The fault in our S.T.A.R.S
Note: This review is for the single-player campaign of Resident Evil 3. A full review of Resident Evil Resistance will be coming soon enough.
It was the turn of century and a little ten-year-old me had gotten his hands on Resident Evil 3. My parents were cool enough to let me play pretty much whatever I wanted so this meant I was already a survival horror veteran among my peers with the previous games in the Resident Evil series and Silent Hill under my belt. I clearly remember how excited I was to play this game as I just kept staring at the cover and re-reading the manual on the trip home from the game shop.
When I eventually fired it up and got face to face with Nemesis, I immediately turned off my console and went to sleep, in the middle of the day. It was the first time a game had ever made me panic and going into the remake that feeling I had was going to be my criteria on whether this remake successfully recreated the foreboding dread of encountering Nemesis. So how did it do?
Well let’s just say this game made me feel like I was ten again.
Resident Evil 3 takes place a few hours before the events of Resident Evil 2, following Jill Valentine as she fights to escape a zombie-infested Raccoon City after the spread of the deadly T-Virus. Unlike the Resident Evil 2 remake, which followed a lot of the same story beats as the original game, Resident Evil 3 Remake at times feels like a complete reimagining.
It takes many liberties throughout the game and veterans are going to be in for quite a lot of surprises. For instance, Jill ends up meeting key characters right at the start of the game and even your first encounter with Nemesis doesn’t unfold according to the script of your nostalgia. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is going to depend on the person and their love for the original, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Resident Evil 3 isn’t perfect with every remix however, as the game moves at breakneck speed through some of the story arcs and it leaves very little room to get attached to some of the other characters. That being said, the focus is put heavily on Jill and Carlos and Resident Evil 3 does an amazing job of bringing these characters into the modern age.
This has probably got to be my favourite portrayal of Jill in a very long time. Where Resident Evil 5 turned her into a puppet for Albert Wesker and the Jill in Revelations felt lifeless for the most part, here her sass levels are turned up to eleven and I absolutely love it. She takes no nonsense from anyone, and it’s great to see this return to form for her.
That doesn’t mean she’s completely shut off as her character does go through some emotional developmental, but the game, especially in the opening section, does a good job through the environment of giving us a bit of insight into her psyche. Carlos on the other hand still tries to play the hero whenever he can but he has a much cooler demeanour about him and way less cringeworthy dialogue. Overall, I’m really impressed by the main cast’s reimagining.
Resident Evil 3 always felt like the black sheep in the family. It was never meant to be a RE game, but it ended up being the third entry in the franchise. As such it leans more towards action than its slower more methodical predecessors and that remains true for the remake. There’s not much planning of routes and memorization of the environments and it largely feels like you’re pushing forward instead of backtracking.
There’s still a lot of room for exploration given how much they’ve expanded some of the locations but as with its story, nothing really feels all that familiar with some iconic areas like the Clocktower not really featuring at all while others like the Hospital are much larger in scope. This does lead to some problems, but I’ll get to those a bit later.
There’s still a heavy emphasis on inventory management as resources are going to be scarce. I played the game on Hardcore and it felt well balanced except for one tiny thing; there were no ink ribbons. You can save as many times as you want and it kind of lowered the stakes for me personally but it’s more of a nitpick than anything else. Gunplay feels the same as Resident Evil 2 Remake, which is to say it feels responsive and impactful.
Your knife no longer breaks too so you’ll be frequently checking if the undead you just killed is actually dead with a few cautionary swipes. The emergency dodge system also makes a return but is much less convoluted as it takes on the form of a quickstep. With a press of a button Jill can evade an enemy attack at any time and when timed correctly, can trigger a short period where time slows down and you’re able to get in a couple of free shots.
While this sounds like a completely overpowered move, the window of opportunity to get a perfect dodge is really small and given that these zombies have a tendency to lunge towards you or attack in hordes, it’s not always the best option to try and use it, so it’s well balanced in that sense and once you get the hang of it, it’s extremely fun to use when you’re given the chance. Where this plays a massive and essential role, are in the Nemesis encounters.
It’s no easy task to bring such an iconic baddie into the modern era but Capcom did an amazing job with him. Not only is his design disgustingly awesome but he’s more aggressive than ever before. He only has one objective, and that’s to hunt down the last remaining S.T.A.R.S units, stopping at nothing to achieve it. It’s been a while since a game made me panic like this but seeing this massive hulking beast charge towards you while you’re trying to dodge zombies as well is quite the experience.
Nemesis can even jump in front you while you’re running away and the first time this happened, I nearly peed in my pants. Much like the original, if you do decide to fight him, he drops special upgrades for your weapons and honestly, it’s quite fun to take him head-on. The quickstep makes you feel in control and gives you a fair fighting chance. Each encounter feels eventful and is a spectacle in and of itself. The biggest problem I have with Nemesis however, is that there’s just not enough of him in the game.
As I mentioned before, a lot of the locations in the game have been completely reimagined and some feel shorter than others, the main one being the city itself. Nemesis here is relegated to a few scripted sequences where he’ll show up and chase you and these are amazing, don’t get me wrong, but because the city section is so short, it never feels like Nemesis showing up is a surprise which is what made him so iconic in the original game that made you question if he’s going to show up at every corner.
It feels like a guided experience and kind of dampens the impact he has overall. This is an issue that mostly stems from the level design itself where it often feels like Resident Evil 3 ends a scenario just when it’s supposed to begin, and it can at times feel a bit rushed. That said, every showdown with Nemesis is a treat and the boss battles are crazy, making up for some of the inconsistencies in the levels themselves. This remake also mixes up the sections where you play as Carlos and are surprisingly more horror focused, which ended up being some of my favourite moments in the game.
With every game Capcom released that uses the RE Engine, I just become more gobsmacked with what they can achieve. Resident Evil 3 has some of the best character models I’ve ever seen and the animation alongside the brilliant performances from all the actors is just incredible. More impressive is the sound design. Without spoiling the intro of the game, I would highly recommend you play it with headphones on because the ambient sounds set the mood perfectly.
Honestly, I would say play the entire game with headphones because sound plays a huge role in the remake, in not just setting the mood but also in guiding you on how to escape from the nigh-unstoppable Nemesis. There are times when you’ll have to run away from the bioweapon, and you won’t have time to really look behind you so you’ll have to rely on the sound of his hulking footsteps to gauge just how close he is to you so that you know when to dodge. The presentation is honestly some of the best work that Capcom has ever done.
Resident Evil 3 Remake is a panic-inducing romp of a time and a triumphant return to form for Jill Valentine. I had a fantastic time with the game and with the extra difficulty modes that get unlocked, there’s a platinum trophy waiting for me that I cannot wait to take a crack at. Some parts of the game are going to feel rushed and wholly unfamiliar to those who have played the original, but it manages to feel fresh and exciting in the end. I never thought I’d be happy to ever see Nemesis again, but here we are.
Last Updated: March 30, 2020