get critical hits, and the controls are simplified. Umbrella Chronicles required a Nunchuk to play, but in Darkside, they managed to simplify it to just the Wii Remote. Also, if you are still left struggling after all of these improvements, the game’s easy mode has an auto-lock feature making it very difficult to fail.
Returning in Darkside Chronicles are some familiar faces such as Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield, Jack Krauser, and Steve Burnside. Some of these have to do with the game returning to some of the franchise’s older titles. Resident Evil 2 is revisited in a new light, showcasing the most memorable sequences and some new twists on the existing story. Code: Veronica is also revisited with all of Steve’s antics intact. This continues the trend seen in Umbrella Chronicles of re-imagining the older games for the newer generation of Resident Evil fans who maybe find the controls of those older titles a pretty harsh barrier.
Darkside Chronicles also adds some new story to the mix, showing some of the backstory between Krauser and Kennedy. These events were mentioned briefly in Resident Evil 4 and I find it to be pretty neat to visit some of these lost memories. I don’t want to give anything away, but it had some nice surprises, and it all takes place in totally new environments.
The Darkside Chronicles is not a perfect game by any means. The new camera system that is supposed to provide a better, more cinematic experience ended up just making me nauseous by swinging the camera around at some points like a Parkinson’s patient on crack. I also think the addition of online co-op would be very welcome, but I can’t hold it against the game because, as a Wii game, it’s not expected. Offline co-op is a feature that is fun with some local friends though. The customizable weapons also did nothing for me as it never really seemed as if it was necessary to do.
As far as Wii games go, the graphics in Darkside Chronicles are very nice to look at. It’s probably the best looking Wii game I’ve ever played, but it’s not saying much by any means. All of the environments appear to be rendered in 3D, which is a nice touch, but the real treats are the character models. The models don’t look quite as good as RE5, but do an excellent job of bringing these characters to life.
All in all, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles is an excellent game. It encompasses the best of Resident Evil and the best controls I’ve seen for an on-rails shooter on the Wii. Nearly all of the new additions were very worthwhile and really added to the core formula seen in Umbrella Chronicles. Most importantly: The shooting is fluid and the game is not impossible. Darkside Chronicles is probably my favorite Wii game, as I put a lot more time into it than I expected.