Resident Evil 3 is a game I want to love but have a hard time doing so. Back when it originally released in 1999, Resident Evil was one of my first forays into the world of survival horror and remains a firm favourite in the genre alongside Dino Crisis and Dead Space. Resident Evil 3 always had a more action-driven slant compared to Resi 2 but it managed to balance the maniacal, nightmare fuel of the Nemesis with an interesting continuation of survival in Raccoon City, encountering numerous people inhabiting the streets desperate to escape along the way. While the shell of that game is here to see, the soul and essence of what made Resident Evil 3 so memorable is missing in this underwhelming but enjoyable remake.
Story-wise, the game takes a slightly different approach to the narrative compared to the original game but still follows many of the same plot points. Here though, Resident Evil 3 wastes no time getting right to the meat of the story, with Nemesis showing up within the first 5 minutes of action. The cat and mouse game of survival begins right away as you’re thrust into the role of Jill Valentine and forced to survive against this unstoppable creature.
Of course, the familiar characters of old are here and you still switch between Carlos and Jill from time to time but the narrative lacks the same methodical pacing, instead taking cues from Michael Bay and delivering a bombastic, explosive and thrilling first half to the game, littered with numerous action-driven cut scenes and encounters with the Nemesis. It’s not until the second half of the game, where you arrive at the familiar set-up of the hospital and police station, that things actually slow down and feel a lot more survival horror-based as you push toward the final encounter(s) with Nemesis.
While many will bemoan the length of the game, Resident Evil 3 wisely doesn’t outstay its welcome but only has itself to blame for the number of people disappointed by how quickly they’ve blasted through this. The real issue here comes from the aforementioned pacing which gives the game a much more frenetic and chaotic feel than it otherwise should. In the original game Nemesis was frightening and dread-inducing every time he showed up and part of that was the restraint shown – Nemesis doesn’t even show up until the police station and that’s the second section of the game.
The reason Alien works as well as it does is because of that slow-burn horror – you don’t even see the xenomorph until the third act of the story. A lot of other horrors take their time to build up to the main threat too before that crescendo of fear and dread, which is why it works so effectively as it preys on that fear of the unknown. Showing the Nemesis so early in the game loses its effectiveness and any feel of horror is gone before the game even hits the halfway mark.
Even adding an early section into the game, with radio broadcasts talking about a large monster prowling the streets while you dispatch zombies, would be enough to build up to the Nemesis reveal but this sequence is ultimately lost in a sea of identical set-piece driven moments that give this enemy more of a formulaic feel than an otherwise iconic villain of old should have.
The problem here stems from the sheer number of set piece encounters you have with Nemesis. Be prepared for at least four different boss fights with this creature, along with several chase sequences and scripted sections. All of this makes the cat and mouse game feel more formulaic than it should be and given Nemesis was such a big part of the original game doing so well, it’s disappointing to see it handled this way.
Given this was in development around the time of the excellent Resident Evil 2 Remake, it’s inevitable that Resident Evil 3 re-uses a lot of the same assets from that title. The familiar backdrops of areas around Raccoon City is a great touch though, while the subtle and not-so-subtle cross-overs between both in the level design adds to the continuity of the series. This engine Capcom is using to render its graphics is absolutely stunning too and everything from the lighting and water effects through to the character models are beautifully illustrated here.
Gameplay-wise, Resi 3 relies heavily on the same set-up as old Resident Evil games, with most of the familiar UI screens and animations carried over to this game. For those unfamiliar, Resident Evil 3 sees you switch weapons on the fly via the directional button shortcuts but adds in an extra layer of strategy with its item management.
With limited slots available to carry everything, utilizing item boxes in save rooms effectively becomes a key part of the game and while not that problematic on the Standard difficulty, on the harder options available this becomes crucial to your survival, especially given the sparse amount of ammo dotted around the environment.
You control your character in a third person over-the-shoulder manner, with aiming achieved through holding L2 and shooting with R2. There’s a handy dodge option with R1 – which becomes a necessity on the aforementioned harder difficulties – while X is your action button. It’s all pretty standard fare for this sort of game and for those who aren’t used to playing Resident Evil but have dived into these sort of titles in the past, the controls should come naturally.
With an in-game shop opened up after playing through the first time, Resident Evil 3: Remake feels like a game that’s designed to be played through multiple times. The shop itself has a whole array of different items ranging from character skins, new weapons and even a Rocket Launcher with infinite ammo. More points can be unlocked through completing in-game challenges and while some of these are unlocked alongside trophies, there’s a fair amount of scope here for completionists to sink into.
It’s worth mentioning that the audio and music in this game are brilliant. Some of the tracks really stand out and alongside the excellent graphics and decent voice acting, there’s certainly positives to be had here. It’s just a pity that the biggest hindrance with Resident Evil 3 comes from Nemesis himself and the way this creature is handled. The behemoth just isn’t that menacing with the new design and the predictable programming (The 2nd and 3rd boss fights feel very similar in set-up) relies on simple mechanics seen in a million and one other games and it detracts from what’s otherwise a solid experience.
Having played through the game twice, the first time I finished in 5 hours with 48/54 collectibles (excluding bobble-heads) and the second time I finished in around 3 and a half, blasting through a lot of the familiar areas easily. Ramping up the difficulty does change that though so expect to spend longer if you intend to give yourself more of a challenge, as well as hunting for all those collectibles without using a guide.
These tougher modes inevitably give you less ammo, intentionally make encounters dangerous and force you into making tough decisions about whether to engage or ignore enemies. It’s a different challenge than the lower difficulty modes but a lot of the same narrative problems inevitably spill over to these too.
For a £50 game, Resident Evil 3 is not worth the money unless you intend to play through this multiple times. Even die hard fans of the genre may be hard pressed to justify splashing out that sort of cash for a title that feels like a missed opportunity.
As a rental and a possible £25/£30 title, Resi 3 is well worth your time and although limited in scope, is an enjoyable enough experience to blast through. It’s not perfect but much like Nemesis itself, the Resident Evil 3 remake wants you to beat it again and again and again. After a while though, this becomes tiresome and it’s unlikely you’ll return to this one in a hurry when you’re done with it.
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