Last year’s remake of Resident Evil 2 proved a couple of things. Firstly, if you’re willing to put in the work in rebuilding it, a remake can be one of the best games of the year and secondly, the original Resident Evil games remain fertile ground for completely new interpretations. Can Capcom pull it off two years in a row with their Resident Evil 3 remake?
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (the game’s original 1999 title) is an odd child in the Resident Evil family. It’s the result of a spin-off project promoted to ‘next major instalment’, while the primary RE development team squirrelled away to work on 2005’s Resident Evil 4. Where Resident Evil 2 was brimming with confidence in its proposal of a densely detailed police department and multiple asynchronous stories, RE3 takes a simplified approach, riding on the critical praise of its two older siblings. It’s an escape story, basically, following STARS member Jill Valentine as she fights block by block, sewer by sewer to survive the zombie hordes and corporate malfeasance of Raccoon City on the eve of its destruction.
There’s a lot to be said here for how much of this remake’s work was done by the remake of Resident Evil 2. The games play virtually identically – the zombies still shuffle and sway with an unnerving randomness, the guns feel largely similar as you use them to put the hordes back where they belong. Outside the environments, boss battles and narrative, Resident Evil 3 asks you to dance the same gory dance. You’ll methodically navigate through the remains of Raccoon City, collecting healing items and new weapons as you go. There’s much less of a focus on puzzle solving here, with the majority of roadblocks overcome either through a liberal use of bullets, or digging through the environment for a particular item.
So, what actually is different? Well, the opening, for one, is spectacular. A frantic phone call implores the player to “Get out! Now! Run!” just before the original game’s namesake – the Nemesis – crashes through the wall of Jill Valentine’s Raccoon City apartment, starting off the game with one of its many chase sequences. The cinematic, bombastic nature of Resident Evil 3 is perhaps it’s best asset, as creeping tentatively down the hallways of the Raccoon City Police Department is replaced with the bombed out and aflame streets of the city itself.
In these opening areas, when you’re ill-resourced and constantly hounded by the undead is the game at its best, and if you’ve played the demo, you’ll know what we’re talking about. The trade here is clear though, between the slower, methodical, brain burrowing tension of the RE2 remake’s early hours, and this ’80s-esque horror/action blend. We almost think the game would have benefited from a pulsing synth soundtrack and even more neon, but maybe that’s just us.
There’s also a lessening of the ‘whimsy’ that was present in the RE2 remake’s RCPD, a building that needed special keys and tricks to open nearly every door in the place. At any given moment you could have some chess pieces, a fake ruby and a key with a diamond hilt in your inventory as you crisscrossed the map, uncovering new nooks, crannies and clues as you poked at its edges. The spaces of Resident Evil 3 don’t have the same playfulness to them, largely intended as locations in which to shoot zombies or flee the Nemesis, RE3’s biggest threat. The difference between the two games is nowhere better illustrated than between their respective Tyrants – biologically modified and lab-grown living weapons.
Resident Evil 3’s ‘Nemesis’ is the previous games’ ‘Mr. X’ exaggerated in every conceivable way – he’s bigger, more aggressive, and the moment he starts sprinting towards you is probably the most terrifying one in the game. Nemesis was dropped into Raccoon City with the sole purpose of hunting down and eliminating every member of STARS – making him your new shadow – one that’ll dog you throughout the majority of the game. There are key moments where Nemesis will show up, and until you reach a certain point in the map he’ll lunge, punch and constrict you until you become red paste.
“…he’ll lunge, punch and constrict you until you become red paste.”
Nemesis’ impact on Resident Evil 3 feels somewhat muted though, partially because of the achievement that was the RE2 remake’s own Tyrant. Mr. X was a less interesting character, but the RE2 remake’s sound design, and the way Mr. X clomped freely around the police station as you strained your ears to track him, made him a far more engaging and foreboding antagonist. Nemesis is meaner and uglier, but the encounters Resident Evil 3 has him trapped in feel almost scripted. Nemesis is simply a threat to be escaped, whereas Mr. X felt like he had an actual mission to accomplish in the RCPD.
Beyond the main story, where you’ll switch perspectives between Valentine and Carlos Oliveira (an Umbrella mercenary with a good heart), there isn’t actually much more to do in Resident Evil 3 beyond replaying the main campaign for a better rank. Unlike the different campaigns and additional modes unlocked upon completion of the RE2 remake, Capcom has included a standalone multiplayer game called Resident Evil Resistance. This pits four survivor players against a ‘mastermind’ player, who uses traps and enemies to stop the survivors from escaping from a map. It looks fine, but we were unable to find a match prior to the game’s launch.
Now that the Resident Evil remake experiment is nearing its closure (or, at least, a hurdle in the form of the ‘perpetually-re-released’ Resident Evil 4), it’s clear that Capcom’s intent was to bring the origins of the series back into the modern age, with RE4 acting as a kind of bridge between what gamers consider to be ‘classic Resident Evil’ and ‘modern Resident Evil’. Resident Evil 3 fulfils its role as an adequate stepping stone, but it lacks a lot of the intrigue and impact that we felt last year with Resident Evil 2. Don’t get us wrong, it still feels wonderful to play, and the RE Engine is still putting out some of the best-looking games around, but with Resident Evil 3, the special sauce is missing.
Resident Evil 3 is available April 3 for PS4 and Xbox One.