For as good as the Resident Evil series is, Capcom has generally restricted it to one-and-done experiences. A few post-launch expansions have come and gone — in Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, for example — but they've never felt like a sure-fire thing. If anything, Resident Evil Village continues that non-committal attitude. Shadows of Rose arrives nearly 18 months after the base game, and much of that timespan was spent wondering whether it even still exists.
It's finally here now, though, bundled with more content for the Mercenaries mode and a third-person camera option for the original title. You cannot buy any of it piecemeal, so the Winters' Expansion is what you need to access Shadows of Rose. This review will focus purely on the new story-based DLC.
Set 16 years after the events of the main game, Ethan Winters' daughter Rose is struggling to lead a normal life, branded a freak by classmates because of her powers. In an attempt to rid herself of them, a friend explains how she could enter the mind of the Megamycete to find a Purifying Crystal, which would strip her of any abilities. Rose agrees to this, and what greets her inside is a twisted version of the same European village her father was kidnapped to all those years ago.
Waking up in Castle Dimitrescu, the very tall lady of the manor isn't around to greet you, but an evil version of The Duke and his army of Mold creatures are. Rose doesn't quite have the same body build or selection of weaponry as her dad, so her sprint is slower and it takes fewer hits for enemies to kill her. Although, what she does have in her corner are her powers.
Upgraded over the course of the campaign, Rose can temporarily freeze enemies in their tracks and destroy the black goo blocking her path by targeting cores. The ability adds a neat little twist to both combat and exploration, giving you something else to think about alongside handgun bullets and puzzle items. Since it can only be used on enemies so many times, you've got to be careful when you use it to avoid any sticky situations later on.
Shadows of Rose does little else to differentiate itself from the base game, however. That's no bad thing since the gameplay loop of modern Resident Evil games is an endlessly enjoyable one, but make sure you set your expectations accordingly. There are some new puzzles to solve and riddles to crack, more enemies to shoot, and story sequences to marvel at. Consistently good stuff; just nothing revolutionary.
What is disappointing, however, is the DLC doesn't introduce any new areas. After escaping Castle Dimitrescu, you'll visit other locations from Resident Evil Village, but you've already been there at least once before. They've all been given a makeover — covered in the black goo of the Megamycete — but it's a real shame to not be given the chance to explore somewhere new.
That's not to say the same old enemy encounters and puzzles are still present in the more familiar locations. Far from it, in fact. The middle stretch of Shadows of Rose doubles down on the terrifying sequences of House Beneviento with some outstanding set pieces full of jump scares and spine-chilling moments. This is the series' horror elements at their absolute peak, and we'd be doing them a disservice by spoiling them in text form. If you remember what lurked in the basement of House Beneviento in the original title, look forward to something different but just as creepy — if not more.
It's here where the expansion gets inventive with mechanics never seen in a Resident Evil game before. Capcom really stretches its wings, turning horror on its head with one of the most intense sequences of any PS5 title released this year. It's easily worth the price of admission alone.
Another interesting element that guides you through the familiar settings is a mysterious entity that leaves magical messages on the walls, helping Rose with advice and items. Heavily linked to the plot, it gives the protagonist some respite and guidance for what to do next.
Their notes remain vague, though, which is probably a good thing given any further aid would shorten the DLC's runtime even more. We finished Shadows of Rose in just two and a half hours. It feels on the short side, especially given we spent time exploring and scrubbing rooms for all their items. Expansions can generally only be so long, but we were left wanting more.
At least what is there remains of a high quality. Resident Evil gameplay almost feels timeless at this point: solve a puzzle that no normal person would ever think of fitting in their stately home, fill some enemies with bullet holes while scavenging for herbs that haven't seen soil for days, and then save at a typewriter so you can do it all over again. This time from the third-person perspective, Shadows of Rose feels excellent to play in the same way any other Resident Evil game does. We'll never grow tired of the formula.
One final reason to come back for more is the RE Engine, which continues to impress. The expansion looks incredible on PS5 and runs flawlessly at 60 frames-per-second. The way the black goo of the Megamycete oozes down Castle Dimitrescu’s walls, or how detailed Rose's character model looks in close-up shots — it appears a step above the base Resident Evil Village, sending off one of Capcom's greatest-ever titles in style.
Shadows of Rose makes up for its short runtime by ensuring every minute of it is quality. With some incredibly inventive sequences, enjoyable puzzles, and the usual Resident Evil gameplay loop, Capcom sends the story of the Winters family out on a high.