Resident Evil Village: Winters' Expansion Review — A Little More of Everything
The Winters' Expansion DLC is less of a second helping of Resident Evil Village and more like a cherry on top. There's nothing here that's actually bad, and if you're a Village fanatic, it's just the excuse you needed to justify revisiting the game. At the same time, there's nothing here that strikes me as crucial, particularly in comparison to the breadth and depth of DLC that Resident Evil 7 received.
I'm aware that this is a hot take — it seems like most of the Internet only needed to hear "playable Lady Dimitrescu" before they slammed the pre-order button — but frankly, I expected more out of this DLC than it was prepared to offer.
It's probably best to start this off with a spoiler warning. I can't imagine too many people who haven't already beaten Village are interested in reading about its DLC. Just the same, it's difficult to discuss the Winters' Expansion without spoiling the conclusion of Village.
This is primarily due to Shadows of Rose, a short single-player campaign that serves as an epilogue to both Village and the Winters family storyline in Resident Evil.
Set 16 years after the conclusion of Village, SoR stars Ethan and Mia's daughter Rose. Now a teenager, she's grown up as an outcast due to the side effects of the powers she inherited from her parents.
In an attempt to remove those powers, Rose participates in an experiment with a sample of Miranda's mutated mold. This inadvertently drops her into a bizarre dream world within the mold, which is built out of the memories of people who died while in contact with it.
Put another way: it's a three- to four-hour recycled-content bonus level. Rose's trip through the "strata" of the mold's memory sends her through various environments you'll recognize from Village, such as Castle Dimitrescu. You'll use a couple of the same weapons, meet a couple of the same characters, and answer a couple of lingering questions from Village's original ending.
Full disclosure: my press preview of Shadows of Rose glitched out during a critical moment in what I assume to be the final boss encounter, so this is effectively a review in progress in that regard. I wasn't able to clear the whole game.
Even so, it's easily the highlight of the Winters' Expansion. There's less of an emphasis on combat in Shadows of Rose, with a limited arsenal and few available resources, which makes it feel closer to a classic survival horror game than Village or either of the recent remakes.
It also does a lot with what it has. The reused environments in Shadows of Rose aren't a simple cut-and-paste job, but instead are visibly falling into ruin as they're consumed by Miranda's mold. The most common enemy is also brand-new and features one of the most gruesome attack animations in the history of the Resident Evil franchise. I am not exaggerating when I say I would actually be happier if the zombies in SoR just bit out my throat.
My major criticism of SoR is primarily tonal. It doesn't really show or tell why Rose is so determined to get rid of her powers, and it's easily 70 minutes before even a weak justification arises. It doesn't mesh with Rose's depiction in Village's ending, where she's scary enough that her handler won't talk to her without ranged support, or with the gameplay, where she mostly relies on guns like almost every other Resident Evil protagonist.
It's also got one of the biggest plot un-twists in recent video game history, where you will absolutely figure out one of SoR's primary mysteries a solid two hours before Rose does. You have access to more information than Rose — it's not like she played Village — but it's still annoying to sit through a cutscene that asks you to pretend you don't know what you know.
Another feature in the Winters' Expansion lets you replay the main game in either the original first-person view or in a third-person perspective in the same style as recent games like 2020's Resident Evil 3 remake. Preanimated scenes are still shown from the first-person perspective, but playable segments all stick you directly behind him.
Frankly, it doesn't add much to the overall Village experience. Playing the game in third-person serves to reinforce the degree to which the overall experience is built around a first-person view. Some scares don't land, some sections actually block your vision in crucial moments, and a couple of moments simply don't work as well.
So much of Village is set in deliberately cramped, cluttered environments that seeing them from a different perspective feels like a handicap.
It's a good step for accessibility. I know a couple of people who would have played Village by now, but get motion-sick in first-person perspective games. I usually don't, but I have to admit there are a few parts of both RE7 and Village that tested me on that, particularly when Ethan is knocked prone or the camera shakes violently. It's nice to have options.
Finally, the DLC adds three new playable characters to Village's version of the long-running Mercenaries minigame: Chris Redfield, Karl Heisenberg, and, pause for applause, Lady Dimitrescu.
Chris Redfield enters the fray with his full set of gear from the main game, so he's heavily armed from the start for free. While Chris can't block like Ethan, he can punch the hell out of enemies instead.
Heisenberg primarily relies on his hammer for powerful melee attacks and can magnetically fire scrap metal at distant targets. With a few upgrades, he's effectively a charge character, where you can hold down the fire button to power up his projectiles or deliver a short-ranged ground slam.
Dimitrescu is mostly here for meme value. She's taller than every other character, so she towers over most enemies, and it takes a lot to make her stagger. As she inflicts damage with her claws, Dimitrescu builds a meter called Thrill for more powerful attacks.
The best part is that one of her attacks is the ability to throw her vanity mirror, which does as much damage on impact as a hand grenade. Dimitrescu is running around the Mercenaries maps with a theoretically infinite amount of combat furniture strapped to her back, and frankly, I couldn't be happier about it.
All three characters effectively address my biggest problem with the default Mercenaries. Ethan has to start from scratch on every map, which means he suffers through at least one level in each round with his knife and default pistol. By the time you've got a good arsenal going, the map's over.
All three new characters bring enough unique mechanics to the table that they're more entertaining to play than Ethan ever was, which does a lot to address the flaws of Village's take on Mercenaries.
Resident Evil Village: Winter's Expansion Review — The Bottom Line
- One of the creepiest levels in any Resident Evil game to date.
- Chris makes learning Mercenaries easier.
- I giggle like an idiot whenever I crush a zombie with Dimitrescu's vanity mirror.
- There isn't a lot going on here.
- Third-person view doesn't add much to Village's main campaign.
- If you don't like Mercenaries, this is about four hours of new stuff here.
Taken as a whole, the Winters' Expansion is a little insubstantial, with a new gameplay perspective, a short additional single-player campaign, and a few new characters to choose from. It's a great extra add-on for Village's Gold Edition, but on its own, it's not much.
Shadows of Rose is a memorable, short run, however, especially if you're invested in Village's bizarre storyline. It's a must-see for horror fans, particularly its middle segment. The new characters in Mercenaries are interesting, varied, and occasionally hilarious, but it's still Village's spin on Mercenaries, which is the least entertaining version of the minigame. Finally, the third-person mode for Village feels like a hindrance at best.
The Winters' Expansion does add some value to Resident Evil Village, but it's not worth picking up on its own unless you're a Mercenaries (or Dimitrescu) fanatic. If you hadn't checked out Village at all yet, though, then the Winters' Expansion is a great excuse to pick up the forthcoming Gold Edition of the game.
[Note: Capcom provided the copy of Winter's Expansion used for this review.]