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Resident Evil 3 review

Beauty and the Beast

When Resident Evil launched on PlayStation back in 1996, it introduced me to many things: the birth of a genre known as “survival horror,” a newfound love for scary games, a new franchise for me to become a longtime fan of, and one Miss Jill Valentine. Even though Capcom had already given me a long list of great video game heroines, Jill rocketed to the top of that list, and her reign as the queen of zombie killers seemed like it’d never end—until I met Resident Evil: Code Veronica’s take on the better child of the Redfield household, Claire. From that point on, the two became locked in an endless battle for my heart, which kicked into full gear once again just last year due to how incredible Claire turned out in the Resident Evil 2 remake.

Look, I know talking about my internal back-and-forth confliction between Jill and Claire is a weird way to start this review—but this is a weird review to write. It was only a year ago that I was giving my opinions on the Resident Evil 2 remake, and honestly, a lot of what I said there could just be directly repeated here. At the time of that game’s release, we were getting our first taste of Capcom’s plans for bringing past chapters of the franchise into the modern era, and the result was nothing less than mind-blowing. Now, only 14 months later, I’ve gotten over the shock of seeing what RE2 has become, but I also haven’t had enough time to develop a longing for Capcom to do it again. Don’t get me wrong—I much prefer not having to wait years to see the rebirth of Resident Evil 3. I just haven’t had the chance yet to feel the lack of some fresh survival horror in my life.

Image credit: Capcom

I don’t want to take away from what Capcom has given us here, however, because it’s (mostly) great. Once again, the company is redefining what it means to “remake” a game, and Jill’s struggle to survive the fall of Raccoon City is impressive on every technical level, from its visuals, to its audio, to its refined core gameplay and reworked story. I purposefully didn’t go back to play the original RE3, because I wanted this remake to stand on its own, but I do remember enough to say that this had to have been a pretty big effort—at times more so than even Resident Evil 2.

Thankfully, Resident Evil 3 isn’t doomed to live in the shadow of its predecessor. While they share numerous similarities in terms of how a remake can be built, RE3 retains a number of unique traits and gameplay concepts that help set it apart. The first is Raccoon City itself. As much as I loved Resident Evil 2, swapping the claustrophobia of spending half the game trapped in a singular location for getting out onto the streets of the city was a wonderful feeling. There’s just such an interesting shift in dynamics when you take these characters and creatures and put them out in the world (which was always true in the original version as well). And, man, does the city look beautiful here, as neon signs add color to the night sky and we get one final look at all of the architectural splendor of a city soon to be rubble.

Throughout my playthrough of Resident Evil 2, my brain couldn’t stop wishing the game had some sort of dodge, especially given that move’s prevalence in many modern third-person action titles. Well, like in the original, Jill can bob and weave her way through zombie hordes thanks to her dodge. It’s a small inclusion that can make a world of difference in certain scenarios, especially when facing off against Jill’s main nemesis, Nemesis. There was such a feeling of satisfaction every time I perfectly dodged a punch that could have flattened me, giving me the chance to not only avoid taking damage but also to retaliate against him. Jill’s dodge helps give Resident Evil 3 a more action-y feel, but it never makes the game too action-y or turns it into something it shouldn’t be. Don’t worry—Resident Evil 6 this is not.

Image credit: Capcom

Another of old-school Resident Evil 3’s big gimmicks, on the other hand, doesn’t quite feel as special anymore. The original game was known for its ammunition crafting system, giving Jill the ability to combine various gunpowders and explosive canisters to create specific types of ammo. It was an interesting idea, as instead of just handing you all of that ammo, the game let you decide what you needed when, with all of the benefits or downfalls that might bring (such as misjudging the type of weapon you’d be using in the near future). The problem is, all of that made its way into the Resident Evil 2 remake, which was cool—but it also kinda stepped on this game’s toes. Still, it’s a nice feature to have, and it joins a number of other smaller area-specific gimmicks that retain Resident Evil 3’s status as one of the more experimental chapters of the series.

The Resistance will not be reviewed

Capcom surprised a lot of people—including myself—when it announced that its new 4-vs-1 multiplayer experience Resident Evil Resistance would be part of the full Resident Evil 3 package, rather than a separate release.

While I’ve had plenty of hands-on time with Resident Evil 3, review code for Resistance didn’t come in until a few days before this review was set to be published—though that didn’t come as a surprise to me, given servers for online games often aren’t up and running until launch is soon to arrive. While I’ve made multiple attempts to play Resistance, I’ve had no luck so far in finding enough people online when I was trying to get a match going. (Which, again, doesn’t surprise me, as this is a bonus mode with a small set of pre-release players spread out across three platforms.)

I’m genuinely excited to dig into Resident Evil Resistance, as it seems like an interesting idea that could provide a fresh take on the franchise. For the moment, however, I chose to focus this review solely on the main single-player campaign portion of Resident Evil 3.

Finally, we get to the remaining twist presented in the original game: predetermined moments when you’d be able to pick between two paths to take, each of which would then affect the story in different ways. How is that choice system here? Totally absent. I know there’s been disappointment over the removal of those scenes, but to be honest, I didn’t miss them. Crafting even one main scenario for current-era games is far more complicated than it used to be, so I’m able to accept that we often have to leave such features behind.

Who isn’t ready to be left behind (in Raccoon City or otherwise) is Jill Valentine, the star of the show here. Capcom is really firing on all cylinders in its push to bring all of Resident Evil’s famous faces into the future, and man did Jill turn out fantastic. She’s tough, confident, and resourceful, but far from just falling into the “badass bitch” trope or losing those traits that made her great in the first place. Going back to the Jill versus Claire argument for a moment, comparing the two is a perfect way to show how fleshed-out these characters have become. When Claire jumped down onto the platform to face off against Birkin’s final form in Resident Evil 2, you could tell she was doing so as a woman pushed to her limits in a situation she was never prepared to be in. In contrast, when Jill reaches her most emotional moment here, it’s because she’s simply done dealing with Nemesis’ bullshit, moving in like a predator ready to finish off its prey.

Image credit: Capcom

Speaking of the game’s other main character, Nemmy is one of the aspects of Resident Evil 3 where I expect to see mixed opinions. He’s a stellar antagonist for Jill, filled to the brim with both badassery and new tricks for bringing the remaining members of S.T.A.R.S. down. At the same time, I do have to admit that his new look isn’t as good as his original, and his iconic cries of “staaaaaars” just don’t have that certain something they used to. On a more gameplay-impacting level, I was kind of surprised to find that he’s not as big of a factor as I was expecting. Every time he shows up, he’s a force to reckon with, but after the relentlessness of Resident Evil 2’s modern-era Tyrant, Nemesis doesn’t seem as threatening (at least on standard difficulty). If you found yourself far too stressed out by his predecessor, this new Nemesis may help you enjoy Resident Evil 3 a lot more. If, instead, you were hoping for him to dial up the danger, you may feel some disappointment.

That word—disappointment—is something I’m expecting to see tossed around about Resident Evil 3, because I think Resident Evil 2 simply set the bar too high. Whereas I beat RE2 in just over nine hours on my Claire run, here I finished in only a few minutes over six. (The clear time requirements for receiving an A ranking in RE3, by the way, are exactly half of RE2.) Between its shorter development time and start as a side project to the series, the scope of the original Resident Evil 3 was always smaller than both its predecessors and successor Code Veronica. Still, I think that fact is going to take a lot of players by surprise, especially—again—as we come off of one of the biggest and most ambitious Resident Evil releases of all time.

As a reviewer, I can’t deny that Resident Evil 3 was a little underwhelming, from its shorter length, to Nemesis not reaching his full potential, to the removal of some of the original game’s locations and features. And yet, as a player, and a longtime Resident Evil fan, I still love this game. As with Resident Evil 2, it feels like a lot of love and care has gone into the game, and at times I actually preferred RE3’s pacing, area choices, and gameplay tweaks. I absolutely think that RE2 remains the quintessential representative of Capcom’s survival horror series, while this remains the quirky sibling who isn’t always as ambitious as their big brother but who can also be more fun to be around. That’s okay, though—not every game has to raise the bar, or attempt to replace those that came before it. I’ve gone back and forth for days on which I like better on a personal level, and the truth is, I’m still nowhere close to coming up with an answer.

It’s almost as if there were two characters from the same series that I both adored, and I was trying to pick which one I liked best…

Image credit: Capcom
★★★★☆

It was always a long shot that a new take on Resident Evil 3 was going to be able to live up to the expectations set by 2019’s Resident Evil 2 remake, and that’s exactly the case here. Still, beyond a few examples of missed potential, this is another stellar attempt by Capcom to bring its survival horror series into the modern era, and retains a sense of individuality and personality that make it stand out from its peers.

Developer
Capcom
Publisher
Capcom
ESRB
M - Mature
Release Date
04.03.2020
Resident Evil 3 is available on PS4, Xbox One, Pc. Primary version played was for Xbox One. Code/hardware was provided by Capcom for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.

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