[22 March 2010]
Resident Evil 5 is almost a year old. In many ways, it seems older than that. The game was released in March 2009, to solid reviews. But come end-of-the-year festivities, RE5 was mostly forgotten amidst the steady stream of AAA titles routinely released during the holidays.
The game already saw the release of a multiplayer DLC pack (to mixed reception), so it was clear that Capcom was willing to support its flagship franchises with downloadable content. Lost in Nightmares is the first of two announced add-ons for RE5, but falls very, very short of what could have been.
DLC is something that the majority of game makers have yet to figure out. The balance between adding something of merit to a game while still making it affordable enough so that players feel that they got their money’s worth has rarely been achieved. Nightmares has the price point part of the equation correct (a meager $5), but the more important “something of merit” seems missing.
Nightmares offers an additional mission, one aside from the game’s main story that is meant to flesh out the background of the plot. You take control of Chris/Jill as they explore the Spencer mansion (which is part of a flashback in RE5) and take on Albert Wesker. Nods to the original Resident Evil games abound in Nightmares. You’ll find the oft used cranks, the walking-through-a-door animation will look all too familiar, and there’s even a way to play with the camera in a fixed position. These elements were welcome and will elicit a few smiles from RE veterans.
Unfortunately, Nightmares strips away everything Resident Evil 4 built up—namely white knuckle action (sorry, survival horror purists) and near perfect third person shooting. There are only a handful of enemies (who are of the mini-boss variety) in the entire DLC. There are no swarms of enemies, which were what created much of the tension and fun in the fourth and fifth installments. Nearly halfway through, I wondered if I’d fight any enemies at all. There are also no new guns or items to mess around with. The chapter focuses mostly on puzzle solving, which is fairly bland and simple. The final dungeon was at least interesting, as you are left practically weaponless for a stretch.
Worst of all is the chapter’s length, which clocks in at no more than two hours. Combine this with how “un-Resident Evil 5” it felt, and there’s little point to playing the level.
But you’ll get a little more for your $5 than a shoddy extra chapter. Two new characters, Excella Gionne (known as Wesker’s lady in RE5) and Barry Burton (an RE veteran), are available to play in the arcade-style “Mercenaries” mode spin off, “Mercenaries Reunion.” The two have new weapon sets and melee attacks, which is nice. But without any additional maps, you’re still playing the same mode. Even more frustrating is the fact there are six silhouettes at the character select screen. Thinking they were unlockable (awesome!), I proceeded to beat the mode with both Excella and Barry. I received nothing for my labor. It appears as though these are the spots for the other DLC—the RE5 costume packs for main characters Chris and Sheva. Shame, really.
At $5, it’s difficult to say Nightmares is a rip off. But it’s certainly not what it could have been. I don’t except there to be space on downloadable content for a huge map filled with zombies and new guns to blast them with. But how about a few new “Mercenaries” maps? Or maybe a few new guns to give me more incentive to run through single-player again? Or what about including those costumes (make them unlockable, I don’t mind) instead of making them separate items?
If you’re a die-hard “Mercenaries” mode fan (and I am), Nightmares may be worth it, simply because the two new characters are fun to play, but the poor extra chapter and lack of much else makes this a difficult buy even at $5. I’ll go on record saying that I’d rather have $15 DLC that actually gives the games I love more legs, than $5 DLC that seems like a blatant cash-grab.