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Resident Evil 5 came out a year ago, and was generally well-met and
well-reviewed. Some people took issue with the changes it brought to
the series, dropping the puzzles, death traps, and scares for a focus
on co-op and 3rd-person action. Capcom has finally released
the two downloadable chapters for the game, Desperate Escape and Lost
in Nightmares, and they couldn’t be more different. The former is an
action-packed thrill ride, and is more intense and difficult than most
of the original game. But Lost in Nightmares is the opposite; stripping
away the action to give a retro-experience that is finally scary again.
Desperate Escape is the most recent chapter to release. It’s a side story
to the main plot of Resident Evil 5, and follows the adventure of Jill
Valentine as she escapes the Tricell facility with delta team member
Josh. While Chris and Sheva escaped the facility on a ship, Jill and
Josh have to fight their way through the entire military base. The
chapter takes you through a couple of smaller, more traditional rooms,
but eventually opens up in a massive sandbox area (shown below). This
is where the chapter really starts to shine, as you plot your course
through the area, picking choke points and defensible positions.
chapter doesn’t feature any new enemies or weapons, but it features a
lot more than you are used to. I was overwhelmed a couple of times,
especially with the large amount of mini bosses in the chapter. Playing
through by yourself gets pretty tough, especially since Josh is a
worthless AI character. But if you’ve got a human partner for the
co-op, Desperate Escape features some of the best action set-pieces in
the game (especially the crazy count-down sequence at the end), even if
it’s only an hour and a half long.
Lost in Nightmares
This was the first chapter to release, and was definitely my
favorite. The episode pulls you back a few years, to the Spencer Estate
where Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine try to arrest Umbrella’s
founder. If you’ve played through Resident Evil 5, you already know how
the sequence will end, but the journey is something any Resident Evil
fan should experience.
The moment you load up the chapter, the nostalgia hits you full
force. The Spencer mansion looks almost identical to the original
Resident Evil location outside Racoon City. The game invokes the old
scares at every turn, keeping you tense as you explore the mansion.
Corpses liter the ground, making you wonder when they’ll pop back up
and come after you. The hallways have the same foreboding windows, with
flashing lightning, where the dogs so famously crashed through. The
chapter even uses a different camera technique, zooming through a door
as you open it, to invoke the old door opening scenes from Resident
not just the throwbacks that make the chapter fun, the gameplay is
revamped as well. Instead of being a strictly-action game, like RE5 and
Desperate Escape, this episode finally has varied pacing. You’ll spend
time exploring the areas and looking for clues, there are death traps
to avoid, and the ammo will be scarce (or non-existent) during the
combat sections. The levels feature narrow, dark corridors and
dungeons, bringing back that claustrophobic feel of the older games.
And when the larger monsters start bearing down on you, with nowhere to
run or hide, you’ll remember what fear is like.
Lost in Nightmares is also short, clocking in at between an hour to
an hour and half, but it’s worth it to play this hybrid chapter. The
episode shows that Capcom can merge the horror and mystery of the older
games with the control-system and action of the new ones. This kind of
varied gameplay and better pacing is an improvement, and is hopefully
where the series will go with Resident Evil 6.
For replay value, both episodes also come with a pair of new
Mercenaries characters. Desperate Escape comes with Josh Stone of the
delta team, and Wesker’s lady-friend Excella Gionne. Josh plays like a
slightly stronger Chris Redfield (the original costume version), since
his melee moves and loadout are almost exactly the same. But his
shotgun trades capacity for higher damage, and he has the addition of
an RPG for the mini bosses. Excella Gionne is a more unique character,
with her dainty (and weak) backhanded slaps and high-heel stomps. But
her loadout makes her a welcome addition. Her machine pistol and AK-74
are both fantastic for keeping up chain kills, since both have strength
and accuracy at any range.
Like the campaigns, I enjoyed Lost in Nightmares’ characters better
as well. Rebecca Chambers was the STARS medic, so she starts out with a
rare pair of First Aid Sprays. But don’t expect her to be just a
healer: she wields the best shotgun in the game and knows how to use
it. With her strong machine gun for long range and the rapid fire
shotgun, she was a total blast to play. My very first outing with her
netted me 70,000 points and an S rank, even though I hadn’t even
learned her moves. Her melee attacks are a bit wimpy, but don’t let
that deter you from what may be Reunions best character.
Barry was one of the badass members of STARS, and he reprises the
role here. His loadout is all about power, with a magnum, a semi-auto
rifle, and a hefty pistol- so you won’t have to worry about shooting
twice when chaining kills. His melee hits are strong, brutal and
satisfying. He uses a macho headbutt for staggering enemies, and for
downed foes he puts an execution shot through the skull, dubbed
“Miranda’s Rights.” Since Barry lacks any health items or crowd
control, he makes a perfect compliment to Rebecca.With
interesting campaign episodes and new characters, both episodes are
strongly recommended. They may be short, but at only $5 a piece they’re
a good value. Lost in Nightmares is definitely the stronger package,
especially for fans of the original Resident Evil. But anyone who liked
Resident Evil 5’s action will enjoy Desperate Escape as well.
I've got the final score for the episodes at the article's original posting location here. Let me know what you think of the review, or the episodes themselves if you've played them.