One of the most universal experiences in video gaming is understanding just how much Ashley Graham sucks in the original Resident Evil 4. However, with the new remake having released to massive acclaim, Capcom certainly took almost two decades’ worth of feedback to heart when reshaping the character to provide a less grating hostage to rescue.
Instead, the new Ashley Graham is more reserved. While she understands the horror movie scenario she has been brought into against her will, she’s still somewhat calm about it. This could be because she has way more faith in Leon this time around, whereas previously, it seemed like Ashley was certain he was made of tissue paper and bound to be completely murdered at any moment. Though, she still doesn’t directly witness any of the exceptionally harrowing boss fights Leon has to survive.
The lack of Ashley screaming her head off and the (original) trademark “LEON!” yell made the new Ashley much more pleasant to guide around the game, all things considered. However, the game itself also completely reworks sections with Ashley to not be so thoroughly frustrating.
One of the worst sections I will always remember of the original was having to use a sniper rifle from afar to fend off the cultists trying to drag Ashley away. Thankfully, this section has been entirely removed in the remake, and there are only a couple of parts where you are completely separated as enemies are hounding her.
With that, she actually seems far less helpless just in general. While she doesn’t do anything to prevent herself from getting grabbed, it feels like it’s much easier to deal with the guy carrying her away. Though, I have certainly overestimated my aim a few times, accidentally shot her instead of the guy, and was forced into restarting.
The further benefit of the new game is that Ashley feels way more responsive, especially given the new mechanic that lets players choose how closely she follows Leon. While I never opted for the further distance option in my first playthrough, it mattered much more once I started trying to make my way through the professional difficulty. I needed this change in Professional because I already had the frame of reference for how Ashley behaved up close and knew what would cause me problems.
While it’s a little weird the remake has removed dumpsters entirely, it never felt like I needed them. In fact, some of the more intense fights in the Village were removed, so there wasn’t any need to put her away (for lack of a better phrasing) for the time being while hordes of enemies were wiped out.
This was a better change, as well as adding the incapacitated function that allows Ashley to take two hits before getting a game over. This means that if she gets walloped once, she will sit and be out of the way to avoid the second until you can get to her. It’s one of the best changes while escorting her through the game. The other best change has to be when you aim in her direction, she won’t still duck and be between Leon and the enemies, but she will crouch and walk her way behind him.
As for her capabilities, I wrote a piece back in January about wanting a big change in the remake to be arming Ashley with some type of weapon. While I didn’t get my wish, Ashley’s solo outing without Leon is perfectly reworked. Before, it was a matter of dodging the annoying cultists and having to make sure to hit the QTE (which have also been thankfully removed) from the suits of armor.
Now Ashley only has to contend with the living suits of armor, and she actually gets a lantern tool to keep them at bay. This was a much better evolution of this sequence, and she felt much less helpless through it, even when the suits of armor started stacking up. Plus, the ending puzzle requiring the series of lanterns was pretty neat.
The remake even takes fixing her dialogue a step further and changes the kinda misplaced final dialogue where Ashley offers Leon the chance to do some “overtime”. This always felt really weird, considering there had been no flirtation between them.
While Leon is the ultimate bodyguard, he is far too busy taking his job seriously. The new version instead seems to focus on the clear trauma bond from all this, and she instead offers Leon a spot on her personal detail. It seems that going through hell to rescue someone is a great highlight to have on your resume.
While the remake certainly took an 18-year-old game and made it somehow even more incredible than it already was, it also managed to completely redeem one of the most annoying characters in all of video gaming. Now if a Resident Evil 5 remake will let those playing as Sheva swap aiming shoulders, everything will be right in the world.