Okay, so we’re a little late with this but HAVE YOU SEEN WHAT’S HAPPENING OUTSIDE?! It’s ironic that a game about a viral outbreak should launch on the cusp of, well, a goddamn viral outbreak but here we are. And here, finally, is our review for Capcom’s remake of 1999’s Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.
As with the original, Resident Evil 3 (this remake drops the “Nemesis” subtitle) hits consoles around a year after the release of its predecessor and tells the story of Jill Valentine, heroine of the first game of the series, as she tries to up sticks and leave the zombie infested Raccoon City, only to find that the relentless mutant Nemesis is hot on her tail. As she flees the monster she meets Umbrella agent Carlos Oliviera and they fight to try to not only escape certain death but uncover more of the sinister goings on at the Umbrella lab that has led to the T-Virus outbreak.
If you played REmake2 last year (and if you didn’t, why not? I DID give it a perfect 10/10) you’ll know what to expect – a modernisation of the traditional Resident Evil formula that drops the pre-rendered locations and tank controls in favour of a 3D environments and a more fluid free movement system that was perfected in some of the more recent numbered games in the series. It also brings in the same ammo crafting system seen in that game as well as some of the more generous quality of life enhancements such as expandable inventories and unlimited saving. That latter point is actually super helpful in RE3, a point which we’ll come on to soon.
The game also once again utilises Capcom’s fantastic RE Engine (which apparently stands for “Reach For The Moon Engine” and not “Resident Evil Engine”, fact fans) and is also once again an absolute joy to behold. Character models looks almost alive, from the sweat slick skin to the realistic looking clothing and shadow effects, and even Carlos’ fabulous hairdo. It’s easy to engage with these characters and Capcom has, as always, found some great actors and models to use as references for their looks and animation. The environments as well are fantastic; it’s great to get to roam around Racoon City prior to the decimation we see in Resident Evil 2; oh, didn’t I mention? This game is actually a prequel! The city here is just post outbreak and chock full of bright neon signs (players with HDR screens are in for a treat here) as well as a healthy array of burning cars. While Jill and Carlos will explore other brilliantly realised locations (including a superbly grungey sewer) it’s the city that you’ll be spending most of your time in. The fact that the game is a prequel also affords it some wonderful moments of foreshadowing, meeting characters who will eventually play a large part in Resi 2 and even triggering some events that you see the results of in that game. It does a fantastic job of tying both those worlds together in a coherent whole.
The game also brings a new idea to the table in how to get around these environments in the form of a way to avoid enemy attacks. This is triggered by a tap of R1 and takes the form of a dodge for Jill and a right hook for Carlos (apparently we’re able to punch zombies now.) When timed right, these will interrupt enemy attacks and, for Jill, allow you to follow with a counterattack or, with Carlos, just keep spamming the button to floor more zombies. The concept of dodging enemies seems great on paper but in practice it doesn’t really work – when you’re surrounded by undead beasties it’s quite hard to get the timing right on your dodges and I had far too many instances where a dodge for one enemy put me directly in the line of attack of another. This flawed mechanic also highlights the main gripe I have with Resident Evil 3 and that’s in its move to be a more action oriented game.
I’ll hold my hands up and say I never really played the first RE3 – I’ve had a copy of it on GameCube for years but I never really had the inclination to get that far in the game; something never really clicked with it for me and I think I can now see what that is. Speaking to some of the other writers at NGB towers (don’t worry, we’re all socially distancing!) it seems that Nemesis is the point in the series where Resident Evil started to get far more action heavy, affording the player with more ammo and actively encouraging you to blow the heads of the shambling hordes. Where the original game and its sequel thrived more as puzzle games with some combat elements that required some thinking about how to use environmental items to progress, RE3 was light on that and that is reflected to an even larger degree in this remake. Apart from an early and entirely optional gem gathering puzzle, most of the progression here is entirely linear. Areas become increasingly smaller with less opportunity for exploration and the game’s overall runtime can be between 4-6 hours depending on how quickly you can blitz through some of the later sections. There’s even the heresy of a shooting gallery segment which sees you just blasting away at enemies as a timer ticks down.
The problem here is, this game does not feel suited to being an action title. Sure, the controls are a lot quicker, but this isn’t Devil May Cry. Aiming and reloading isn’t as responsive as it should be and the over the shoulder camera is far too much of a hindrance. I cannot count the amount of times I was trying to clear a room of zombies only to get jumped by one I didn’t see get up from the floor, or spend a frantic few minutes trying to evade the Nemesis only to wind up in a crowd of other enemies. When you fail in Resident Evil 3, it doesn’t so much feel like the game is punishing you for making a mistake – it feels like it’s punishing you because it feels like it. Sure, ammo is being given out like candy at Halloween, but the standard issue pop gun is still as effective against a zombie as a slap with a wet trout, and using the shotgun all the time is just going to leave you wanting for shells in the final battle. Having that aforementioned unlimited saving is definitely a godsend here as being able to step back several saves to try a different approach is often a way to overcome odds, but being forced into that position at times just feels unfair.
So, should you buy Resident Evil 3? On the surface, it’s a fantastic looking game with a wonderful, cheesy b-movie storyline that’s hampered by a focus on trying to be more of an action experience than a puzzle one – and that’s a shame. When last years Resident Evil 2 felt like more of a return to form for the series, this game feels more like a reminder of the ill advised excesses that the later titles dropped into. And with a super short playtime, you may want to wait for a price drop before you invest.
NOTE: You may well be aware that Resident Evil 3 comes with a multiplayer component, Resident Evil Resistance. While we’ve had a brief look at that it’s only been with rando’s so far. Andy and Ben are planning on taking a deeper dive into Resistance in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for some content on that soon!