Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-11-16 Wii Survival/Horror M (Mature) Capcom

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles continues in the footsteps of the Umbrella Chronicles, which acted as a flashback of sorts, recreating the events of past Resident Evil games through an on-rails shooting experience. The Darkside Chronicles takes this same on-rails shooter template and tells the story of Leon Kennedy and Jack Krauser who, in 2002, traveled to South America to track down a drug lord named Javier Hidalgo, and weaves in flashbacks to Resident Evil 2 and Code Veronica, complete with the appropriate characters (Claire Redfield and Steve Burnside, for starters).

As expected with on-rails / light-gun shooters, there are two control configurations - one supporting the use of a light gun peripheral, and one for the solo Wii Remote. If you have an available add-on, the controls are much more fluid than going it alone, as the nunchuck allows you to pick up items and reload your weapon (here, you would shake the nunchuck to reload, whereas in the other control mapping, you would have to shake the remote itself, causing your reticule to skew). This leaves the Wii Remote itself to the basic tasks of aiming and firing.

The game progresses through a series of chapters, as Leon offers narration over his adventure with Krauser, and provides flashbacks where appropriate to the events of Resident Evil 2 and Code Veronica. But the flashback sequences are definitely not a standard copy and paste of those past games, as most have been tweaked just enough to make for a more challenging and in-depth experience.

For experienced fans of the series, the changes are noticeable, albeit understandable for the most part (unless you're a purist when it comes to the series' canon). For example, where Claire and Leon were once separated by an explosion after first meeting in Resident Evil 2, they are now placed on the same side of it, in order to accommodate a two-player scenario. Dogs are added to areas where there originally were none; items are in different locations, and so on. It's these small changes that while, thankfully, not impacting the overall story, make for a fresher experience than a standard retelling with updated graphics.

While the game's first-person-perspective is appreciated, and helps further envelop you in the action, the camera could use some work, as, in going for a more realistic experience, you're often left with a shakiness that can be frustrating until you become acclimated. This is especially true when going for headshots, which reward bonus points, or when fighting an enemy from a distance. As an example, when standing on a platform that's moving, your character will instinctively sway to compensate, and so does the camera, resulting in wasted bullets. Luckily, your standard pistol has unlimited ammunition, so you're never actually left with nothing but your knife, but it's still a cause of a bit of annoyance early on.

Likewise, as the game is best suited for two-player co-op, when playing single-player, your AI controlled partner will take a backseat to the action, and seems to only fire their weapon when they, themselves are in danger. Otherwise, they'll mostly stand motionless, allowing you to unload on everything in sight. This is a bit of a double-edged sword, in that while it allows for more exciting gameplay, as it feels like you are being placed against the entire scourge, it can become a bit overwhelming when being attacked from all sides and your partner fires two or three shots in the entire ordeal.

As with the camera however, once you become accustomed to that fact, you can easily compensate by planning ahead, going for the instant-kill headshots, and so on. Not to mention the fact that blowing the heads off of the undead just looks damn awesome.

Speaking of which, visually the Darkside Chronicles is quite impressive. The graphics are of course nowhere near as crisp as in something like Resident Evil 5, but by the Wii's sub-par standards, everything from the recreated streets of Raccoon City to the characters themselves are as realistic as they can be and provide for a genuine creepiness when man-eating piranhas fly out of the water towards your face, or a group of zombies lean in for the kill.

After each level, you are graded based on how much damage you took, how many headshots you placed and so on, and can unlock a multitude of goodies like in-game documents and movies. There is also a collectible nature to the levels themselves, in that many items in each environment are destructible, and contain gold that can be used to upgrade weapons. Additionally, there is the option to upload your level scores to online leaderboards.

All in all, while Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles isn't without its faults, once you become accustomed to how things play, the game becomes just as addicting as every other game in the series. The cutscenes are downright gorgeous, the fan service is top-notch, and the entire package is definitely worth a second look. While the Wii may be at a disadvantage when it comes to mature-rated titles, this is one example of how they can shine when given the proper care.

Special thanks to Heather Sorensen and Capcom for providing a copy of this title.