Resident Evil’s modern identity is all about the Winters. The stellar remakes of 2 & 3 might have introduced us to new versions of familiar characters such as Leon Kennedy and Jill Valentine, but it feels like Capcom was trying to carve out a new chapter in this universe that doesn’t rely on everything that came before. Now it turns out that era is coming to an end.
Upcoming expansion Shadows of Rose will see Rose Winters return to Castle Dimetrescu in search of answers regarding her late father and mysterious upbringing. We saw her father pass away at the end of Resident Evil Village, and then experienced a time skip where his daughter had grown up and adopted dangerous powers as a consequence of her past. She is being escorted by bodyguards - presumably Umbrella - and makes it clear she is capable of more than they could ever imagine. So obviously the new campaign has her running away from spooky monsters with little more than a dinky pistol to defend herself.
Played from a third-person perspective with a bunch of new features, Shadows of Rose feels like a fitting return to one of the base game’s most underutilised settings. We spent months simping over Lady Dimitrescu ahead of launch, only to have her killed off in the early hours as her humble abode is left behind. It was the best part of the campaign, but wasn’t given nearly enough time to shine. To me it felt like classic Resident Evil as I crept through a fancy mansion with elaborate puzzles and terrifying enemies, having no idea what waited around the next corner that I’d need to contend with. Or let them relentlessly step on me.
Capcom has confirmed this downloadable content will be the final chapter in the Winters storyline. Ethan is a crusty old mould man who met his end years ago, while Mia is likely locked away or will come to play a part in the coming storyline. Rose must discover her origins and cement a purpose in life, and returning to Castle Dimitrescu is the key to that eventual destiny. It just turns out that in the decades since the abandoned halls have been infested with new species of infected and perhaps a threat even more sinister we’ve yet to see unveiled.
I just hope the plot is done justice, because previous expansions for Resident Evil 7 were both light on narrative and mechanically inconsistent, far more focused on trying new things and changing perspectives instead of being any good. For the future of this series, Shadows of Rose needs to stick the landing. We have spent two entire games invested in these stories, convinced it would be a darker, more mature take on a property that had been losing its way for a long time. But now it is returning to old habits, and I worry that falling on its face at the last hurdle will only cause me to worry about what’s still to come.
Village featured new interpretations of Chris Redfield, while the remakes I mentioned earlier appear to take place in the same timeline and introduced Leon, Claire, Jill, Ada, and loads of other familiar faces from the past. After taking the ending of Village into account and its unexpected timeskip, does that mean Resident Evil 9 will now feature much older versions of these characters, or does Capcom plan to return to the past and tell a completely new story in a different timeline? Doing so would be leaving behind a lot of potential, or admission that the studio has totally written itself into a corner and doesn’t know where to go next. Shadows of Rose is wiping the slate clean, and to me that comes across as a hasty mistake.
The origins of Umbrella are a big focus of Village’s final act, with the sinister corporation we love to hate going back centuries as it played a role in bringing the twisted Dimitrescu family to life. All of them were unwilling victims, and their stories are folded into Resident Evil 7 and the wider mythos in so many effective ways. It would be a waste to throw that away merely because the Winters are calling it quits. I wouldn’t say no to an entirely new protagonist, one who doesn’t depend on big names we already have so much collective nostalgia for.
Don’t abandon survival horror once again in favour of explosive thrills, lean into current horror trends and classic tropes to create something entirely unique. No matter how spooky the short-lived foetus sequence happened to be, I didn’t really see Resident Evil Village as a horror game. I was armed to the teeth and always had the means to defend myself, and Shadows of Rose seems eager to take those away to deliver something a little more sinister.
That’s what we like to see from Resident Evil, not the abandonment of fresh ideas and interesting characters in favour of things we’ve seen countless times before. My money is on Capcom doing exactly that as we bid farewell to the Winters’ family, but part of me is still holding out hope for a more ambitious direction. But the series isn’t floundering anymore, it’s bigger than ever and can afford to take risks as its audience continues to grow. With any luck, that success won’t result in a lacking sense of horror and suspense that made its comeback so damn magnetic. Pour one out for Ethan Winters and his boring white boy energy, here’s hoping his daughter’s story concludes with equal amounts of bombast.