Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles Review for Nintendo Wii

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles Review for Nintendo Wii

We were disappointed when Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles was announced a few years back, again when news of Dead Space: Extraction broke, and yet again when we heard about Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles. It seems that whenever the next-gen consoles get a survival-horror masterpiece, the Wii gets stuck with a rail shooter. Sorry, but we refuse to call Extraction a “guided first-person experience”. The two RE games aren’t even based on new stories, instead retelling the tales from the franchise’s classic titles.

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles screenshot

We’re still bitter, but to be fair, these are some pretty good rail shooters. The most recent of the bunch, The Darkside Chronicles, doesn’t do much to build on The Umbrella Chronicles, but it easily matches that game in its frenetic action, tough-as-nails boss fights, fan service, and storytelling. We found ourselves once again amazed by how long a well-designed rail shooter with an old story can hold a gamer’s attention; a single play-through takes more than eight hours. Anyone who wants to relive some classic Resident Evil scenes should pick it up.

For those who skipped The Umbrella Chronicles, a disclaimer is in order. While Resident Evil is known for its creepy atmosphere and downright frightening imagery, the franchise’s rail shooters are all about action. Even when the developers try to scare you, they usually just jerk the camera toward a zombie that wasn’t there before (some of which seem to have magically appeared in places you checked just seconds ago). You might jump now and then, and there are a few disturbingly gory scenes in each level, but by and large it’s just shoot, shoot, shoot, reload, repeat. You shoot zombies. You shoot light fixtures and paintings to reveal the items behind them. You can even shoot friendly characters if you want. Sometimes you have to watch a cutscene, or perform a quick-time event, or hold down A and swing your Wii-mote like a knife to chop up insects (that all for some reason land right on your eyes), but then you keep shooting.

The Darkside Chronicles’ plot comes from Resident Evil 2 and Code: Veronica, save for a few missions that present an original storyline. At the beginning of the game, the Umbrella Corporation’s virus has broken out in South America (this is part of the new plot, which leads up to Resident Evil 4), and from there you proceed to explore various locations throughout the world. You can play as all the staple characters, including Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield. Resident Evil fans are dedicated enough to debate the new events (and the not-always-faithful depiction of old ones) for months to come.

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles screenshot

All the famous scenes return, and most notable are the boss fights. You take on gargantuan, disgusting monsters, and as was the case in The Umbrella Chronicles, timing and accuracy are key. It’s amazing how much strategy can go into moving a cursor around on screen and pulling a trigger, and some of these fights are truly difficult – even on the Medium setting, and despite the fact that the game automatically adjusts the difficulty to your skill. We especially liked Resident Evil 2’s alligator.

Unfortunately, the storytelling is a little off. The dialogue is completely awful, the voice-acting is cheesy, and we even noticed a typo in a closed caption. Yes, Resident Evil is known for its B-movie vibe, but “so bad it’s good” only goes so far. Modern RE games are mega-budget affairs that should be more polished than this, and it’s not charming when they pretend to be Ed Wood films.

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles screenshot

As you work your way through each level, you’re ranked on various factors, such as how long it takes, whether you use first-aid sprays or continues, and how many headshots you land. Supposedly, it’s easier to land headshots than it was in The Umbrella Chronicles, but we didn’t notice much of a difference; it’s still fussy, requiring that you hit the very top of the head. Scattered through the game are various collectibles that hardcore fans will love, and by getting good rankings you can unlock assorted goodies. Factor in the three difficulty levels, the option to pick different characters, and the online leaderboards, and there’s plenty of reason to replay stages (and even the entire campaign).

A nice feature here is co-op. A friend can help you work through the stage, and if there’s anything more fun than popping zombie heads into gory messes, it’s popping zombie heads into gory messes together. In fact, the game seems to work a little better two-player, with the hardest parts becoming a bit more manageable when a human replaces your unreliable A.I. partner. The only complaint is that, unlike in Dead Space: Extraction, the second player can’t drop in and out.

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles screenshot

There have been a few changes since The Umbrella Chronicles. The camera moves around a lot more, which sometimes makes the experience more immersive. Other times, it makes the game too difficult, causes motion sickness, or becomes unrealistic – why, if you’re standing on level ground and trying to shoot an angry monster, would you bob your head around uncontrollably? Also, you can’t move the camera yourself with the Nunchuk at all; in fact, if you try, you’ll find that the Nunchuk’s joystick changes between four weapons (as does the D-pad). We ended up playing without the Nunchuk entirely, which simplified things and eliminated the temptation to move the joystick.

Herbs, instead of being used instantly, are stored in your inventory until you use them with the plus button. You can access your inventory directly with the minus button. There are a few new weapons, including a rather useless bolt gun. Your most reliable weapon will still be your infinite-ammo pistol, and you can still upgrade your weapons between levels. The music is much improved, with moody orchestration (some new, some classic) replacing the often-cheesy soundtrack from TUC.

One change we dislike is that some of the boss battles cross the line between challenging and cheap. The shaky camera is a big part of this, but also, bosses’ health bars are often meaningless. Some turn out to have multiple bars after you’ve blown through all your ammo, and others will stay alive with no health until you shoot the right thing at the right time to kill them. Another issue (throughout the game, but especially with bosses) is that when you start feeding new shells into your shotgun, you can’t stop until it’s full. If you pick the wrong time to reload and the huge monster you’re fighting winds up to smack you, you’re helpless. This is not only infuriating but unrealistic.

The graphics are improved significantly, and they’re some of the best the Wii has to offer, but after a few years with HD consoles they don’t inspire quite the same sense of wonder that Resident Evil 4 did. The cutscenes look better than the in-game visuals do, but both have problems: the cutscenes look a lot grainier than they would on a high-def system and their facial animations are awful, and in-game, you deal with the Wii’s ever-present jaggies. The frequently blood-streaked environments give off that George Romero vibe with some nice lighting effects, but they’re not exactly highly detailed, and you’ll rarely find yourself tempted to stop shooting and admire the scenery.

In short, this is a good game, especially for fans with fond memories of classic Resident Evil titles and/or old-school light-gun games, and for those who liked The Umbrella Chronicles and want more of the same. It’s a full-price Wii title, which might sound obscene for a rail shooter with a refurbished story, but it provides a long campaign with zombie-slaying galore, plenty of replay value, and an entertaining multiplayer experience.

The visuals are great for the Wii, but it’s hard not to compare this game to Resident Evil 5. Also, the facial animations in the cutscenes are awful. 4.8 Control
Point and shoot. There’s not a whole lot to it, and some of the minor issues from Umbrella Chronicles have been fixed. 3.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voiceover acting is terrible, but the music is a welcome upgrade from the cheesy tracks from The Umbrella Chronicles. 3.8

Play Value
In the end it’s just a rail shooter, but the campaign takes about eight hours and there are plenty of reasons to play it again.

4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Two-player co-op shooting: Invite friends and family to experience the horror alongside you in two-player co-op mode.
  • Revisit classic RE levels: Experience environments and areas from classic Resident Evil titles such as Raccoon City from Resident Evil 2 and the hidden Umbrella laboratory from Resident Evil: Code Veronica, as well as new scenarios.
  • Fan favorite characters return: Play as Leon S. Kennedy, protagonist of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4, his partner Claire Redfield, who appeared in Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil: Code Veronica, and others.
  • Customizable weapons: Players can upgrade and customize their weapons for each battle scenario. Each playable character can be specialized for a specific combat style.
  • Dynamic difficulty: In addition to the initial settings of Easy, Normal and Hard, the game’s difficulty level will adjust automatically based on the player’s skill level so that both old and new fans can have a fun and challenging experience.
  • Collectibles galore: For true Resident Evil devotees, archive items such as characters, enemies, old documents and movies can be found throughout the game.

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