Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles
Sony PlayStation 3
There are some things in this world that just seem like they should go together; peanut butter and jam, Miyamoto and Mario, Boris Johnson and slapstick. Sometimes things just make sense. So with the prospect of the Resident Evil franchise heading down the on-rails shooter route, a la House of the Dead, you would be expected to think that this could work very well. Sometimes however, that logical congruence can go out the window and what you thought was a great marriage ends up imploding. Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles finally staggers onto the Playstation 3 (using the Move), originally having been released on the Wii all the way back in 2009, a companion piece to The Umbrella Chronicles (reviewed here), and for many reasons that’s probably where it should have stayed. The Darkside Chronicles is a collection of stories that see you playing out stories involving some of your Resident Evil favourites including Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy taking part across the stories of Resident Evil 2 ,Code Veronica and also offering a prelude to Resident Evil 4 .
Again this sounds like a fantastic match, arcade shooting action built around untold stories from the Resident Evil universe but in all aspects of the game you will be left wanting. Visually the game has either not aged well or perhaps it never looked anything other than poor, it’s hard to put your mind back to assessing games within a particular time frame. Textures are bland to the point you wonder if they had forgot to add them with walls sometimes being near indistinguishable from the ground they are connected to at times. The character models suffer from a trinity of negatives, uninspired design, cumbersome animation and a real lack of visible damage. You should not expect some incredible HD body degradation as you blast away at your undead foes, rather you are treated to the odd arm falling off and the obligatory headshot animation. There is no real sense of damage as you shoot and after the first handful of enemies it becomes almost tiresome to look at. Other games have been doing this a lot better for a long time, even pre-2009, and because of this the release of Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles now means it seems even more dated.
The core element of a shooting game, and that which it should be mostly judged on, is the actual shooting and it does seem that Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles has forgotten this. Shooting games should be about the skill of the player and can you survive under the pressure of the approaching hordes? What emerges here is that the undead are not your biggest enemy but it is in fact the camera in the game. The use of shaky-cam has obviously been a conscious design choice to add an element of freneticism to events but it renders the shooting nigh on impossible and thankfully you have an unlimited supply of ammo for your handgun.
Every time this camera shake is implemented you will waste a high percentage of your ammo just trying to clip the undead, hoping that you can soften them up before the camera calms down from its spasms. It is nothing short of frustrating, your survival in these moments is nothing more than luck and your skill takes a passenger seat. The camera’s real shame comes to the fore during boss battles with them moving very fast already the camera shake adds to the difficulty of hitting the weak spot. To add to this mix of frustration are evade quick time events that will see you flailing around while trying to deal with the camera and orientating yourself before swapping back to standard shooting. It’s a gimmick and one that really doesn’t work, with a steadier camera and no QTEs you will feel that this could have been so much better. There is also no real sense of feedback from the Move controller and it just never feels as accurate as it should be, I recalibrated my settings numerous times as aiming felt just ever so slightly off. Most of the time this isn’t an issue as your targets are big enough but when shooting for items you will realise that something is amiss.
If you find yourself short of a friend you will be joined in the game by a companion which can be in the form of Leon, Steve Burnside or Jack Krauser. However you will feel totally alone if not playing with a real life counterpart as the AI seems to have had all ability to shoot zombies that are three feet away with any degree of accuracy removed completely. With a real penchant for shooting walls these companions would be much more useful if you could actually pick them up and throw them at the living dead. The only real benefit of them actually being there with you is that they will deliver some truly awe inspiringly bad/brilliant dialogue.
It’s not all negative though, quick time events aside, as there is a level of fun you can get from Darkside Chronicles. If you get enjoyment out of the preposterous plots, the over the top acting and ridiculous dialogue of the Resident Evil series then you are in for a treat, “Aim for his head! That's his weak spot!” It never fails to make you smirk at the ridiculousness of the script and short of working on the script team on Family Guy I genuinely don’t think you could have a funnier day at the office than working on this. The shooting is largely functional but it will feel accurate more times than it lets you down and for some reason unknown to us shooting zombies never seems to be anything less than entertaining. There are also incentives for the more discerning fans to come back, this is driven largely by the secret files that you can collect that further fill out the story. These files will be littered throughout the campaign, which is around eight hours, and with multiple paths through missions you will need to do a little bit of exploring to collect everything.
If I am being kind I could say that this is a case of a game simply not aging well, viewed with sympathetic eyes you will have a great few hours blasting your way through the familiar shuffling masses. If I am being honest then I would say that this feels very much like a lazy cash-in, graphically dated, uninspired design and poor control mechanics which all serve to make this a difficult game to recommend. Pair up with a friend and you’ll have a fun evening, but you will forget about Darkside Chronicles faster than your beer gets warm. The real crime here is that there is a potentially fantastic game in here, with greater care for the franchise and some innovation this could have been a game that the fans of the Resident Evil series deserved. For now we have to settle with this as an out of time,uninspired mediocre filler until Resident Evil 6, here’s hoping fans get a game that they deserve.