March 29th, 2013
A few years ago, in the midst of a rail-shooter bonanza for the blog, I wrote a series of articles on Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles. Most of what I said in those posts is also true of its sequel, Darkside Chronicles, but there’s a few comments I’d like to make specifically about the second game:
- The most immediate point of difference between the two games is Darkside Chronicles‘s higher colour saturation. It can still look a bit drab at times, but at least it’s free of Umbrella Chronicles‘s nihilistic, nearly monochromatic colour palette.
- The other thing that becomes immediately apparent is the forced attempts of playing up the horror element. Let’s explore these one by one:
Shaky Cam – During the transitions between shoot-outs it’s nausea-inducing. During the shooting sequences themselves, it’s just obnoxious. Given that the hit boxes for enemy weak points are still quite small, the hit box for critical hits are tinier still, and the enemies occasionally approach from some distance, the shaky cam only makes it harder to aim accurately.
More Talky-Talk Sequences – More than the original game, the characters talk their heads off about the supposed horror of the situation. Since the sequencing of the shoot-outs, perspective control, mechanics, game elements, and interplay with enemies aren’t structured around creating scares (some good ideas on this here), there’s an odd and somewhat comical disconnect between the fear the characters are expressing and the fear the player is not participating in. I reckon that about 2 hours of my play time was spent inactive, waiting for the characters to shut up.
Sudden Attacks – One technique which is sure to guarantee frights, and Darkside Chronicles reuses over and over again, is sudden enemy attacks. Whether zombies pop out of nowhere or interrupt one of the game’s excessive dialogue sequences, the player is caught off guard and must quickly react. This cheap trick often frustrates as the window between seeing an enemy and them taking a bite of your neck is short, indeed.
Run Away Sequences – Sometimes the characters will spot a group of enemies and quickly turn around and run because “there’s too many of them!”. The player can take a few shots before the viewpoint is suddenly yanked away from them. Given that “too many” tends to be just as many as the player had face earlier in the level, these sequences are frustrating and illogical. If anything, these sequences only encourage reckless shooting.
- Each chapter is undertaken by two characters, one male, one female. The player can select one of the two Resident Evil staples prior to each mission. The viewpoint and gameplay is a little different for each. For example, one character being caught by a zombie while the other tries to shoot it off. This is a subtle, yet significant feature.
- Branching paths also add to the game’s longevity.
- The gun upgrades only work to unbalance and displace the selection of weapons. That is to say, what’s the point of having a shotgun when you can buff up the firepower of your pistol to be just as strong?
- Choosing your load-out, however, encourages the player to find an optimal balance between gun types and keeps a continuity going between levels. The player’s selection of weapons should be reset each story arc, though, as it doesn’t make sense that their cache of weapons can travel between different points of the Resident Evil timeline. This would also add a salvage dynamic to the initial chapters of each arc.
- Some enemies have protracted reaction animations in which they’re protected by invincible frames. The tofu mini-game epitomises this problem as, even though the animation is the same/similar to the zombies, the tofu squares have no physical features, so it’s difficult to tell when they’re about to sprint towards you and when they’re still recovering from a gunshot.
- Similarly, it can be hard to tell which objects are breakable and non-breakable. Amazingly, some windows break while others remain solid.
- This fight with William Birkim is horrible. Small hit boxes, invincible frames, and Birkin’s health bar has no relationship to how close you are to defeating him. Even when the boss’s health is whittled down to nothing, the player still needs to go through the sequence where they’re about to fall off the platform. This is a great example of how the designers betray form for the sake of contrived scares, much to the detriment of gameplay.
I played this game on Wii and would recommend a standard Wii-mote and nun-chuck setup.