The Winter's Expansion is a trio of largely unrelated extras for last year's Resident Evil Village (opens in new tab). We've got a third-person camera for the main campaign, new characters for the game's arcade-ish Mercenaries mode, and best of all a brand new (short) story set long after Village's end, starring protagonist Ethan's daughter.
The third-person camera is worth the $20/£16 price on its own for horror fans prone to motion sickness. No more fighting off headaches or nausea as blood-drinking fly-daughters and muscular werewolves try to damage Ethan's hands in cruel and unusual ways: just an engaging over-the-shoulder experience from beginning to end.
The optional new perspective generally mixes well with what was already in Resident Evil Village. Combat, puzzles, and crawling through tight spaces almost feel as though they've always looked this way—although I did catch a few unaltered first person animations here and there, which in one instance left a third-person Ethan briefly standing next to a pair of floating scissors. The new camera works with pre-existing saves, if you've got a half-finished campaign save to go back to.
The extra Mercenaries characters feel like the weakest addition to the set. Three new fighters join the mode, although only Chris and his surprisingly disappointing punches are unlocked by default. Both playable bosses are sadly locked away behind some relatively strenuous in-game achievements, pouring water on any simple dreams of hopping in and tearing everything to shreds as the main game's better bosses. As technically welcome as the new characters may be once they're unlocked, they can't help but draw attention to the fact Village expects players to pay for fewer Mercenaries extras than other Resident Evils gave away for free.
The biggest addition is the short new scenario, Shadows of Rose, which finally gives us an expressive face to match the Winters family sass. Rose is a fun character to spend an afternoon's gaming with, and like her dad finds the right balance between bouts of heroic determination, understandable vulnerability, and sweary exasperation at the latest byzantine puzzle or mutated boss.
Sadly the new powers she brings to the fold—the ability to temporarily stun enemies and reduce path-blocking growths to dust—feel a little underutilised. I never found an opportunity or the need to use those powers more creatively. The scenario itself is equally straightforward, with even the mildest of puzzles accompanied by explanatory notes or hand-drawn maps or in extreme cases literal glowing arrows pointing directly at the door I needed to go through.
The Winter's Expansion is clearly a budget release, but the trouble is it so clearly feels like a budget release. It's DLC built around projected profits rather than a story. Almost everything Rose speaks to or shoots at is a pre-existing model that's either been dressed up a little differently or pulled directly from one of Ethan's adventures.
Rose herself reuses several distinctly "Ethan" animations even though it makes no sense for her to pour first aid medicine over her left hand or slightly mess up a handgun reload the same way her dad's digit-challenged appendages do. I found it hard to walk into a "new" room and not immediately think "Oh yeah, I remember this part from the first time around," a feeling that wasn't helped by major old areas often being reused in a way that closely mimicked their main campaign counterparts.
House Beneviento once again contains the best scare in the game, this time riffing on Doctor Who's infamous "Blink" episode. This approach is clearly a practical way for a developer to release something new at this astonishing level of graphical fidelity without charging a ton. I enjoyed the story, even if it was predictable. But I couldn't help picturing a disapproving accountant standing over the writers' shoulders 24/7.
Winter's Expansion (opens in new tab) is a strange bundle of DLC. There's a little bit of everything for everyone, a collection designed to contain just enough worthwhile material in each of its three separate areas to prompt as many wallets to open as possible. It does succeed in its calculated task—but only just. There's no denying that Village is definitely a more rounded game with these extras than without them: there's just not quite enough of any of it when viewed in isolation.
The sparseness of Mercenaries' new features—especially as Chris was already a fully playable character in the main game—and Shadows of Rose's overly enthusiastic recycling of props, people, and plot points that the vast majority of players will by definition already be well aware of make it a little too easy for anyone other than extremely motion-sensitive fans like myself to utter the cursed phrase "Looks nice, but I think I'll wait for a sale."