When Resident Evil 4 hit the scene, it completely revolutionized the way action games would be developed from then on. With each new iteration after that, Capcom tried to amp things up, but never quite reached the same level of quality as Shinji Mikami’s masterpiece. With Resident Evil 7, it seemed like they were going to take the franchise to a completely new place. But then came the Resident Evil 2 remake, a fresh coat of paint over one of the classic entries in the series, and it was a hit. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that they would eventually do the same with the follow-up, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.
Here we are, a year and change since barely making our way out of Raccoon City following the reimagined events of Resident Evil 2 with Jill, the sole remaining member of the special unit S.T.A.R.S. still in town following the traumatic incident of the very first Resident Evil. Following the same conceit as the original version, Resident Evil 3 has you also escape Raccoon City, but it plays up what was laid in RE2 when it comes to being hounded throughout your adventure. Umbrella-created monstrosity Nemesis is in pursuit and he’s not going down without a fight… erm… a few fights.
I might have had misgivings when it came to last year’s remake as you can read in my review, but one of my favorite parts of that game was having Mr. X popping up in the main campaign instead of the side one as it was in the original version of Resident Evil 2. It made for an exhilarating experience unlike very few that came before it, and for as sometimes immersion-broken as those encounters ended up being by the mechanic of having in-game safe rooms, fighting or running from Tyrant throughout that game proved to be the best part of it for me.
It was only a matter of time before I got to experience a hulking beast chasing me who did more than simply walking menancily, and having just finished Resident Evil 3’s six-hour campaign, I can definitely say that it’s one of the most intense games I’ve played so far this year. As a remake, however, it’s bound to leave some fans wanting, but then again remakes very rarely manage to please everyone. Compared to the original game, Resident Evil 3 feels like a script edited to turn it from a thriller into a full-blown action blockbuster, and I can’t fault Capcom for going towards that.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was already a turn for the series when it was originally released. The third and last of the mainline Resident Evil games released on the PlayStation, it was easily the most action-heavy game of the bunch, or as much of one as it could be considering all of its inherent limitations. It added a dodge button, and for as much as it followed established gameplay for Resident Evil, it felt different from the rest given that you just couldn’t take your time exploring as much as you could before given — at least then — you could never tell when Nemesis would crash into your party.
The new remake takes that and multiplies it by ten. At its core, it plays pretty much like what we saw with last year’s game, with now being able to use the knife and grenades as normal weapons instead of escape tools, along with the added ability to dodge in the nick of time from enemy attacks, making Ms. Valentine a much more versatile fighter than Claire and Leon. In exchange for that, she’s forced to fight a hell of a lot more monsters at once, which plays off with the fact that there are way more resources available to her just for that. Contextually, it makes sense that there’s ammo and restorative items lying around given that at the outset of the game, the city was still in the middle of the shit hitting the fan, hence more stuff lying around. Still, it throws all sense of traditional survival horror out the window when playing in the normal difficulty setting.
The tension comes from being pushed along by the near constant threat of Nemesis looming over you at every corner as you traipse around the chaotic streets of an overrun Midwestern US town. Something else that Resident Evil 3 is way less of in comparison to 2 is in regards to puzzles. The couple that are thrown your way in this game are ridiculously simple to get through and don’t require a whole lot of backtracking. In fact, there’s little to nothing of that in this game as it’s mostly straightforward when it comes to objectives. If you had the chance of trying out the demo that was released a couple of weeks ago, you got the gist of how the full game basically plays.
As with the last two Resident Evil games, Resident Evil 3 makes use of the RE Engine which is an absolute wonder when it comes to pumping out gorgeous visuals. Raccoon City springs to life (or is it undeath?) thanks to it, with highly realistic lighting that is responsible for some of the best shadows and even foreshadows I’ve yet to see in a game. A bit of that atmospheric flair is shown off early on in the game, when Jill is navigating an alley and she first gets to see a zombie’s shadow while it’s munching on a corpse before she turns a corner, only to be surprised by what she ends up finding.
It’s also incredibly impressive how gorgeous all the character models in the game look and animate. Jill in particular is positively brilliant to look at, especially the more you progress in the story, with her physical appearance changing as she’s cut into, oozed on, and the such. Other designs also work great in the game, like Carlos, Jill’s forced partner throughout her adventure, someone who’s bound to grow on you as you play. The only issue I’ve found with how characters animate is the lip synching, which is way off during most of the scenes where characters are talking. Nemesis is of course a force of nature and he’s absolutely menacing now that he can actually be as tall and hulking as all the concept art made him look back in the original game. He also goes through some changes of his own throughout Resident Evil 3, and they’re spectacular on their own.
This is also one of the best scored Capcom games from recent date. The soundtrack for the old Resident Evils are classics in their own right, and getting to listen to new redressed recordings of those tunes sent shivers up and down my spine all throughout Resident Evil 3, up until the end of the credits roll. The sound work is also to be commended, which helps build up the tension and ambiance, as Nemesis screams and grunts the iconic “Staaaaars” line every so often, and zombies shamble around moaning as only Resident Evil ones do.
Since Resident Evil 3 takes place before and later on concurrently with Resident Evil 2, it’s especially neat to see the build up to some of the things you got to see last year. It’s no spoiler that you come back to some of the locations of that game in 3, and it’s really cool seeing how Capcom threw in little details here and there that help weirdly build a “backwards foreshadowing” to what we already saw last time we visited Raccoon City. Fans of both old and new are bound to go bananas for touches like these.
Omissions when it comes to locations you visit or to the story aside — stuff that die-hard RE aficionados are already furious about having read early reviews of the game — Resident Evil 3 is a grand game on its own merits. I would’ve appreciated more to do with it when it comes down to replayability, given that outside of the campaign, there are only a few challenges to go for that convert to in-game currency used to buy do-dads to use in subsequent playthroughs, as well as of course tackling the game on higher difficulties. Considering that the running time here is considerably smaller than what we got last entry, it makes for playing it more than once quite possible, but then again, there’s only so much you can get out of a single game mode.
Included in the package is Resident Evil Resistance, a separate multiplayer-only game that takes place in the Resident Evil universe as a group of four player-controlled survivors engage with all manner of horrors that are coordinated by yet another player. I’ve yet to play much of it, but from the little that I previewed it at previous hands-on events, it proved to be quite a pickle. I’m hoping to spend more time with it in the coming weeks in order to provide more detailed impressions in review form. Safe to say, it’s far from a revamp to the classic Mercenaries mode from the original Nemesis.
I can’t honestly fault Capcom for taking a different route with their remakes. A shot-by-shot prettied up version of an old game sounds like a boring proposition to me. I already played the original Resident Evil 3: Nemesis back in the day, and it still stands as a classic. Resident Evil 3 by no means replaces it in terms of importance. It’s an entirely different game that borrows some of the elements that were set by that and plays with it in slightly different fashion, resulting in something else that feels modern and at the same time reverent to what came before it, similarly to what Doom Eternal did earlier last month.
What I really want to see from them, however, is what’s truly next for Resident Evil. No remakes, but an entirely new game. Maybe a direct sequel to the excellent seventh entry. Or something else completely. I’m always happy to see old friends coming back, but it’s exciting to see them live on in their adventures. If that’s what lies ahead for the series, there’s plenty for me to be excited for Resident Evil in the future.