A lot can change in two years. When Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles was released on the Wii in November 2007 it felt like a fresh, unique experience because the Zapper had only just been released and there weren't a lot of lightgun games on the Wii at the time. Since then however, the Wii's racked up a large body count of on-rails games, including the likes of House Of The Dead 2 & 3 Return, Ghost Squad, House Of The Dead: Overkill and, most recently, the fantastic Dead Space: Extraction. This means The Darkside Chronicles needs to have more than just novelty value up its blood-soaked sleeve to compete with the rest of the big boys. Does it manage this? Yes and no.
As in the previous game, the levels in The Darkside Chronicles are based on previous games in the Resident Evil series. Whereas its predecessor featured areas from the original Resident Evil, Resident Evil Zero and Resident Evil 3, this time around it's Resident Evil 2 (our favourite in the series) and Code Veronica getting the on-rails treatment.
Stay Still, Damn It!
Visually, The Darkside Chronicles is a great improvement over its already impressive predecessor. Backgrounds are detailed, enemies are suitably disgusting and it's as satisfying as ever to pull off a headshot and watch a zombie's head explode. Unfortunately, the game's graphical style can have a negative impact on the gameplay at times, as the new 'realistic' camera sees your character's head bobbing all over the place as they run through the levels, making it almost impossible to pull off an accurate shot while on the move.
As before, to make two-player co-op make sense, every level is played with two characters progressing through the game together. When playing in single-player mode you get to choose which of the two characters you control, and to add to the feeling that you're being accompanied, you see your partner wander into your line of vision every now and then, which didn't happen in the last game. You even have to help them out sometimes by picking off zombies that have grabbed hold of them.
While this concept of two characters working together is a welcome one that adds greatly to the story of each level (since there's a constant dialogue going on between the two characters) it does mess up the Resident Evil storyline a bit. For example, the whole point of Resident Evil 2 is that the game's two main characters, Claire and Leon, are separated at the start of the game when a huge tanker explodes between them. They don't meet until much later. Since this doesn't fit in with the whole 'two characters together' routine here, the tanker explosion simply doesn't happen and Leon and Claire stick together from the start.
What's The Story?
These brazen storyline tweaks are frequent throughout the game and, while only minor niggles, will undoubtedly annoy some long-time fans of the series. The selling point
of the Chronicles series was to tell the whole Resident Evil story and fill in the gaps in the storyline to solve unanswered questions. But when you run into the gun shop at the start of the Resi 2 section to find that the owner's already been eaten before he even gets a chance to talk to you, or when you get to the police station and encounter the dying cop in the middle of the main lobby instead of the small side-room he used to be in, it simply raises more questions than it answers as to what the real storyline is. How was William Birkin really defeated on the train at the end of Resident Evil 2? Was it the way it happened at the end of the actual game, or was it the way that it happens here? Rather than telling the definitive Resident Evil story, all this will do is make fans of the series argue with each other over what the definitive plot actually is. Ultimately though it's the gameplay that matters and while the game's pace is initially painfully slow, it does eventually pick up and things get pretty frantic. The best sections are undoubtedly the Resi 2 and Code Veronica ones, even though the others (including one set in a South American village that has more than a hint of Resident Evil 5 about it) are fun too.
What's more, there's plenty of replay value. With loads of hidden items to find and some genuinely awesome unlockables that will please Resi fans, there's definitely a lot of bang here for your buck. It's just up to you to decide whether you're in the mood for yet another on-rails shooter experience once you've got through the superior House Of The Dead: Overkill and Dead Space: Extraction.