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Desperate Escape, the second expansion chapter to Resident Evil 5, is the polar opposite of the first chapter, Lost in Nightmares (read my review). While that expansion took players back to the mansion where the Resident Evil series began, Desperate Escape sticks with the main game’s African setting. Lost in Nightmares spooks players with narrow spaces and fewer but more threatening enemies. Desperate Escape offers wide-open environments and zombies by the hundreds. Nightmares recalls the original game’s frightening atmosphere while Escape embraces the new action-oriented Resident Evil.
Desperate Escape fits neatly into Resident Evil 5 by giving players a glimpse at what happened to Jill Valentine after Chris and Sheeva freed her from Albert Wesker’s mind control. She meets up with Josh Stone and the two of them fight their way to a helipad, paving the way for the main game’s finale where all the characters fly off into the sunset.
However, since Desperate Escape is a side-story rather than a prequel (as Lost in Nightmares is), there’s a freshness to the experience. We know from the start that Jill and Josh make their rendezvous but the manner in which they do so is a mystery. By contrast, Lost in Nightmares has a predetermined climax as told in Resident Evil 5 that looms large over the entire playthrough.
Given this freedom, Desperate Escape lets players run wild. The bulk of the level takes place in a large spacious area with numerous spawn points for enemies and several rocket launcher turrets up for grabs. Players must fight their way to each turret in order to blast a path to the next one, though the steady stream of zombies ensures that no turret remains dormant forever.
Besides these fixed batteries, a full range of weapons from the game can be found in Desperate Escape with copious amounts of ammunition to boot. Environmental hazards like explosives, flammable barrels and electrical transformers are also in abundance, offering players a plethora of zombie-slaying options. The Trophy/Achievement for killing 150 enemies in a single playthrough is a cinch.
It is in this cornucopia of guns and monsters that a problem emerges: Desperate Escape is supersaturated. Lost in Nightmares is lean and can easily be completed in less than an hour. Desperate Escape can take twice as long to finish, more so if you are careful, so the lack of a save function is an irritant.
More urgently, the game’s awkward inventory management will rear its ugly head when you find yourself forced to choose between ammo and weaponry, a decision made more complicated by the apparent disconnect between the two. In my first playthrough, I found lots of magnum ammo but no magnum. There’s also no way to assign essential items to the D-pad; they are instead automatically sorted as they are collected by the player. I should be able to ready my shotgun with a single button press, not forced to whip out a box of shotgun shells.
Desperate Escape may not offer much in the nostalgia or terror department, but as an action sequence it’s tremendous fun. With so many weapons to choose from and a random assortment of enemies and bosses appearing each time, the replay value is much higher than Lost in Nightmares. Just as that chapter celebrated Resident Evil’s survival horror roots, Desperate Escape revels in the series’ new shoot-first ethos. I’m awestruck that through two wildly disparate DLC chapters, Resident Evil 5 manages to have it both ways.
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