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Separate Ways: An Impressive and Meaningful DLC

Spin-offs can be a law of diminishing returns. At worst, they can be considered cynical cash grabs that tug at the strings of nostalgia or the audience’s adoration for the original property. At best, they can be mixed excursions that fail to stand alone. Despite this being apparent in many mediums (including video games), Resident Evil has been in its own strange orbit, where its side content has been just as interesting as its mainline games.

Last year’s Shadows of Rose was narratively flawed in the beats it repeated from Resident Evil Village, but quite poignant in its depiction of a rekindled father and daughter relationship across space and time. It was also creative in the use of Rose’s psychic powers, and the creature designs within its nightmarish version of the central village in the eighth installment. In his review of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Skill Up said the following about the post-game content: “The fact that the DLC for this game is so good makes it a must-purchase.”

While Shadows of Rose was created as a response to the commercial success of Village, Separate Ways was obligatory. The original mini-game that was first featured on the PS2 version of the game is a mixed blessing. Whilst it undoubtedly feels like a hasty rehash (complete with 240p cutscenes, many reused assets, and encounters), I found it an engaging enough side story that illustrated Ada Wong’s appeal as a character. By comparison, the 2023 remake of Separate Ways is an impressive and meaningful DLC.

The parallel narrative sees Ada Wong (Lily Gao) attempting to retrieve a rare substance (referred to as the amber). Her adventures take her from many of the locations that graced the main narrative, as well as some of the supporting characters that Leon Kennedy (Nick Apostolides) and Ashley Graham (Genevieve Buechner) encountered in their adventure.

Ada looks down a long corridor within the castle section from Separate Ways.
Ada returns to the castle during the middle section of the Separate Ways campaign. Screenshot is personally taken from the Xbox Series X.

Separate Ways works because it tells a satisfying side story that parallels Leon and Ada’s plights and personalities. While Leon is a hardened agent who is still haunted by the events of Resident Evil 2, Ada is much more cynical and entrenched in her role as a gun for hire. This is summed up by a speech she gives at the beginning of the game’s second chapter, “In this world, someone always pays. Best not to ask who or why. I understood that. Made my peace with it.” The events of Raccoon City have affected her, but it’s as though she’s buried her feelings about it deep down that they may not even be clear to those around her. Lily Gao’s poker-faced vocal performance that hints at a playful and judgmental side is an interesting choice insofar as it juxtaposes with Leon’s more emotive and haunted character.

It also greatly differs from Sally Cahill’s vocal performance from Resident Evil 4 (2005) and Separate Ways. Cahill had fun with the knowingness of being a femme fatale whilst never compromising the character’s intelligence. This came in the form of the exposition scenes where she would comment on the people she encountered during a mission as though they were pieces in a game of Chess.

While Gao’s performance was counterintuitive (if not fascinating at times) in the principal game. In the context of Separate Ways, it’s fitting. It makes Ada’s arc from someone who unquestionably chases down a dangerous object to someone who is dead set against giving it back to Albert Wesker (Craig Burnatowski), more palpable. In fact, part of the fun of Separate Ways is reveling in the excitement of playing a capable spy heroine who effortlessly makes herself appealing and likable to achieve her goals. Part of this comes in a starkly pitched comedic opening cutscene where Ada flirts with Luis Serra (André Peña) about finishing a dance and handing him his favorite brand of cigarette.

This also comes from the gameplay parity with the original title insofar as the importance of knife combat and upgrading in defending yourself, as well as the more emphasized stealth mechanics. However, Separate Ways adds to the central action system (via the addition of Ada’s grappling hook). In the original minigame, this felt like a tacked-on gimmick, but in the remake, it’s a meaningful part of the combat that can manifest as a melee combat option in taking out one or several enemies. It can also be used as an option for getting away from a large group of enemies and gives the player choice, namely in remaining to stay and fight or quickly flee. In the later stretches within the castle, it also becomes an essential tool in traversing various environments. Finally, one of the boss battles utilizes the item to excellent effect.

When fighting the El Gigante, Ada can jump to different buildings (which all have destructive damage) and various heights, so you can choose how far you want to shoot the parasite popping out of the Gigante’s body. The result is a dynamic and atmospheric boss encounter that illustrates one of Ada’s core gameplay mechanics.

In addition to this is the “Interactive Retinal Inquiry System” (IRIS), which allows Ada to scan the environment (via a retinal eye scanner) for clues to do with puzzles and the whereabouts of a character (via blue footprints). In spirit, it reminded me of the “Detective Mode” system from Batman: Arkham Asylum insofar as scanning your surroundings. It never ceases to feel gimmicky, and I wish it was actually integrated into the combat system.

Ada stumbles upon the Merchant.
Ada stumbles upon the Merchant in one of the new areas where the character appears. Screenshot is personally taken from the Xbox Series X.

Separate Ways also engages the discerning player, who is familiar with the environments from the main game. Some save points and Merchant locations appear in different places, and subtle pieces of environmental storytelling come to the fore. My favorite being a note you stumble upon, which orders the villagers to converge upon the cabin in Chapter 5, where Leon and Luis fight for survival.

But the DLC’s most impressive aspect comes from how it takes the cut elements from the mainline game and makes them a meaningful part of Ada’s narrative. The most notable is the addition of the U3 or “It” from the 2005 game. Much like the Nemesis in the Resident Evil 3 remake, U3 stalks Ada throughout the campaign and manifests in various guises via boss encounters.

The choice is a surreal and dreamlike illustration of the cracks in Ada’s professional persona, as she suffers from the Las Plagas parasite most acutely when encountering U3. However, the only problem this addition suffers from is the design of the final form of the creature. Much like the reinterpretation of the Verdugo in the central narrative, the humanity of the creature is emphasized, but it takes away from the nightmarish quality of the original design. It’s a reminder that as excellent as many aspects of the remake are, the horror that made the 2005 title so indelible and frightening is significantly reduced.

Ada encounters a Black Robed figure.
Ada has a surreal encounter with the first form of the U3 (aka the Black Robe) during the game’s opening chapter. Screenshot is personally taken from the Xbox Series X.

Although in a strange bit of homage, one of the more amusing elements of the 2005 game makes its way into Separate Ways. In the original, there was a sequence where Leon dodges lasers via a series of quick-time events. It was a clear tip of the hat to a sequence in the first Resident Evil movie (2002). In Separate Ways, there’s a section where Ada dodges lasers in a quick-time fashion whilst being chased by a monster. This time, it tips its hat to a similar scene in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016) where Alice (Mila Jovovich) does acrobatics to avoid being pulverized by blue lasers.

The addition works for Ada due to how the narrative and writing paint her as an idealized spy who effortlessly goes from one situation to another (with sharp sardonic quip or action) in tow. In this way, the remake version of Ada feels like an updated version of the Leon who existed in the original 2005 game. This not only meaningfully shows how Capcom has contrasted Leon and Ada, it also bridges the gap between the fun cult movie quality of the original with the more dramatic and emotional storytelling of the remake entries.

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  1. Ada wong’s new voice actor was an divisive choice amongst the community some didn’t mind Lily Gao voicing Ada on the other side which is the large vocal hardcore fans thought that they casted her is for diversity and wanted Jolene Anderson who previously voiced Ada in resident evil two remake back due to being an fan favorite but instead got the same actress who played Ada in welcome to Raccoon City movie that irked the hardcore fans and felt that she was the lowest part of the remake resident evil four campaign and still wasn’t vibing her in the simple ways remake DLC.

    Frankie Croft smales
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Written by Sartaj Singh

Notes from a distant observer:

“Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”

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