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Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles Review

3
  • Wii

Darkside Chronicles is a fine fit for those enamored with the fiction of the Resident Evil series. It's competent enough as a guided shooter, even if it doesn't do much to improve on the hoary old format.

 Argh! Zombies!
 Argh! Zombies!

For all the popularity the Resident Evil franchise has seen over the past decade, its unique, deliberately paced gameplay styles have always borne a relatively high barrier for entry, even as they've evolved over the years. The same cannot be said for the myriad of light-gun games set in the zombie-verse of Resident Evil, which go all the way back to the original PlayStation, and which boil the Resident Evil experience down to shooting zombies in the face, over and over again. Ironically, it's not the difficulty or complexity of the gameplay that creates a barrier for Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles. A simple weapon upgrade path aside, this is a game comfortable hitting the same basic point-and-shoot beats as something like The House of the Dead. The barrier for Darkside Chronicles is the truncated way it presents the bone-dense Resident Evil mythology.
 
Darkside Chronicles primarily concerns itself with the events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil: Code: Veronica, though these familiar sections are bookended by a new mission set in South America that fills in some of the blanks leading up to Resident Evil 4. If you've played Resident Evil 2 and/or Resident Evil: Code: Veronica, you'll get to see some of the more action-packed set-pieces from those games from a guided, first-person perspective, and the new mission sheds some light on the relationship between Leon S. Kennedy and Jack Krauser, all of which I certainly see the appeal of. If you haven't already bought into Resident Evil, though, you're left with a Reader's Digest version of those stories. The game flatly delivers most of the information to meet your immediate needs, but without the proper context, it's not terribly engaging.
 
Not that you really need that much backstory to know that zombies are bad, and need to be shot in the face. Repeatedly. Darkside Chronicles relies on a lot of shopworn light-gun game tricks, which creates a lot of slack in what is already a slow-moving game, and neutralizes the game's grimy atmosphere and any attempt at jump scares. If you see a zombie corpse on the ground, you can expect it to lumber to its feet at some point. You can expect that, if you see a conspicuously empty area, you'll find it swarming with the undead on a second glance. Individual chapters are often punctuated with boss encounters, which represent the only real challenge in Darkside Chronicles, due largely to the amount of damage they deal with each attack.
 

 You'll face plenty of other familiar creepy-crawlies, too.
 You'll face plenty of other familiar creepy-crawlies, too.

If there's something to set Darkside Chronicles apart, it's the way it aims for more naturalistic camera movement, which, when combined with the old VHS-tape motif of the game's menus, seems designed to evoke a Cloverfield-style YOU ARE THERE atmosphere. The flaw in this line of thinking is that all that camera shake makes it harder to draw a bead on a target, something that seems to run counter to the premium the game puts on headshots. You've got a basic pistol that comes with infinite ammo, though you can also pick up weapons like shotguns, submachine guns, grenades, and others which pack a bit more punch. This is where Darkside Chronicles offers up a hint of depth, as you can take currency earned during missions to upgrade various aspects of your arsenal.
 
If you don't come into Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles with an innate appreciation for the fiction of Resident Evil, all it really has to offer is a pretty by-the-numbers guided shooter experience. This doesn't make it a bad game, just an unambitious one, and one that has a hard limit on the audience for whom it will hold any significant appeal.