Harrison Abbott reviews Resident Evil Village: The Winters’ Expansion…
Resident Evil Village tied up most of its loose ends, with an explosive climax that seemed to definitively put the “Winters Family Saga” to bed.
Father, mother and child were all reunited in the third act, we at long last discovered how Ethan managed to survive fatal injury after fatal injury, and the tortured protagonist himself was finally allowed to rest (bowing out with a noble sacrifice). To be honest, it didn’t feel like there was much left to resolve by the time you reached your playthrough grading screen, as the narrative was wrapped up in pretty conclusive fashion.
Yet the developers were sure to leave themselves a little wriggle room, keeping their options open in case they ever wanted to return to the (village) well. By raising tantalizing questions at the eleventh hour, Capcom set up a few dangling threads for potential spin-offs to explore later on down the line.
Firstly, everyone’s favourite “Boulder-punching asshole”, Chris Redfield, learned that his old employers at the BSAA were up to something fishy. In a shock reveal, it turned out that the agency was illicitly making use of the very same bioweapons that it once fought to crack down on. And Chris was understandably pissed.
Shortly thereafter, a flash-forward revealed that Ethan’s daughter, Rose, eventually falls under Chris’ stewardship, so that she can be utilised as an asset for Neo-Umbrella. Now fully grown, it’s teased that she has somehow retained her psychic link to the Megamycete (despite the fact that it was blown to smithereens) and that she is being trained in the use of various powers associated with this connection.
While either of those ideas could be decent jumping-off points for a future Resi sequel, the latter plotline has been consigned to Village’s first — and likely only — DLC. Serving as a kind of epilogue for the Ethan story, Shadows of Rose picks up roughly 16 years after the events of the main game.
Here, we learn that Rose is now a put-upon teenager, juggling a hectic schedule of military operations, high school studies and (based on the ridiculously detailed sketches we see in her journal) professional art classes. So much for a healthy work-life balance!
The thing is, she doesn’t have many social appointments to keep anyway, given that her genetic mutation scares the bejesus out of everybody else. Having endured a tough childhood of being mercilessly bullied, ostracized and branded as a freak, Rose wants nothing more than to get rid of her incredible powers. So, when an opportunity to become “normal” finally presents itself, she snaps it up in a heartbeat.
Following a mysterious tip from one of Chris’ squad mates, Rose travels to a classified government facility where scientists are performing tests on the last surviving piece of Megamycete. Against her better judgement, she does a kind of Vulcan mind-meld with this fungus and is transported to a bizarre “Realm of Consciousness”.
Taking control of the younger Winters as she navigates this trippy dreamscape, you are tasked with obtaining a special purifying crystal, which supposedly has unique properties and is capable of curing Rose’s affliction. Unfortunately, tracking down said stone is going to be much easier said than done.
You see, the Realm of Consciousness is basically a repository of everything that the mould has absorbed over the years, including the people that died in its vicinity and their respective memories. You are therefore not alone in the hive mind and will have to contend with facsimiles of several iconic Resident Evil characters (all of whom were at some point ensnared by the mould).
These clones aren’t quite the real deal, but they each have traces of their forbears’ personalities, akin to the subconscious projections from Inception. For instance, there’s a villainous iteration of The Duke, Mother Miranda stages a comeback of sorts, and you’ll even have to fend off sinister copies of Rose herself.
Luckily, not everybody that’s been resurrected by the Megamycete is out to get you. On the contrary, you will be assisted throughout the various dreamworld stratums by an invisible guardian angel (nicknamed Michael), who manifests out of thin air as ephemeral glowing text.
This trusty companion will offer puzzle advice, direct you towards hidden passages and highlight the location of key items. Think of him a bit like one of those Good Samaritan players that leaves behind helpful messages in Elden Ring, only he’ll never trick you into attacking an ordinary wall for 20 minutes. Indeed, Michael is a friendly expert whose valuable insights will give you a much-needed edge in overcoming the hostile world ahead.
That being said, your quest isn’t going to be especially formidable. The story component of Shadows of Rose takes around 4 hours to complete, and that’s a conservative estimate which assumes a great deal of leisurely exploration on your part.
Nor is it particularly difficult DLC, with most of our deaths being the result of hapless trial and error; like hitting dead ends in chase sequences or learning the hard way what happens if you try to wade through a gloopy substance on the floor. Combat poses no real challenge then, given that (irrespective of your chosen difficulty setting) ammo and health supplies are in plentiful abundance.
The devs clearly want you to play this like a classic survival horror title, by pushing you to avoid enemies rather than confront them head-on. Many of the levels have been expressly designed with this tactic in mind — featuring routes perfect for looping enemies — and your primary weapon is an ineffective peashooter that requires half a clip to down even the weakest monsters.
Instead of guns, you’re meant to be relying on Rose’s psychic abilities to temporarily stun pursuers. Yet the reality is that you can confidently plug away at every single creature you meet without having to worry about bullet or shell conservation. The powers are a neat little addition to the gameplay, but you could easily get by without them (apart from when their application is necessary for defeating bosses).
Bearing that in mind, Shadows of Rose feels more like an action-oriented experience than a full-blown spookfest, although it does still have its fair share of creepy moments. There are a handful of tense stealth encounters, a couple of macabre puzzles, and another fantastic sojourn over at House Beneviento. On that last note, the hour-or-so that you’ll spend in this haunted mansion is again an undeniable highlight, featuring yet another ingenious escape room to solve and another slice of harrowing nightmare fuel to flee.
Alas, therein lies the rub. We’ve already done House Beneviento once and now we’re just rehashing it. The specifics may have changed (the giant baby monster has been swapped for a different terror this time around) but it’s still basically the same thing and with diminishing returns. As are your journeys through the altered layout of Castle Dimitrescu, the remixed village stronghold and the subterranean cave network beneath it. It’s all stuff you’ve seen before and, in terms of environments, there’s absolutely nothing new whatsoever.
In that sense, Shadows of Rose is reminiscent of Alan Wake’s “The Signal” coda. Like that other add-on, this uses the excuse of a dreamworld setting to justify its blatant recycling of assets and lack of original content. You’ll go to the same places, meet copies of old characters, and even watch a second-hand cutscene at one point. They do at least introduce a fresh enemy type — in the form of the gruesome “Face Eaters — however, they end up being reskinned themselves later on when a female creature is needed.
After over a year of waiting for Village’s single-player expansion, I couldn’t help but want more from this. It has occasional flashes of brilliance, like the new stalker that doggedly hounds you throughout the first area, and it’s always a joy to gradually conquer those signature Resident Evil dungeons (unlocking their hidden shortcuts and figuring out how to access previously walled-off areas).
Unfortunately, none of that is enough to distract from the plain truth this feels a little cheap. I would never use the word “lazy” to describe a video game, because it’s obviously impossible to get through the arduous process of development without putting in a ton of effort. Nevertheless, you do get the sense that Capcom was placed under unrealistic time or budgetary constraints here, and subsequently forced to rein in their ambitions.
While the Shadows of Rose story offering is slight, it is bundled with a few extras as part of the overarching Winters’ Expansion pack. For a total cost of $19.99, you’ll get the epilogue chapter, as well as additional content for the base game’s Mercenaries mode.
If you’re into that more arcadey experience, then the latter should be right up your street. Otherwise, it’s hardly a deal clincher. Getting to control powerful villains like Karl Heisenberg and Alcina Dimitrescu might provide fleeting fun, but there’s not much longevity beyond that unless you really want to tick off all those SSS rankings.
The other big feature of this expansion pack is a toggleable third-person mode for Resident Evil Village. While you have no choice but to play Shadows of Rose in an over-the-shoulder perspective (it’s necessary for some of the superpowered set-pieces), Ethan’s campaign can now be enjoyed in one of two ways. There’s the standard FPS mode and then an alternative setting that’ll be more comfortable for those who preferred the camera placement in 2019’s Resident Evil 2.
The wider field of view offered by third-person can be strategically beneficial in combat scenarios and it’s also cool to see full-body animations for Ethan’s character model. On balance though, first-person is still definitely the way to go here, as many of the scenes in Village were obviously crafted with that perspective in mind.
Certain jump scares are precisely staged based on where you’re looking, creatures will get right up in your face at times, and there’s a tension that comes with not knowing what’s lurking directly behind you. Third-person is a nice option to have but it was not the way that this game was intended to be played and it shows.
Taken as a whole, the Winters Expansion pack is a solid if unremarkable bundle. The additional content for mercenaries is a decent bonus, as is the perspective change, however, the core meat of the experiences just feels insubstantial and undercooked.
The new story chapter is not of the same quality as the expansions for Resi 7. Where those DLC packs experimented with the original formula, expanded upon gaps in the lore and took creative risks, Shadows of Rose adds very little. Even from a narrative standpoint, it has no bearing whatsoever on the series’ future and ultimately ends up restoring the status quo.
+ House Beneviento is once again a creepy highlight, with one of the best horror moments in recent memory
+ Resident Evil’s metroidvania exploration never gets old
+ New mercenaries content is a fun distraction
+ Third-person is a nice choice to have and makes Village feel brand new
– Shadows of Rose is sorely lacking original content
– Combat feels oddly tensionless, unlike in the main game
– The story ends up going nowhere, with an underwhelming conclusion to the Winters saga
Reviewed on PS5 (also available for PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and PC).