You’ve got to imagine that high up at Capcom there were some pretty heated discussions about delaying the launch of Resident Evil 3’s new remake. Surviving a horrifying viral outbreak has become most of our day-to-day right now, so we probably don’t need a game that offers more of the same.
I’ll be honest here: I wish they had. As a long-term series fan with high hopes for this installment after last year’s phenomenal Resident Evil 2 remake, this was still the last game in the world I wanted to play this week. If I wanted the slow burn of existential dread peppered with occasional bouts of extreme panic, my real life is delivering plenty of that already.
Which is a shame, more than anything, because Resident Evil 3 is great! It lacks some of the surprising spark of last year’s remake, and suffers from the classic Resident Evil sequel shift towards more action, but this is once again a great example of how to do a remake right.
You step into the shoes of Jill Valentine, one of the two player characters from the original Resident Evil, as she tries to navigate a Raccoon City overrun by the undead, in a story that runs mostly parallel to the events of Resident Evil 2.
The only complication? Nemesis, a hulking, weaponised undead beastie that’s been sent in to eliminate Jill and the other members of the city’s S.T.A.R.S. task force. Think Mr. X after some dodgy dental work, and with none of his dapper style – though he brings his own flamethrower to make up for it.
That’s not the only difference though. While Mr. X is an ever-present threat in Resident Evil 2, Nemesis mostly appears in specific, semi-scripted sequences that culminate in explosive encounters.
Instead of listening out for telltale footsteps lurking in nearby corridors, you have to be always alert for the possibility that the Ol’ Big & Ugly is about to smash through a wall, Kool-Aid style, prompting either a frantic fight or a mad dash until the next cutscene lets you know that you’ve escaped – for now.
The shift from closed quarters to open city spaces exacerbates that tonal shift. Avoiding Mr. X usually meant darting through the winding maze of corridors that made up the Raccoon City police headquarters, while dodging Nemesis is often more a matter of keeping your distance across a ruined city street.
There are more zombies around to make up for this, meaning you rarely fight Nemesis entirely on its own, and the new dodge action becomes an essential tool to avoid enemies both big and small. More enemies also means more ammo, though since you’ll need to use it the illusion of abundant resources is reassuringly short-lived.
I’ll admit that I haven’t finished the campaign yet – self-care and survival horror aren’t especially comfortable bedfellows – but already the whole feel is different. Dodging laser-guided rockets is undoubtedly alarming, but it’s not exactly terrifying (disclaimer: I’m prepared to admit that I would be pretty terrified if a rocket were coming my way right now) and as a result Nemesis’s impact is never felt in quite the same way.
I spent the entirety of Resident Evil 2 in fear that Mr. X might storm through a door at any moment, but Nemesis is easy to forget when he isn’t right there. That makes Resident Evil 3 a lot more manageable in these emotionally trying times, but it’s hard not to feel that something’s been lost along the way.
Otherwise, the classic Resident Evil form remains intact. You’ll collect coloured jewels to solve never-explained puzzle boxes, grin through over-acted cut scenes with gruff soldiers and arrogant scientists, and spend far too much time trying to decide whether to use that green herb now or hold out for a red one to combine it with.
You’ll also get new multiplayer game Resident Evil: Resistance thrown in for good measure. I haven’t had the chance to try it for myself yet, but it promises asymmetric multiplayer madness that should add to the longevity of the base game.
If you can face it right now, Resident Evil 3 is out on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Resident Evil 3 follows series tradition in upping the ante and sacrificing some of its scares along the way. Nemesis is bigger, meaner, and better armed than Mr. X ever was, but the end result is less scary, rather than more.
Elsewhere this is just as polished a product as last time around. REngine looks as beautiful as ever, and digging through the ruins of an overrun Racoon City is still satisfying, with the familiar Resi blend of arcane puzzles, resource management, and outlandish plot twists as (dis)comforting as you’d hope.
This is a different beast to Resident Evil 2 – and a lesser one, in all honesty – but it’s been stitched together with just as much love and attention to detail. They just decided to give it a flamethrower for good measure.
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