[29 March 2010]
Capcom had me fooled. They made me think they were bad at this whole DLC thing. Lost in Nightmares was a wholly mediocre affair, one that did not feel like Resident Evil 5 in any way, was fairly boring, and worst of all, not very fun.
But the newest DLC for RE5, Desperate Escape, proves Capcom does know what to do with DLC: simply add more of what people loved about the original game.
In Escape, you take the perspectives of a newly-freed-from-Wesker’s-spell Jill Valentine and former bit character/Sheva buddy Josh Stone. The two’s pairing is more than serendipitous (pretty much, “Oh hey, it’s the famous Jill Valentine! Shall we go find Chris and Sheva?”), but it’s a Resident Evil title, a franchise not exactly known for plot coherence. This minor deus ex machina is soon forgotten as Escape lives up to it’s title, putting the pair in a tension-filled run from the Tricell facility.
I wrote that Nightmares failed because it stripped away everything RE5 had done right, namely swathes of enemies and tense firefights. Well, Escape would fit perfectly as a level in RE5 as you’ll face waves of enemies and mini-bosses in tight quarters, solve a few environment based puzzles, and run and gun for your life.
If Nightmares was supposed to be a throwback to what the series used to be—much more survival oriented, less about gunfights—then Escape is what it has become. Josh and Jill are armed much better this time around, finding a handful of additional guns along their jaunt to the finale. Right off the bat our familiar friends, the Majini, attack in droves. There are even chainsaw- and chaingun-wielding mini-bosses ready to tear you to pieces.
The chapter takes place mostly along a communication tower, which is dotted with missile turrets. Not only do these make for impediments to your progress (the Majini are snipers with these), but they serve as puzzle solving tools, as you’ll have to blow up rocks and doors to further your progress. As Josh and Jill separate—usually resulting from the “assist jump” found all over RE5—one will often have to man the turret to reunite with the other. Just as in RE5, these moments of separation are where the tension comes from. “Does my buddy have my back as this chainsaw maniac bears down on me?” In particular, the last scene, where Josh and Jill must hold down a very confined area for 5 minutes waiting for a helicopter (shades of Left 4 Dead), is quite intense and feels every bit as satisfying as any scene in Resident Evil 4 or 5.
As with Nightmares, you’ll get some more add-ons for your $5. There are two more characters for “The Mercenaries Reunion,” Josh and an old Resident Evil favorite, Rebecca Chambers. Just as Excella and Barry were in the other DLC, these two are a blast to play with. Josh brings some awesome wrestling moves to the table with an elbow drop and suplex finisher and Rebecca makes for a great support character with two first aid sprays. But still, there are no new “Mercenaries” maps (Capcom, I and the Mercs community would pay $10 for five more maps, easy), so it’s really only for the people who are still playing this mode.
It was debatable whether or not Nightmares was worth your time and money. There is little debate with Escape. The funny thing is that the gameplay length is roughly the same (a little over an hour), and on the surface, it would seem as there is no difference between the two. One chapter and a little bump for the “Mercenaries” roster. But after playing both, Escape is by far the better DLC. It’s more tense, fun, and similar to the game that it’s expanding. If you’ve got 400 points burning a hole in your digital pocket, the choice is clear which RE5 DLC is superior.