As with Resident Evil 2 before it, Resident Evil 3 has been completely remade for a modern age. While both versions of Resident Evil 2 are critically acclaimed, Resident Evil 3 is when many believe the classic trilogy began becoming stagnant. With the recent hype behind Mr. X of Resident Evil 2, perhaps a return of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is just what fans need.
Can Resident Evil 3 follow in the Tyrant-sized footsteps of Resident Evil 2?
Chronologically, Resident Evil 3 is the third game of the series. It serves as a prequel to Resident Evil 2 as well as a direct sequel of the original. The game follows Jill Valentine shortly after the events of the Spencer Mansion. Jill wakes up from a bad dream to find herself in a nightmare. A Tyrant known as Nemesis bursts through her wall and makes an attempt on her life. One burning apartment later, Jill narrowly survives. This is only the beginning, as Jill finds herself smack dab at the advent of the Racoon City Incident.
After yet another confrontation with Nemesis, Jill runs into the charismatic Carlos Oliveira. Despite his heroic demeanor, it doesn’t take long for Jill to realize that Carlos works for none other than the Umbrella Corporation. For those unfamiliar, Umbrella is at least indirectly responsible for every tragedy the series has to offer; outside of the events of Resident Evil 4. As an Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service Corporal, it is Carlos’ prerogative to escort the survivors of Racoon City from the evil within. That is easier said than done, however, as a majority of his team has already been wiped out. The remaining survivors are all huddled up in a subway car. Unable to turn a blind eye, Jill agrees to assist Carlos and his team. Once she returns to the city streets, her nemesis is not far behind.
As a prequel to Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3 covers something surprisingly untouched by the previous lore. As Jill rises to begin her day, she witnesses the tragic fall of Raccoon City first hand. Considering the sheer importance of the Raccoon City Incident, it’s baffling that its “day 1” has never properly examined. While the screaming civilians do admittedly disappear as fast as they appear, their screams echo immersion never previously explored.
Jill is the focus of the majority of the game. As one of two protagonists of the original Resident Evil, she is more than deserving of the role of the leading lady. Especially considering what she will later go through in Resident Evil 5. Carlos, meanwhile, tags in when convenient for the plot. While tagging in a secondary character is not completely unheard of, the execution is somewhat disappointing in Resident Evil 3.
Not unlike Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield in the previous game, Jill and Carlos have a bad habit of meeting up briefly only to run off in different directions. While this is normally due to narrative reasons, it often feels like there is more going on. Near the very beginning of the game, Jill goes off to play the hero while Carlos… waits. Separating Carlos and Jill into two separate scenarios could not only flesh out each but also expand the game’s unexpected length.
Clocking in at about six hours, Resident Evil 3‘s remake is even shorter than the original. Considering the fact that the main game of Resident Evil 2 was about eight each for Leon and Claire, Resident Evil 3 feels overly condensed. Whereas Resident Evil 2‘s remake fleshed out the original, Resident Evil 3‘s instead cuts content. Even the ending of the game has been stripped down. In fact, with all the reused visuals and connecting narrative, the game almost feels more like a standalone expansion to Resident Evil 2 rather than its own complete release.
A Modern Classic
With the Resident Evil 2 remake releasing just last year, series fans should know what to expect in terms of controls. Rather than bringing back “tank controls” of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, the remake opts out in favor of modern third-person gameplay. The player will take the camera perspective of Jill’s or Carlos’s shoulder through the majority of the game. This has proven a tried and true system since Resident Evil 4 that still succeeds to this day.
Interestingly, Resident Evil 3 includes something of a fake-out at the very start. Reminiscent of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, the opening sequence in Jill’s apartment plays out in the first-person. The player can navigate the confines of the room before Jill’s moment of reflection. Unlike Ethan Winters, Jill can actually find a proper mirror. While the first-person view could be seen as a simple narrative choice, it allows the Resident Evil 3 remake to honor both recent predecessors.
Gunplay in Resident Evil 3 is nearly identical to Resident Evil 2. One button raises the gun while another one fires. Resident Evil 2‘s ability to “run and gun” is prudently preserved. Navigating the mid-game sewers would be nigh impossible without it. Firearms, grenades, and the Survival Knife are all assignable to D-Pad inputs to further simplify combat.
Luckily the Survival Knife has been completely repurposed. While Leon and Claire mostly used their knives defensively, Jill takes the offensive. Resident Evil 2‘s Combat Knife durability was possibly the single imperfection in an otherwise perfect game. Though it cannot act as a Get Out Jail Free card, the knife’s offensive prowess will be there to stay. Thankfully, a more skill-based dodge system takes its place.
Despite being one of the earliest pioneers of the survival horror genre, Resident Evil has been well known to suffer the occasional identity crisis. The series seeks a delicate balance between survival horrors and action shooters. When the series strays too much in one direction, a change of form is in order. Both Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 7 are past examples of this trend. While the 1999 release was met mostly with a mostly positive response, it was never able to surpass the acclaim of its predecessor, Resident Evil 2. Resident Evil 3‘s focus on Nemesis and his action set pieces made the game feel more action than horror. With the recently remake Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3, history repeats itself.
For many, Mr. X was the highlight of Resident Evil 2. Regardless of the playthrough, this massive Tyrant plagued players throughout the majority of the game. Mr. X’s greatest strength was his unpredictability. While he was featured in a handful of scripted events, Mr. X mostly showed up whenever he felt like it. He would patrol the R.P.D., attack at the most inopportune moment, and even open Safe Room doors. His very existence put the “survival” and “horror” back in Survival Horror. This gave Resident Evil 2 the best Tyrant since Nemesis himself in the original 1999 Resident Evil 3. It can even be argued that the success of Mr. X is what sold players on the return of Nemesis himself. Unfortunately, the hype was ultimately unwarranted.
Somehow, Nemesis is one of the weaker parts of the Resident Evil 3 remake. While he makes a great boss throughout the game, his dramatics lessen the fear factor. Resident Evil 3 implies that Nemesis can be waiting behind any corner. This is only half true. Sure, he loves to jump down out of nowhere or breakthrough walls á la Kool-Aid Man, but it’s all scripted. Unlike Mr. X, Nemesis keeps to a schedule and only appears when Capcom tells him to.
Confusingly, Nemesis encounters also vary in the objective. While he can sometimes be defeated, albeit only temporarily, other times he can take a grenade to the face and walk it off. In the latter instances, he catches an odd case of invincibility until Jill ventures into a more climactic set-piece. Most notably of all, Nemesis doesn’t comprehend the concept of doors. Whereas Mr. X could walk in on an attempted game save or Licker confrontation, Nemesis will patiently wait behind closed doors. Sometimes he will even lose interest walk away. Narrative-wise, Nemesis is praised as the biggest and baddest Tyrant around. Even with his new flamethrower, Nemesis does not hold a candle to the boogieman that is Mr. X.
All Aboard the RE Engine
In terms of graphics, Resident Evil 3 always looks equal to or better than its predecessor. This shouldn’t be too surprising as Resident Evil 3 also marks the third Resident Evil released on the RE engine. These past three Resident Evil are easily some of the prettiest Survival Horrors on the market. In fact, Resident Evil 3 borrows a plethora of assets from previous titles. This includes items, weapons, and a couple of returning characters. Even the game’s user interface is ripped straight from Resident Evil 2. Considering the amount of detail given to Resident Evil 2, the borrowing of visual elements makes a lot of sense. Conveniently, this recycling of renders also makes Resident Evil 3 a bit more user friendly. Even the locker and safe combinations within the Raccoon Police Department remain the same.
For the most part, Resident Evil 2 was all about the R.P.D. This modern mausoleum was nearly the final resting place of Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield throughout their respective campaigns. They weren’t the only ones to narrowly escape its echoing halls. When Carlos takes his turn to play the hero about mid-game, his trail leads to none other than the R.P.D. This return trip is easily one of the most memorable locations to explore. This inclusion even explains some plot holes and level design choices of the previous game. Considering the visuals involved, the R.P.D. is quite literally ripped from Resident Evil 2 and dropped into Resident Evil 3.
There have been few modern Resident Evil titles as immersive as 7 or 2. This is in part due to their level design. For better or worse, the two aforementioned games featured copious amounts of backtracking. This was only possible as both games featured large and interconnecting terrain. Despite featuring both the R.P.D. and Kendo’s Gun Shop from Resident Evil 2, they are both cut off from one another. While each level is quite large, they act independently and are played in a linear fashion. Even if it’s not a bad way to carry out a third-person shooter, it’s not the best way to present a Resident Evil.
Since developing on the RE Engine, Capcom has been building some of the prettiest haunted houses around. Perhaps more impressive than the levels are the characters who roam them. First, Resident Evil 7 introduced the grotesque yet realistically rendered Baker Family. Second, Resident Evil 2 reintroduced the cutest couple that is Leon and Claire. Thirdly, Resident Evil 3 delivers a mouthwatering “Jill Sandwich.” All jokes aside, the Master of Unlocking is back and looks better than ever before. As with Claire before her, Jill’s realistic proportions and 90s fashion sense make her a natural beauty. Tifa Lockhart and Aerith Gainsborough may have stiff competition for Best Girl of the Year.
The Dead of Night
Throughout the years, video game soundtracks have become an unofficial music genre of their own. With legendary composers defining the sounds of their series, it’s really no wonder. It’s not uncommon for gamer’s to listen to Original Soundtracks outside of their respective games. Many such Soundtracks can often relax gamers while they drive, work, or study. Resident Evil Soundtracks really aren’t like that at all. Resident Evil 3’s soundtrack is about as stress-inducing as they come.
Considering the fact that Resident Evil 3 is fundamentally a horror game, the ominous tones of its Original Soundtrack do it justice. Though perhaps “original” is not the best way to describe the soundtrack. Most tracks are either remixed from Resident Evil 3: Nemesis or return from the Resident Evil 2 remake. Regardless of their origin, each track alone is nightmare fuel in the making. When the gameplay or story gets tense, so does the sound.
No horror soundtrack is complete without accompanying in-game sounds. Between the audio and the visuals, Raccoon City itself is like a living, breathing entity. Somehow the emptiest of rooms can’t help but make a sound. It can be moving pipes, moving water, or that Zombie on lying on the floor. It’s all really quite eerie. Even a Safe Room never sounds truly safe.
As proven by Resident Evil 2, nothing is sacred in terms of voice talent. Jill gets a new voice actor to better fit with her fresh new look. Aside from the very first Resident Evil, Jill’s assigned actress has always been pretty darn good. Within minutes, Newcomer Nicole Tompkins kills it. She brings to the table a very mortal Jill Valentine. Jill sounds like the type of S.T.A.R.S. veteran that would cuss out an armed man or casually complain about yet another zombie. At the same time, she sounds just as helplessly terrified as any human would be when pit against the relentless Nemesis.
Overall the Resident Evil 3 remake gets the job done, but it doesn’t always get it right. On its own, 2020’s Resident Evil 3 is still one of the series’ best modern outings. As with the original 1999 title, directly following Resident Evil 2 did it something of a disservice. The game’s story structure and gameplay flow simply fall short of its predecessor. Ultimately, Resident Evil 3 is the high octane ride that Resident Evil 6 tried to be. While Nemesis is bound to still land on many Top 10 Resident Evil Bosses lists, he will now forever live in the shadow of the once inferior Tyrant, Mr. X.
HEY! HEY!! LISTEN!!! gives Resident Evil 3 9.3 S.T.A.R.S. out of 10.