Resident Evil 3 Remake Review: A High-Octane Last Escape
Capcom's latest survival horror remake dials up the action, but not at the expense of gruesome imagery and terror.
By Chris Morse
Another year has brought us another reimagining of a classic Resident Evil title and dare I say I hope this trend can continue at least one more time. Capcom's 2019 remake of Resident Evil 2 was a stellar revival of survival horror, bringing a beloved classic to a modern era of gaming with spectacular results. The same breadth of evolution isn't necessarily true for this year's Resident Evil 3, but it does take some steps forward as it carries the survival horror torch onward.
Much like the original title, Resident Evil 3 centers on former S.T.A.R.S. member Jill Valentine and her relentless pursuer: Nemesis, a bio-organic weapon developed by the Umbrella Corporation with the sole purpose of hunting down those who can implicate the company in the current disaster befalling Raccoon City. Escape very quickly becomes a priority during the game's opening minutes, in adrenaline-pumping fashion, and the rest is up to the player.
While there aren't any massive leaps forward from RE2 to this game, combat additions such as dodging, its perfect dodge counterpart, and environmental elements add some extra layers and fluidity to the experience. Most of the great things about last year's remake are true for this one, from the beautifully gruesome visuals to the vastly improved characters and story. What's new, however, lies in what this team has done with the RE Engine to create intense scripted action sequences, primarily involving Nemesis (which shouldn't come as much of a surprise).
The iconic monster really lives up to its name in this remake and is every bit as relentless as advertised. If RE2's Mr. X was anxiety-inducing for you (thanks in no small part to the fantastic sound design behind the music and encroaching footsteps), Nemesis won't even give you a chance to feel that way before the intensity kicks in. Simply running away and staying ahead is mostly impossible, forcing the player to duck, dodge, and everything in between to get to a destination. He does not let up and Jill's dialogue directed at that fact almost always matched what I was thinking at the time, expletives and all.
On the subject of characters, our updated Jill and Carlos are both a hit and have great banter throughout their journey, and their new looks are great too. As expected, the rest of our cast is also more fleshed out with solid designs and acting across the board. How these characters fit into the bigger picture of the story has been drastically improved, but not at the expense of fairly major changes to the flow of the game as fans of the original may remember it.
This fact put me at an interesting crossroads while playing through the remake, however, because I didn't have nearly the same level of nostalgia fueling me as with RE2. I still enjoyed the original RE3, but it took me way more of a refresher to really think about what was different this time around. It turns out a lot is, with the remake offering a more streamlined experience that forgoes the branching paths of the original and skips out on some areas in favor of fleshing out others drastically more. It's a fine balance overall, but it's clear that the team leaned more towards freshening up the experience. There are many changes.
In the remake, the exploration of Raccoon City has been condensed primarily to the first act, as opposed to being sprinkled in gradually like the original, but it is greatly expanded and far more open with multiple buildings to explore and set pieces for Nemesis to harass you within. There are even a few natural shortcuts to find, Dark Souls style. This revamped experience is one of those major differences from the original that feels so much better because of the freedom to move around the layout and feel like you're really in the ruined city. While it's a stark contrast from the "mansion" setting of the R.P.D. in RE2, it did a great job capturing the spirit of the original Part 3 in a totally different, modern way.
From that point on, there are a lot of major differences in the flow of the game when put next to the classic title, with a few of those being surprise twists I won't ruin here. I will say that there was no Grave Digger or spider enemies, previous misreports be damned. I would have been happy to see a greater variety in the boss fights, but the slate of enemies did not disappoint one bit. Hunter Gammas/Betas and Drain Deimos were all nightmarish, as were the various forms of Nemesis. Once again, I will leave you to discover those for yourself. Same with the scares. After all, it's more fun that way.
The biggest criticism I could see this game having, and it's really no secret, is that its story replayability pales in comparison to Resident Evil 2. I think we all knew this going in, including the developers, which is why we have the Resident Evil Resistance multiplayer spinoff also included. Because of that, it's still a great value overall. I was also surprised to see how the in-game challenges system for reaching various goals and progression was tied to a points store for unlockables, which is more than enough reason to fire up another playthrough or two and go for those better times. Honestly, the shorter story experience is at least partially offset by these things, so I can't knock the game very much overall.
In a nutshell, the Resident Evil 3 remake changed up a lot and sprinkled in quite a few surprises along the way, which is to say that fans of the original game will have much to discover, even if some of it may feel unfamiliar at times. It doesn't quite tug on the nostalgia strings as much as the RE2 remake did, but this is a well-crafted game and there are plenty of familiar moments that are sure to put a smile on your face, especially as it pertains to the final encounter or two. Prepare for some intense moments to boot.
As with the Resident Evil 2 remake, the redesigned characters and story are great, the graphics are stellar, there are plenty of scares, and the action brings the adrenaline. New combat mechanics like perfect dodging make the controls feel as fluid as ever and the expanded Raccoon City areas are a joy to explore, even if it feels more linear (and sometimes unfamiliar) after that point. Nemesis in all of his mutations was a fantastic nightmare.
The campaign is on the shorter side, which is not unusual for the series, and most definitely has less replayability than RE2, although the challenges, points, and shop unlockables offer plenty of reason to press that New Game button. The game could have also used greater boss variety, as the Grave Digger is certainly missed.
The Resident Evil 3 remake initially felt like a natural follow-up to Resident Evil 2, but quickly found a way to set itself apart through its action and varied environments that don't keep you in one place for too long. The scripted sequences with Nemesis often dialed the intensity to the max and it was nice to see the creature as more than just a more-aggressive Mr. X, leading Jill to exclaim almost exactly what I was thinking at multiple points Are you fucking kidding me?! No, the game is not kidding us and we will just have to deal with it, over and over again. It's worth it.
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