Resident Evil 3 is the modern day remake of the survival horror classic Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, hoping to give the 1999 game a similar treatment as last year’s Resident Evil 2 remake. Players take on the role of Jill Valentine, who, after surviving the Spencer Mansion incident, has to survive the zombie outbreak of Raccoon City. But as the city falls apart around her she has some bigger issues than just the zombies, as a hulking bio-weapon called Nemesis stalks her throughout the city and it’s only goal is to kill her.
The Resident Evil 3 remake has dropped the “Nemesis” subtitle of its predecessor, not that you’d know it from all of the pre-release hype Capcom has been building for the release - Nemesis has prominently featured front and centre in all of the marketing for RE3 since its announcement. Even in the game itself, Nemesis is front and centre almost immediately. This game feels like it’s as much about Nemesis as it is about Jill’s desperate attempts to survive hell in Raccoon City.
Even setting aside all of the pre-release marketing, Nemesis is deeply disappointing in RE3. His first appearance starts out incredibly strong - within a few minutes of starting the game he’s all over you, chasing you through a collapsing building as you desperately try to escape. It’s an intense chase as he crashes through walls, hurls things at you and generally dominates you as you try to flee. While it is a heavily scripted opening, I assumed it was setting the scene for the rest of the game - one where Nemesis would haunt your movements through Raccoon City.
The moment the magic was broken was in our very next encounter. Nemesis appeared and was giving chase as I attempted to run to my next objective - dodging zombies and obstacles along the way. It was fairly tense as I dodged his attacks and he did everything in his power to stop me. At one point there were a lot of zombies around, so I decided to try and slow him down with a grenade - which knocked him down completely, rewarding me with an upgrade for my pistol.
The second time Nemesis appeared I pulled the same trick and again put him down in one hit (and another upgrade). The spell was broken the second I realised that Nemesis is actually not all that much of an obstacle and can be easily dealt with. After the first hour or so of the game Nemesis ceases to even give chase - his role is relegated to boss fights, which vary between tedious and frustrating, and cutscenes, one of which was so ridiculous that I couldn’t help but laugh at this creature who was supposed to be intimidating.
Combat is still an enjoyable experience, although the shift in gear towards action in Resident Evil 3 does expose some of the weaknesses of the core mechanics that have been brought over from RE2. Encounters with the zombies and creatures infected with the G-Virus are fraught, and it can be a struggle not to get overwhelmed by the sheer numbers RE3 throws at you from time to time.
Luckily, the aiming and shooting is solid, bolstered by a varied arsenal of weapons that each have their own specific advantages and disadvantages depending on the situations you find yourself in, and the overabundance of ammunition you’ll find. Though trying to juggle all of the weapons and ammunition you find becomes a minigame in its own right, and you’ll spend far longer than necessary fretting over how to fit everything in your pockets while leaving room to pick stuff up along the way.
I also enjoyed the new dodge mechanics, which allows Jill or Carlos to sidestep or parry incoming attacks. It’s a useful feature that feels satisfying when you manage to pull off a perfect dodge and gain some distance on an enemy that was otherwise about to grapple you or pummel you into the ground.
Although enemies, particularly zombies, feel a lot spongier here than in the game’s immediate predecessor. The shambling undead barely react to multiple bullets being pumped into them and can close the distance between you at a fairly rapid pace. While I imagine this was done to keep tension high, it feels a bit cheap when you blast a zombie four or five times in the face and they continue to stagger towards you as if you hadn’t even shot at them.
The more open areas of Raccoon City do offer up some new tactics to take advantage of, allowing you to use the extra space to lure zombies down one set of stairs before circling around and using a different set, for example. Or draw them towards an explosive barrel or broken generator, which can deal with larger groups in one shot. These advantages, however, disappear after the game leaves the streets of Raccoon City and moves on to more generic, confined locations.
While the city itself is an incredibly detailed and well realised recreation, you don’t spend a whole lot of time in it. Resident Evil 3 ditches the labyrinthine, interconnected environments that you slowly explore and unlock for a more linear action experience. Levels are fairly small, with very limited opportunities for exploration, and generally only stick around for a pretty short period of time. A quick visit to the Raccoon Police Department is a welcome throwback, but only serves to highlight that the rest of the places you visit in RE3 are incredibly unmemorable and generic. Raccoon City itself doesn’t come close to approaching the iconic status of the Spencer Mansion or RPD.
Which makes the developer’s decision to cut as much out of this remake as they did all the more baffling - entire sections of RE3 are missing in 2020. While it serves to keep the game moving at a breakneck pace, having these parts of the 1999 game in the remake could have made the city feel a bit more connected, rather than a series of disconnected levels separated by cutscenes.
The disappointment I feel with most of Resident Evil 3 is magnified by the fact that there are plenty of moments where the game really shines. Every now and again we get glimpses of what the game could have been if some different decisions were made - revisiting the RPD and exploring the cramped, dangerous corridors of the hospital bring back the classic Resident Evil feeling to RE3 momentarily, and the variety of excellent enemies is another standout, particularly the frog-like Hunters you find in the sewers, who are legitimately terrifying when you first meet them.
I’m also a big fan of Jill and Carlos, who’s back and forth evolves really well and really naturally as the game progresses. Even side characters like Mikhail and Tyrell are fairly entertaining when they’re onscreen. Although I should point out that Jill’s fellow STARS survivor Brad Vickers is a disappointment, and main Human baddie Nikolai is one of the worst villains in Resident Evil history. The overall story is cheesy, but enjoyable enough, driven by two main characters who the game made me care about thanks to some solid writing.
But it’s all over far too quickly. I get that Resident Evil 3 is a game designed to be replayed, with various challenges to complete that unlock coins you can spend in a shop to purchase things that will help you in future runs, such as infinite ammo rocket launchers or extra inventory space. But RE3 was such an underwhelming experience the first time that I don’t really want to re-explore it. I replayed RE2 last year a dozen times simply because I enjoyed playing the game. With RE3 I feel like I’ve already had my fill - I experienced it, hit the credits, and now I’ll probably not think about it too much again.
Final Score: 6/10