Nicholai Ginovaef is a part of the U.B.C.S. team sent into Raccoon City to save survivors, shortly after the T-Virus was unintentionally leaked by William Birkin. Largely characterized as an archetypal 'Evil Russian', Nicholai is cold and calculating, and is an extremely selfish individual only looking out for himself and his own goals. Continuously betraying all whom he comes into contact with, Nicholai throughout his appearances has been spurned on through his love of the dollar, and often goes to extreme measures, including multiple counts of murder and/or attempted murder, to maximize his profits.
While on the surface Nicholai is a U.B.C.S. Sergeant, his is unbeknownst to his team one of the 'Supervisors', whose primary goal is to collect combat data on all of the B.O.W.s that the rank-and-file U.B.C.S. soldiers encounter. To increase his 'bonus', Nicholai goes on the hunt killing fellow Supervisors so that he is the only one with the valuable data.
Nicholai is introduced (along with a severely wounded Mikhail Victor) to Jill Valentine by Carlos Oliveira. The three U.B.C.S. soldiers are stationed in a broken down tram and plan to try and fix it, ride it to the Clocktower, and then ring the bell for extraction. Initially, Nicholai disproves of Jill getting involved, but after Carlos' persistence, reluctantly agrees that she may help.
From then on, when the team search in need of the items required to repair for the tram, Nicholai may be encountered again in two varying situations depending on which items Jill collects first. Nicholai may either be encountered in the nearby Gas Station, who will search around with Jill. Once Jill collects the specific fuel required for the tram, the garage will explode due to a fuel leak ignited by a loose car wire, whilst Nicholai himself is still in the garage. Otherwise, Nicholai is most commonly found by players in The Chemist, after he guns down U.B.C.S. Private Murphy, who was--according to Nicholai--turning into a zombie. Once Jill locates another item required for the tram, zombies burst through the windows and Nicholai screams out in terror. Once Jill heads to where she last saw Nicholai, only his laptop and a small pool of blood can be found.
Nicholai is presumed dead for the rest of the game until player control is switched from Jill to Carlos after Jill was infected by the T-Virus by the B.O.W. Nemesis. Once again, Nicholai is encountered in two varying situations depending on a choice by the player. Should Carlos first head to B3 of the Raccoon City Hospital, Nicholai will be referenced off-hand by another 'Supervisor' called Tyrell Patrick, who Nicholai had apparently attempted to kill previously.
If Carlos heads to 4F first instead, then Nicholai will be encountered directly, caught in the act as he is attempting to kill Tyrell Patrick. In this case, Nicholai confesses to Carlos his role as one of the Supervisors, but only before attempting to kill Carlos as well. Nicholai's attempt is in vain, however, as the greatly wounded Tyrell pulls out a grenade with the intent to kill all three of them. Tyrell dies, while Carlos manages to avoid the blast, and Nicholai dives out of the window with the same result.
Nicholai's true fate wildly varies depending on yet another choice made by the player. As Jill is halted by the Nemesis on a rickety bridge, if she pushes the Nemesis off and continues onward, Nicholai will be killed by the Nemesis later on while he is in the middle of a hostile discussion with Jill herself. Should Jill jump off, or be knocked off, the bridge, then Nicholai will manage to beat Jill and Carlos to the only remaining helicopter. During this moment, Nicholai can still be killed if the player opts to try and shoot down the helicopter, though Nicholai can also survive if the player doesn't destroy the helicopter quickly enough, or if the player chooses to negotiate with Nicholai beforehand rather than attack.
Nicholai's true fate has never been explicitly stated, though, in the official timeline file in Resident Evil 5, it is at least confirmed that Nicholai managed to pilot the last helicopter. Considering that it doesn't state that Nicholai also dies, it can be loosely assumed that Nicholai does in fact escape. Nevertheless, Nicholai has had no further appearances in any Resident Evil media besides non-canon spin-offs--which are also set during the Resident Evil 3 time frame and a movie interpretation.
Mercenaries: Operation Mad Jackal
Alongside Carlos Oliveira and Mikhail Victor, Nicholai is playable in the unlockable minigame Operation Mad Jackal. Based upon the premise of a bomb being implanted within the mercenaries, the player selects a character and then must make it to the Warehouse saving room located where the main story begins. B.O.W.s can be killed to increase the time, as can combos be formed for better timing rewards. Hostages are also located in select sections of the City, and reward both supplies and a twenty-second bonus to the ticking down clock.
Playing as Nicholai arguably makes for the most difficult experience during Mad Jackal, as his weaponry is significantly less effective than both Carlos and Mikhail's. His inventory is as such:
- Combat knife.
- SIGPRO SP2009 Pistol.
- First aid spray.
- First aid spray,
- First aid spray.
- Blue herb.
The primary strategy for Nicholai is to rely on expert timing with the knife, if not making a healthy use of the dodge manoeuvre and the make-shift 'wall hug'. Fortunately, any kills with the knife rewards players with an exceptionally larger time bonus. Because of this, most tougher encounters--such as against Nemesis--can be affordable to avoid altogether.
Should the player have chosen Mikhail or Carlos, Nicholai will then take up the role as a 'hostage', found in the Pharmacy stockroom. Should the player save him, he will drop a first aid spray.
Nicholai also makes a cameo in the first entry into Resident Evil multiplayer, more specifically the Decisions Decisions Scenario. Here he successfully assassinates rogue Umbrella scientist Gregory Mueller, just as Greg is flaunting his creation, 'Thanatos', to the player characters. He then rigs the University to explode, forcing the player characters to escape, though is never encountered again. Because Nicholai is only shown in CGI cutscenes, he is the sole character who cannot be unlocked as a character skin.
Starring in yet another non-canon spin-off, Nicholai continues his mean streak by playing a primary antagonist during the City Hall level. Initially appearing as a lost U.B.C.S. soldier, he quickly turns on the U.S.S. Wolfpack team, which was inferred to have been ordered by Umbrella themselves. He functions as a boss battle nearing the middle of the level, utilizing his Sniper Rifle while barricaded in the City Hall, with three open windows allowing players to attack him. Eventually after an arduous battle, he is appointed as a ''non-priority target'' by Umbrella command, and disappears from the story completely as the Wolfpack disarm multiple EMP devices he has planted.
Nicholai is a playable character for the Multiplayer Versus mode Heroes, on the U.S.S. side. He is equipped with a mix of skills from the standard Field Scientist and Demolition classes.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse movie rendition
In the Paul Anderson movie, Resident Evil Apocalypse--which is loosely based around the events depicted in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis--Nicholai is a considerably different character than his video-game counterpart. Portrayed by Zach Ward, Ginovaef is alternatively shown as a more honorable and upstanding soldier. His appearance is also significantly more short-lived, as he is quickly killed by a zombie hound close to right after he is introduced.
- During development, Nicholai was originally depicted as U.B.C.S. Lieutenant Mikhail Victor's brother, hence the coincidence of why they both happen to be Russian. As a character, Nicholai was otherwise unchanged, though in this reality, Nicholai would interact with Mikhail (Nicholai and Mikhail do not speak to one another at all during RE3), who was to also largely be the same character minus the additional relation.
- Nicholai's name is spelled as such--as opposed to the correct spelling of 'Nikolai'--due to a localization error. Despite this, his name continued with the spelling for every other of his appearances across the series.