Lost in Nightmares, the previously released Resident Evil 5 downloadable-content package, worked for me because it took the better parts of Resident Evil’s nostalgia and wrapped it around the RE5 interface. The hallowed ground of the Spencer Mansion pushed aside my problems with the friendly AI, and the frantic pace and puzzle-solving focus made the experience short and sweet.
Desperate Escape opts for much a different path. Rather than thread you through other segments or locals from Resident Evil's expansive lore, it takes a much more action-oriented approach, not unlike the series latest numbered offerings.
Josh and Jill
Picking up right after the Jill + Wesker fight early in the second half of RE5, you control a recently conscious Jill or casual action hero stereotype Josh Stone as they try to (desperately) escape from a rather industrial lookingTricell facility. It's Resident Evil, which means nothing is going to go as planned, which translates out to an increasingly lethal series of armed conflicts amongst the afflicted, bloodthirsty African population.
Desperate Escape doesn't really pull any punches. It's RE5's combat, and it's a lot of it. Those displeased with Lost in Nightmares rather passive affair with a handful of minibosses should be delighted by Desperate Escapes seemingly limitless Manji onslaught. Standard melee shufflers arrive in the molotov-throwing and knife wielding variety, and they're augmented by an occasional chainsaw guy, giant scythe wielding hulk, and even a few of those menacing, minigun-toting, moustache-bearing fat men. Of course, you’re outfitted with a standard away of high power weaponry and a knack for rarely having a comfortable amount of ammunition.
Every enemy is pulled directly from Resident Evil 5, which would have been a bummer if it was a straight combat romp. While there aren't necessarily puzzles, you'll still need to sever the mortal coil of a few key-holding Manji or use basic co-op functions to advance your progress. The only noteworthy addition arrives with a few missile turrets, which, aside from making your life a complete living hell as you approach them, need to be used to blow a hole into some otherwise impenetrable doors.
The endgame of the hour long sequence, thankfully, doesn't contain a rehashed boss encounter (ala Lost in Nightmares), but rather an engaging, hectic arena battle. Under the guise of a helicopter pickup timer, you're forced into an enclosed area and provided with a limited amount of ammo with which to dispatch your increasingly hostile foes. You don't necessarily have to kill all of them, especially the minigunners, but it's a necessity if you're looking to S rank the experience (really, along with a difficulty bump the only reason I can think to replay Desperate Escape). While not a deviation by any means, the Left 4 Dead style timer and fight to survive did well to inject a bit of tension into the otherwise sterile RE5 rehash.
In the end, Desperate Escape brought to mind my favorite Resident Evil 4 spinoff/bonus mode, Assignment Ada. Essentially a combat heavy fast track through the last third of RE4, Assignment Ada took RE4's then-revolutionary 3rd person combat and exploited it to its maximum potential. That was cool, but here we are five years later and Desperate Escape feels like a rehashed plan with recycled mechanics (plus or minus a point depending on whether or not you play with either poor AI or a friend) that we're now playing extra for. Granted, this comes standard when packaged with Lost in Nightmares on the slightly-lower-than-usual priced Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition, and it's only a five dollar download, but there is a detectible sense of rub here.
It's also worth mentioning that both Josh and Resident Evil 0/1 veteran Rebecca Chambers will be available in the Mercenaries alternate mode. Rebecca feels a bit more nimble and each character has new quip, weapons load outs, and melee animations for the considerably fun arena minigame.