Resident Evil Village: Winters’ Expansion DLC Review: Resourceful Recycling

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Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is often remembered for revitalizing the series, but it also has one of the most interesting and diverse arrays of DLC in the medium. Its contents range from a brutally tough roguelike mode to a surprisingly good Saw-like card game to a goofy story-based expansion based around a redneck that punches mold monsters, just to name a few. Resident Evil Village’s Winters’ Expansion DLC has also prioritized variety, albeit with much fewer offerings, and while its three parts have different goals, they all have different levels of quality, too.

Shadows of Rose is perhaps the most symbolic of its varying quality. This narrative expansion featuring Ethan’s daughter Rose starts off with an awkward cutscene before dumping players into Castle Dimitrescu from the base game. The giant castle is still one of Resident Evil’s most memorable settings, as its intricate layout and distinct visual style full of lavish furniture and dark chambers kept the best parts of the series while giving them just enough of a visual makeover.

RELATED: Resident Evil 4 Remake Preview: Remaking a Classic the Right Way

That’s not quite as true in Shadows of Rose since it’s no longer a foreign and mysterious setting, even though it is covered in red goo and filled with ugly new monsters. These cosmetic changes don’t even improve the experience, either. The main new enemy type looks eerie with their gash-ridden white flesh, featureless faces, and inky extremities, but they’re little more than typical zombies with a different skin. The level design still has players searching for “keys” but its more limited layout, overly familiar (if still pretty) locale, and lackluster foes mean that it isn’t as enrapturing as it was the last time around. Rose’s new power that stops enemies in their tracks sounds novel but isn’t that big of a game changer in practice because of how little combat there is.

Resident Evil Village: Winters' Expansion DLC Review:

Resident Evil Village: Winters' Expansion DLC Review:

The second level is also a retread but is much more nuanced. It strips the player of their weapons and lays out puzzles with a handful of beautifully crafted jump scares that, unlike the castle, enhance this recycled level in a fresh way. The stage (and the entire story chapter) peaks around halfway through with the introduction of a terrifying new enemy type that is among the series’ best. Instead of mindlessly charging, this foe creeps around in a clever and endlessly disturbing way. Its menacing movement is further highlighted by devious level design that ensures players face their fears and move with intent and purpose under pressure.

That astronomical high comes after a trite level and just before a climax that, again, recycles another environment. Village’s levels worked better in the context of a full game where they could be more thoroughly explored and feel like one connected world. But plucking small portions of them out here robs them of their well-crafted interconnectivity and depth. Hollowing out existing assets may have saved time and money, but reusing locations makes them more familiar and subsequently less foreboding. The story itself doesn’t make up for any of this, as its corny dialogue and bafflingly poor villains — the jolly merchant is wildly miscast as a bad guy here and the main antagonist pops up too suddenly — don’t properly wrap up the Winters’ storyline with the care it deserves.

Resident Evil Village: Winters' Expansion DLC Review:

Resident Evil Village: Winters' Expansion DLC Review:

Thankfully, Mercenaries Additional Orders has no story to speak of, yet it is similarly uneven. Ultra Chad Chris Redfield is the first new character and uses his python arms to punch baddies and charge his Onslaught meter that makes him move, attack, and reload much faster. He’s more strapped than Ethan, which is a small upgrade, but Lady Dimitrescu and Heisenberg are the two standouts since they have radically different kits.

Dimitrescu’s tall stature puts the game in a new perspective and her claws and unorthodox ranged skills change how combat plays out. Managing her cooldowns and momentum-based Thrill meter is a different and rewarding tempo that separates her from the other combatants and more cleanly fits the faster, score-based nature of Mercenaries. Heisenberg is also unique with his giant hammer that charges after a few swings and ability to yank in multiple enemies, making him more of a close-range threat with explosively high multi-kill potential. Switching between his slower charged-up state that gives him more powers and his default state takes getting used to, but it’s an interesting setup that makes him stick out.

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However, they’re locked behind potentially hours of play and achieving specific ranks on certain levels. This means players who didn’t play much Mercenaries will have to grind just to get access to a key part of the DLC, which is backwards. Doling out these crucial elements this deep into its loop is puzzling and points out how lackluster the other Mercenaries unlocks are. Even the two related trophies and achievements are simply just for playing the two new maps. All of the characters should be playable from the get-go in order to support multiple playstyles and player choice and not be held hostage behind scores.

Resident Evil Village: Winters' Expansion DLC Review:

Resident Evil Village: Winters' Expansion DLC Review:

Winters’ Expansion also unlocks the ability to play the base campaign in a third-person perspective, making it much more in line with the Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes. The intimacy that the first-person perspective brings is gone, but the game remains immersive thanks to its detailed visuals and striking world design. Aiming also feels smoother, and being able to more reliably hit shots better highlights its action-oriented nature in a way the weighty first-person controls sometimes fought against. It’s still the same amazing experience and doesn’t seem to have any new unlocks associated with it, but it’s an impressive bonus that puts this game in a different light.

The Winters’ Expansion DLC adds more to do in Resident Evil Village, and that is unequivocally a great thing. Slashing werewolves as Lady D, sneaking around horrifying freaks as Rose, and experiencing one of the best Resident Evil games through a whole new viewpoint are all worthy ways to expand on Village’s foundation. However, having to unlock Lady D and meandering through an overall middling chapter as Rose adds some faults to a game with very few of them. The Winters’ Expansion is inconsistent in a way Village wasn’t, yet it still has plenty of Village’s qualities and is a decent sendoff to a standout game.

SCORE: 7.5/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7.5 equates to “Good.” A successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.

Disclosure: The publisher provided a PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 copy for our Resident Evil Village: Winters’ Expansion DLC review. Reviewed on version 1.101.000 and 1.11, respectively.

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