Resident Evil 3 Remake Review – A Welcome Return to Raccoon City
It cannot be understated how much of a redemption arc Capcom has been on. While this sadly doesn’t apply to their fighting games, every title Capcom has released since Monster Hunter World in 2018 has been a success to one degree or another. Even smaller titles like Megaman 11 have performed beyond expectations. If this Capcom Resurrection had three pillars, they would be Monster Hunter, Devil May Cry, and Resident Evil. Three of their biggest franchises, and some of the most popular in all of gaming. This resurrection, appropriately enough, is no more impressive than with the Resident Evil franchise. The series had been on a slow decline ever since the release of Resident Evil 4, which is arguably one of the greatest games ever made. While Resident Evil 5 disappointed many fans, it was still viewed at least as a competent action game, if not a particularly good Resident Evil game. Then Resident Evil 6 happened, and the series hit its lowest point ever. Combined with abysmal spin-off entries like Operation Raccoon City and Umbrella Chronicles, Resident Evil looked to be another beloved Capcom franchise that would die on the vine.
Then came Resident Evil 7. Simultaneously returning the series to its horror roots and shaking up the formula at the same time, Resident Evil 7 proved that the series still had what it takes to deliver a scary and investing product. Then two years later Capcom released the remake of Resident Evil 2. Pushing the boundaries of what even constituted as a “remake”, Resident Evil 2 Remake was able to deliver not just an amazing survival horror experience but brought the series back to what made it so beloved in the first place. With it being such a huge success, it was inevitable that we would get a remake of the follow-up entry in the franchise, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. In December 2019 we finally got that announcement and fans were excited to once again revisit the annihilated streets of Raccoon City as one of the franchise’s most popular characters, Jill Valentine. While Resident Evil 3 Remake is a fantastic game overall, it does have its share of problems that, while make it pale in comparison to the more robust package that was the Resident Evil 2 Remake, still manages to deliver a tense, adrenaline-fueled, dread-filled experience.
Players take on the role of Jill Valentine, one of the few survivors of the Spencer Mansion incident that formed the plot of the first game. Under surveillance by Umbrella as she tries to expose their nefarious plans to the world, Raccoon City is struck with an unprecedented outbreak of the T-virus, and to make matters worse Jill is being hunted by a new Bioweapon from Umbrella, the titular Nemesis. The game starts off with an amazing (and considering the climate of the world today, very scary) live-action cutscene as the city of Raccoon falls into complete chaos, and the Nemesis is being shipped to the doomed city to hunt down the last of the surviving STARS members. Resident Evil 3 Remake starts off with a bang as, after players first take control of Jill, they are immediately besieged by the hulking titan. This leads to some of the biggest differences between the remake and the original. Events are out of order from the original and sometimes cut entirely. Players are immediately thrust into the action with a daring escape from Jill’s collapsing apartment building and we are very quickly introduced to the second playable character, Carlos.
In the original game, there wasn’t much to Carlos, and the remake does a fantastic job of making him a much more well rounded and likable character. A member of Umbrella’s Biohazard Countermeasure Service, a precursor to the BSAA that we see in Resident Evil 5, seeing Carlos come to terms with the evil that his employers have wrought upon the world brings a lot of depth to his character and seeing him and Jill interact is one of the highlights of the game. Resident Evil 3 Remake uses the same RE Engine that powered Resident Evil 2 Remake, as well as Devil May Cry V, so the game looks gorgeous, and the amazing motion capture and voice-over work add so much personality to these characters. As great as Leon and Claire are, seeing them interact so little was very disappointing and didn’t do any favors towards fleshing out their respective personalities. Resident Evil 3 Remake remedies this by placing Jill, Carlos, and the small handful of side characters front and center creating a much more personal story, despite the setting being much larger than in Resident Evil 2 Remake.
If you played Resident Evil 2 Remake then you will be very familiar with how this game plays. Outside of a few notable exceptions, the mechanics remain relatively unchanged. But considering how well the game controlled in Resident Evil 2 Remake this makes sense. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Instead, Resident Evil 3 Remake adds to the gameplay by making a few changes that are more reflective of the playable characters. In Resident Evil 2 Remake Leon was a cop fresh out of the academy, and a far cry from the professional badass he would become in Resident Evil 4, and Claire was just a normal person. Jill is a supercop, and Carlos is a highly trained member of a paramilitary group. So naturally, they are more suited to combat, and the more intense situations that are found in Resident Evil 3. Gone is the mechanic of having the option to waste a secondary item, like a grenade, to break off being grabbed by an enemy, and is instead replaced by a dodge mechanic for Jill, and a bum rush tackle for Carlos. If timed perfectly, Jill can execute a “perfect dodge” that gives her a speed boost and can help her escape enemies more quickly. While the timing is precise and can take some getting used to, this gives Jill much greater freedom of movement and lets Carlos be more aggressive in his sections. Which are more action-heavy than Jill’s and has Carlos pre-equipped with higher caliber weapons like an Assault Rifle right off the bat. These changes feel right for Resident Evil 3 as both characters will encounter more enemies on screen than Leon and Claire did, as well as much bigger spaces to move around in.
The environments in Resident Evil 3 Remake are also spectacular. While you do get to return to certain areas from Resident Evil 2 Remake, being able to roam the abandoned and destroyed streets of Raccoon City was a joy and offered much more color and variety than the RPD Building in Resident Evil 2 Remake. While the RPD Building is iconic and serves that game very well, it is definitely more suited for a more horror focused experience. Just like the original, Resident Evil 3 Remake is far more action-oriented and less focused on scares and more on the tension and dread from being surrounded by enemies and trying to escape with your life intact. It is less about what is hiding around the corner, and more about how to deal with it and get out alive.
This brings us to the mad lad himself, Nemesis. In our Resident Evil 3 Demo impressions, we pointed out how much more interactive Nemesis is, which makes for far more dynamic encounters than were had with Mr. X. This is still true, but as you play through Resident Evil 3 Remake you see less of Nemesis in this more standard form. Nemesis is still a fun and threatening enemy to deal with that can be handled in a multitude of ways, but the number of times this happens is far less than the original, or what the demo may have indicated. He can still run, jump, zipline, and infect other zombies like in the demo, but he is more of a set-piece than a random occurrence like he was in the original.
Which brings us to the issues with Resident Evil 3 Remake. Many have touted Resident Evil 3’s length as a deterring factor saying that the game is far too short, especially when compared to Resident Evil 2 Remake. It took me about 8 hours to complete the main storyline in Resident Evil 3 Remake, and when compared to other games in the franchise this is a pretty standard length for a Resident Evil game. It feels disingenuous to call Resident Evil 2 Remake a much longer game, as the game was artificially lengthened by Leon and Claire’s second, or B, campaigns, which in actuality offered very little difference from the first campaigns. Sure some enemies and weapon locations were reordered, but in the end, it boils down to playing basically the exact same game twice for the most part. What Resident Evil 3 Remake has isn’t a length issue, but more one of linearity. Sections from the original like the Clocktower have been cut entirely and others like the Hospital have been lengthened quite a bit. While each section is enjoyable and fun to explore, you never stay in one location for too long as you are directed forward by the game’s plot, and the aforementioned Nemesis set pieces. You never get to stay in one area for too long, and while this does maintain the breakneck pace of the chase movie like atmosphere the game is going for, having to leave the streets of Raccoon City so early on does diminish the overall experience. One element the game does have over Resident Evil 2 Remake by leaps and bounds are its boss battles. Easily the worst parts in Resident Evil 2 Remake, the use of Nemesis in Resident Evil 3 Remake makes each encounter with Nemesis all the more thrilling and exciting, even though they are much less spontaneous.
Included with Resident Evil 3 Remake is a multiplayer mode called Resident Evil Resistance. An asynchronous multiplayer mode that plays like a combination of Dead by Daylight and Friday the 13th. Players pick a group of survivors and are pitted against a mastermind controlled by a single player that places traps and obstacles in the way to prevent the survivors from escaping an Umbrella compound by using cards and controlling certain enemy types like regular zombies, and even boss monsters like Mr. X. Similarly to Doom Eternal’s Battlemode, Resistance is a concept that works well on paper but not in concept. The end result is a boring, tedious, watered down, and meandering multiplayer suite that most players will probably never touch again after one play session. Originally the Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes were supposed to release together and this plan was abandoned halfway through Resident Evil 2 Remake’s development and it shows. Resistance even loads in a separate program on your console, it isn’t even accessible from the main game’s (impressively creepy) start menu. Had these two games released together we would have been looking at possibly the greatest combo pack in gaming since The Orange Box, and instead, we are left with a still great game, and a flimsy multiplayer mode tacked on to justify the $60 price tag. This is made even worse by the fact that there are almost no alternate costume options for the main game outside of some pre-order “Classic” costumes for Jill and Carlos. All extra costume options are relegated to Resistance which just added Jill as a playable character. It seems like all future updates to the game are going to be aimed squarely at Resistance, and this is incredibly disappointing as you’ll never be able to walk through Raccoon City like a zombie-slaying Sarah Connor in the main campaign without using a PC mod.
Despite its linearity, lack of true organic encounters with Nemesis, and a misplaced focus on Resistance, Resident Evil 3 Remake is still a fantastic, well-made game that does justice to what came before with the Resident Evil 2 Remake and paves the way for the future of the franchise. Rumors indicate that Capcom is already developing a remake of Resident Evil 4, and many elements in the game, including Nemesis’ new ability to put tentacle whipping monsters on the top of zombie’s heads that are INCREDIBLY similar to the Las Plagas of RE4, are a clear indicator of this. They were definitely testing elements of how a Resident Evil 4 Remake would shake out. Before playing Resident Evil 3 Remake I was completely against the idea of a remake of Resident Evil 4. But now that I have seen what this team can do with a more action-oriented take on what began with Resident Evil 2 Remake, I am very excited to see what that project could shape into. Especially seeing the latter portions of Resident Evil 4, which became a Michael Bay movie in the last few chapters, reworked to fit the tone and style of these past two remakes.