Resident Evil 4 Remake Totally Redeems the Original's Weakest Character
From helpless damsel to reliable partner.
While it remains one of the most beloved and influential games ever made, the original Resident Evil 4 has simply not aged well since its 2005 release. Perhaps most questionable in retrospect is the way it handles Ashley Graham — a side character who Leon must rescue from a mysterious Spanish village — is particularly egregious. In the original, Ashley is nithing ahort of a nuisance. Nearly all of her lines are delivered in a whiney tone, while her in-game AI is often regarded as terrible. She was easily the most infamous part of the original, almost coming across as a joke than anything else. Thankfully, the 2023 remake fleshes her out as a more believable character, allowing her personality to shine while reducing the frustrations from her gameplay mechanics.
More Than a Damsel in Distress
Ashley serves the same purpose in the remake as she does in the 2005 original. She’s the daughter of the United States president, and she’s kidnapped by the terrifying Los Iluminados cult. She’s the driving force of the plot and is still mostly helpless — at least at first.
You can tell upon your first interaction with her, however, that the whiney girl is gone and in her place is a capable young woman. In the original, she screams “No, get away!” as Leon approaches before cowering in a corner. She’s a caricature of a damsel in distress, which makes her harder to relate to and harder to root for.
But in the remake, she swings at Leon with a candleholder to protect herself, and does so with intent. Later on, she drops down from a window into Leon’s arms, in a way that comes across as more believable. Sure she’s apprehensive, but thanks to her facial expressions, you can tell she wants to trust Leon — all without saying a word. In the original, Ashley’s lifeless eyes make her look like a puppet, and when she neatly plops into Leon’s arms, she lets out a squeal.
Ashley’s improved personality remains consistent throughout the game, and it rrallt shines. She screams less, talks more, and is easier to read thanks to her lifelike facial animations. She can show she’s scared without delivering an over-the-top scream as she did in 2005.
At Your Side
Another major criticism of the original RE4 is how Ashley functioned mechanically. It seemed like you couldn’t turn your back on her for more than a couple of seconds before she was captured by villagers.
While you still have to protect her in the remake, she is far more capable and will even evade her would-be captors — unlike the original, in which she’d frequently just stand still.
This time around, you can tell Ashley to stick close or hang back, giving many encounters a more dynamic feel. The original included similar commands, but Ashley was often slow to respond and would get grabbed in the process.
There are other gameplay improvements found during the Ashley sections when you control her, but we won’t spoil those here. Suffice to say that nearly every gameplay aspect that involves protecting Ashley feels better and more realistic in the remake. These segments are more streamlined, and nowhere near as annoying as in the original.
The remake’s escort sections aren’t perfect and still leave some room for improvement, but overall are vastly superior compared to the 2005 game. Ashley was a major pain point in the original, so it’s heartening that Capcom made such an effort to improve this character in the new version. At the end of the remake, Ashley felt like more of a partner than a damsel in distress, and that makes all the difference when it comes to modernizing an already excellent game and making it even better.