Sunday, October 30

Resident Evil 8 Village The Winters' Expansion DLC Review

I played on: Xbox Series X
I paid: £39.99 (RE8 Gold Edition) (£24.99 on it’s own)
Available on: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC
Notes: N/A

The Winters’ expansion is a collection of 3 separate bits of downloadable content. This includes a new third-person camera for the original Resident Evil Village campaign. New characters and stages for the Mercenaries mode called The Mercenaries Additional Orders. Lastly, a new story campaign occurring after the main game’s events called Shadows of Rose.

The first thing I want to go into is the part of this collection that I’ve been looking forward to the most besides the Shadows of Rose, and that’s the third-person camera. Moving the action from the first-person to the third gives the whole game a new perspective, pun intended. If you’ve played either Resident Evil 2 or 3 remakes and then Resident Evil 7, you will have a rough idea of how different each perspective can feel. That being said, this was very clearly a game that was made originally in first-person, and because of that, playing in third-person never feels as smooth as either the RE2 or 3 remakes. Ethan moves slower with less ability to dodge or avoid enemies. Unlike the earlier remakes, you won’t be weaving around monsters or pushing their defeated corpses aside as they tumble into you. The cinematics haven’t been remade, so whenever you reach one of them, the camera will jarringly switch from the third to the first-person. 

The last thing that contributes to the general clunky feeling of this new perspective is the strange obsession with never showing Ethan’s face. If you try to move the camera around to face Ethan, he will shift away. It honestly feels like the poor boy is camera-shy. I don’t understand why the series seems obsessed with not showing Ethan’s face. It’s modelled in both RE7 and 8. You can very quickly look it up on Google. Now during the RE7 base game, I understood this. After RE6, the series was going for a soft reboot, moving the tone away from the bombastic action back to the horror that started the series. The first-person perspective and Ethan as a blank slate character worked during this. Then we got a whole load of fantastic DLC, most of which had you playing as other characters, with Ethan becoming an NPC. This gave his character the space it needed to become fleshed out instead of the blank slate he was before. In my opinion, this is when the nonsense of hiding his face should have ended. By the beginning of RE8, Ethan is as much of his own character as Chris Redfield, Leon Kennedy, Jill Valentine or any other RE character. This new third-person camera still hiding Ethan’s face shows how ridiculous it is.

Luckily this new third-person camera is optional during the ResiEvil Village story mode. The Shadows of Rose story content isn’t as lucky, with the third-person camera being mandatory here. It’s good that the presentation outside of the camera is fantastic, building upon the original Resident Evil Village. I played this on the Xbox Series X, and while subtle, the use of ray tracing added the perfect extra touch to an already incredible-looking game. Adding to the stunning presentation is the amazing audio. This entire DLC is a treat for the ears, from the music to the sound effects to the voice acting.

Shadows of Rose picks up 16 years after the main game’s events. You play as Rose Winters, the daughter Ethan gave his life to save during Resident Evil Village. She dives into the Megamycete’s network of connected consciousnesses to understand the powers she inherited from Ethan. 

In service to this, the player returns to many locations from the mainline game. This includes castle Dimitrescu, the Beneviento estate, and a few select parts of the village itself. That’s not to say that Shadows of Rose feels like it’s just retreading the same ground as Resident Evil Village. Across its roughly 2 hour runtime, you will experience a mixture of tense survival horror action during the first half and scripted hide-and-seek horror in the latter half.

This DLC has one of the scariest moments in the entire series. Fear, like most things, is subjective. One thing that freaks me out is dolls. This fear of dolls includes mannequins and even mascots. It’s something to do with the realistic details with a face that doesn’t move and can’t be read. Shadows of Rose had me scream and leave the room, repeating “nope, nope, nope, nope” to myself. During the game’s latter half, you must make your way across a basement while a mannequin chases you down. The catch? It can only move when you’re not looking at it; if it touches you, it's game over. I was freaked out enough, but then the damn game has you pull out a fuse, plunging the room into darkness. By the end of this section, there are four of these demon mannequins after you. 

I’ve not been this freaked out by a game since my first playthrough of Alien Isolation. I cannot express how much I loved this fantastic section. This is easily one of my all-time best Resident Evil moments. I had Resident Evil 2 classic on the PS1 as a child. I couldn’t get past the alligator boss fight. Something about how it moved towards the screen with you as the player having to run away from it scared the hell out of me as a kid. Then there was the first time I heard that tell-tell moaning of a Regenerator during Resident Evil 4. Or the first time I walked past what I thought was an already dead zombie in the Resident Evil 1 remake, only to have it jump up as a crimson head. The demonic mannequin from Shadows of Rose will easily rank up there as one of my favourite memories from this entire series.

This fantastic presentation and gameplay are all in service to a story that is easily as good as Resident Evil Village. This is high praise indeed. It doesn’t do much to advance things past the original post-credits scene from the base game. While I was expecting to continue past that scene, I can’t say I’m disappointed with what I got. We learn much more about how the megamycete works and Mother Miranda’s plans and research into it. On top of that, we bring closure to Eveline’s story from Resident Evil 7. While I don’t want to spoil too much, we also see Rose flushed out into a character I’m very excited to see a return of in future Resi games. I think she would work well alongside other characters, such as Moira Burton, Sherry Birkin and Jake Muller.

The last thing to discuss with this expansion is the new Mercenaries content. So what is the Mercenaries? It’s an extra mode bundled with Resident Evil 3 classic, 4 classic, 5, 6, 8, and even got its own spin-off game on the 3DS. You pick a character and are then dropped into an arena with a time limit and hoards of enemies. You have to kill enemies to earn a score; killing more than one in quick succession will start a combo, and the larger your combo, the more points and extra time you will earn. The stages, enemies and nuances of the rules change between games, but that’s the basic idea for the game mode. Resident Evil 8’s Mercenaries sees you begin at the Duke’s castle storeroom. You can spend earned currency on health, weapons and even upgrades. When ready, you can head out the doorway and begin a round on whichever map you choose. You will have 3 rounds, each separated by a visit to the Duke’s store before moving on to a new area. After you die, run out of time or finish the third stage, your score will be counted, and you will earn a letter grade. If you earn an A or higher, you will unlock a new set of maps.

The Mercenaries Additional Orders adds 3 new characters and many new maps to play on. These new characters include Chris Redfield, Karl Heisenberg and Lady Dimitrescu. If you enjoyed the Mercenaries, you will get a lot of mileage from this new content. I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of the Mercenaries game mode in any of the Resident Evil games. I will spend a little while with it when it’s included. That said, I don’t think I’ve put in more than fifteen hours across the entire series. Most of that time was put into The Mercenaries 3DS game as the portable nature of the 3DS fit nicely with the game mode. Got ten minutes to wait for a bus? Perfect amount of time for a round of Mercenaries on the 3DS! When it comes to the console counterparts, I’ve always found myself just opting instead for another go-round on whichever game it’s bundled with.  Why would I go for a bite-sized bit of Resi when I’m sitting down with a complete game already loaded up and ready to go?

This is a lot of extra content all bundled up in this expansion. Not all of it is as good as I would have hoped. That being said, while not my cup of tea, the Mercenaries is a fantastic mode, and the Additional Orders adds a lot of depth to it. The Shadows of Rose is some of the best story and gameplay content I think we’ve ever got in DLC form. It goes a long way towards making this expansion worth it just on its own. The only real disappointment is the third-person camera. It just feels like it was bolted onto a game that wasn’t designed around it and, as such, is clunky. 

I don’t think the question is should you play Resident Evil Village and the Winters’ Expansion, but rather, what’s the best way to do so? If you own Resident Evil Village, I’d say the Winters’ Expansion is easily worth the £25 price tag. If you haven’t picked up RE8 yet, then the Gold Edition includes all of this content, the base RE8 game and more. All of that makes it the definitive way to play this masterpiece!

Recommendation Rating: 9 out of 10

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