|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Cavia||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Capcom||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 17, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
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.
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.
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.
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).