TOKYO GAME SHOW 2009:
Biohazard Darkside Chronicles Impressions and Thoughts
Biohaze finally managed to play the demo version of BIOHAZARD
The Darkside Chronicles (“Darkside”) at Tokyo Game Show 2009. As
with the previous year, TGS is a four-day gaming event
equivalent to the U.S.’s E3, allowing the gaming and
entertainment press to preview many games soon to be released.
The final two days are open to the general public. The exception
to the list of participants is Nintendo, although third party
games for the DS and Wii can and do make the exhibits.
Darkside was one of those games exhibited. Two years ago, THE
UMBRELLA CHRONICLES (“Umbrella Chronicles”) was exhibited. Last
year, many spent nearly an hour lining up to play BIOHAZARD 5’s
various incarnations. Luckily, Darkside’s lines were quite
manageable on press day. Never too long, I managed to play
through the demo on single player (co-op also available for
those with friends) three times, playing “Operation Javier”
(entirely new, starring Leon S. Kennedy and Jack Krauser), “Game
of Oblivion” (based on BIOHAZARD CODE: Veronica, starring Claire
Redfield, Steve Burnside, and Chris Redfield), and “Memory of a
Lost City” (based on BIOHAZARD 2, starring Claire and Leon).
When playing Darkside for the first, gamers will immediately
notice the large amount of technical polish over Umbrella
Chronicles. Umbrella Chronicles was a solid game visually, and
probably among the Wii’s best, but there were a lot of sloppy
textures and visual inconsistencies overall, especially since
the game adopted the visual framework of three different games
(biohazard 0, biohazard, BIOHAZARD OUTBREAK) as well as its own
chapter. Darkside is, for the most part, entirely new assets, so
the visuals are very consistent while following the patterns set
by BIOHAZARD 2 and CODE: Veronica. The game is even more
detailed than biohazard 4 and the 2003 Russia chapter of
Umbrella Chronicles, although some bits, like the ugly,
PS1-esque fruit baskets in Operation Javier, really need to be
replaced before release.
On top of the visuals, the physics are also improved, especially
thanks to the implementation of the HAVOC engine. When zombies
are shot, they react properly, rather than seeming unaffected as
in Umbrella Chronicles. The animations are also smoother and
more realistic. The demo has some framerate issues, but was
quite playable in all chapters, running smoothly overall despite
the amount of action going on. There was little, if any slowdown
that affected gameplay. The final build should be even better.
Load times were quite minimal.
It was difficult to evaluate the audio since the showroom was
very noisy and unlike the BIOHAZARD 5 demo, no noise-cancelling
headphones were provided. Based on what we can sample from the
homepage and trailers, from the fact that Biohazard 2 and CODE:
Veronica are the foundations for the game, and from the fact
that the game’s soundtrack is orchestrated, we can conclude that
the game will continue the series tradition of high quality
compositions and samples. Noises such as gunshots, zombie moans,
and footsteps sounded the same as they did in Umbrella
Chronicles. Capcom got those details down ages ago, so that is
of little surprise.
The CG movies are leagues beyond the movies featured in Umbrella
Chronicles. The CG is of very high quality, as you may have seen
from the trailers. The last time we had high-quality CG in a
Biohazard game was OUTBREAK FILE 2, but I can say that Darkside
has even better CG than that game. It may be a disappointment
not to see an in-game cutscene engine as with biohazard 4 and
BIOHAZARD 5, yet the CG in Darkside, highly detailed, gets the
Like Umbrella Chronicles, Darkside is a lightgun-style shooter.
Use the Wii Remote to aim a reticule and fire at the zombies
before they devour the protagonists. The basic gameplay engine
is the same as the previous game, so you will feel right at
home. The new addition is the shaky cam, which was toned down
quite a bit from the E3 2009 build, so aside from scripted
events, the shaky cam was of little trouble.
Operation Javier is a completely new chapter not based on
anything before it, and stars Leon and Krauser before the events
of biohazard 4 in 2002. The game begins in a South American
village and before long, the zombies come out to play. The game
progresses from the village and its various buildings, as
spiders (of a South American flavor), amphibian Hunters and
other creatures, including a new serpent boss, attack the two.
The game mixes action with pre-set exploration scenes.
Considering that it’s assumed to be the final chapter in the
game, the chapter wastes little time getting gamers into the
action. From a pacing perspective, the chapter is not quite as
packed as the first of the three Russian chapters in Umbrella
Chronicles, but still fit for one of the last stages.
Game of Oblivion is based on CODE: Veronica, and despite the Wii
being in the same technology generation as the Dreamcast, the
visuals are several times improved over, yet retain the basic
look and feel of the original game. It begins similarly to the
actual CODE: Veronica game, with Claire and Steve meeting up,
though they actually stay together in this game for very obvious
reasons. The level begins in the Prison, and I have to say, this
was the worst scenario of all featured in the TGS 2009 demo, and
the worst of the Chronicles games so far. There are very long
moments where we are just inspecting the Prison, expecting
zombies and dogs to jump out. Since most of us have played CV,
the element of surprise was minimal. The pacing was definitely
not as good as the other two chapters. The demo ends with us
hacking away at bats for several minutes, a relatively
unexciting ending compared to the boss in Operation Javier.
Memory of a Lost City is based on BIOHAZARD 2, though
thematically, it’s actually quite similar to the faked BIOHAZARD
3: LAST ESCAPE chapter in Umbrella Chronicles. That chapter,
Raccoon’s Destruction, as you may recall, took Jill’s alternate
costume from biohazard and a new character model for Carlos,
rearranged a bunch of OUTBREAK levels, and then called itself
the symbol of BIOHAZARD 3 for Umbrella Chronicles. Memory of a
Lost City is far more faithful to the source material than
Raccoon’s Destruction, but the point is that both chapters take
place in the streets of a zombie-infested town, requiring
Claire, Leon, Jill and Carlos to take back alleys and avoid
unnecessary confrontation. Of course, the demo only featured the
streets, since it appears that the scenario continues into the
RPD (which was also featured in Umbrella Chronicles). The pacing
was similar between the two scenarios overall, and I cannot
decide which one I enjoyed more. Despite the lack of
authenticity, Raccoon’s Destruction was quite a fun chapter. At
the very least, Memory of a Lost City is, so far, quite better
than Game of Oblivion.
Overall, the demo left a favorable impression. Capcom and cavia
are clearly working hard to make this game quite good. BIOHAZARD
2 and CODE: Veronica are very much loved in the series, and I
owe the latter to my interest in the series, so they have a high
standard to meet. But in the context of the Chronicles series,
Darkside gets a lot right. It’s definitely going to be superior
to Umbrella Chronicles, which was a solid, if not spectacular
game. If you do not like lightgun or rail shooters, then this
game will still not be for you, in which case, you may want to
try out BIOHAZARD 5 ALTERNATIVE EDITION instead. Of course,
those who are nostalgic for the classic Biohazards may be able
to appreciation the remade and remastered environments from
BIOHAZARD 2 and CODE: Veronica.
BIOHAZARD: The Darkside Chronicles hits North America and Europe
on November 27, while, in a highly unusual move, Japan-based
gamers have to wait until January 14, 2010 to buy the game.