A copy of Resident Evil 3 was provided to us by Capcom for the purpose of this review.
Resident Evil 3 is the video game equivalent of Die Hard. It has great characters, a simple yet effective story, a terrifying villain, astounding action, and it’s a great time. Also like a movie, the remake of Resident Evil 3 struggles under the weight of what came before it.
Back in RC
The newest game in the RE franchise landed on Friday 3rd April. Developed and published by Capcom it see’s players returning to Raccoon City, coincidentally the same place the last remake was set. Players take control of Jill Valentine, who after the events of the first Resident Evil has been suspended from the R.P.D. She’s just days away from leaving Raccoon City for good, but then… well you know the rest.
Right from the word ‘go’ Resident Evil 3 makes it very clear, this isn’t Resident Evil 2 again.There’s only one campaign, and the gameplay takes a noticeable, yet welcome, turn. RE3’s focus on action means that the game unfolds very differently to what most players will expect. The game isn’t really about survival, with ammo and health being in abundance, playing as Jill makes you feel more like a trained badass from the start.
As an RE fan who’s first introductions to the series were Resident Evil 5 & 6, only for Resident Evil 7 to then show me the light, I found the action centred gameplay to be a nice change. However the fact that it’s put under the classic games framework means that, at times, the game can feel disjointed and like a jigsaw puzzle missing a couple of pieces. It doesn’t quite leave the experience strung up to die, but having it act as a survival game when it definitely isn’t one feels strange. It’s survival in a cinematic sense, not a gameplay one.
20 Years of Difference
As someone who never played the original, it would feel unjust of me to not at least talk about the two games together. The main difference that this new game and the original have is… choice. Whilst the original RE3 also only had one campaign it gave the player options, in the order they could tackle things, along with story outcomes and events depending on these choices.
Sadly this years Resident Evil 3 doesn’t offer nearly as much in terms of choice. In making this remake more action orientated, it aligns itself with other bombastic linear experiences made prevalent by developers like Naughty Dog. If you want to learn about the design of the original you can check out TheGamingBritShow’s video. Is this linearity a bad thing? Not on its own no. The 5 or so hours you’ll spend in Resident Evil 3 will be incredible. I was so engrossed I wasn’t able to put it down.
The problems come when you realise just over a year ago the RE2 Remake offered four campaigns coming in at around the same amount of time. These four campaigns did just enough different to warrant me immediately jumping back in. However Resident Evil 3 does very little to bring you bak after the credits role.
Don’t Stop, Won’t Stop, Can’t Stop
Even though the experience is short, it’s astounding how good it is. The action starts within 10 minutes and doesn’t let up the entire time. The pacing of this remake is astounding. The fact that Capcom managed to keep ramping up the tension, stakes, gameplay and challenge is a feat in and of itself.
The game giving you just enough time to breath lends itself to how it’s like a feature film. The environments and set pieces are constantly changing, you’ll be seeing new enemies and gaining new weapons all the time. Meaning gameplay is constantly fresh.
One massive improvement that lends itself to the action aesthetic is the cinematography. It’s almost like Capcom looked at RE6 and took the best action features of that game and placed them elegantly in this one. The way some cutscenes and gameplay encounters are shot really helps you buy into the fact that this isn’t survival horror, this is action.
Capcom have clearly refined third-person action over the years, and Resident Evil 3 shows that off expertly.
Who’s under Threat?
All the talk of action is great, but does Resident Evil 3 have the characters, story, and writing to carry it? Yes, yes it does. As mentioned Jill Valentine is a great protagonist, she walks the line between cheesy one liners and traumatised victim really well. A lot of the supporting cast are great too. Carlos brings an energy and chemistry that perfectly bounces off of Jill, making the pair incredibly likeable.
There will also be a lot of familiar faces from across the RE franchise, and last years RE2 Remake as well. I won’t spoil anything here, but a lot of dots between this years and last years game start to get filled. Fans are thus rewarded for what they know, and it feels nice to see Capcom recognising this. It’s excellent characters and world help the player invest in the experience.
The aforementioned Carlos also gets a handful of his own gameplay segments, similar to his treatment in the original. Here though they are brisk, enjoyable shake-ups of the gameplay and perspective. Another factor that helps the 5 hour run time move along unhindered.
“Supercop, meet the cop, who can’t be stopped”
How does the game play then? Essentially exactly the same as last years Resident Evil 2, which is to say, very well. The biggest change would be Jill’s ability to ‘quick step’, lifted directly from the original. This allows for a quick get away from enemies and enhances the overall speed and action of the game.
It all feels very natural, the aforementioned progression and ease of control make for a game that is easy to pick up, and hard to put down. Some of the additions like the ‘quick step’ and ‘quick turn’ will take a moment to get used to, but when you start using them effectively the game really opens up in terms of possibilities.
Escaping Never Looked so Good
Resident Evil 3 has great visual and sound design, straight up. The fires and neon of a swiftly decaying Raccoon City institute both a sense of wonder and dread, and the previously mentioned ever changing environments end up being as visually striking as the last. Whilst your eyes are being distracted your ears will start picking things up too. The distant growl of a zombie, sirens, loudspeaker messages, it’s all here.
Resident Evil 3 knows exactly how to pull you into the experience using tried and true auditory and visual methods. Whilst Resident Evil 2 used its silence to speak to the survival horror, RE3 uses noise to speak to the action.
Of course I have to talk about the entire push behind the games marketing material. Nemesis is the titular antagonist of Resident Evil 3. He’s unrelenting, ever changing, and the scariest thing about this game. He’s there from start to finish, and he’s very different from Mr. X in RE2, for better and for worse.
Nemesis will spend the games 5 hour run time interacting with the player at scripted intervals. He’ll either be chasing you around the small map, jumping ahead of you to deal a killer blow, using a weapon to attack you, or (minor spoilers) will be in one of his transformed Cronenberg looking states trying to kill you.
Considering all of his encounters are different, and because they’re all scripted, each time he attacks you it feels interesting and requires a new problem to solve. A couple of his boss encounters use the same base mechanics, but are different enough for you to elevate what you’ve learned up to that point.
He’s a brilliant foe, and you can see where Resident Evil 6 got Ustanak from. There’s just one problem though. Because all the encounters are scripted, the edge that Mr. X had, which a lot of us were hoping for, is gone. After your first run through you’ll know when he’s showing up and how to deal with him.
The game sometimes struggles to choreograph when he’s going to show up with when it allows you to ‘suit up’. Meaning if you aren’t fully prepared for a boss fight you’ll have to reload, play through a couple of minutes, and try him again.
With that said he is the most interesting thing about Resident Evil 3 by a country mile.
Relive the Horror
Finally we come to an aspect of the game I’ve been alluding to for the entire review, it’s something that most mainstream reviews avoid talking about considering they get the game for free, but I know many consumers are having issues with this.
Despite coming in at just 5 hours, Resident Evil 3 does very little in the way of incentivising you to come back. After your first time completing the game you unlock the shop. Where points you earn for completing challenges in the main game translate to cosmetic/gameplay rewards. I’m a fan of the idea, but when RE3 gives you little to no reason to come back to its main game why would you?
As mentioned earlier, the original RE3 offered small branches to the narrative to keep you coming back, but this new version largely does away with that. Meaning when you’ve played it once, unless you missed some side stuff, you’ve seen the whole game. It’s disappointing then that whilst the RE2 Remake gave you plenty of reasons to come back, it’s sequel can’t manage to do the same.
So, should you play it? If you liked the core of Resident Evil 2 and are up for a none-stop action thrill ride of great polish then absolutely. However you should be aware that once the credits roll after 5 or so hours, you probably won’t be coming back for a while.