While its name might remind some (present company included) of that Star Wars bit on Family Guy — “…something something dark side…” — there’s actually nothing funny (or Star Wars-ian, or Family Guy-esque…) about Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles. Instead, this lightgun shooter for the Wii, is, like its predecessor The Umbrella Chronicles, a serious but different look at what happened in this survival horror series.
But don’t take that rather silly intro to mean we’re not enthused by this game. Based on what we saw during a developer demo and trailer unveiling at Capcom’s Captivate 09 press event last week in Monte Carlo, this arcade-y game looks like it will as frighteningly good as Umbrella.
In it, you’ll get to replay scenes from 1998’s Resident Evil 2, as well as other (albeit currently unidentified games) in the R.E. series. Except that they’ve been a bit revamped since, as you may remember, R.E. 2 — in which you explored such Raccoon City tourist traps as the police station — let you play as either Leon then Claire, or Claire then Leon, with each having a somewhat different experience. In this, though, they stick together, and while there are slightly different things that happen to both — like one part when Leon gets knocked down and Claire picks him up — the game is largely the same for both.
Oh, and befitting the genre, you’re on rails the whole time, so unlike R.E.2 there’s no backtracking and very little exploring unless you count the rare occasions in which you shoot the secret door. But perhaps we’ve said too much….
Darkside also changes up a bit of the format from Umbrella by having the second character (when A.I. controlled) show up on screen, as opposed to always being off-screen like in every other gun shooter. In the demo we saw, for example, the developers played as Leon, and so Claire would often turn up on screen, though always off to the side where she wasn’t getting in your line of sight. It’s actually a nice touch, one that makes it seem more like you and they are in this together.
Oh, and obviously this doesn’t happen when you’re playing with a friend.
There’s also a new inventory system built into the game. At any point in the action you can pull up a menu and use it to change weapons or use a health herb (which, unlike in Umbrella, are now not automatically taken as soon as you find them). This menu also lets you assign weapons to the different ends of the directional pad, which the developers say will make it easier to switch to from your pistol to your grenades and back again much easier.
They’ve also revamped the camera, giving it more of a shaky, handy-cam feel. Though if the movie Cloverfield was any indication, this may or may not be a good thing.
Otherwise, Darkside looked to be good though fairly typical point-the-controller-at-the-TV-shooter. You were constantly turning around just in time to shoot a zombie or three in the face, there were red barrels of gasoline and other explosives conveniently lying around where anyone could shoot them, and you have to shake the Wiimote like a Polaroid picture to reload. Or rather, you would if Polaroid still made instant film.