I was a fool for worrying that Separate Ways, the Resident Evil 4 remake's remake of the old Ada Wong-focused expansion of the same name, might get too caught up in its own tangled lore-web to remember to have a little fun.
That concern was immediately blown away by this side story's frivolously entertaining opening: an extended shot of doomed secondary character Luis, locked in the dirtiest corpse-riddled cell you can imagine, dancing purely for the player's benefit in a way that should have been captioned "[Sexy Spanish man dances Sexily and Spanishly]."
Like Resident Evil 4's excellent remake before it, Separate Ways is confident enough in itself to echo rather than blindly mimic the work it's based on. In one of countless departures from 2005's version of events, Ada soon shows up to rescue Luis from this new location, looking hotter than a dust-caked PC's overworked CPU while she's at it. In Resident Evil, the heroes looking astonishingly attractive under all the viscera is just as important as the action.
It's a familiar experience given a strong Ada twist. Separate Ways still has the same sublimely snappy gunplay that made Leon's modern remake such a joy, although there's a noticeable emphasis on silent sneaky kills this time around. Ada's perfectly capable of taking down a group of heavily armoured enemies busy chucking dynamite at un forastero if she has to. But the way many of her mini campaign's locations are set up, the mumbling undead have their backs turned, conveniently wandering just far away enough from each other to not automatically spot her. I can almost hear the game say "But she doesn't have to go loud."
Even with all the optional sneaking around and the expected double double crossing it still wouldn't feel like Ada's game without her making good use of her signature grappling hook in combat—something her old PlayStation 2-based campaign was strangely short of. RE4 Remake's Separate Ways corrects that problem.
The grappling hook now opens up an expanded attaché case's worth of interesting opportunities, and the game is eager to make good use of every last one of them.
Even the most standard and straightforward encounter is improved by this new tool. Any stunned enemy in a generous range becomes an improvised grapple spot, Ada quickly closing the distance to deliver a powerful roundhouse kick and ready to dish out even more pain to whoever's close to her new position. There's an expensive charm available later on that allows you to grapple away enemy shields, leaving them vulnerable to attack.
It's even possible to quickly zip up and away if a horde becomes overwhelming, although this particular feature is always limited to preset parts of the scenery rather than any viable surface. Even so, it's more than enough to breathe new life into these battles with the undead, so much so that I was soon getting Ada into fights just because it was so much fun to watch her athletically dominating everything the game could throw at her.
Ada's unique boss fights manage to push things even further, with one highlight in particular based almost entirely around off-the-cuff grapple hooking in an enclosed arena. The fight demanded that I be flexible while also showing how flexible the grappling hook itself it, and really highlighted how hard this new version of Separate Ways has worked to make clear at all times that I'm actually playing as Ada, and not a reskinned Leon.
Ada doesn't have to scrabble around in the dirt looking for keys when she can grapple straight over a locked gate instead. Sturdy lab doors held shut with keycodes are a problem only the less well-equipped—like some handsome idiot risking it all to save the president's daughter, for example—have to deal with.
Yes, a sizable chunk of everything I see and do over the leisurely four-ish hours it takes to clear this DLC is very familiar; you'll recognize these areas and enemies if you've spent even a little time with Resident Evil 4. For every brand new micro-location there are two lifted nigh-wholesale from the main campaign, and in a few places they'll even contain the same old (although very welcome) stashes of grenades or herbs too. It's a common move for Capcom, but Separate Ways does it better than usual.
In Resident Evil Village's "Shadows of Rose" DLC, this recycling never quite escaped feeling like a cynical cost-cutting reuse of existing assets, with a side story that appeared to largely be built around whatever bits and pieces were already there rather than because it desperately needed to be told. This time around things are different. This new version of Separate Ways feels like a true expansion, the main game enhanced and—dare I say it—improved.
Ada's fresh expanded skillset is a joy to use even in the most obviously recycled areas, bringing exciting new combat opportunities to a game I thought I knew inside out. Whenever she's given a new arena tailor-made for her wire-based abilities I find a smile creeping across my face. Ada lets me zip around with a fluidity that makes perfect sense in the heat of battle but also feels like it's breaking every rule Resident Evil 4 ever set.
I don't want to play as Leon again, not for a little while anyway—I want another round as Ada.