Capcom’s Resident Evil 4 remake takes one of the best games of all time and rebuilds it into a masterpiece that’s every bit as good as the original. Capcom was helpfully able to draw on excellent source material, which is not the case with the original Separate Ways add-on. Don’t get me wrong, Ada Wong’s solo outing was a fun excuse to delve back into the seedy world of RE4, but the original add-on did little to differentiate its gameplay from the main campaign and made a difference not an indispensable part of the RE4 campaign overall experience from a narrative perspective. The Separate Ways remake, however, is the opposite: it adds several new tools to the core game, mixes up familiar environments with entirely new set pieces, and fleshes out the story. Far from being a throwaway add-on, the Separate Ways version of the Resident Evil 4 remake makes an already phenomenal game feel even more complete.
The basic premise of Separate Ways remains the same as the original: you slip into the high heels of antihero Ada Wong and act as a spy to hunt down a biological weapon for long-time Resident Evil antagonist Albert Wesker. However, her loyalties are unclear as Ada plays multiple sides in the story, sometimes working against Wesker and assisting Leon in his mission to rescue the President’s daughter Ashley Graham or teaming up with suave biologist Luis Sera. She has a dual motive in almost everything she does. But this time the stakes are even higher, as Ada is also infected with Plagas – the same parasitic disease that infected villagers Leon and Ashley in the main story. This added layer gives Ada a stronger motive to work with Luis, who is the answer to finding a cure. This in turn also gives our charismatic and always charming Spanish biologist a lot more welcome screen time.
As a spy, Ada is equipped with many core game-changing gadgets, most notably her grappling hook, which allows her to zipline to higher ground and over obstacles, or pull herself towards enemies to deliver a hard-hitting spin kick. Additionally, she has access to an augmented reality implant that allows her to see footsteps or fingerprints, both of which are used to track characters like Luis or reveal button presses that serve as mini-puzzles to unlock locked doors evade. It’s a tailor-made gameplay system for Ada, adding an extra flavor to her campaign and highlighting a detective quality that we haven’t seen in any previous Resident Evil. Incorporating these mechanics gives Ada some much-needed structure and establishes her as the capable and resourceful spy we’ve always been told she was but never saw firsthand. She usually appears at the most opportune moments to help another character or provide a weapon, but now we get to see her use her own abilities to track down characters and complete missions from the shadows.
Because of the additional gadgets, the game’s tone unabashedly leans into its spy aesthetic, using chiming Sean Connery-era Bond guitars to underscore Ada’s mission – making everything feel cool and suave about Ada Wong. In contrast to Leon’s one-line action hero demeanor, Ada is reserved, serious and calculated, which voice actress Lily Gao nails in her portrayal. There is a dryness in her tone and a commanding charisma in her delivery. It’s a grounded portrayal of the character that stands out among the melodrama of the rest of the cast, particularly Albert Wesker, who seems to carry the weight of the franchise’s histrionics in every breezy line he delivers, and somehow it still works.
Of course, the emphasis on espionage also brings with it a lot more stealth. Familiar levels from before, like the castle walls, have been redesigned to encourage the player to sneak around and systematically take out Ganados. However, the encouragement of stealth sometimes felt more like a means to reinforce his espionage vibe than a targeted challenge. All too often, the enemies were conveniently positioned facing away from me or simply walking in circles, with an obvious blind spot that I could enter to take them out. It felt like stealth-on-rails and was therefore not very rewarding. But stealth is optional, so don’t do it have to play it cool and calm, and you can jump in with knives swinging and guns blazing. This approach also makes the game feel better as it showcases Ada’s new abilities.
Ada’s new ability to lunge at enemies, displayed when staggering enemies with the press of a button, makes combat feel more powerful, dynamic and damn near stylish than before. There’s extra risk/reward in closing the gap between you and a crowd of Ganados, followed by a waltz of gunfire, knife parries and melee violence. Additionally, the zipline allows for quick traversal of claustrophobic encounters through prompts scattered all around you. This also opens up the possibility for you to compete against familiar enemies in unfamiliar environments. The Hedge Maze, for example, was a new combat arena where I could use a zip line to climb over walls while trying to hunt down an enemy and avoid the grasp of others. The final major addition to Ada’s Zipline is the ability to steal shields from enemies, an ability available in the form of a talisman that can be purchased from the merchant. It’s reminiscent of Batman’s grapple gun in Rocksteady’s Arkham games in its ability to strip enemies of their defenses.
Separate Ways also tells a story not covered at all in the original and represents its greatest achievement, defining itself as a major expansion of Leon’s campaign. While the original similarly showed Ada supporting Leon, this remake creates deeper connections and new storylines that make it important to understand the full extent of what it’s about. Ada’s infection is used as a passageway to establish Pesanta, the black-hooded enemy from Leon’s campaign who mysteriously disappeared, as a relentless antagonist who pursues Ada throughout her mission.
Separate Ways takes considerable liberties in crafting its story, often by reintroducing iconic scenes from the original’s main campaign that were omitted from the remake. Some of these iconic scenes, like the infamous laser hall, actually fit stylistically better into the context of Ada’s Mission Impossible-esque story. In some ways, this DLC serves more as a nice love letter to long-time fans than the actual remake due to the inclusion of these scenes. At times, however, it can feel heavy-handed, with some moments being reinterpreted less successfully than others.
Where things like the aforementioned laser hall suit Ada’s gymnastics and high-tech skills, and the drill bit wall works well with the pulpy spy tone, the U-3 fight felt constrained. Separate Ways does a far better job of contextualizing U-3 as a walkthrough in a way I’d rather not give away, but it doesn’t quite find its footing in the execution, resulting in it being the dullest boss fight of all campaign and the scariest part of the original is left out. It’s reduced to a languid and uninspired arena battle. Still, it’s a minor misstep compared to the many excellent boss fights that Separate Ways packs into its modest but action-packed four hours, some of which even outshine the main game’s fights. Ada’s showdown with Saddler, for example, is particularly memorable, thanks in part to some hard-hitting cutscenes in the final moments.
Separate Ways is not just more Resident Evil 4. It is a meaningful expansion that delivers a new story through a clear tone and with new mechanics. It’s a significant expansion to an already remarkable game. While its references to the past can seem a bit over the top, it still packs a punch that will have me replaying it many times.