Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Resident Evil 5 "Desperate Escape" Review

This review was originally published on

Almost a year after Resident Evil 5 debuted, Capcom is releasing two packs of DLC. The first episode, Lost in Nightmares, fared well in our review, harkening back to the glory days of creepy mansion romping, cryptic puzzle solving, and classic Jill Valentine lock-picking. The second round of DLC titled "Desperate Escape" demonstrate the dynamic shift in game design the Resident Evil series has undergone in the last few years. Unlike the nostalgia-inducing experience that was Lost in Nightmares, Desperate Escape is an extension of the reboot design pioneered by Resident Evil 4. The creepy hallway puzzling is replaced by lots of gunfire and hordes of not-zombies. The episode chronicles Jill Valentine and Josh Stone, in an unseen part of Resident Evil 5, as they attempt to escape the Tricell Facility.

Gamers who were unwilling to embrace the changes to the franchise will most likely not be pleased with this batch of DLC. The chapter offers an incredible amount of firepower for Josh and Jill to dispatch the crowds of Majini. While the scares aren't derived from the same feeling of vulnerability as seen in Lost in Nightmares, the experience is definitely tense. Hundreds of enemies are out for blood and the game continually ramps things up as players move forward. Just when gamers feel they've finally gotten a leg-up on the enemies, another wave comes pouring in.

The duo make their desperate escape through a set of incredibly detailed environments. The Tricell Facility, the surrounding docks, and warehouses, have a tangible quality of dirt and decay. There's a particularly great level involving an expansive area with rocket turrets that players won't want to miss. It changes up the formula just slightly but reenforces the core mechanic of the DLC's design: keep moving forward. As a fan of Resident Evil 5, this episode is a welcomed addition to the experience. There are, however, a few moments where the design borders on sadistic.

Playing the game on 'Normal' really is that almost-perfect blend of challenge with small bouts of frustration. Problems arise when some of the same AI issues that first appeared in RE5 return with a vengeance. Playing the game solo, without a human co-op partner, can get frustrating. Josh, your AI-controlled partner on your first play-through, will often get in your way or otherwise be quite useless. Many Game Over screens were the result of my co-op partner dying without much I could do about it. Particularly, during the final countdown sequence, trying to keep Josh alive felt like an exercise in futility. However, players can easily overcome these problems. Play with a friend co-op, or devise strategies to weather the storm of enemies. It's not the most difficult experience players are likely to have this year, but if the AI were a tad smarter it could have been much more enjoyable.

That being said, there's still an incredible amount of stuff to enjoy with Desperate Escape beyond Jill Valentine's new double-knee drop nutcracker melee move. Like the first DLC, it comes with additional characters for the Mercenaires mode, Rebecca Chambers and Josh Stone. Fans of Resident Evil 0 will remember Rebecca from her days on the Gamecube. While the experience is short, over in about an hour, there's a lot of action packed in. To give readers an idea of just how much shooting, exploding, and flash-grenading is abound, an achievement for killing 150 Majini is available and I unlocked it halfway through my first play-through. For under $5.00 it's still an incredible deal for fans of the game, hardcore RE fanatics, trophy hunters, or those just looking to blow stuff up.