Resident Evil 3 (Singleplayer) Review – Four Hours of Fun
Developed and Published by Capcom
Available on PC (reviewed), PS4, and Xbox One
My original title was going to be, “Resident Evil 3 is the RE5 of RE4‘s RE2.” Luckily, I long ago gave up rambly, confusing, unspecific titles. Now I just do that shit in the opening paragraphs! 14 months ago, I published a love letter to the Resident Evil 2 remake thinly disguised as a review. My opinion was that it redefined what to expect from the survival horror genre. The best game to compare it to is Resident Evil 4. RE4 reshaped the survival horror genre by taking it in a new action-heavy direction. A bounty of new horror games followed suit for years. I predicted that Resident Evil 2 would set a similar new standard, only this time better marrying the action and horror elements. Fittingly, the game I can best compare Resident Evil 3 to is Resident Evil 5.
It’s clear from the first village survival fight that Resident Evil 5 was trying to replicate the success of Resident Evil 4. However, there’s a hell of a lot of personality and polish in Resident Evil 4 that I just don’t see in Resident Evil 5. It’s like they took the bullet points of what people liked about RE4 and just smashed them into a game without all the stuff in between that made it fit together. There’s a whole article I could write on this (and probably never will). That being said, there are plenty of people I know that prefer Resident Evil 5 for its co-op gameplay and heavier focus on action. If you’re one of those people, more power to you. I’m not here to tell you what to like. And just like with Resident Evil 5, I can very easily see people preferring the Resident Evil 3 remake over Resident Evil 2. I’m just not one of them.
Before I get too lost up my own ass, let me recap the nuts and bolts of the Resident Evil 3 remake. Resident Evil 3 is a prequel/sequel to Resident Evil 2 that takes place during the same Racoon City zombie outbreak. The game follows Resident Evil protagonist and S.T.A.R.S. alumni Jill Valentine. RE3 starts in first-person, giving us a brief glimpse into Jill’s life post-Spencer Mansion incident. Traumatized by almost being turned into a Jill sandwich, Jill is on a quest to solve the mystery behind what happened and answer the question of why she isn’t a zombie yet. Before she has a chance to grab a slice of cold pizza and plop onto the couch for some quality 90’s sitcoms, a new monster punches straight through the wall and tries to murder her. This monster is the series favorite (and previously eponymous) Nemesis. You’ll take control of Jill as you run from the beast in an opening segment that truly had me on the edge of my seat.
Escaping from the Nemesis, Jill immediately finds herself in the thick of a zombie outbreak. Now running double-duty trying to survive regular zombies and an unkillable super zombie, she catches her first lucky break when she is saved by Carlos Oliveira. Carlos is a member of the U.B.C.S., the Umbrella Corporation’s whoopsie cleanup squad. She’s initially skeptical, but is inevitably won over by Carlos’s shaggy hair and promise to save civilians. Meeting up with the rest of the U.B.C.S. team in a subway station, this is where Resident Evil 3 begins in earnest.
Most of Resident Evil 3 takes place in a few larger open levels connected by smaller interstitial zones, boss fights, and cutscenes. These open areas are where you do most of the classic Resident Evil stuff. You’ll hunt for keys, solve puzzles, find secrets, and fend off zombies. It’s wonderful. Hunting through downtown Racoon City for gems to unlock a secret upgrade is my jam. The levels are more open than they were in Resident Evil 2, and you’ll face more enemies on the streets of Racoon City than you did in the halls of R.C.P.D. This leads to an overall increase in the amount of action in Resident Evil 3. You’ll also swap to Carlos for a good portion of the game. Jill and Carlos each have their own personality and playstyle. Carlos can shoulder charge enemies and comes equipped with a machine gun, so his sections are even more action-packed. Jill can dodge and has several tools to help her with exploration and puzzle-solving. There’s overlap, so expect to blow shit up as Jill and combine key items as Carlos.
Another bright point is the enemy design. Resident Evil 3 has some of the most terrifying monsters we’ve seen in the franchise. While the zombies are about the same as they were in Resident Evil 2, the reimagined Hunters (Beta and Gamma), Drain Deimos, new pale zombies, and tentacle-face zombies are all shockingly grotesque and dangerous. I felt real fear when the Hunter Gamma unhinged its face and swallowed me whole. The game is far more packed than Resident Evil 2, with little downtime between encounters. And that’s not even mentioning Nemesis. The new Nemesis is the perfect example of how to modernize a classic monster. He’s stronger, faster, smarter, and deadlier than ever. His evolution has also been completely revamped to give him a new animalistic bend. Don’t think you know what to expect just because you played Resident Evil 3: Nemesis 21 years ago.
I just wish I got to see more of him. Unfortunately, Nemesis is only in a few parts of the game. Most of his appearances are in those cinematic mid-sections between levels where you’re either running away from him or facing him in an arena. The only open area he pursues you through is the downtown zone at the start of the game. When people heard they were making a Resident Evil 3 remake, most of the buzz surrounded this new and improved Nemesis. People wanted/dreaded him relentlessly pursuing you throughout. Outside of the narrative, that’s not really the case. I can see why they dropped Nemesis from the title.
What’s more, Resident Evil 3‘s cinematic moments feel very disconnected from the regular gameplay. All of the climactic moments happen in their own little pockets outside of the main area of exploration. It rarely surprises you and doesn’t feel natural. Remember how terrifying it was in Resident Evil 2 when Mr. X would just wordlessly show up places? You’d walk into the parking garage and suddenly he was there. Or you’d be fighting through the underground plant lab and he’d just bust through the glass. It would force you to rapidly recall and recontextualize the map for the quickest escape. Aside from the first area, Nemesis never appears unexpectedly to chase you through areas you already know. I hate to say it, but Mr. X was a more foreboding and omnipresent threat than Nemesis.
That being said, most of the cinematic moments are pretty awesome. Running from Nemesis is always at least exciting. When the game forces you to confront him head-on, he’s a terrifying foe. There’s a satisfying ramp to his difficulty. He’ll bust out some moves you really don’t expect. By the time you finally put him down, you’ll feel like a real badass. He’s also the only boss in the game. I know that Nemesis is the selling point of Resident Evil 3, but it leaves Carlos in the weird spot where he’s got no big baddie to take down. His story arc culminates in a laughably easy timed siege battle.
My biggest gripe is that my first run of Resident Evil 3 only took about 4 hours. That’s short even by Resident Evil standards. There’s something to be said for keeping a game tight, but there are plenty of parts that RE3 could have been expanded. This is alleviated somewhat by the classic Resident Evil replay rewards. You’ll unlock a shop after your first completed run where you can buy new buffs and weapons. You’ll earn currency for the shop by completing in-game achievements. The most powerful weapons—like the Infinite Rocket Launcher—will take you some work to afford. It’s a nice way to gate unlockables. I never was a fan of beating the game in 3 hours to unlock the Anit-Tank Rocket Launcher. Now I can unlock what I want at my own pace.
Alright, let’s get back up my own ass for the conclusion. I started by comparing Resident Evil 3 to Resident Evil 5. Both games suffer from disconnected cinematic action and the clear feeling that it’s missing some of the charm that made its predecessor so memorable. Resident Evil 5 is not a bad game. Neither is Resident Evil 3. I just don’t like it as much as Resident Evil 2. I can’t help but feel like RE3 was rushed. It’s only a little over a year since RE2 was released. I still recommend Resident Evil 3 to all horror and Resident Evil fans. And maybe you’ll prefer the heavier focus on combat and tighter runtime. It’s just not the leap forward I hoped it would be.
Resident Evil 3 is still a great experience. It’s just less than I expected it to be. At just about 4 hours long, I can’t help but feel they could have done more.
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