|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Cavia Inc.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Capcom||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Q4 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
June 17, 2009 - Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles had a very solid idea. Take a well-known and beloved survival horror franchise and turn it into an on-rails shooter in order to cater to the strengths of the Wii. While this worked pretty well, there was clearly still room for improvements. Hopefully, this is what the sequel, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles will be able to provide when it sees its release later this winter. Although this may seem like a long time to wait, we were fortunate enough to get a chance to try out a demo of this highly anticipated title while at E3.
From the minute the gameplay started one thing became abundantly clear, this game was way more graphically impressive than The Umbrella Chronicles. The environments are extremely detailed and polished, the lighting effects add a great sense of realism and mood, and the zombies and main characters also look much more realistic. The lighting was especially striking as the glow from the random fires that littered Raccoon Citys streets in one of the levels bathed your path in a dim, flickering, and creepy fashion. There were even some nice touches such as blood splatter and water droplets that seemingly affix to the games camera to further immerse the player in the experience.
Zombies also move and react more believably this time due to the use of actual physics, so dont expect the same canned animations every time you off one of the undead. For example, blasting a zombie in the chest with a shotgun will result in said zombie flying backwards accurately according to the shots placement. Shot location definitely still plays a vital role, as shooting a zombie in the lower leg will often make them take a knee, providing you with more time to finish off him and his friends. Headshots are also quite useful, as you will not only deal more damage with your shot but you may also blow the zombies head off, which is always a nice touch.
As you may already know, the backdrop for The Darkside Chronicles will incorporate reimagined segments from both Resident Evil 2 (RE2) and Resident Evil Code: Veronica (RECV). In this demo two levels were made available, one from each of these two titles. The first was from RE2 and was called Memory of a Lost City. This level had players controlling either Leon Kennedy or Claire Redfield as they fought their way to the police station in a very accurate recreation of the opening of RE2. All the major things youd remember are there such as the gun shop with a munched on owner and the zombies banging against the chain link fence that surrounds the back ally basketball court. It was a very eerie and welcomed trip down memory lane.
The second demo level was entitled Game of Oblivion and it was taken from RECV. This level took place on Rockfort Island when Claire Redfield and Steve Burnside first met and gave players their choice between controlling either of the two characters. While not as well versed in RECV, I still thought this level felt like a good on-rail shooter recreation of my vague memories of the title. I do have to say, though, I especially enjoyed the stormy weather that left rain droplets on the camera while combating the zombies that were pulling themselves out of their own graves.
Players will still need to move their reticules around the screen to find ammo and health items to pick up in order to help complete levels. The inventory system is another area that Darkside Chronicles has seen a major improvement. No longer will players be forced to toggle through their available weapons or use healing items as soon as they are picked up. At any point a player can pull up their inventory screen and assign either weapons or healing items to any of the directions on the D-pad. This made healing and switching between weapons during firefights much easier and seamless.
Another fairly large change from Darkside Chronicles predecessor comes in its camera. The camera in the game cant be moved and is no longer static. Instead, the camera swings and moves around almost constantly, trying to make the action feel more frantic and the peril more realistic. Unfortunately, I hesitate to call this move an improvement. While it does make the game much more immersive than Umbrella Chronicles, it also makes it especially difficult to play. The cameras motion is great for adding suspense and cinematic flair, but when you have zombies closing in on you from everywhere and the camera is spinning around wildly, getting an accurate shot off is more a test of luck, memorization, and/or your resistance to motion sickness than skill. Hopefully, the cameras movement during the shooting portions of the game will be dialed down a bit before the title is released.
Despite the constant fear of losing my lunch, Darkside Chronicles was quite fun. Even the terrible kiosk setup, which had the sensor bar mounted on top of the monitor (roughly 8-9 feet in the air) with a short controller cord that inhibited you from moving away from it that resulted in the need to virtually aim straight into the air to hit onscreen enemies, couldnt keep me from enjoying this one. The improvements are abundant and the visuals are certainly among the best Ive seen on the Wii to date. I definitely look forward to this nostalgic yet new on-rails romp through perhaps my favorite (RE2) and most overlooked (RECV) Resident Evil titles from the past.
CCC Staff Contributor