Developer: Capcom / Publisher: Capcom / ESRB: Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language) / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $5.00
Survival horror fans rejoice! One year after its release, Resident Evil 5 is finally receiving two downloadable episodes for your zombie-blasting pleasure. First up is Lost in Nightmares, which recounts the tale of Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine’s mission to the European mansion of Umbrella Corporation founder Ozwell E. Spencer. Fans will recall that Resident Evil 5 alluded to this incident via Chris’s flashbacks. Now players have the opportunity to see what fully transpired in this prequel that simultaneously serves as homage to the first Resident Evil.
The new episode features the same high-quality graphics that Resident Evil 5 showcased a year ago. Nevertheless, while the Spencer mansion is appropriately macabre, it isn’t as visually interesting as the African settings in Resident Evil 5. Meanwhile the cut scenes, while few and far between, are well done. The final cut scene (which Resident Evil 5 fans may remember) is particularly compelling.
Lost in Nightmares shows great reverence to the original Resident Evil. In this regard, I noticed a greater emphasis on tight corners and fixed camera angles. Moreover, Capcom brought back the close-up animation of doors slowly opening when players enter and exit rooms. In previous Resident Evil games, these were fancy loading screens that doubled as suspense-inducing tools. Here, they add tension while engendering nostalgia.
As previously mentioned, the episode has more in common with the first Resident Evil than the more recent sequels. Whereas the action took the forefront in the fourth and fifth installments, Lost in Nightmares forgoes the seemingly non-stop swarms of infected in favor of building suspense. Players must contend with puzzles more often than enemies, yet there is always the threat of a hellish ghoul around the corner.
Discounting the scenario’s boss, there are only two enemy types the player will encounter. If the DLC were any longer, then I would be tempted to subtract points for this. Fortunately, however, the episode is so short (lasting roughly one hour), that the paltry bestiary is hardly noticeable. This is partially due to the surprising amount of gameplay variety Capcom incorporated into the short experience. Gun-toting action segments are balanced out by entertaining stealth and puzzle solving sections.
The episode uses the same team system between Chris and Jill that Capcom introduced in Resident Evil 5. As one may expect many of the game’s obstacles can only be overcome using teamwork and having a second player take the role of Chris or Jill is always preferable to having a computer-controlled teammate. Despite this fact, I found the computer-controlled character to be reasonably intelligent. The helper A.I. only began to display a degree of ineptness during the final boss fight.
After completing the game as Chris, the player has the option of treading back through the mansion as Jill. Unfortunately, since Chris and Jill are almost always together, there are only nominal differences between the two journeys. Simply put, there’s no terrifically compelling reason to play through the scenario multiple times after completing it.
Finally, a minor complaint – although I realize the episode is incredibly short, it would have been nice to be able to save my progress along the way. Not everyone has the time to play even a one-hour long game in one sitting. Being forced to start over at the mansion’s entrance after the electricity flickers is quite frustrating.
The game’s sound effects and music are appropriately atmospheric and contribute greatly to the Spencer mansion’s eerie vibe. The Resident Evil series was never known for its excellent voice acting, and Lost in Nightmares is no exception. The actors lending Jill and Chris their voices do a capable job, but the bland dialogue subtracts from their performances.
Like it or hate it, Lost in Nightmares uses the same “tank” style control scheme for which the series is famous. That being said, I felt the controls were less cumbersome than in Resident Evil 5. This is because most of the action takes place in narrow hallways, with threats coming directly ahead of the player. Compare this to the open settings of Resident Evil 5, in which the player had to constantly perform about-faces to dispatch enemies on their flank.
With the budget price tag of 400 Microsoft points ($4.99 on the PlayStation Network), Lost in Nightmares is well worth the investment. My only criticisms relate to its brevity and lack of a save system. Yet these flaws are slight, for Lost in Nightmares is still an enjoyable diversion that takes players on a nostalgic trip down memory lane to a mansion environment that harkens back to the original Resident Evil. At the very least, the episode will satiate fans’ desires to trounce the undead until the release of the next downloadable scenario, Desperate Escape in early March. It is also a good jumping-off point for latecomers to the Resident Evil 5 experience.