Resident Evil 4: Separate Ways Review – Ada Comes Out Swinging

Capcom adds to an already strong remake.

While I’m a massive fan of the concept of Separate Ways, subsequent revisits to the 2005 version in my later years have had me coming to terms with a simple fact. It just wasn’t that good. A hodgepodge of assets from RE4 stitched together to sell a second version of the game, it’s an interesting case study of what happens when you mix a game with stellar mechanics with lousy encounter design. Separate Ways has been given the remake treatment as downloadable content for Resident Evil 4. And with so much gained, it’s a massive surprise at just how much is on offer here for such a great price.

For the unaware, Separate Ways is a side story that tells Ada Wong’s side of the events of Resident Evil 4. You play Ada as she takes orders from her mysterious superior while colluding with Leon and Luis to find the amber she was after in the main game. It’s a comprehensive package that further rounds the already well-rounded Resident Evil 4. It fleshes out a lot more of Luis and Ada’s motivations and helps fill out the story and tie up any loose ends left hanging by Leon’s adventure.

Resident Evil 4 Separate Ways Review - Luis and Ada

As implied earlier, the original Separate Ways was made after the fact, with so many aspects of Ada’s side of the story lacking real cohesion with Leon’s. This version, however, feels much more thoughtfully considered. When Ada is crossing the roof of the church, she can hear Ashley crying while she waits to be rescued by Leon. Later, she can hear Leon fighting Salazar on the other side of the castle wall she climbs. They’re small touches, but replaying RE4 knowing that Ada is nearby is a nice recontextualization.

Where the original Separate Ways had you running through Resident Evil 4 backwards, the new Separate Ways is much more thoughtful in the paces it puts Ada through. Many areas are admittedly reused from the main game, but they’ve been twisted enough to resemble something new – not cynically or dully like in Shadows of Rose last year. There’s also more of an emphasis on espionage and reconnaissance in the opening chapters, which meshes well with Ada; things ramp up pretty quickly along its seven-chapter run.

Resident Evil 4 Separate Ways Review - Ada Radio

An example of how Separate Ways twists what was presented in Resident Evil 4 is with the first boss battle. El Gigante is fought twice in the main story as Leon, but as Ada, you’ll fight one in the farm area from the beginning of the game. Ada’s grapple hook can be used to jump between rooftops of each barn and, of course, to swing by and deal damage to the beast’s weak point. It’s a fun remix of a battle I’ve personally done to death – and the rest of the encounters only get better. There are three other key boss encounters in Separate Ways, and they’re entirely new and slot nicely into the overall story.

Even more admirable, each aspect of Resident Evil 4 that was sorely missing from the remake has been reworked and incorporated into Ada’s side of the story. It’s a joy to see these key moments reimagined – the gondola ride, the laser room and even a missing boss I quickly noticed in my original review. It’s all included here in Separate Ways with the same sense of respect that the original remake had, and it all makes sense to “give” these encounters to Ada, given how she gets around. It’s remarkable how much it rounds out the already comprehensive package that Resident Evil 4 was.

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Resident Evil 4 Separate Ways Review - El Gigante Battle

We already knew Ada was a badass, but I can only appreciate her more as a character after seeing what she was up to after the events of RE4. Much like the remake, Separate Ways masterfully balances the core tenets that make Resident Evil compelling – it’s got a nice mix of puzzles, exhilarating action and some darker horror-tinged moments. While combat primarily flows the same, Ada is equipped with weapons not found in the main game. With enough spinels, she can even unlock the ability to rip away enemies’ shields with her grapple. It is an absolute game changer and ammo saver on higher difficulties.

As you play Separate Ways, you’ll be surprised at how many new and substantial encounters it throws at you. Priced at fifteen dollars, it will take most players between five to six hours to finish, even more if they explore every area and finish every request for the merchant. There’s even a set of challenges to complete with their own related unlockables – including classic costumes from the original Resident Evil 4 for the rest of the cast and the usual weird accessories for Ada herself.

Resident Evil 4 Separate Ways Review - Lab

While there was unwarranted controversy surrounding the recasting of Ada Wong with Lily Gao, she turns in an excellent performance here as we get to spend more time with Ada in Separate Ways. Lending an aloof tone with some quippy one-liners to rival the corniness of Leon, this is easily now my favourite interpretation of the character. There are even some great remixes of music from Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4 – including Ada’s theme from the former and a very schmick remix of Infiltration from the latter.

As the credits rolled on Separate Ways, I couldn’t help but ruminate on how polished it was. It felt like the base game, just from a different perspective. The original Separate Ways had many scenes where characters would stand silent as Ada spoke to them. None of that is evident in the new Separate Ways; it feels just as big a budget as the game it complements. That being said, there was one scene where Ada interacted with another character just moments before the finale that was weird and stilted, but otherwise, the majority of Separate Ways feels well put together with excellent production values.

Resident Evil 4 Separate Ways Review - Grappling Hook Bridge

Separate Ways is now available as paid downloadable content on all platforms where Resident Evil 4 is available.

Conclusion
While the bar wasn't that high to begin with, Separate Ways is far and away the best piece of DLC ever released for a Resident Evil game. It manages to succesfully build on top of the already rock solid experience that Resident Evil 4 provides to offer up the spotlight that series super spy Ada Wong has always deserved. With a heady mix of horror, action and even espionage, Separate Ways' incredibly modest price of admission makes it a no brainer. It's an absolute achievement from the development team and not to be missed.
Positives
Strong remixed and unique boss encounters
Varied mix of horror, action and espionage
Very reasonably priced with great replayability
Negatives
The fact that it ends