Capcom's remake of Resident Evil 4 takes one of the greatest games of all time and rebuilds it into a masterpiece that stands up alongside the original. Fortunately, Capcom had excellent source material to work with, which is not the case with the original add-on, Separate Ways. 

Don't get me wrong, Ada Wong's solo journey was a fun excuse to return to the dilapidated world of RE4, but the original add-on did little to differentiate its gameplay from the main campaign and also didn't prove essential to the overall experience from a narrative point of view. 

The Separate Ways remake, however, is the opposite, adding several new tools to its core gameplay, shaking up familiar environments with entirely new pieces and deepening the story. Far from being an expendable add-on, the Separate Ways version of the Resident Evil 4 remake makes an already phenomenal game even more complete.

Resident Evil 4 game review and scores

The basic premise of Separate Ways remains the same as the original: you take on the role of anti-heroine Ada Wong and act as a spy to hunt down a biological weapon by Resident Evil's longtime antagonist, Albert Wesker. Their loyalties, however, are ambiguous, with Ada playing both sides in the story, sometimes working against Wesker and assisting Leon in his mission to save the president's daughter, Ashley Graham, or teaming up with the dashing biologist Luis Sera. 

She has a double motive for almost everything she does. But this time, the stakes have been raised, as Ada is also infected with plagas, the same parasitic disease that infected the residents, Leon and Ashley in the main story. This additional layer gives Ada a stronger reason to work alongside Luis, who is the answer to finding a cure. This, in turn, justifies a lot more welcome screen time for our charismatic and ever charming Spanish biologist too.

As a spy, Ada is equipped with many gadgets that transform the main gameplay, the highlight being her climbing hook, which she can use to glide to higher places and overcome obstacles, or to approach enemies and unleash an incredible spinning kick. In addition, she has access to an augmented reality implant that allows her to see footprints or fingerprints, used to track characters like Luis or reveal button presses, acting as mini puzzles to get around locked doors. 

Gameplay

It's a gameplay system unique to Ada that adds an extra layer to her campaign and emphasizes a detective quality that we haven't seen in any previous Resident Evil. The inclusion of these mechanics adds much-needed texture to Ada, portraying her as the capable and resourceful spy we've always been told she is, but have never seen first-hand. Normally, she appears at the most convenient times to help another character or provide a weapon, but now we get to see how she uses her own skills to track down characters and complete missions in the shadows.

As a result of the additional gadgetry, the game leans unashamedly towards its espionage aesthetic, using Sean Connery-style guitars in Bond to underpin Ada's mission - which makes it all the more cool and stylish, as Ada Wong is. Unlike Leon's one-line action hero stance, Ada is reserved, serious and calculating, something that actress Lily Gao accomplishes perfectly in her performance.

There's a dry tone to his voice and an imperious atmosphere to his delivery. It's a solid portrayal of the character that stands out among the melodrama of the other cast members, especially Albert Wesker, who seems to carry the weight of the franchise's theater in every line he delivers, and somehow it still works.

Stealth

Naturally, the focus on espionage brings with it a lot more stealth. Familiar levels from before, such as the castle walls, have been redesigned to encourage the player to move stealthily and eliminate ganados in a methodical way. At times, however, the encouragement to use stealth seemed more like a way of reinforcing the spy vibe than serving any specific challenge.

Often, enemies were conveniently positioned with their backs to me or simply walking in circles, with an obvious blind spot I could enter to eliminate them. It felt like guided stealth and wasn't rewarding as a result. But stealth is optional, so you don't have to act discreetly, and you can walk right in, knives swinging and guns drawn. The game is better with this approach, as it's where Ada's new skills shine.

Ada's new ability to approach enemies, which appears as a button prompt when hitting enemies, makes combat more dynamic and stylish than before. There's an added risk/reward when approaching a crowd of ganados, followed by a ballet of gunfire, knife parries and melee violence. What's more, the shooting cable allows you to quickly traverse claustrophobic encounters by means of prompts scattered around you. This also opens the door to facing familiar enemies in unfamiliar surroundings. 

Hedge maze

The hedge maze, for example, was a new combat arena where I could zipline over walls while trying to hunt down an enemy and dodge the attacks of others. The last major addition to Ada's shooting cape is the ability to rip off enemies' shields, which is a skill that can be bought from the Merchant in the form of an amulet. This is reminiscent of Batman's cape pistol in Rocksteady's Arkham games, in its ability to disarm enemies.

Separate Ways also tells a story that wasn't explored in the original and serves as its greatest achievement by defining itself as an essential extension of Leon's campaign. While the original showed how Ada helped Leon, this remake creates deeper connections and new storylines that make it vital to understand the full breadth of what's at stake. Ada's infection is used as a through-line to establish Pesanta, the black hooded enemy from Leon's campaign who mysteriously disappeared, as an implacable antagonist who pursues Ada throughout her mission.

Iconic scenes

Separate Ways takes significant liberties in deepening its story, often reintroducing iconic scenes from the original main campaign that were omitted from the remake. Some of these iconic scenes, such as the infamous laser runner, fit better stylistically in the context of Ada's Mission Impossible story. In a way, this DLC serves as a nice gift to longtime fans more than the remake itself, due to the inclusion of these scenes. However, at times it can feel a little overdone, with some scenes being reimagined less successfully than others.

Overall, Capcom's remake of Separate Ways from Resident Evil 4 is a welcome and essential addition to the overall experience of the game. It deepens the storyline, enhances Ada's gameplay and brings a unique espionage atmosphere, making an already phenomenal game even more complete. With its focus on narrative and espionage mechanics, this extension takes the experience to a whole new level, living up to Resident Evil 4's legacy as one of the greatest games of all time.

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October 13th, 2023