Resident Evil 5: Lost In Nightmares Micro-Review: Less Fighting, More Frightening

The brief new downloadable episode for Resident Evil 5 isn't very scary, but it does show how a Resident Evil 5 can be more terrifying than the original game Capcom released in 2009.

Resident Evil 5: Lost In Nightmares is a flashback scenario starring Mark McGwire-bodied Resident Evil 5 hero Chris Redfield and his partner in zombie-killing from the first Resident Evil game, Jill Valentine. It controls like RE5. It can be played in co-op like RE5. But we're not in Africa this time. We're in the mansion of the founder of the Umbrella Corporation. In this mansion, there are puzzles to solve, sturdy axe-men to fight, points to tally and windows in a hallway that ... dogs aren't going to jump through them and attack, are they?

Loved
Quiet Doesn't Mean Too Quiet: It takes a while to find anything in Lost In Nightmares that needs killing or re-killing. For a long time, Chris and Jill are in the horror movie set-up phase, creeping through a mansion, exploring its crannies and crank puzzles, and, as the player, you're waiting. When are the enemies going to pounce? The base Resident Evil 5 game was boldly built to generate tension and fear while assaulting its playable characters with crowds of infected enemies under a blazing mid-day sun. Lost In Nightmares provides an old-fashioned type of tension, in a darker, lonelier place. It's a welcome return to an earlier style, rendered beautifully in RE5-level graphics. Even when the shotgun-shooting starts, the enemies are fewer, not because the game can't render more enemies, but because, well, it's creepier this way.

Swift And Efficient: Lost In Nightmares is not just short, which you may or may not like, but svelte, which is a less controversially good thing. The classic Resident-Evil-1-style puzzles that have you collecting two pieces of a plaque so a door will open may not be clever but they pass briskly and are pleasant to do. The game charges the player to do just about nothing that is tedious and instead invites them to move from one interesting corner of the mansion to the next. Had it required the player to linger, the mansion may have begun to bore, but this is a Resident Evil scrunched into a feature film run-time. Everything is stripped down and only what is needed and works is left in. This is tidy game development worth praising.

Hated
Drake And Chloe, Where Are You?: Resident Evil always had dialogue that smelled like Gouda. And, sure, buddy-fiction dialogue standards are low. But the stiff exchanges and lack of convincing human interaction of Redfield and Valentine is tougher to tolerate on this side of Uncharted 2, which has a set a standard about how video game characters could quip and emote with each other, during high and low moments, with a sense that blood flows through their veins rather than oil. Chris Redfield shouldn't be Drake. Jill Valentine need not be Chloe. But the two should seem human, because, as of October 2009, mannequin action heroes in video games feel archaic.

Resident Evil 5: Lost In Nightmares provides a pleasantly uneasy return to the style of Resident Evil 1, and adds as a bonus a re-mixed version of the series popular score-attack mode Mercenaries, with a slew of new franchise characters. There is good and just varied enough content here for the Resident Evil fan. If you didn't like RE5 you might even like this — if you don't mind your games to be in fighting trim and a little lacking in the human charm department.

Resident Evil: Lost In Nightmares was developed and published by Capcom for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on February 18. Requires a copy of Resident Evil 5. (Lost In Nightmares and another new downloadable scenario will both be included in the March-slated Resident Evil 5 Gold Edition version of RE5. Lost In Nightmares retails for about $5.00 USD on Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Network. A copy of the episode was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through the adventure in 90 minutes, dabbled with Mercenaries Reunion, didn't like the boss battle.

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