Game Reviews

Resident Evil 3 Review

An inferior followup, that's still pretty damn impressive

by Kyle Hanson

Capcom has spent the last few years revitalizing the Resident Evil franchise, merging its two distinct styles while also returning to the roots of what made the series so beloved in the first place. The culmination of this was Resident Evil 2 Remake, which released last year to massive acclaim, including winning our Game of the Year award. And now Capcom is back with Resident Evil 3, remaking the 1999 PS1 title for the modern age. Feturing the same amazing engine and lovingly crafted gameplay, the problems inherent in that first title may have trickled through to this 2020 remake a bit more than last year’s entry.

Resident Evil 3 is somewhat of an odd sequel, taking place both before and after RE2, with Jill Valentine experiencing the T-virus spread through Raccoon City, and its eventual downfall to the zombie horde. But more than that, she has to deal with Nemesis, a genetically engineered behemoth whose sole purpose is her own elimination. While she tries to escape the zombie infested city she’ll find allies and enemies all along the way. But who can she trust? And could there be more going on here than even she originally thought?

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The story of Resident Evil 3 has changed a bit in the transition from 1999 to 2020. It’s been streamlined and finetuned to fit better among the more contemporary games. Fans of the original may quickly pick up on these differences, but the casual observer will simply enjoy the zombie action. And action is the key word here as Resident Evil 3 actually started much of the series’ transition from the classic survival horror era to the more action-heavy focus of later entries. While RE4 was the flashpoint, this was the beginning of the series’ transformation.

The behind-the-scenes story of how Resident Evil 3 was made is actually somewhat more intriguing than the game’s plot. Originally planned as a side adventure which utilized a lot of content from its original predecessor, other considerations caused it to be a main series entry. You can still feel the influence of this today, with the Resident Evil 3 remake feeling like a lesser followup to the magnificent RE2 Remake from last year.

Perhaps Resident Evil 3 never could live up to the high mark set by Resident Evil 2.

The story itself is fine, but features few memorable moments or monumental plot developments. You pick up with Jill Valentine, the “Master of Unlocking” herself, and follow her escape from Raccoon City. Nemesis himself is the only major shake up really, with everything else boiling down to a pretty standard RE or action-adventure story. This includes the gruff team of soldiers that help her escape, or hinder her progress as the story requires. This is also where the second character of Carlos comes in, though his segments are more run-and-gun action, and don’t feel impactful in any significant way. Overall it’s pretty by-the-book stuff for the genre, which is disappointing given how remarkable its predecessor was.

There’s just not much meat to the plot, and Nemesis doesn’t change that enough to warrant the same level of excitement as Mr. X did in Resident Evil 2. In fact, Nemesis is worse in almost every regard, with a more scripted nature due to RE3 keeping the action moving, with new locations and areas to explore every hour or two. RE2 was largely about exploring the police station at first, unlocking its myriad segments and expanding the map through your own progress via puzzles and story developments. RE3 on the other hand just keeps you moving forward, only letting you explore areas a few times before moving on.

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The game is much shorter as well, and the lack of dual main characters makes it less replayable, though there are the usual difficulty settings and unlockable weapons/costumes. This could have worked out had the game leaned into its formerly titular foe, but the dynamic nature of both RE2’s Mr. X and the original’s Nemesis feels lost here. Every encounter with the gigantic creature feels scripted in some fashion, either when he shows up, or the battle as a whole. Only the early sections hint at that original feeling of dread, with potential danger lying around every corner. But once you make it about a quarter of the way into the game the pattern is clear and fear subsides in favor of frustration most times he shows up.

What hasn’t changed though is just how amazing and fantastic the core of this series has become. Built on the continually impressive RE Engine, the game simply looks fantastic. It’s one of the best looking games you’ll play this year, and it runs like a dream on every platform. Every second is gorgeous, though one of the flaws with the original rears its head here once again with some reused assets. Locations and character models were copied over from Resident Evil 2’s remake, which is fine, though a few might pop up in quick succession breaking immersion.

Thankfully shooting those zombies also still feels fabulous. The third-person shooter controls in this game are simply second to none. Every gunshot registers with a satisfying chunk of flesh ripping away to reveal the gore beneath. It’s the kind of game that makes you stop every once in a while just to marvel at what you’re seeing and doing. the original’s dodge has been revamped as well, though it and the more aggressive feel to the zombies makes avoiding combat far more worthwhile most of the time.

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Perhaps Resident Evil 3 never could live up to the high mark set by Resident Evil 2. It was built off of an inferior base and the flaws in this remake were almost all present in that original game as well. It’s not as innovative, and feels more like a rehash of what we’ve already seen. It doesn’t move the narrative forward much, aside from some teases of what may be coming in the series’ future. And the one selling point of the original, an apparently dynamic and ever-present danger, was actually added to the previous game via its own remake. And this one didn’t deliver it as well either. And yet, every moment with the game was enjoyable and felt like something that would have been praised, had it not been one-upped by its own predecessor.

It does add in multiplayer in the form of Resident Evil Resistance though. This asymetrical mode is totally separate from the base game, and almost feels like it was add value to what amounts to a 7-8 hour action title for most players. In it one player takes on the role of the Mastermind, laying traps and controlling zombies to eliminate a team of four human players. It’s too soon to tell if Resistance adds enough to justify the purchase by itself. The open beta has had some serious issues that raise concerns, including matchmaking and connections problems. If you’re buying Resident Evil 3 right now it should be for its campaign, which is tried-and-true Resident Evil action in the current sense of the phrase, as cemented by the excellent Resident Evil 2 Remake.

The Verdict

Resident Evil 3 is still a great action game, with survival horror elements sprinkled throughout. But what made the previous remake so noteworthy was its true return to the series’ roots while exploring more modern gameplay mechanics. That gameplay is still here and it’s rock solid. But the narrative has suffered from the source material’s own issues. And the main draw of that original has been lessened as well, with Nemesis feeling more like an after thought than a truly monstrous foe. Fans will certainly be happy that the RE3 remake exists, and will be excited for a potential Code Veronica followup, but unfortunately this adventure just wasn’t as worthy of a revisit.

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Resident Evil 3

  • Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
  • Published By: Capcom
  • Developed By: Capcom
  • Genre: Action Adventure
  • US Release Date: April 3rd, 2020
  • Reviewed On: Xbox One
  • Quote: "Fans will certainly be happy that the Resident Evil 3 remake exists, and will be excited for a potential Code Veronica followup, but unfortunately this adventure just wasn't as worthy of a revisit."
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