The Resident Evil 4 Remake Separate Ways DLC is a satisfying cherry placed atop the immaculately baked survival horror cake that is RE4 Remake. Yet, while I came away pleasingly full from my time with Ada Wong’s supplemental campaign, I fear it may have completely tarnished the base game experience for me.
The Separate Ways DLC for Resident Evil 4 Remake is, if anything, a more definitive upgrade over its original form than the base game was. As well as being ample reason to return to one of the best PC games of 2023, it reintroduces one of the remake’s biggest absences as an ominous, recurring threat, and delivers the delightful, dueling sneers of Ada and her employer of the moment, Resident Evil’s most glorious scene-chewing villain, Albert Wesker.
Separate Ways sees Ada journey through many of the locations from base Resident Evil 4 Remake – almost a ‘greatest hits’ package of some of its best areas and encounters that strips out some of the duller sequences, such as meandering around that big lake. While almost every location you’ll visit in Separate Ways is one you’ve seen before, you’re typically approaching them from a different direction, or with changes to the scenery that force alternate routes.
To facilitate this, Capcom once more gives Ada access to her iconic grappling hook. Unfortunately, when it comes to traversal, this largely feels like a level design cheat code – allowing otherwise disjointed paths to be connected up via seemingly arbitrary grapple points that only exist where the developers deign to allow them. The one exception to this is a large-scale arena fight among farm houses that allows you to fling yourself up to rooftops for a better angle on your gargantuan foe, although this only serves to highlight its relative misuse elsewhere.
In combat, however, the grappling hook is Separate Ways’ best addition. No longer merely a navigation aid, the remake’s hookshot allows Ada to hurl herself bodily at a staggered foe, delivering a spinning kick from long range without the need to maneuver past other enemies to do so. This added mobility is exactly what the faster-moving remake was missing, making our dear Leon S. Kennedy feel rather lumbering by comparison.
The most welcome trick in Ada’s kit, however, comes courtesy of a unique briefcase charm that unlocks the ability to wrench shields from her foes. In doing so, Ada’s position as the more capable protagonist is fully secured, letting you rain glorious retribution upon the game’s most awkward antagonists. Even her more limited arsenal doesn’t feel like an issue, given that she has access to all the best Resident Evil 4 Remake weapons anyway.
It’s a shame, then, that Separate Ways falls slightly short of some of the base game’s best encounters. Pesanta, the black-robed counterpart to Salazar’s other assistant Verdugo, takes center stage here, troubling you in encounters that start with a bang and get less memorable with each repetition of the same mechanic – although they do culminate in the satisfying conclusion that you’re looking for.
While some of the areas are remixed in rather interesting fashion – an early castle sequence opens up the potential for almost complete stealth, for example – later sections start to feel more like near-direct retreads of parts of Leon’s campaign, often with some of their most interesting puzzle elements removed. Some of you will be glad to see the back of the Resident Evil 4 Remake power puzzles, but I found myself missing them.
We also get a completely new boss encounter, set up with some intriguing backstory and a rather striking reveal. Unfortunately, it descends into little more than a chase sequence reminiscent of the old Crash Bandicoot games on the original PlayStation, with very minimal actual interaction. Sure, it’s salvaged somewhat by another fan-pleasing return of a feature left absent in the remake’s base campaign, but I couldn’t help but be left craving a bit more.
The Separate Ways DLC is, in my mind, definitively better than the campaign we were given as a concession to PS2 players after the original game’s initial GameCube exclusivity period. It absolutely justifies its asking price with a satisfying 5-7 hour campaign that I’ll certainly replay in the future. While I can see myself returning to both the remake and the original 2005 version of the base game, I don’t think I’d ever bother playing the old Separate Ways again.
It’s left me in a bit of a a quandary, though. Separate Ways is great fun, as expected; being built on the foundations of the RE4 Remake, it would probably have taken some work to destroy how satisfying that core gameplay is. It is, however, a greatest hits tour that, while it brings back some forgotten B-sides, leaves out some of your favorite tracks, and includes mixes of others that don’t sound quite as good as you remember them originally.
Yet the grappling hook is a masterful addition, and to replay Leon’s story without it feels like I’m missing one of the best instruments in the symphony (to belabor this musical metaphor). Thus I’m now stuck with a choice: play the slightly worse but tighter DLC campaign with the snappier combat, or the better but somewhat bloated main story without the use of my new favorite toy.
Perhaps there’s even another twist in the tale, with hints that more Resident Evil 4 DLC could be on the way. Whether that happens or not, you’ll want to explore the best survival horror games in 2023 for plenty more memorable adventures. You’ll also want to catch up on all the Resident Evil 4 Mercenaries rewards, with new characters added to the bonus mode for free as part of this update.