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Resident Evil 5 Gold Edition for 360 has surprisingly deep ties to the rest of the series, which build through the main campaign and are expanded upon in the two bonus scenarios Lost in Nightmares and Desperate Escape.
If there were two things I wasn't expecting from Resident Evil 5's story, it was coherence and closure. As I previously discussed when reviewing other games in the series, the ongoing plot of the Resident Evil games is a sprawling, nonsensical thing which flails off into all manner of storytelling cul-de-sacs.
Initially, Resident Evil 5 seems to be going in a similar direction to part 4, a departure from the main plotline set in an exotic locale (this time Africa, with some frankly eyebrow-raising portrayals of the locals), carrying over a couple of characters from earlier installments but mostly dealing with new antagonists and monsters.
For a while the game seems not so much to be following its predecessor as remaking it, with similar enemy behaviour and action set-pieces, albeit with the graphical oomph and greater scale that a more powerful console allows.
But then, as the game proceeds, more and more references to the older games start slipping into the narrative, not just as fan-pleasing continuity nods, but as intrinsic parts of the new game's story, with key roles from some classic Resident Evil monsters along the way.
Baffling plot points from previous games are explained, and then built upon and developed here.
Through files and cut scenes, baffling plot points from previous games are explained, and then built upon and developed here. I honestly never thought I would find out where the progenitor virus from Resident Evil 0 came from, and to be honest I didn't actually care - but it's nice to get an answer after all these years, nonetheless.
By reviving and incorporating plot points throughout the series, the game forces a shape on to the story as a whole. Suddenly, rather than being a load of random events involving zombies, the series becomes one big story about Chris, Jill and the Umbrella conspiracy, with even games starring other characters feeding into that main plotline.
The two story expansions included in this Gold Edition, Lost in Nightmares and Desperate Escape, fill-out the story without just seeming like levels cut from the main game - if they had, they would have broken the flow of the main campaign. Lost In Nightmares is a flashback installment for Chris and Jill, and is wonderfully old school, with an old mansion, crests-to-open-doors, and a far creepier atmosphere than most of the main game. For those who think there's not enough survival or horror in recent Resident Evils, this may be just the tonic.
Desperate Escape is a little more straightforward and action oriented, closer in its relentless waves of enemies to the timed survival modes that have become popular recently. What it adds in terms of story is more time spent with a favourite old character, and as such it's very welcome.
Both of these add-ons take place before or during the main action of Resident Evil 5, and there's a good reason for that.
When the time the final battle with Chris' greatest enemy is concluded and the end credits roll on Resident Evil 5's main campaign, I was surprised to find that it provided a satisfying conclusion to the series as a whole.
The story started in the original Resident Evil is now tied up in a big, gory bow.
Producer Jun Takeuchi had said in an interview that the next game would need to be a 'reboot', but I presumed he was just throwing out hype.
Having reached the end of Resident Evil 5, I honestly can't see how Capcom could directly continue from the end of Resident Evil 5. They could slot a new game into existing continuity somewhere, or send some of the characters off on a largely unrelated adventure, but the story started in the original Resident Evil is now tied up in a big, gory bow.
Perhaps Lost In Nightmares, with its deliberate evocation of that original game, is an indication of the kind of game a reboot could be. A new engine, new gameplay elements, but a return to the very basics of the concept stripped of all the continuity amassed since 1998. Just new characters, running for shelter in a sinister mansion, not realising that even worse horrors await inside.
That's the future. For now, Resident Evil 5 provides a satisfying conclusion to the series so far.
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