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Nintendo Wii Review: Resident Evil – The Darkside Chronicles

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If the past few years of pop culture have taught me anything, it's that the zombie apocalypse is forever right around the corner. There it is! Oh wait, that's just a surly goth… Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the undead from the terminally bored (until the first bite, of course). So I keep ever-vigilant. The question isn't if it will happen, but rather do you have a large enough cache of ammo for when it does? And the answer to that is probably "no."

One of the advantages to the Resident Evil series of everything is that it's been around long enough to make up for in quantity what it might lack in originality. Their zombie- and twitchy-shooter offerings are legion, and their commitment seems to come through repetition. Even so, for the purposes of this review, I'll be examining the game as a standalone item, not incorporating it into the larger Resident Evil picture. 

Resident Evil – The Darkside Chronicles is the latest in the series to arrive for the Wii. It's a rails-driven shooter that emphasizes quick reflexes and a steady hand. The storyline… is not important. The basic plot revolves around figuring out why there are zombies and monsters all over the place, which is the video game equivalent of a rhetorical question. The characters are hollow, and the dialogue is laughable, but fortunately neither of those is main point to the game. No, the main point here is to shoot or be eaten. Shoot a lot.

The mechanics are both very conducive to the Wii and also under-utilized. The point-and-click nature of the Wii controller lends itself wonderfully to shooters. Aiming the cursor on the screen and pulling the trigger is both easy and efficient (and if you've ponied up for the additional gun accessory it's probably even easier and more efficient). However, this plus is hampered by the lack of control you may be used to in other shooters, because really, aiming and shooting is all you're doing here. You're not moving the character or point-of-view around, and that is the primary frustration with the game.

Because the game controls your visual route and orientation, you are at the mercy of both a hyper-shaky "realistic" viewpoint, as well as remarkably stupid character direction. The documentary-style camera unsteadiness is fairly easy to forgive, as I can buy into how it both makes the game more challenging and more like if you were in the thick of fighting and running from zombies and mutants (because, hey, we've all been there and it really is pretty shaky). More difficult to accept is the constant movement of the characters. When I'm trying to shoot zombies in real life, I normally don't stop in the middle of a shot and decide to look around at windows and halls for potential far-away threats before taking care of the ones that are two feet away from me first. It's very frustrating to not have a say in your own body's strategy. But remember, your job here is very straightforward: aim and shoot, and that's all.

Technically, it is a touch more involved than that, as you also have to manage your personal stash of guns and ammo. Your strategy is basically using the items you pick up (which can be ammunition and additional weapons, as well as health boosts) to defeat boss monsters. The zombies along the rails are pretty easy to pick off, even when there are a lot of them. Once you orient yourself to the game's movement, you will be spilling brains in no time. Likewise, the boss fights aren't so much difficult as they are tedious. Most are very easy to figure out, and it's more a matter of aiming, shooting, and managing your weapons and health long enough to outlast them than it is coming up with some clever way to hit them.

Although the game play is a bit mindless (zombie pun intended) it is fun, assuming you can put up with the frustrations and limitations of the game. And it offers a fairly decent amount of replay value. In addition to simply bumping up the difficulty level, there is generally a point in each chapter of the game where you have to make a decision on where to go, which will leave open another avenue for you to explore the next time. After all, there really aren't any "secrets" to a zombie shooter, so you haven't really ruined the experience by playing through it once.

Although the sound effects are fairly stock, and the voice acting is only adequate, the game looks surprisingly good. The Wii isn't exactly a powerhouse of processor muscle, but things here are quite well done given the system limitations. Cutscenes and character texturing look great. You occasionally get stuck next to some bad rendering seams, but considering the fact that everything seems to be optimized to run quickly and without weird lags, that's a pretty good trade-off.

In summary, if you are looking for an action game for the Wii, Resident Evil – The Darkside Chronicles is a pretty decent choice. The gameplay is very Wii controller-friendly, and it helps to fill the void of more adult-themed titles on the platform. However, there are already several Resident Evil titles out for the Wii, and this one doesn't exactly bring originality as its main asset. If you're a fan of the franchise or new to the genre, this one has some things going for it, but if not you might want to try it as a rental first.

Resident Evil – The Darkside Chronicles is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, and Language.


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