It's a very odd experience playing a game about a pandemic while being on lockdown for one in the real world. Beginning with a live-action cinematic featuring flashes of viral infection warnings spliced with news-reel footage of riots and chaos breaking out across the globe, the events portrayed in the Resident Evil 3, suddenly share a few too many similarities to those in our world today. Thankfully Resident Evil 3 feels just enough removed from our current situation; our streets are empty, and the only shuffling and groaning I'm witnessing are delivered by my wife as she copes with the social-withdrawal effects of isolation.
I've been a fan of the series for over two decades and have played many entries multiple times across various systems, but I've never felt quite as uneasy as I have this past week, playing the remake of Resident Evil 3. Had Capcom not made such a fantastic game here, I'm not sure I would have had the stomach to make my way through this excellent entry in the action-horror genre. I won't make any other mention of what's going on in our world today, but keep in mind that those with more sensitive souls may want to weigh up how much they fancy navigating through a horrible pandemic as a form of escapism. For those looking for the classic RE gameplay that has kept fans (mostly) satisfied for the better part of three decades, Capcom has delivered yet another masterpiece remaster and not just maintained the spirit of the original, but modernized it and implemented some significant changes to make it feel more like a new game, opposed to a cut and dry remake.
If you played the incredible Resident Evil 2 remake, you more or less know what to expect when it comes to the massive leap in quality with these new remakes. Not content with just updating the visuals and calling it a day, Capcom has taken the game back to the drawing board and essentially built a brand new game from the ground up. While some of the original foundations remain, the new Resident Evil 3 remake makes significant changes to characters, locations, story and of course, the big nasty Nemesis. Having played the original twenty years ago, I went back and watched an original playthrough to refresh my memory. Seeing the two games side by side is jaw-dropping as the remake is an impressive looking game, even when held up to the other triple-A releases we've seen recently. Character models look incredible with vast amounts of detail showing off skin pores and clothing that moves and looks quite close to its real-world counterparts, and a stunning lighting engine (blood and wet surfaces shimmer beautifully on character models and the environment) that further brings life to the world. Traversing Racoon City looks just as good as it did in last year's Resident Evil 2 remake. While you will find yourself travelling to some familiar locations, there are some significant shifts in pace and gameplay with RE3.
Capcom has been open about the fact that this remake's story would tie into that of RE2 from last year, more so than the originals did. I won't spoil how they achieve it, but it feels natural and makes sense in the overall story. I was initially a bit concerned when making my way to one of the more notable locals from last years game, but thanks to the faster pace and increased focus on action over puzzling, the return trip feels brief but important to the way the story unfolds.
Perhaps the most significant change is the story and the increased importance Jill's counterpart Carlos plays in it. While the split between the two characters feels about 70/30 in favour of series regular Jill, Carlos and his military prowess further cement this new remake as more of an action-horror title, versus the slower pace of RE2. Locked doors and keycards have been reduced significantly, as the game focuses heavily on action and maintaining a blistering pace throughout the five to eight hours it'll take you to reach the credits.
Resident Evil 3 was always a more action-centric entry in the series and paved the way for the likes of RE4, so it's no surprise to see Capcom sticking to its guns for the remake. If you loved the puzzles and keycard hunting for locked doors of RE2, you might be a bit disappointed in the lack of puzzles this time around. I missed the more thoughtful aspects involved in finding solutions, and wish Capcom had kept more than the handful of minor puzzles that still remain. To me, the RE series is always at its best when it mixes up the action and puzzles, and because of this Resident Evil 3 can feel a bit one-note in its execution.
That's not to say the game isn't still an absolute joy to play. I loved every minute of my time with it, and the new storyline and encounters felt like a worthy evolution for the remake. If you thought the encounters with Nemesis in the original were harrowing, the remake takes things to some wild new places and significantly changes up the way the big bad operates. For the remake, Nemesis is programmed using the same AI we saw with MR. X in last years game. This means you'll see him popping up randomly throughout and thanks to his increased move-set, Nemesis is an even more terrifying presence than the fedora-wearing baddie from last year. Some of the best moments in the game come from the escalation in the recurring clashes between you and Nemesis as they reach a climax that is brand new for the remake. I won't spoil what happens, but it feels a damn sight cooler than the end of the original and the final Nemesis battle. I always thought the original ended with a bit of a whimper, but this remake fixes that and cranks the Cronenberg dial up to eleven...
While Nemesis may be a more versatile main villain, there was just something so scary about the Tyrant and his knack for showing off when you least expected it in RE2. Nemesis' appearances certainly seems a bit more scripted in nature as he didn't quite feel as prone to showing up like an uninvited guest during the quarantine. While he doesn't seem to show up as unexpectedly as his RE2 counterpart, Nemesis is a much tougher beast to avoid thanks to his ability to leap vast distances and cut you off. He also has several attack types that make him doubly hard to avoid. In the RE2 remake, I found it quite easy to manage the Tyrant and keep him at arm's length, but Nemesis got his tentacles on me several times and quickly showed me the "you died" screen. There's a fair bit of challenge in staying out of his reach, and when he turns up in heavily zombie populated areas, it can be very easy to get overwhelmed and chewed to death. Similarly to RE2, the game offers as Assisted mode, which starts you with a high powered assault rifle, more inventory pickups and reduced enemy health. While I only tested this mode briefly, it's great to see Capcom keeping the game accessible to the less experienced gamers out there.
Resident Evil 3 also throws a lot more ammo at you if you explore the death-filled streets of Racoon City and its landmarks diligently. Where in the past, it was a constant struggle to stay well-equipped, playing on the normal difficulty, I had plenty of ammo and healing items in my stash box by the time the credits rolled. While in practice it makes sense to throw more resources your way, as your headcount will likely be a lot higher than it was in RE2, it does lead to you feeling perhaps a little bit too safe at times. This has an effect throughout as a jump scare when you're pockets are full of shotgun shells, and fire grenades for your launcher don't feel half as scary as it did when you only had two handgun rounds left and no health.
Don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean you won't still die a fair bit, as with the shift to a more action-packed approach comes a lot more undead and mutated creatures to dispatch. The body count is significantly higher than that of last years remake and does an admirable job of getting the blood pumping. The excellent yet disturbing gore effects are back and better than ever. Facing off against a group of walkers with a shotgun is a sight to behold, as their flesh and limbs explode with sickening squelches. Having a zombie rush at you, only to get off a last-minute kill-shot which causes the momentum of their limp corpse to stumble into the player character looks terrific and does an excellent job of giving everything a very tangible feel. It's not something I've seen a lot of in games, but it adds to the overall immersion brilliantly. Similarly placing a bullet in the skull of a standing zombie will see them stagger back off balance, with an extra shot or two casing them to fall slump back with eerie realism. It's a strange thing to spotlight, but the impressive effects and systems at play, from the animation and graphics to the sound all make for a morbidly satisfying sense of realism (or what I imagine to be realistic at least) to the zombie death portrayed on screen.
Although the overall animation is top-notch, it does, unfortunately, suffer a bit in the lip-syncing department. Characters mouths sometimes move like they've just woken up from anesthesia at the dentist, and when the rest of the game looks so great, the slightly off lip-syncing stands out like a sore thumb. Thankfully the voices that come out of those mouths is a lot better than it was in the original. Friends and I have often laughed at the woeful voice-acting in the older RE games, and while they may be brilliant in the campy B-grade way, it just doesn't work too well in modern games. While some of the performances still tread dangerously close to soap-opera territory, they're still a vast improvement on those in the original.
On top of the improvement in voice-acting and dialogue, the remake does a super job of building tension thanks to mostly excellent sound and music. Walking through the city, hearing sirens, moans and overall chaos in the distance, when paired with a score that doubles-down on the sense of dread permeating throughout really adds to the tension. Racoon City feels alive (as alive as a city full of zombies can anyway) thanks to the superb attention to detail. While most of the sound design is on-point, the guns can sound a bit on the weaker side, unfortunately. Similarly shooting objects in the environment doesn't always return a correct corresponding sound. Shooting anything from a corpse to a wall makes a sound, I can only compare to what I imagine it would sound like to shoot a tin can at a carnival. It's a bit odd and definitely feels like someone in the audio programming department forgot to add a few different sound effects. It's a small nitpick, and I think I only really noticed it because everything else works so well.
The updated controls and camera from the RE2 remake are back and feel as good as ever. Gone are the tank-like controls and horrible perspective changes of the original; there are still a couple of strange shifts from first-person to third-person in some moments, which I did feel a bit jarring and unnecessary. Both Jill and Carlos are agile fighters, and thanks to some added mobility are much more adept at avoiding the death-cuddles of the undead locals. Jill can dodge enemies, and when timed just right is rewarded with a brief moment of slowed-down time to squeeze off a couple of well-placed shots. Carlos, being the stronger of the two instead has a bull-rush type shoulder charge which can be used to interrupt an enemy attack with the same time-slow for expertly timed counters. Playing on default settings, aiming and turning does feel a little slow, but once I dialled them all up and adjusted the field of view to be larger, movement feels much faster and less like walking through corridors of waist-high syrup.
The shift to action-horror also means much less time in your inventory. Where past games have seen your inventory opening with each item picked up, RE3 instead places them automatically in any available slot. This leads to less time spent in menus, trying to place items in a jigsaw-like manner, although you will still have to be smart about not carrying too much at any given time. If you try to pick an item up with a full inventory, the game will then open it and allow you to either combine it with an already owned, compatible item or to discard something to make space. Similarly, with the decrease in overall items picked up for puzzles, leads to far less inventory management than before. Making your way through Racoon City is also a breeze thanks to an excellent map. Unexplored areas are highlighted in red on the map screen and only turn blue once you've picked up all items in them. It does an excellent job of informing the player and not wasting your time needlessly searching areas from top to bottom for non-existent items.
Resident Evil 3 mostly retains what made last years entry so great, and while it does represent the series shift into a more action-packed approach, it retains enough of the series DNA to remain a standout entry in the horror genre. While other games have focused on making the player feel powerless, RE3 turns you into a veritable zombie killing machine. This does diminish the sense of fear and terror significantly, but it's a pleasure to feel well-equipped and competent in the face of the zombie horde.
On top of the full base game, Capcom has included a new multiplayer game in the package. Anyone who buys RE3 also gets access to Resident Evil Resistance which comes in the form of a separate download. While I couldn't find a match during days before publishing this review, I did manage to play a bit of the beta, so know more or less what to expect. Capcom has since confirmed that they are having issues with matchmaking on PS4 and PC so hopefully these issues are ironed out in time for release day.
Resident Evil: Resistance sees four players teaming up to try and escape a facility controlled by another player called the Mastermind. It's a mode many will already be familiar with as we've similar iterations in games like Dead by Daylight. The premise is simple and sees you teaming up to try and escape a facility within a set time frame. It's up to the Mastermind player to use all manner of enemies, traps and power-ups to slow the survivors down and stop them from escaping within the time limit.
Playing as the Mastermind allows you to use the map jump between security cameras and plot out the placement of traps and enemies to slow the survivors down. From the security camera perspective, you can assume control of placed enemies, which I always enjoyed, although some of them do control like they are indeed reanimated corpses. You can also use accrued points to get power-ups like adding a machine gun to your camera for a few seconds. It's quite fun in this role and was my preferred way to play RE: Resistance. Playing as a survivor sees you teaming up with three other players and finding keys or items to pass several chokepoints. Each survivor has a unique ability like marking items in their immediate surroundings. Teamwork is essential for success, so it's definitely a game you're going to want to play with friends or other players with mics at the very least.
While it is fun to team up with others in a joint effort to escape and survive, the gameplay involved feels a little bit too by the numbers. There's not a whole lot that sets it apart from other games in the genre and outside of die-hard fans, I can't really see Resistance having the legs needed to maintain a long period of popularity. I don't think anyone is buying RE3 for the multiplayer side, and it's still great to have the option to play with friends. I can't see myself playing the multiplayer more in the future, but I'm sure some will enjoy this part of the full package.
Capcom has once again delivered a faithful remake that takes a sizeable helping of the original DNA and adds enough new elements and gameplay to make it a must-play for fans of the series. It's hard to fault the game in its excellent presentation, and while the multiplayer aspect may not have enough to keep an active community, the campaign alone is well worth the price of entry. Much like the residents of Racoon City, it does occasionally stumble. The incredible visuals, remixed story and scenarios all work excellently and are the perfect way to introduce Nemesis to the new generation. Capcom is leading the game when it comes to remakes, and with their back catalogue still ripe with opportunities for more, I'm excited to see what the company does next. Having just finished RE3 and seeing how well the studio handled its more action-centric gameplay, I'm praying that we finally get a chance to revisit Dino Crisis in similar fashion.
+ Remixed story is well-executed.
+ Nemesis looks more terrifying than ever.
+ Beautiful lighting.
+ Killing zombies feels weighty and satisfying.
- May be a bit action-heavy for fans of the more puzzle-filled entries.