Editor’s note: This review in progress covers the single-player content of Resident Evil 3. We will be playing the multiplayer part of the Resident Evil 3 package, Resistance, over the next few days and finalizing this review once we’ve fully tested the mode.
The opening hours of Resident Evil 3 are incredibly effective at putting you on edge. A remake of the original 1999 game, Resident Evil 3 puts the volatile and intense conflict between protagonist Jill Valentine and the unrelenting force of nature, Nemesis, front and center–giving way to some strong survival horror moments that show off the best of what the series can offer. But after that solid start, this revisit to a bygone era not only loses track of the type of horror game that Resident Evil once was, but also loses sight of what made the original so memorable.
Much like 2019’s Resident Evil 2, the remake of Resident Evil 3 interprets the classic survival horror game through a modern lens, redesigning locations and altering key events to fit a significantly revised story. Resident Evil 3 doesn’t deviate too much from the formula set by the RE2 remake, but it does lean harder into the action-focused slant the original version of RE3 had, giving you some greater defensive skills to survive. RE3’s introduction is a strong one, conveying a creeping sense of paranoia and dread that’s synonymous with the series, and Jill Valentine once again proves herself to be a confident protagonist to take everything head-on.
RE3 is very much a companion piece to the previous game, serving as a simultaneous prequel and sequel that caps off the saga in Raccoon City. There are even key points in the story that expect you to know of prior characters or locations that tie back to the previous remake. While you won’t miss out on anything vital for not having played RE2, some of the previous game’s most poignant moments are given more subtext in RE3. You’ll eventually cross paths with supporting characters like mercenary Carlos Oliveira, the game’s second playable character, along with some other unsavory individuals looking to take advantage of the chaos.
It was fun to see Jill and her allies maintain their confidence and even show some snark throughout the incident, which ensures that the game isn’t always so serious. Both protagonists are also given some key moments throughout the story that show off their skills and personality more, which is fun and satisfying to see play out. But disappointingly, RE3’s story reaches its conclusion after a brisk six-hour campaign, which is made worse by a lackluster finish that left me wanting. While this is comparable to the original game, the shrinking scope of the remake’s plot and locations makes its short run even more apparent.
Throughout the game, Jill Valentine is a capable survivor, more so than both Leon and Claire, and she’s well-suited to handle the undead and other bioweapon monstrosities like the Nemesis that roam the city. Along with dodging attacks, she can also execute slow-mo evasive rolls that open a clean shot at the enemy’s weak point, which can be especially satisfying to pull off during an intense encounter.
There’s a more pronounced emphasis on action and quick reflexes in RE3, which can make the shooting, survival, and exploration loop a bit more engaging and responsive. While this ultimately gives you a greater feeling of control in the field, it’s not enough to the point that it makes encounters with the ravenous undead or Nemesis easy. So while you are capable, it’s often best to play it safe. Resident Evil 3 tries to stick with the tenets of survival horror gameplay and is generally far more challenging than RE2, due to its greater focus on inventory management and ammo crafting. However, the generous save points and checkpoints ensure you won’t suffer too steep a loss after death.
Resident Evil 3 also carries forth many of the successes from the Resident Evil 2 remake, which gives it a leg up for its own outing. As with previous games, RE3 is all about escalation, forcing you to contend with dwindling resources as the monsters–and Nemesis–put the pressure on. Unlike in Resident Evil 2, which quickly took you off the streets of Raccoon City, you spend more time in RE3 exploring the main roads, side alleys, and other points of interest in town.
RE3 possesses an impeccable level of detail for the locations and action during its six-hour campaign, right down to the tense atmosphere and grisly violence. The brutality and devastation in Raccoon City is demonstrated effectively thanks to the vivid and grotesque details as you explore the ruined city. The game also draws your eyes to the many locales that reference classic Resident Evil, which is not only fun to see, but manages to tug on the nostalgic heartstrings.
One of my favorite areas of RE3 is Downtown Raccoon City, which shows off the best that the remake has to offer. As an expansive map, it not only has diverse locations, and plenty of undead, it also displays the dynamic nature of the game’s true star–Nemesis. The imposing villain quickly establishes himself as a cunning force when encountered out in the open.
The Nemesis has many tricks up its sleeve, such as using its tentacles to trip you up or turning other zombies into horrific mutations, all of which are disturbing to witness. It’ll actively stalk and follow you into places you once thought were safe–bending the unspoken rules of engagement in survival horror to establish its presence further. Nemesis makes Mr. X from RE2 come across as a fedora-wearing goon, and even when you find yourself in a safe space, you can catch a glimpse of the villain waiting outside for you to leave–which stand as some of the most unnerving moments of the game.
Other characters from Resident Evil’s past are given a new look in this remake.
However, as the game goes on, it becomes clear that Resident Evil 3 struggles to maintain its poise when the scope begins to narrow, and how blatantly the game relies on recycling many of RE2’s tricks and tropes, which now feel less interesting. This has to do with the game’s focus on momentum. Just when you’re getting accustomed to a location, particularly the extensive and varied Downtown area, a story beat will occur that brings you to the next area, preventing your return. The series’ penchant for puzzles are also infrequent in RE3 remake, putting more focus on exploration and combat which can eventually become exhausting.
It can be tricky to balance the elements of both survival horror and action gameplay, as one can easily undermine the other, and unfortunately, this is apparent in RE3. There are many moments where the game’s strengths for action and horror shine, particularly during the more open areas where the Nemesis is afoot. Generally, though–especially toward the second half–its attempts to balance both can come across as awkward and uninteresting, and at its worst, they can be jarring. This is especially true with the many elaborate set-piece encounters, where you control Jill as she navigates Uncharted-esque sequences that are highly-scripted gameplay moments that go for the cinematic effect. They often result in tonal whiplash, as you typically transition back into the slower, survival-horror pacing right after.
This is most evident in the portrayal of the game’s primary antagonist. Nemesis is at its best when stalking you in the streets. But these sections–while terrifyingly engaging–are fleeting. Nemesis only actively hunts you during the opening section in Downtown Raccoon City. The majority of the Nemesis encounters occur in scripted sequences that lead up to boss fights. In the original game, Nemesis’ random appearances kept you on edge. In contrast, the remake’s use of Nemesis in the mid-to-late game will likely have you roll your eyes at the prospect of another lengthy and fixed encounter.
However, as the game goes on, it becomes clear that Resident Evil 3 struggles to maintain its poise when the scope begins to narrow…
Nemesis is undoubtedly one of the most iconic villains of the series, and it’s frustrating and disappointing to see it effectively sidelined, coming off more like a standard Resident Evil boss that springs out at story beats. Another side effect of the lack of Nemesis encounters in the game is that it calls attention to the lack of enemy diversity. While the series’ regular zombies are in plentiful supply, most other enemy types don’t show up as often, which makes combat and survival elements feel stale towards the end.
In keeping with previous games, finishing RE3 opens up some additional features when you complete it, which come in the form of a shop in the main menu that lets you purchase new costumes, weapons, and other items. This allows you to essentially customize your next playthrough, giving you certain key items earlier than intended or increasing your attack power and defensive capabilities.
While these changes can be fun for a revisit, there isn’t much else in the way of bonus content to keep you going, aside from a new playthrough in the game’s hardcore difficulty mode that ratchets up the pressure even more. Resident Evil 3 does also come packed with the team-based online mode Resistance, though we haven’t had enough time with. We will finalize this review once we’ve had time with Resistance’s take on 4v1 online-multiplayer.
Looking back on my first playthrough of the RE3 remake, it was clear that the game reached its peak early and slowly lost momentum going forward. With the remake’s shortcomings in mind, it’s easy to make comparisons to the original game’s approach. In addition to featuring a more dynamic and present Nemesis, Jill’s odyssey had more locations to visit. It is impressive to see classic locations like Downtown and Hospital recreated, yet some other places from the original, like the Clock Tower and Park, are absent. While this won’t mean much for newcomers, and the remake skirts this by setting up elaborate Nemesis encounters, the shrinking scale of the game diminishes the impact of its plot and events. It’s clear that this remake of Resident Evil 3 is missing some crucial beats that could have offered a more effective and satisfying story.
As a remake, Resident Evil 3 not only falls short of honoring its source, but it also doesn’t quite stick the landing as a standalone horror experience. Even without taking into account the original game, or its predecessor, RE3 struggles to keep up with its pace amid a clashing of elements from survival horror and standard action. While it has a strong start and gives its principal villain some great moments, this truncated retelling of the concluding game from the original Resident Evil trilogy doesn’t do it proper justice.
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