This year’s Resident Evil 4 remake was an important victory for the horror series. Not only did it successfully reimagine a beloved classic, but it finally concocted the perfect action formula for the series at large. That’s an important milestone considering that Resident Evil has historically run into trouble when fully dropping survival horror in favor of blockbuster action (see the misunderstood, but undeniably sloppy Resident Evil 6). The remake paves the way for Capcom to once again evolve its series, taking another crack at the third-person shooter genre it struggled to nail.
In that sense, Resident Evil 4’s new Separate Ways DLC feels like a taste of what’s to come. Capcom uses Ada Wong’s solo chapter to push its action formula even further, weaving in some exciting new tricks that are already leaving me hungry for a true spinoff. It’s not the series’ finest DLC, playing more as an asset-reusing victory lap, but it gives me hope that Resident Evil’s second decent into pure action will be much more successful this time.
Separate Ways follows Ada Wong, the anti-hero mercenary on a quest to retrieve a Plaga sample for Albert Wesker during the main game. The lengthy bonus episode is a remake in itself, but it’s perhaps even more radical than the base game’s reinvention. Right from its completely new opening scene, it’s clear that Separate Ways is diverting pretty far from the original DLC. That’s a sensible decision considering how much the new version of Resident Evil 4 reworks Ada Wong. She’s no longer a careless hired gun, but a nuanced character struggling to balance her professional responsibilities with her moral ones.
That arc isn’t explored as deeply as I’d hoped due to the fact that the DLC has to cram a lot of plot into four hours. Separate Ways plays like an abridged version of the base game, with Ada rushing through a journey that runs parallel to Leon S. Kennedy’s. To accomplish that, the majority of the adventure is spent retreading locations from the main game, like the village or castle exterior. Familiar moments get repeated and remixed similar to Resident Evil Village’s Shadows of Rose DLC, though with fewer original sequences. There are a few unique bosses, but there are no “can’t miss” moments here. Any important character moments happen in the base game’s ending.
What’s more exciting is how Capcom builds on top of Resident Evil 4’s already excellent combat. The fundamentals are the same; Ada can shoot, parry, stun, and melee villagers just like Leon. The important change, though, is that Ada gets to use her signature grappling gun both in traversal and combat. The former goes a little underutilized (considering she’s mostly exploring locations that were built for Leon), but the offensive applications are a blast. When stunning an enemy, Ada can latch onto an enemy from afar and grapple into a melee attack. A mid-game upgrade even lets her snatch enemy shields with the tool.
That little addition makes combat feel even more fluid. When taking on a dense pack of villagers, I can land some headshots, grapple into the crowd to knock them all down, stab anyone wriggling on the ground, and zip off to safety if there’s a grapple point hereby. That even gets used to great effect in some boss fights. An El Gigante rematch has me avoiding the giant’s strikes by grappling up to village rooftops, shooting the parasite on its back, and zipping over to its downed body to heroically jab it with my blade.
It all works as well as it does because Separate Ways is a spy thriller at its heart. Resident Evil 4’s action is perfectly built for that kind of story. All the stealthy backstabs and roundhouse kicks sell the idea that Wong is a world-class super spy – the series’ own Jason Bourne. If Capcom wanted to, I’m convinced it could create a new side-series built around the character that further pushes that idea with tighter stealth and faster combat.
Separate Ways isn’t a must-play expansion; it only brings a little extra narrative depth to Resident Evil 4’s universe amid four hours of double dips. Even so, it’s worth checking out just to see how one great hook buffs up Capcom’s strong action foundation. The most glowing thing I can say about Separate Ways is that actually it leaves me excited about the prospect of a Resident Evil 6 remake. If the series’ third-person combat keeps evolving with each remake, a true redemption story could be on the horizon.
Resident Evil 4’s Separate Ways DLC is available now.
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