Genre: Rail Shooter
Reviewer: George Damidas
Overall: 8 = Excellent
The sequel to 2007’s Umbrella Chronicles, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (Darkside Chronicles) follows Leon S. Kennedy, Clair Redfield, and Steve Burnside’s adventures through memorable moments from Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil Code: Veronica, and an all-new storyline. Revised controls, a new weapon upgrade system, and a host of unlockable goodies do a great job in advancing the series, but a few cheap shots hold it back.
Broken up into three chapters, you will play through a new storyline set in South America (“Operation Javier”) as you investigate Raccoon City (“Memories of a Lost City”) and the Veronica Virus (“Game of Oblivion”). The new storyline’s levels are interspersed throughout Leon and Jack Krauser’s conversation in South America as flashbacks reveal Leon’s past run-ins with the Umbrella Corporation. Main characters are chosen when entering a new chapter, but the level is the same regardless of which character was chosen due to a partner system. In theory, the other character, controlled either the second player or the AI, is your partner and will assist whenever the fur starts to fly. In reality, it’s a cool idea that works fine for two players but not so much for one, as the single player is saddled with an inadequate AI that randomly assists without rhyme or reason. Sometimes you get help, sometimes you don’t, but you will always have to make sure they stay alive because your game ends when theirs does. On the up side, you rarely have to worry about them dying as the enemies favor you so heavily that you might wonder if the other character is actually there. It actually ends up being more of a missed opportunity than a problem, because, aside from the annoying moments when the other character takes all of the credit for doing nothing, their absence tends to put the scenarios more in line with what happened in the past games.
Prior experience with the series helps, and you’ll get more out of Dark Chronicles if you have some, but isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying the game. If you just want to play a rail shooter – think of a shooting gallery – then you will find Darkside Chronicles to be a creepy, often engaging experience. While not a phenomenal-looking title, the art direction is sound and it still manages some impressive scenes, particularly when using the flashlight. If you’ve spent, then you’re going to be in for a treat. As a fan, I couldn’t help but be giddy when I found myself stumbling into a gun shop just after arriving in Raccoon City and noticing that I was replaying an early segment from Resident Evil 2. The levels are fairly solid, despite excessive backtracking at some points, but the random jolts of nostalgia are always great.
New to the series are a refined control scheme and a cleaner HUD. Weapons are now defined in the pause menu to a direction, and are then chosen by the directional pad or nunchuk during play. The HUD has also been improved with ammo count being moved to under the life bar, and there are also a host of optional graphical elements that can be added or removed as well. The changes and additions are easy to like, but the camera isn’t going to be as well received. In an attempt to mimic actual movement, the camera bobbles and bounces as your character turns corners, climbs ladders, and gets knocked around. I found the camera system’s implementation to be largely successful, save for the handful of moments when the game tosses an enemy into your view mid attack or when you must hit a small area on a boss as the camera shifts and tilts. Those prone to becoming nauseous or coming down with migraines whenever the view bobs in other first-person titles will want to approach Darkside Chronicles with caution, because the feature cannot be turned off. In the end, I was more irked at the game’s ambushes more than the camera, simply because the camera had the benefit of being cinematic while being jumped always felt cheap.
For being a rail shooter, I was surprised that it took ten hours to complete the first time. Even though the chosen character doesn’t represent a significant shift in how the game unfolds, there are a handful of times when you come to a fork in the road and must choose between various paths. Further increasing replayability is the weapon customization method that allows you to use the gold found throughout the levels – often by shooting lamps, pictures, and statues – to upgrade power, reload time, stopping power, clip size, and rate of fire. Upgrades become increasingly expensive as the grade of the feature slowly ebbs its way to A, and with several weapons to choose from, including the ever-popular shotgun and magnum, you are going to need a lot of gold. Umbrella icons can also be found, which will unlock items relating to the series’ history from text and audio files to character models. There are even hidden achievement-styled titles that are given as you attain unstated goals, as well as an online leader board. Fans of the series and non-fans alike will find plenty of incentives to play back through after the first go.
Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles is a satisfying shooter and a real treat for fans of the franchise. Weapon customization, titles, and alternate paths all offer a great deal of replayability. The bobbling camera, however, while cinematic, is capable of inducing nausea or migraines on susceptible players, so be warned. The cinematic camera work can also lead to some cheap shots, which are a little too frequent, and boss encounters that are a little frustrating. By the end, however, I ended up not minding the camera and felt that it added a bit of flair, akin more to an amusement park attraction than actual movement. If you’re in the mood to kill some zombies, then grab a friend, a zapper or two, and get ready to relive some great moments from Resident Evil history.
(This review is based on a retail copy provided by the publisher.)