When Resident Evil Village launched last year, it was well-received by fans and critics alike, with many hailing it as a worthy sequel to Resident Evil 7. While Capcom is working on a new Resident Evil project, it’s not quite ready to leave Resident Evil Village with the release of Winters’ Expansion, which adds new gameplay features as well as a story DLC called Shadows of Rose.
Shadows of Rose is the main attraction of Winters’ Expansion, putting players in the role of Rose, Ethan’s superpowered daughter, as she revisits familiar locations from the base game. Rose is now a teenager who hates her powers and tries to get rid of them. By connecting to giant bacteria samples left over from the events of Resident Evil Village, Rose was able to explore the titular village’s “memories” in search of a purification crystal that would rid her of her powers and allow her to live a normal life.
The story in Shadows of Rose is predictable but unsatisfying, so anyone hoping for a major revelation or hint at what’s coming to Resident Evil 9 will be disappointed. However, Rose is at least an interesting character, with more personality than her father. Duke plays the role of a merchant in the base game, appears as one of the main antagonists in Shadow of the Rose, and is also a story highlight, but the plot leaves a lot to be desired beyond that.
For the most part, Resident Evil stories stay away from supernatural horror, instead offering scientific explanations for their monsters and superhuman beings. Shadows of Rose used its bizarre premise to dive headfirst into the supernatural horror element, which opened up opportunities for scares and psychological tricks that Resident Evil had rarely had the chance to explore in the past.
Shadows of Rose doesn’t pass up the chance, and it’s actually one of the scarier Resident Evil experiences out there. There are a few specific moments in the DLC that could be among the scariest in Resident Evil history, but detailing them would spoil the surprise.
The monsters in Shadows of Rose combined with Resident Evil Village’s next-level audio design keep the game unsettling from start to finish. The monsters that appear this time are brutal, screaming humanoids that drain the life force from Rose in a different way than the dementors in the Harry Potter books. In typical Resident Evil fashion, trying to go head-to-head with these enemies is often a waste of resources, so players must deftly avoid them if they hope to survive.
Rose can use conventional weapons to help fight back against the creatures she encounters in the DLC, but she also has special powers to give herself an advantage. Rose’s abilities allow her to freeze monsters in place, providing a great opportunity to escape or shoot them without fear of reprisal. Players will have to navigate narrow corridors in the Shadow of the Rose DLC, especially the part set within Madame Dimitrescu’s castle, so they will have to be strategic when using the power of the rose. If players aren’t careful, they can freeze enemies in place that block Rose’s path, leaving her vulnerable to attacks from behind.
Combat isn’t much of a focus in Shadow of the Rose since ammo is limited and enemies can be killed with just a few hits. The expansion pack plays like an old-school Resident Evil game, and the best thing to do is usually avoid running into enemies, even with Rose’s special ability. It also takes cues from the classic Resident Evil games in terms of the overall layout of the experience, encouraging players to explore, solve puzzles, and find keys that open the way to new territories.
It’s true that Shadow of the Rose is mostly made up of locations reclaimed from Resident Evil Village, like the aforementioned Madame Dimitrescu’s castle, but the DLC still makes those places feel fresh. Rose must try to get around the deadly trash invading the area, using her powers to break free of it and gain access to previously inaccessible areas. The new enemies are strategically placed to surprise even those who’ve played Resident Evil Village extensively, and Rose’s powers add an interesting wrinkle to the core gameplay. Add to that the fact that Shadows of Rose is played from a third-person perspective, which makes a huge difference.
Resident Evil Village looks incredible, as does Shadow of the Rose, though the pull-back third-person view keeps the finer details of the environment from popping in like they do in the base game. Still, switching to a third-person view goes a long way toward making these areas feel fresh. Players can now also play the entire base game in third-person if they so choose, though Resident Evil Village is at its best when played in first-person, which is Capcom’s original intention.
The third-person mode in Resident Evil Village is fun, and Shadows of Rose is great, but they’re not the only things added to the game as part of the Winters expansion. Players can also check out new content for Mercenary Mode, which includes new stages and characters such as Chris Redfield, Heisenberg, and the infamous Mrs. Dimitrescu. Those who enjoyed the combat in Resident Evil Village will love the new mercenary mode, but it’s unlikely to hold the attention of most players for long. The decision to make players have to unlock Heisenberg and Lady Dimitrescu is disappointing, as they are definitely the funniest characters of the bunch.
Regardless, Winters’ Resident Evil Village expansion pack is a great addition to the game and a solid expansion that fans of the series should not miss. Shadows of Rose’s story is unremarkable, but the gameplay is classic Resident Evil through and through, and the addition of mercenaries should at least appeal to fans of the action game mode.
Resident Evil Village: Winters’ Expansion launches October 28 on PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. Game Rant obtained the PS5 code for this review.