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Resident Evil Village: Winters’ Expansion Review

Something for all horror fans to enjoy

Last year’s Resident Evil Village ended up being one of my favourite games of 2021, if not my game of the year. It was a near perfect action-horror hybrid that felt like a perfect continuation of what came four years before in 2021’s Resident Evil VII: Biohazard. Now just over a year after its release, Village’s paid DLC, the Winters’ Expansion, has arrived. Containing a new third-person mode, new content for the Mercenaries mode in the Mercenaries: Additional Orders and the brand new story campaign, Shadows of Rose, the Winters’ Expansion does a good job at covering and expanding upon what Resident Evil Village originally had to offer. 

It might seem like the smallest or least significant addition offered, but the third-person mode is surprisingly exciting to see included. As someone who’s played through Resident Evil Village at least five times since its release, playing through the game in third-person felt not only surreal but also really fun. Back when I reviewed the game last year, I noted a few issues with the first-person perspective that would occasionally crop up, such as certain items being harder to find than they should be. Unsurprisingly, the third-person mode largely addresses these complaints. They were never really big enough to be anything more than a minor gripe, but the option to play the game in either perspective according to your preference is a great addition. 

This of course means that if you suffer from motion sickness, or struggle with first-person games, the third-person mode helps make Resident Evil Village more accessible. I still marginally prefer playing the game in first-person overall, but when it comes to video games, more options are always better than none. It’s hard to really say too much about the addition of a third-person mode as it can feel like a pretty small change, but it’s a small change that can make a very big impact. 

Resident Evil Village’s Mercenaries mode marked the return of a series tradition that skipped Resident Evil VII, so Mercenaries: Additional Orders is exactly what it sounds like – Mercenaries, but more of it. The mode, of course, brings some new stages, but the main draw here is the three new playable characters: in addition to main protagonist Ethan Winters, Additional Orders expands the cast to include series mainstay Chris Redfield and two of the bosses from the main game, the mad scientist Karl Heisenberg and the towering vampiress, Lady Alcina Dimitrescu. 

Each of the three new characters feels completely distinct, and although this was a safe bet when it came to the two villains, it’s a pleasant surprise in Chris’ case; I assumed he would just end up playing quite similarly to Ethan because he’s another guy with guns, but he has his own new mechanics that help create a distinction between the pair. Namely, Chris forgoes the ability to block and heal in order to bash enemies with his boulder punching fists. This melee combat works extremely well in close quarters, but taking out enemies with his fists recharges his Excessive Onslaught gauge. Once that’s full, the real fun begins: Chris’ movement speed, reload speed, and strength are all drastically increased allowing him to run around and take out enemies in one hit. The gauge also slightly refills for each kill you get while it’s active, encouraging you to play fast and aggressive. It’s kind of surprising just how well the Mercenaries mode manages to transform Resident Evil Village’s horror design into a fast paced arena shooter, but Chris just takes it even further.

Even more so, playing as Heisenberg and Lady D acts as a Resident Evil power fantasy, allowing you to swing a giant hammer around or pick up and throw a vanity to crush your foes. While Chris is unlocked from the get-go, you’ll have to unlock the two villains. Fortunately, if you had trouble reaching the higher ranks in the base Mercenaries mode with Ethan, Chris basically functions as an easy mode with his brute strength being much easier to rank up points with. How much you enjoy Additional Orders is really going to depend on how much you enjoyed Mercenaries in the first place: if you were never really drawn to the more arcade-focused approach, it doesn’t do anything to change that. If it was your thing the first time round, it’s just more of it. 

While I enjoyed toying around with the first person mode and the new mercenaries content, the new story campaign, Shadows of Rose, feels like the real centrepiece of the Winters’ Expansion. Taking place 16 years after the events of Resident Evil Village, Shadows of Rose follows up on the main game’s post-credits scene involving Ethan’s daughter Rose. The premise is really simple, and is set up as simply too: Rose wants to get rid of her Megamycete powers and stop being seen as a freak. To do so, she has to delve deep into the subconscious of the Megamycete itself.

Being set within the Megamycete’s consciousness gives Shadows of Rose a convenient excuse to reuse locations and assets from the base game. Obviously, the premise originates from the fact that it builds upon Village, but it does so in fairly creative ways. Using their open design, Shadows of Rose lets you explore areas that you might have already explored before, but in new ways. You’ll be taking new routes, overcoming new obstacles, finding new shortcuts, and using new keys. It’s never anything mind blowing, but it’s subtle enough that it feels undeniably different. It also retroactively helps the world of Resident Evil Village feel like a real, lived-in, place that continues to exist after the credits roll. 

Shadows of Rose feels like it has a more puzzle-focused approach than the base game. It’s never any of the wide-scale, navigational puzzle solving from the early Resident Evil games, but more of a persistent, on-the-go approach. This is in part due to the addition of Rose’s Megamycete powers, which lets her interact with objects made out of the mold. The main way you’ll see them used is in her ability to clear growths of the mould after finding and destroying their core. 

You might be able to see the exit of the room as soon as you walk in, but you’ll have to put in the work to figure out how to get to it. Unfortunately, many of the “powers”-related sections can quickly feel like they boil down to aiming and holding down the correct button, at least until later in the game. You can also use Rose’s powers on the enemies throughout the game to stun them. It’s not terribly in-depth, but it does allow for a slim level of strategy that differentiates her from Ethan. 

Shadows of Rose’s scope feels much more constrained, not that it’s a bad thing. You’ll probably be able to get through it across two or three sittings. On one hand, it can kind of end up feeling like it ends a little prematurely, but on the other hand, it ends up feeling like a strongly-focused, tight little experience. The game is split up into three main sections, similar to Village’s pseudo regimented design. Unlike Village, though, the pacing across the campaign can feel a little shoddy. Each individual section is strong on its own, but it starts to feel a little bit disconnected by the end of the experience.

In the same vein of the base game’s House Beneviento section, Shadows of Rose has a section where you’re stripped of all your weapons and items and forced to survive. I have no objection to this at all – its focus on puzzle-solving and horror makes it my favourite part of the game – but the problem with it is the fact that once you make it out and get all your gear back… the whole thing pretty much ends. It creates this strange gameplay flow where you spend the first section collecting and managing your resources, then take a break in the second section, before arriving at the finale and blitzing through all your resources in the final stretch. This might be a more personal concern given how satisfying I find Resident Evil’s resource management, but it ends up giving the game a clunky, staggered pace. 

I will note, if you’re like me and played through the base game a few times and eventually off the tutorials, you’ll start Shadows of Rose with them disabled by default. This wasn’t a problem for most of the experience… until my second playthrough, when I realised that during the final boss battle, Rose essentially has her own superpowers that I didn’t know about the first time around; I finished the game without using them a single time, solely because the game never told me they were there to be used. It’s hard to really consider this a fault exclusive to Shadows of Rose, as it’s more of just an oversight that arises from having the main game share the same options menu as the DLC, but it’s one that exists. Either way, just consider this a public service announcement to make sure the tutorials are turned on. 

Although Shadows of Rose has some issues, its many highlights help to put those out of mind. It’s a cleverly resourceful expansion on the base game’s campaign and does an excellent job to put a bow on the Winters’ story. With the new third-person mode and Mercenaries: Additional Orders added to the mix, and the Winters’ Expansion is one that’s well and truly worth your time and money.

Our Verdict:
Building on basically every facet of Resident Evil Village, the Winters’ Expansion takes everything that worked, and gives you more of it; it’s exactly what a good expansion should be. Shadows of Rose does have some pacing issues, but those take very little away from the overall quality of what’s on offer.

Ethan reviewed Resident Evil Village using a PlayStation 5 copy purchased at retail.

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Our Verdict:
Building on basically every facet of Resident Evil Village, the Winters’ Expansion takes everything that worked, and gives you more of it; it’s exactly what a good expansion should be. Shadows of Rose does have some pacing issues, but those take very little away from the overall quality of what’s on offer.