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

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.

The 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 Evil 1.

It’s 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.

Mercenaries Reunion

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.