2023 has been stuffed to the brim with incredible video games, so it may well warrant reminding you all that, even though it’s been nearly twelve months since it released, the Resident Evil 4 remake is still one of the year’s best titles. It somehow managed to take everything that the original classic did well and do it all better while adding in its own fun surprises and twists on the classic RE formula. That said, it was missing a few key ingredients at launch, namely the beloved Mercenaries Mode and “Separate Ways,” the alternative campaign mode centered on Ada Wong. Mercenaries Mode got added in a free patch a few months back, and now CAPCOM has seen fit to complete the package with this all-new version of “Separate Ways,” which comes to us now in the form of a modestly priced paid expansion. For all the incredible things that RE4’s remake did, I wouldn’t blame fans for raising their eyebrows a little at turning what was originally a bonus unlockable included with the base game into premium content, especially since—let’s be honest, here—the original “Separate Ways” mode was more of a fun novelty than an integral component of RE4’s success. What could CAPCOM possibly do with a $10 DLC to justify the double-dip?
As it turns out, the answer is, “A hell of a lot.”
Let’s get this out of the way up front: In terms of expanding on the gameplay of Resident Evil 4, there isn’t a whole lot to write home about for “Separate Ways.” Outside of a couple of new guns (like Ada’s badass crossbow) and the grappling hook that lets you access new areas and perform melee attacks from a bit further away, this is functionally the same game as the base campaign: You will explore new and familiar locations on the Island as Ada, hunting for treasure, killing gross monster cultists, and generally being a badass. New fans who may not know what “Separate Ways” is all about could conceivably be disappointed that Ada’s adventure doesn’t differentiate itself from Leon’s. On the other hand, the core gameplay loop of Resident Evil 4 is essentially perfect, so it’s one of those instances where “more of the same” is very much a compliment.
Besides, what makes this new iteration of “Separate Ways” so special isn’t its variety but its density and polish. Here, CAPCOM has taken a 90-minute-long bonus feature and transformed it into a fully-fledged campaign that doesn’t spare any expense in delivering the goods. In the six hours it took me to complete one playthrough of “Separate Ways” on my PlayStation 5, I experienced a tense, action-packed, story-driven roller-coaster ride that is as polished and memorable as the main game.
My favorite thing about “Separate Ways,” on the whole, is how it manages to expand on the base game in ways that feel fresh and meaningful, so much so that you don’t even mind what some of those “fresh” moments are just repacked variations of material from the original RE4 that got cut from the remake. The 2004 “Separate Ways” mode often felt like a handful of deleted scenes slapped together with a few cutscenes to justify the running time. This “Separate Ways” stitches all its new and familiar content into a fun and cohesive little narrative that never comes across as filler. We get tons of new scenes where Ada is working alongside Luis, for one, which gives both of these fan-favorite characters a stronger connection to the main narrative.
In addition to a mid-story twist that provides Ada with some stronger motivations to insert herself into Luis, Leon, and Ashley’s misadventures, we are also treated to some more substantial appearances from everyone’s favorite megalomaniacal supervillain, Albert “Complete Global Saturation” Wesker. This has the effect of anchoring the whole of the RE4 experience more strongly to the past and future stories of the franchise, which will pay off nicely indeed should CAPCOM decide to do the obvious thing and remake Resident Evil 5. The only noteworthy complaint I could find about anything in this DLC would be directed at Ada’s new voice actress, Lily Gao (who also played Ada’s live-action counterpart in the Welcome to Racoon City movie). To be clear, Gao is far from terrible—she plays the “too cool for school” aspect of Ada’s super-spy persona quite well, for the most part. Her line readings do sometimes sound just a bit too collected and reserved, though, which makes her sound less like a character that is trying to keep a level head amid an absolutely insane errand run and more like a person talking to herself in a recording booth.
That one nitpick aside, though, this “Separate Ways” DLC has it all: It’s a tightly-paced thrill ride with all of the stellar production values and sound design of the base game. It’s got its own list of bespoke new challenges to complete, too, plus some new playable characters for Mercenaries Mode and other fun goodies to unlock in the Bonus Content shop, so die-hard fans could easily spend a dozen hours or more digging into everything it has to offer. When you look at it that way, the US$10 asking price feels like an absolute steal since “Separate Ways” provides nothing less than the ultimate evolution of one of the year’s best games, and maybe the single best Resident Evil ever made.