Review: Resident Evil 5: Lost in Nightmares

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Resident Evil 5 is an awesome game, but for those of us who have followed the series since the beginning it is simultaneously disappointing in many ways because it simply isn’t a survival-horror game, it’s more of a clumsy attempt at a fusion of traditional Resident Evil concepts with the action-oriented mentality of Gears of War.

However, with Lost in Nightmares, the first of two downloadable “lost chapters” in the RE5 storyline, Capcom takes us on a brief trip back in time to when Resident Evil was still about survival-horror, and although to some it may come across as a painful tease of what RE5 could have been had it stuck to the series’ roots, it is an exciting tease nonetheless.

If you’ve played through the RE5 storyline, you should remember the flashback sequence to the night when Chris and Jill take on Wesker at Spencer Estate, a fight ending in what Chris thought was Jill’s demise as she and Wesker crashed through a window and fell into the darkness below. Lost in Nightmares chronicles the events leading up to this fateful confrontation, putting you in control of Chris and Jill as they explore Spencer Estate before their encounter with Wesker.

The first thing you’ll notice in Lost in Nightmares is the striking resemblance Spencer Estate bears to the Raccoon City mansion from the original Resident Evil, from the open main hall to the dining room to the narrow winding hallway where the dogs crashed through the windows as the original’s first real jump-out-of-your-seat scare moment. As you walk about the mansion, you will be swept away by a nostalgic sense of familiarity, yet at the same time still feel like you are exploring uncharted territory – and there really is new territory to see as the chapter unfolds, including a decrepit prison area below the mansion.

Lost in Nightmares is a true return to the series’ origins in the survival-horror genre. Yes, the mechanics are the same as the base RE5 experience, which means you still can’t move and shoot and you are still stuck with an annoyingly dimwitted AI companion by your side. But the setting, atmosphere and puzzles (cranks and emblems, anyone?) are vintage Resident Evil, and RE5’s winning qualities – the stunning visuals, intense action and added co-op dynamic – shine through once again. There isn’t much in the way of story (and it’s also kind of anticlimactic already knowing how the chapter ends before you even start it), but the narrative material that is present is discovered in classic fashion by reading notes and diaries scattered about the mansion.

What I love most about Lost in Nightmares is its pacing. For the first 30 minutes or so, you feel the tension steadily building as you roam familiar hallways, cautiously tip-toeing by dead bodies and windows expecting certain things to happen…yet they never do. Then, as soon as you start to relax and feel safe…wham! A terrifying new enemy unexpectedly reveals itself and the real horror begins.

Depending on your skill level and play style, Lost in Nightmares should take you anywhere from one to two hours to complete (my completion time was roughly an hour and fifteen minutes), and with multiple difficulty settings, 18 hidden star emblems to find, leaderboards, new trophies/achievements, the unlockable option to play from Jill’s perspective and a fun Easter egg allowing you to play from the old school fixed camera perspective of the pre-Resident Evil 4 era, there is plenty of replay incentive to spark at least one additional playthrough, if not more.

One word of warning, though: this add-on chapter is designed to be played through to completion in one sitting, and thus there is no way to save your progress. I found this out the hard way, quitting after about 45 minutes assuming progress was being saved at the checkpoints, only to return to find that I had to start over from the very beginning. I know this isn’t a very long expansion, but it’s not always possible to plan out one to two hours of uninterrupted gaming time, so a simple auto-save would’ve been nice.

Also included with this DLC is the “revised” Mercenaries Reunion timed survival mode with Barry Burton and Excella Gianne as new playable characters (and six more characters on the way in upcoming DLC packs), and in both modes you can play by yourself or cooperatively online or in split-screen.

So if you still have a copy of Resident Evil 5 lying around, go ahead and download Lost in Nightmares (or wait a couple more weeks for the Gold Edition re-release with the full game and all its DLC packs bundled together). It’s not as substantial an add-on as something like Demons of the Badlands for Red Faction: Guerrilla, but for only $5 it’s a great value extender and a fun tribute to Resident Evils of yesteryear.

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Pros:
+ Nicely paced extension to the RE5 storyline
+ Great homage to original Resident Evil
+ Plenty of extra gameplay at a cheap price

Cons:
– Can’t save progress
– Kinda anticlimactic since you already know how the scenario ends

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3 via PSN, also on Xbox 360 via Xbox Live
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: XBL – 2/17/2010, PSN – 2/18/2010
Genre: Action, Survival-Horror
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1-2
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!