I still have a lot of the same problems with Resident Evil 5 now as I did a year ago. It's a passable action-horror game that rapidly devolves into a cover-based shooter during the last few levels, although playing it with a partner in co-op mode covers up a lot of the weak spots. The game's biggest problem is still living up to its predecessor; the game's second biggest problem is being the most ridiculous case of pop-culture racism since "Tintin in the Congo."
Playing through it again for this review of Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition, what jumps out at me now is what feels like an artificial level of difficulty. RE5 has a lot of cheap hits, instant-kill attacks, and enemies with guns compared to RE4, which is further compounded by its arbitrarily limited inventory system. It works fairly well on the fly or when you're playing in co-op, but every time you run into an encounter where you need a specific weapon and you don't have it, the game gets irritating in a hurry.
When you pick up RE5: Gold Edition, the main game hasn't changed at all, for better or for worse. It's still 18 chapters of co-op shenanigans, starring Chris Redfield as he wraps up most of the loose ends of the main Resident Evil story line.
What you're paying for here is the ability to get all of the game's DLC at once. On the 360, you get a card in the game case that allows you to download all of the content, which means you'll want to delete anything you've already bought from Xbox Live, as trying to access something that's on your hard drive twice over will cause a disc read error. On the PS3, all of the content is right there on the disc.
The simplest addition is Mercenaries Reunion, which adds eight more characters for the Mercenaries minigame. This includes two new outfits for Chris and Sheva, as well as Josh Stone and Excella Gionne. Oddly, Capcom has also added in Barry Burton and Rebecca Chambers from the first Resident Evil, marking the first time either of them has appeared in the games for years.
The Reunion characters seem somewhat better-suited to Mercenaries than the original cast did, for a variety of reasons. All of them have some kind of heavy weapon or at least a strong focus on melee combat; Josh can at least punch somebody's face clean off their head, and Rebecca compensates for weak melee attacks by having a tricked-out Jackhammer shotgun. The levels have been adjusted somewhat for Reunion as well, which makes the mode a lot more fun overall.
You also get two bonus co-op levels. The first, and the less interesting, is "Desperate Escape," set between chapters 5-3 and 6-3 of the main game. It's mostly Jill Valentine and Josh Stone teaming up to get from point A to point B, with remarkably little story to speak of, but it can get very challenging. It isn't very well-designed, though; any new weapons you find in the level are badly randomized, so it's easy to find a lot of ammunition for a gun that will never appear. Even better, the entire stage is riddled with snipers and distant enemies in rocket turrets, so you really need a rifle in order to progress smoothly … and it's entirely possible that you just won't get one.
"Lost in Nightmares" is the other scenario, which is actually impressive. It's really short and can be finished in about an hour if you know what you're doing, but it manages to create an atmosphere of oppressive dread that's well beyond anything in either RE4 or RE5. It's the closest that the series has come to genuine horror in years.
It's set three years before the events of RE5, as Chris and Jill go after Ozwell Spencer. The opening area is pretty much an extended love letter to the original Resident Evil — like we don't have enough of those — but it's smart enough to play with expectations. It's scary because of what you don't see, or what you expect to happen, as you solve a few simple puzzles and collect a few plot tokens.
Then you reach the mansion's basement, where Capcom pulls off a sudden and intense shift into pure horror. Unlike the main game, which just drowns you in angry maniacs and doesn't quite give you enough ammunition, "Lost in Nightmares" gives you all the ammo you could possibly want and makes sure that you know it's probably not enough.
It could be improved in a couple of small ways, like editing or abbreviating the really annoying maze sequence that closes out the level; I'm still not sure how the hell you'd know what to do there if you didn't consult an FAQ. Overall, though, it's a success, and it's a good sign that the series may soon return to its horror roots.
Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition isn't really a must-have if you already own a copy of the original release of RE5. All of the additional content is already available as DLC, so you're really just picking them all up at once at a slightly discounted price. It's a good entry-level package if you missed RE5 the first time around, which is a decent game with a few notable flaws.
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