Resident Evil 5: Desperate Escape is the next one from previous vignettes released in the past month that expands on the backstory of Resident Evil 5. Both of these downloadable add-ons will be included with Resident Evil 5 Gold Edition which hits stores on March 9th. As we mentioned in our review of the previous add-on, Resident Evil: Lost In Nightmares, it may be worth holding off on the downloadable content (DLC) for now in order to get your hands on the Gold Edition — especially if you haven’t played RE5 yet or if you’ve sold your original disc.
While the previous expansion was in many ways a throwback to the original PlayStation Resident Evil titles — set in an uncannily-familiar mansion with a focus on puzzle-solving in lieu of combat — Desperate Escape sticks to the Resident Evil 5 formula: limited ammo, unlimited zombies (or “near-zombies”) and some cinematic explosions thrown in for good measure.
The story follows series regular Jill Valentine and BSAA agent Josh Stone, an ancillary character from RE5, as they make their titular escape from the African Tricell stronghold. Events in the DLC are concurrent with the latter portion of the Resident Evil 5, so you’ll get to see Sheva Alomar and Chris Redfield in small cameos. It’s not exactly a tale that will give series fans something to debate at the next convention, but it does fit snugly into canon in addition to providing the setup for an epic near-zombie massacre.
The setting is a somewhat rehashed industrial fortress that retains a familiar feel throughout, although it at least partly redeems itself with some unique challenges. The lion’s share of the action takes place amidst a labyrinth of rocket turrets, where you’ll not only be forced into constant cover by said turrets, but your cover will be endlessly compromised by a stream of various Majini warriors, big and small. It’s quite a gauntlet, and this sort of chaos is great for co-op play (online and split-screen co-op play is available). A computer-controlled ally is not much help in the all-out war zone, but you’ll be able to use some of the same tricks from RE5 to make it through: keep all the big guns; use your partner as a pack mule; keep feeding your partner handgun ammo, etc.
If you were disappointed, like I was, with a lack of gunplay in the last round of downloadable content, Desperate Escape ditches the weak stuff (puzzles, atmosphere) in favor of pure action. Even fans — myself included — have to admit that shooting is not Resident Evil 5’s strong suit, so if you’ve had enough of the retro-feeling, stop-and-pop action then you probably won’t enjoy this installment’s heavy emphasis on headshots and volatile barrels (pro tip: Tricell should cancel their red explosive barrel contract ASAP!). To get some sense of how much head-popping you’ll be doing, one relatively easy Achievement / Trophy requires you to defeat 150 enemies, and with the game clocking in at just over an hour, that’s a lot of bubbling corpses.
Unfortunately there’s no memorable boss fight or even a single new enemy to be dismembered in Desperate Escape. You’ll see the same cast of characters from Resident Evil 5: the masked chainsaw maniac; the hammer-wielding executioner; the Frenchman with a Gatling Gun (he has a beret). The whole affair — thanks in no small part to a helicopter countdown finale — feels more like a prolonged round of The Mercenaries than a mini-campaign.
In addition to the story mode you’ll also gain access to the arcadey Mercenaries Reunion mode in which you shoot enemies and rack up points before a timer expires. Two characters are unlocked with this DLC pack while six more are unlocked by purchasing additional packs. The two characters included in Desperate Escape are Resident Evil 0’s Rebecca Chambers, who has an awesome shotgun, and RE5’s Josh Stone who packs a varied arsenal that includes a rocket launcher.
Despite Desperate Escape’s well-crafted action sequences, I actually found myself missing the unique vibe of Lost in Nightmares. The dynamic between Jill and Josh isn’t particularly thrilling, and the one-liners, banter and endearing kitsch are kept to a minimum. As made apparent by the comments on our last review, Resident Evil 5 has a loyal fan base, and if you liked everything about that game, this is a short but sweet extension.