Release Date: April 3, 2020
Rating: M (Mature
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (Xbox One version was reviewed)
What’s It About?
Resident Evil 3 has a complicated legacy, to say the least. It continues the story of the original game’s protagonist, Jill Valentine, and her attempt to escape from Raccoon City, which has become overrun by zombies. Originally intended to be a spin-off title, the original 1999 release was heavily criticized for containing a significant amount of recycled content from 1998’s Resident Evil 2. Over the years, the game has gained a very devoted cult audience due to its unique action mechanics and relentless Nemesis antagonist, with many feeling that it is among the best entries in the series.
Fast-forward 20 years, and history seems to be repeating itself. The 2019 remake of Resident Evil 2 exceeded expectations, striking a perfect balance between action and horror. A remake of Resident Evil 3 was announced and set to be released almost exactly one year after the RE2 remake, and expectations soared into the stratosphere. Did Capcom iron out the flaws of the original release and deliver a fleshed-out survival horror experience that retains the unique elements of the original game? Well… yes and no.
Resident Evil 3 retains its predecessor’s action-focused gameplay, pitting Jill and her bouncy-haired partner Carlos against wave after wave of zombies and other gruesome creatures in the ravaged streets of Raccoon City. Each and every zombie encounter is tense, but responsive controls and a new “dodge” button make you feel up to the task of escaping the doomed city. You’ll get a nice burst of adrenaline when you see the screen distort as you narrowly roll out of a zombie’s grasp as Jill. Carlos’ dodge is more of a counter, allowing him to punch the enemy mid-attack and being given a short burst of slow motion – just enough time to pop off a couple of headshots.
I have nothing but praise for Resident Evil 3’s presentation. Capcom’s “RE Engine,” first introduced with the stellar Resident Evil VII, allows for photorealistic graphics and all the gross and gooey textures a horror fan could hope for. Nemesis, in all his various forms, looks every bit the imposing monstrosity that he should, though I wish I got to experience his first, more humanoid form for a bit longer. Jill, Carlos, and the supporting cast all look jaw-droppingly realistic, and the facial expressions match the dramatic, well-directed cut scenes perfectly.
Horror games rely heavily on their sound design to create an unsettling atmosphere, and this is another area in which Resident Evil 3 excels. The soundtrack is full of the sort of ambient music one would expect from the series (keep an ear out for that classic “safe room” music, which is equally calming and unnerving), but I was especially impressed by the relatively synth-heavy focus of this game’s music. It’s not quite a full-on homage to ‘80s horror, but the synth kicks in at just the right times and makes this soundtrack stand out when compared to more recent games in the series.
Sound effects are equally impressive, with zombies shrieking viciously and more monstrous creatures making nightmarishly inhuman sounds. Playing with headphones can lead to some downright startling moments as you are often sprung upon by an unseen foe lurking just around the corner. Weapon attacks each have their own unique and fittingly-powerful sound effect when used, and you certainly won’t confuse the sound of the default handgun with the powerful Lightning Hawk magnum. The second I heard that deafeningly familiar “BANG!” when shooting a single common zombie, I knew I had switched to the wrong weapon and immediately lamented my misspent magnum ammo.
Every version of Resident Evil 3 includes the online multiplayer game, Resident Evil Resistance. This supposedly complete, standalone game lets you play as either a villainous “mastermind,” who sets traps and monsters throughout a complex, or one of four human survivors, who must navigate said complex to reach an exit. Playing as the mastermind is the obvious draw, and while it is admittedly fun to watch survivors get blasted into swiss cheese by automated turrets, or to place and then take control of the monstrous “G” version of William Birkin and pummel a fully-assembled group of survivors into oblivion, the mode did not hook me. The mastermind mode pays homage to Tecmo’s Deception series, but isn’t quite as robust as later games in that series. Playing as a survivor was less fun, but is likely a satisfying enough experience with a communicative group of friends.
Value proposition is a tricky subject to tackle with modern video games, as prices can fluctuate almost immediately. Resident Evil 3, simply put, a less substantial game than its immediate predecessor, yet it was released with the same $60 price tag. The single-player campaign is a relatively linear affair, funneling you from one action set piece to the next. This allows for many exciting and tense encounters with Nemesis, but I wish there were more areas that allowed you to simply explore the city. At one point, I thought I was being granted that opportunity, but next thing I knew, I was being forcefully ushered to the next area. Being generous, I’d say that the experience is two-thirds of what Resident Evil 2 had to offer; it’s unfortunate that the price doesn’t reflect that. The addition of Resistance was meant to offset the price, but it’s aimed at an entirely different audience.
Nemesis is one of the most iconic villains in the series, and while his imposing, relentless presence in the original game added a refreshing twist to the survival horror genre, the 2020 version feels like a poor man’s Mr. X – the similarly-ubiquitous hulking stalker from the Resident Evil 2 remake. Capcom clearly took inspiration from the original Nemesis when updating Mr. X, and I had hoped that they would continue to iterate upon that idea with the revamped Nemesis. Sadly, Nemesis is less of a persistent, Terminator-like antagonist in this game and more of a recurring miniboss. The fights themselves are still thrilling, but I would have loved to have seen more of a cat-and-mouse element throughout the game.
The 2020 remake of Resident Evil 3 is sadly missing some significant content that was in the original game. The graboid-like “Gravedigger” worm boss is entirely missing, as are the cemetery and park areas in which it was encountered. The clock tower area was also removed, and while this location felt slightly out of place in the original game, it would have been nice to explore at least one gothic-inspired area. At least the boss battle outside of the clock tower remains, and while it is very different, it is memorable in its own way.
Most disappointing of all is the lack of branching paths and multiple endings. Considering the ~6 hour length of the game, being able to make a handful of decisions that lead to a different ending would have given the game substantial replay value. The binary decisions in the original game led to some drastically different encounters toward the end of the game, and it’s sad to see only one version of the climactic events in the remake. As it stands, the biggest incentive to replay the game is to run through with a different costume or with a more powerful weapon unlocked from the get-go.
The remake of Resident Evil 3 is a brief, yet exhilarating experience that is streamlined to a fault. It’s full of slick action and exciting encounters with monstrous foes, but Jill’s escape from Raccoon City is all too brief. The addition of the online multiplayer-focused Resistance will supplement the overall package enough for some, but the single-player experience feels more like an impressively fleshed-out expansion than a true sequel. It’s absolutely worth playing if you’re a fan of the series, but it could have been so much more.