It's hard to believe that it's been close to a year since I played through Resident Evil 5. At the time I was impressed with the graphics and unique locations, even if Capcom had taken away much of what made the original game so scary in the first place. Where was the suspense? Where was that claustrophobic feeling? Where was the creepy old mansion full of zombies? Apparently Capcom listens to their fans, because their first Resident Evil downloadable content of 2010 delivers on the creepy factor. It may be short and a little too linear, but at least we have a creepy old mansion to explore.
Resident Evil 5: Lost in Nightmares is a not-so-subtle homage to the first Resident Evil games, where you unwisely creep into a mysterious mansion and attempt to get out in one piece. While the creepy old mansion in this DLC isn't the same as the one found in Raccoon City, it might as well be. There's a huge dining room with a giant grandfather clock, just like the original. There's a room where spikes will come down from the ceiling and squash you, just like the original. Do you remember that famous hallway in the first game where dogs break through the windows? Yup, that's in this game, too. If you have been dying to play through the first game's mansion using the next-generation graphic processing power, then you're going to fall in love with Lost in Nightmares.
Much like Resident Evil 5, you play one of two characters sent to investigate the mansion of Umbrella founder, Ozwell E. Spencer. Your partner is Jill Valentine, who plays a big role in the final act of last year's Resident Evil 5. Unfortunately, there's not much for her to do in this game. Outside of unlocking a few doors (she is, after all, the master of unlocking) and helping you shoot at hunchback mutants, there's really very little reason for her to be here. Together you explore the mansion and solve incredibly simple puzzles.
How easy are the puzzles? There are really only a few, and mostly they require you to search around the painfully small mansion for passwords and other objects. I had no problem solving any of the puzzles, since they always involve you picking up items that are easily found. Like all Resident Evil games, the puzzle pieces want to be found. They sparkle and glow, they practically jump up and down yelling at you. All this is helped by the fact that for much of the first act you never once run into a bad guy. This allows you to explore to your heart's content, which I got bored of almost immediately.
Further into the mansion (or rather, under the mansion) you will run into a new type of character. As I mentioned earlier, this is a mutated hunchback character with an enormous axe-like weapon. Early on these characters aren't so bad, but just you wait until they throw several of them at you at once. In one of the most inspired sections of the game you are asked to set up a bunch of traps and lure these mutants to their death. This section is by far the most suspenseful moment of Resident Evil 5, since you have no weapons and are stuck navigating through narrow hallways. Sadly this section is all too short. From there we are whisked away to a fight that is straight out of Resident Evil 5. No, really, the battle is almost exactly the same (save for a change in location). And on that recycled note, we end our adventure.
I hate to sound too negative about Lost in Nightmares, because there are a lot of things I genuinely like about this all-too-brief expansion pack. The graphics are phenomenal and I like the design of the new bad guy. It's also nice to see the game go back to its roots, even if it often feels like a parody of the first game. The sounds and re-recorded voice acting is also strong. And at five dollars, I would say the price is right. The problem I have is that it's too short and doesn't feel very substantial.
There is some good news, though. Along with this brand new chapter, you also get a brand new mode called Mercenaries Reunion. While it's similar to the Mercenaries mode found on the first Resident Evil 5 disc, they had added enough to the zombie-killing bonus game to keep things interesting. They have also added a couple of new characters, including Barry Burton and Excella Gionne. Of the two, it's Excella that is the most entertaining. She has a number of surprisingly effective moves, and it doesn't hurt that she looks great killing waves of zombies.
Fans of the 2009 game will be happy to hear that this expansion pack allows you to bring a second player in, both online and off. This isn't just for the short bonus campaign, but also for the brand new Mercenaries Reunion. The game also gives you a number of different bonuses to earn and objects to collect, giving hardcore Resident Evil junkies something to do after they've completed the brief story mode.
There's a lot to like about this Resident Evil 5 expansion pack, including the cheap price tag. However, I was let down by the lack of challenge, the short story and the recycled boss fight. I also wish there was more than one regular enemy to kill, since shooting mutated hunchbacks gets boring after awhile. It definitely feels like there's more they could have done with this new environment, so part of my harsh reaction comes from pure disappointment. Still, the price is right for what is a solid, though not spectacular, expansion.
Nobody can fault Capcom for putting the suspense back in the Resident Evil franchise; I only wish there were more genuine scares. As it is, Lost in Nightmares is a solid adventure with a compelling location to explore. It's marred by a short (and insanely easy) campaign and a boss fight that was literally pulled directly from Resident Evil 5. The price is right for this expansion ... it's the length that is all wrong.