Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (Wii)
RE Chronicles are a worthwhile spinoff
I’d received this title for Christmas 2010 (more than a year after it’s release) but due to several months of incurable, life-consuming Goldeneye 007 addiction, didn’t get around to opening it until about May 2011.
Perhaps I’m just a fanboy for the Resident Evil series, but I’d really enjoyed the previous on-rails shooter installment of “RE for Wii” (Umbrella Chronicles). Sure, it isn’t exactly survival horror, but the slick polish and semi-addictive replay value kept me coming back for more. I can understand why the concept might not work for everyone, but I do recommend giving it a try before knocking it–these offshoots really retain the flavor of the series, if not the core mechanic. Darkside Chronicles is nearly identical to the first installment, retaining almost all of the good elements and including some minor improvements. Both games revisit the plots and locations of the cannon RE series from an on-rails, FPS perspective. So instead of solving puzzles in the unforgettable police station in RE2, or sneaking carefully through the villages and jungles of RE5, the familiar locations are now converted into guided first-person shooting galleries that whisk the player along, encouraging brash use of ammunition and pushing the player to destroy everything in sight.
Playing Chronicles, the true completist should be prepared to revisit the game’s numerous levels again, and again….and again. Sounds like a lame idea, right? In actuality, the “recycled content” concept works reasonably well, encouraging the player to amass in-game cash that can be used to buy weapon power-ups. The more you’ve spent on your loadout, the better you get at killing zombies and destroying the tertiary environment, in turn releasing more money and items. The cycle repeats again and again until the player is a certifiable one-man army of awesome killing-and-destroying prowess. Adding to the compulsion factor, the action often becomes so frantic (i.e. “holy shit, there are zombies in every direction!”) that even a steady-handed player ends up missing many bonuses and hidden objects on the first (or second) playthrough. Thankfully, the level design and graphics are mostly excellent, so you’ll relish the chance to return to earlier levels, armed to the teeth and ready to pop zombie skulls. The walking dead–who once inspired fear and plenty of Game Overs–won’t stand a chance.
Even so, there is no getting around the fact that the Chronicles are, at their heart, a lame apology from Capcom for not bringing Resident Evil 5 to a Nintendo platform. Though we’d supported RE4 in droves (some reviewers calling it the best overall title on Gamecube, topping even Nintendo’s own offerings), Nintendo fans are right to feel a little underserved by the delivery of two offshoot games that openly recycle the plot content of the core RE titles. I mean, sure, they’re exclusive to Wii, and the zapper mechanic works really well (capitalizing on the Wiimote’s inherent point and shoot ability), but there is no denying that you’ve played these games before, even if it was from a totally different perspective. So long as the player is prepared to accept that Chronicles are far less ambitious or innovative than the standard Resident Evil experience, you’ll have a good time killing zombies, and your Wii-ego hopefully won’t be too injured.
I may be imagining it, but one of the most fundamental focal points of the game–headshots that cause a zombie’s dome to explode in a single bullet–seem harder to accomplish in this second installment, and slightly less fulfilling than they were in Umbrella Chronicles. Perhaps I’ve lost my touch, or maybe the programmers just tweaked the process just the tiniest bit and I can’t put my finger on it. One-shot kills are a fundamental aspect of the game, and all too often, I SWEAR I’m hitting the flashing sweet spot, yet the head does NOT explode, I repeat, the head does NOT explode, so I’m forced to blast away like a newbie and forego the valuable headshot score. I may just be a terrible hunter–but I know I saw a lot more exploding zombie skulls when I played the first game in the Chronicles series.
Another change to the gameplay–this one more welcome–is that Darkside adds a multiplier system for multiple headshots. Unfortunately, as noted above, I’m not nearly as good as I used to be, so my finishing scores aren’t quite up to the level I’d like. I can’t claim to have mastered this title yet, so I haven’t fully decided as to whether the multiplier is a positive or negligible change, but it strikes me, at the very least, as a worthwhile and harmless change to an already decent game.
Finally, one of the best aspects of both Chronicles titles is the full support for two-player co-op action. Players can bring Wii Zappers or Wiimotes to the party; I definitely recommend use of the zapper for those who have the peripheral. Whether or not you played the original Chronicles installment, I’d recommend setting the difficulty as high as you think you can handle; the game tends to provide a decent challenge in solo campaigns, but when you’ve got two experienced players spitting bullets, grendades, and the occasional small missle, you’ll find that the enemy may devolve into mincemeat perhaps a tad too easily. I like my games to last me a while, so go for the challenge and turn it down later if you need to.