Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 4 released earlier this year, and it was absolutely incredible. Not only is it one of the best games of a year as packed as 2023 has been, like the original RE4, it’s also probably one of the best action games you’ll ever play. And now, Capcom has turned its attention to Separate Ways – a side story focusing on Ada Wong that was released for the original Resident Evil 4 shortly after its initial launch, bundled alongside its PS2 release – and remade it top to bottom. And unsurprisingly, the results are impressive. The new Separate Ways is, in fact, a significantly better experience than the original.
Ada Wong, the enigmatic spy who loves a double-cross more than anything in the world, stars as Separate Ways’ protagonist. Her story runs roughly parallel to that of Leon and Ashley in the base game, but while the two of them are in a desperate mission of survival and self-rescue, Ada is instead focused on retrieving the Amber, which is the specimen responsible for the Las Plagas parasite, and something that her employer, the gleefully villainous Albert Wesker, has taken a special interest in as part of his plans for complete global saturation.
"The new Separate Ways is a significantly better experience than the original."
The remake’s Separate Ways does a much better job of doing justice to its narrative premise than the original did, because unlike the original, the remake’s version is presented as an actual, full-fledged mini-campaign, rather than a collection of gameplay sequences that had been stitched together with debriefs and voiceovers. Ada is allowed to breathe as a character, and watching her struggling to choose between prioritizing her mission and helping Leon pulls you into the story that much more. Meanwhile, fan-favourite character Luis Serra returns as well, while Albert Wesker consumes every single scene he’s in, as Albert Wesker is wont to do. Narratively, it’s a much more satisfying experience, and one that feels like a valuable and meaningful addendum to the base experience, even to the extent of potentially setting up some intriguing things for the series’ future remakes.
Where its mechanics are concerned, Separate Ways is, for the most part, content to deliver more of the same excellent brand of action that the base game did. Ada’s gameplay is largely similar to Leon’s, with the bulk of the action still revolving around tense encounters where you’re shooting, parrying, and more. That, of course, is by no means a bad thing- combat in the RE4 remake is spectacular, so having more of that to dive into here is ultimately a good thing, even if it doesn’t land with quite the same impact, simply by virtue of being an expansion.
"Combat in the RE4 remake is spectacular, so having more of that to dive into here is ultimately a good thing, even if it doesn’t land with quite the same impact, simply by virtue of being an expansion."
And of course, just like the base game, something else that helps the combat shine as much as it does is the encounter design. Separate Ways largely sees you retreading locations that we’ve already explored in the base game as Leon, though it keeps finding ways to smartly subvert expectations nonetheless, and somehow always manages to keep you on your toes. It could be something as simple as you finding yourself in a location that you’re familiar with from the base game, but having to move through it in the opposite direction, giving a wholly different flow to the encounter. Or it could be something much more tangible, like surprising new bits and pieces that weren’t present in the base game, even including some that fans will remember from the original RE4 that didn’t make the cut in its remake’s base release.
Separate Ways does still add a few gameplay wrinkles of its own though, Ada’s grappling gun being chief among them. Outside of combat, the grappling gun has limited use, and allows you to pull yourself to prescribed spots, thus allowing Ada to occasionally hoist herself to vantage points, fly across gaps and chasms, and the like. Much more impactful, however, is the grappling gun’s implementation in combat, because it allows Ada to instantly zip over to a stunned enemy for a rapid melee attack, rather than having to walk or sprint up to them like Leon had to do in the base game. Better still, as Ada is being pulled to the grappled enemy, she will also hit anyone else that stands in her way. It makes Ada feel much more nimble, and combat encounters much faster, lending a sufficiently different taste to the gameplay experience.
"The grappling gun makes Ada feel much more nimble, and combat encounters much faster, lending a sufficiently different taste to the gameplay experience."
Outside of combat, Separate Ways doesn’t do too much to separate itself from the base game, with the exception of a couple of very quick puzzles here and there. You’ll still be combing the environments for resources, finding and combining treasures, and taking on the occasional side quest. Unlike the base game, however, all of this is much less emphasized- which, I think, is in the expansion’s bests interest. Separate Ways’ breakneck pacing is one of its biggest strengths. It’s a relatively brief experience at about 4-5 hours long, and it moves from location to location at a pretty brisk pace. Across its seven chapters, the vast majority of its focus is placed on combat encounters, which, thanks to the variety and nuanced design the expansion exhibits in that area, never really lose steam.
In the end, Separate Ways is a much better and more significant facelift of its original version than I had thought it would be. Where the original felt like a quickly cobbled together asset flip, the remake DLC feels like a proper mini-campaign of its own, one that not only adds important narrative context to the base experience, but one that also consistently excels on the gameplay front in all the ways that the RE4 remake itself does. If, since its launch earlier this year, you’ve played the remake and enjoyed it, there’s little chance of you not also finding plenty of enjoyment with Separate Ways. By its very nature, it’s obviously a much more condensed and much shorter experience – it’s still only an expansion, after all – but across its relatively brief runtime, it consistently delivers in all the right ways, just as the base game did earlier this year.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
A fun, sufficiently engaging story; Combat is still a ton of fun, thanks to the core mechanics; Excellently designed combat encounters; Grappling gun is a great addition, especially from a combat perspective; Great pacing.
More of the same, for the most part.