Review: Resident Evil 3 – Short But Not Sweet

Jill Valentine is back in glorious modern graphics and she’s angry as Hell. Capcom has brought yet another Resident Evil remake just a year after the critically acclaimed Resident Evil 2 remake was released. We’re shown the bigger picture outside Raccoon City Police Station as the T-virus outbreak has spread across the whole city. Thrown into a city in turmoil, it will take guts and lots and lots of big guns to survive. But does this more action-oriented sequel live up to hype and the success of its masterful predecessor?

Last year, Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 remake not only delivered a terrifying survival horror experience, but was the perfect remake by staying true to original material whilst also making improvements. It was truly a wonderful journey and many thought whether the Residents Evil 3 remake would deliver on such a stellar level. In short it didn’t.

Set 24 hours before the events of Resident Evil 2, you play as Jill Valentine, a member of the Special Tactics and Rescue Service team (S.T.A.R.S) who has been investigating Umbrella Pharmaceuticals ever since the T-virus was first sighted during the mansion incident in the first Resident Evil. Now, the T-virus has swept across Raccoon City and Jill is thrown instantly into action with the arrival of Nemesis, a Tyrant created by Umbrella to eliminate S.T.A.R.S members as part of their plan to silence witnesses. Nemesis is relentless and will not stop until Jill and all the other S.T.A.R.S members are finished… or until Jill finishes him first.

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The start of the game is stellar with the city full of life (and death) and so much detail it would be hard to take it all in on the first playthrough.

If you were hoping to sit down and kill some zombies to take your mind off the current Coronavirus pandemic, this game is probably not for you right now. Scarily accurate to our current reality, it opens with a display of panic and disarray as Raccoon City attempts to deal with the outbreak. We see doctors and nurses wearing hazmat suits and news broadcasts announcing it is the fastest spreading disease in modern history. Later in Resident Evil 3, we venture through an overrun hospital, reading notes from nurses and doctors as they mention staff and equipment shortages.

Along the way, Jill runs into Carlos, a member of the Umbrella Biological Containment Service (who probably just came back from the shampoo store to maintain his glorious locks) and the two must team up to get a train full of survivors out of the city. Both characters are portrayed brilliantly and it’s easy to fall quickly in love with Jill, whose fiery temper and sharp comments make her a joy to play. Playing as Carlos later in the game, on the other hand, isn’t as frustrating as it was when we switched control to Ada and Sherry in the Resident Evil 2 remake. In the remake, they were significantly more vulnerable and less equipped than Leon and Claire. No, Carlos comes with an assault rifle which has seemingly infinite ammo, which is awesome to try out before Jill becomes similarly equipped.

The captivating portrayal of the characters is matched with another display of Capcom’s visually beautiful RE Engine. The cutscenes feel more like an epic film and the facial expressions are incredibly detailed and realistic. The tight and dark corridors of Raccoon City Police Station have been replaced with the wide open streets of Raccoon City, lit up with the neon colors of billboards and signs. The amount of detail in the city is stunning and it’s a shame you’re not really given the opportunity to take it all in before something is gnawing at your leg. The only downside to the graphics is there isn’t quite so much detailed gore as you’re mowing down zombies. Their limbs no longer fly off quite so drastically and I was very confused when a few zombies would have their hair just fly off when I shot them. Hair pieces are increasingly popular in Raccoon City, I guess?

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With visuals as gorgeous as these, Resident Evil 3 could have been an animated film.

Nemesis is the star of the show here,  and was like an exhilarating thrill ride every time he turned up out of the blue. You can either stand your ground and fight him for some extra loot or you can get the Hell out of there. I took one look at that missile launcher he was hauling around and decided to choose the latter. Similarly to Mr. X, he will mercilessly hunt you down. But the catch is Nemesis can use weapons, much to Jill’s dismay. Nemesis can also run, launch himself through the air and land in front of you and use his tentacles to lash out or throw you around like a ragdoll. He really is a nightmare to handle and Capcom nailed the gut-wrenching terror you would feel in the original 1998 game when you heard Nemesis’ menacing growl of “S.T.A.R.S,” reminding you of who he is relentlessly pursuing. I even found him staring at me through the window when I scurried off into a toy store for more loot, full well dreading when I would have to go back out and face him again.

But as much fun as Nemesis is, his moments come in very short supply – like many of the most enjoyable elements of this quick game. Unlike Mr. X, Nemesis isn’t a consistent threat. This surprised me as I had assumed Capcom swapped Mr. X’s scripted appearances in the original Resident Evil 2 out to him consistently stalking players in the remake as a way of testing how people would react to Nemesis doing the same. But Nemesis is much more scripted and mainly shows up to follow you in the early moments of the game. Later on he is much more predictable. This was severely disappointing, as I was expecting him to have a much more consistent presence. On top of this, I found Nemesis a lot more irritating to manage than Mr. X. If you haven’t already collected the ammo in the area by the time he turns up, then you can kiss it goodbye because you won’t be given the breathing space to collect it whilst Nemesis is hot on your tail.

Despite Resident Evil 3’s similarities with Resident Evil 2, there are a few changes to the combat system in this remake. For example, due to her advanced S.T.A.R.S training, Jill can dodge out of the way of attacks. This is a great skill once you get the hang of it, especially when making your way through a dense crowd of enemies in a hurry to get away from Nemesis. Similarly, Carlos in a spectacularly badass fashion will push enemies out of the way, even big ones like Hunter Betas.

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“Maybe if I hide in here, he will go away… OH GOD WHAT IS THAT?!”

On top of this, your combat knife no longer breaks. But before you start celebrating, I felt like it had been made virtually useless. In Resident Evil 2, combat knives are really handy to poke at dead bodies on the floor to make sure they’re down for good. You’ll do this sparingly as knives break, but using it means the zombie will then get up slowly and you have time to back off and put it down for good. However, in Resident Evil 3,  doing this means you’ll get grabbed and bitten by the zombie if it is actually awake and you’re not given the chance to move away. This makes the combat knife kind of useless as you’re going to lose health either way. I also found that, unlike the second game, sometimes shooting or stabbing a zombie that’s on the ground won’t do anything if it is scripted to wake up later in the game.

And unlike Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3 just doesn’t feel like a survival horror game. This is a shame as the Resident Evil franchise engineered this genre, introducing gamers to the feeling of defenseless terror as you match up against enemies with little resources available. The Resident Evil 3 remake has lost this because I rarely ran out of ammo on normal difficulty; in fact, there was an abundance of it in almost every part of the map and I was struggling to find space in my inventory to shove yet another grenade into Jill’s arsenal-filled pockets. There were no dilemmas on whether to maneuver round a zombie in order to reserve ammo for tougher enemies or to potentially waste valuable bullets to put them down for good. This game is just gung-ho for shredding down waves of enemies without a second thought.  There are more enemies, but the tension is very much lacking in this installment as it has been replaced with adrenaline-filled action scenes which just don’t make the same impact as its predecessors.

And when it’s over, there’s an overwhelming feeling of just wanting more – and not in a good way. I finished the game in just over 5 hours. Most Resident Evil games are short, but they usually have a high replay value as a result. The Resident Evil 2 remake had the potential of four different runs as Leon and Claire had different storylines with a different experience depending on who you played first. The first Resident Evil gave you the choice between playing Jill or Chris who both have their own skills which alter how you play the game. Even the original Resident Evil 3 had branching storylines which made it more replayable. However, the Resident Evil 3 remake does not possess any of these; in fact, it has actually cut content from the original game, including a wider variation of boss fights and areas.

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Carlos and Jill are both equally great characters who are a joy to play, but the lack of branching paths in this game make it a lot less replayable than its predecessors.

And the locations outside of the starting city area are too small for there to be much exploration value to stick around for. You don’t get as many opportunities to backtrack once you have access to a locked up area you have previously passed like previous Resident Evil games. To make matters worse, three of these areas are either identical to areas in the Resident Evil 2 remake or are very similar. We return to the Raccoon City Police Station, but it’s overwhelmingly disappointing with the same layout as before. I was expecting to see it being used as a shelter for survivors as described in journals from the previous game, but instead it’s a direct copy from the last installment. Being the easiest area to create for this game due to being used before, you would think there to be a few new additions or changes to the environment rather than a direct copy. Resident Evil 3 also features a sewer and lab level, similar to the previous game, only these are smaller and less interesting. You don’t really spend enough time in each area to fully enjoy it, even in the larger city locations. You’re rushed from one place to another before you get to fully explore the layout.

And the biggest insult of all is that the original Resident Evil 3 game was made in 1998, so you would expect the remake released in 2020 to add to the experience. But all the Resident Evil 3 remake seems to have done is cut things from the original source material but make what’s left look pretty. As fun as Resident Evil Resistance is, I can’t help but feel that Capcom should have just focused more on its single-player campaign beforehand. It was a shock to many fans of the Resident Evil 2 remake when its sequel was announced to be released just a year later. There would have been no harm in leaving it another year in order to give us a much more fulfilling experience.

Overall, the Resident Evil 3 remake is a fun experience. Jill and Carlos are really great to play and the graphics are gorgeous. But it’s simply not fulfilling enough to deserve the same price tag as its predecessor. Resident Evil 3 will be more worth playing once the price has dropped, but not at its current price. Hopefully Resident Evil 8 will bring the series back onto a winning streak.

Jess reviewed Resident Evil 3 on the PS4 with a personally purchased copy.

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