Capcom has been on a bit of a hot streak lately when it comes to the Resident Evil franchise. It started with 2016’s Resident Evil VII, and then they followed it up with a remake of Resident Evil 2 three years later. Now, they seek to pull off the hat trick in 2020 with a remake of 1999’s Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. It’s certainly a big improvement from it’s 21-year-old counterpart, and while it makes some rather strong opening statements in regard to its story and gameplay, Resident Evil 3 has some glaring faults that keep it from ever reaching the standard of greatness set by its predecessor, resulting in a product that simply feels empty.
What Is It?
Set in September of 1998, you control Jill Valentine as she attempts to flee the zombie-infested Raccoon City while being pursued by the relentless monster known as Nemesis.
If you’re familiar with Resident Evil 2’s controls and gameplay, you should feel right at home here. You’ll shoot, run, and dodge your way through hordes of zombies as you gather key items to help open up other parts of the map. When compared to last year’s Resident Evil 2, the only notable addition in gameplay is the dodge mechanic — a high risk, high reward maneuver that, if timed just right, can create distance between you and your foe, while giving you an opportunity to land some extra damage.
Why Should I Care?
Right off the bat, Resident Evil 3 makes it clear that it is not the same game as Resident Evil 2. While last year’s release had a clear focus on horror, this year’s release is a lot more focused on action. After a high-octane introductory sequence that sees Nemesis pursuing Jill throughout the city, you find yourself in the first explorable level in the game: Raccoon City. It’s the same area featured in the demo, and it’s arguably the best level featured in the game. There’s all kinds of weapons, equipment, and secrets hidden behind every nook and cranny, the map is very open with all kinds of different paths to get you where you want to go; it’s just a really well-designed area, one that made me wonder how they were going to top it.
They never did.
Raccoon City aside, Resident Evil 3’s levels all feel very linear, likely a consequence of the game’s focus on action. Most of the levels in the game don’t really have all that much space to explore, especially when compared to the levels featured in its predecessor. Raccoon City set such a high standard that the rest of the game just couldn’t live up to, and part of that has to do with everyone’s favorite uninvited guest: Nemesis.
The omnipresent threat of Mr. X is part of what made Resident Evil 2 such a memorable experience, and the early parts of Resident Evil 3 do a stellar job of establishing Nemesis as just as big of a threat, if not more. He barges through Jill’s apartment wall, takes seven gunshots to the head without flinching, throws Jill aside, chases her throughout the building, and just when you think you’ve lost him, he comes crashing down through the ceiling to cut you off. He’s depicted as a relentless force that cannot be stopped, and his menacing presence early on made me beg the question “how am I going to get through this?”
It didn’t take too long for my question to receive an answer, and unfortunately, it’s not a very good one. There’s a moment where Nemesis makes his way to the streets of Raccoon City, and starts chasing after you, and at first, he’s a lot to handle. You can’t simply run from him like you can Mr. X; his speed and ranged attacks effectively force you to confront him and knock him down so that you can make your escape while he’s down. Nemesis adds a lot of tension to the early parts of the game, but he ultimately understays his welcome.
After you get out of the Raccoon City streets is when Nemesis ceases being a threat during normal gameplay; he’s now only featured in scripted sequences, or boss fights — the latter of which all boil down to simply pumping him full of lead until he’s defeated. I thought it was a little strange that the story emphasizes how relentless Nemesis is in his pursuit of Jill, when the time you spend playing the game says otherwise. Nemesis was the part of the game I found myself let-down by the most, because as soon as I figured out that big, bad man wasn’t going to be chasing me constantly, the tension started to fade away rather quickly.
This erosion of tension is further emphasized by just how much ammo and consumables are available throughout the map. In the early game, it feels justified thanks to your encounters with Nemesis on the streets of Raccoon City; it’s only natural you’re going to expend a lot of resources while going toe-to-toe with the undead equivalent of a freight train. But the game never scales back the amount of supplies you can find around levels after Nemesis stops chasing you, which results in you being over-prepared for nearly every situation in the game. You can blast your way through hordes of enemies without worrying about wasting ammo because there’s always plenty to be found. How well-equipped you are throughout the game causes whatever remaining tension there was to dissipate, morphing Resident Evil 3 into just another generic, action-based third-person shooter.
Like most other elements of the game, the story starts out strong, but takes a nosedive towards the end. Jill is by far the standout character of the game; she has clear goals, solid motivations, and how dedicated she is to them is emphasized by all of the crazy things she has to do in gameplay. The other main character, Carlos, has a pretty compelling character arc, in addition to having some fun back-and-forth dialogue with Jill. The game’s writing starts delving into questionable territory towards the end of the game, however. Characters start acting very out-of-character with strange decisions, comments, and reactions that simply don’t match up with what we’ve come to know about them.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
In many ways, Resident Evil 3 is a big step up from the 1999 classic. Seeing Raccoon City fully realized using current hardware is amazing; Capcom once again baffles me with how amazing games running on the RE Engine can look. Not only does the game run at a stable 60 frames-per-second on the PlayStation 4 Pro, it doesn’t look like any graphical fidelity was compromised to achieve that goal. Even the smallest details such as hair, bloodstains, and cuts look like they’ve had a great deal of care put into making them look as natural and realistic as possible. All in all, Resident Evil 3 might be one of the best looking, and best performing console games I’ve ever played.
While it’s clearly a step up from it’s progenitor from a technical standpoint, the same just can’t be said for the value it offers. The campaign is short, clocking in at about six hours, but that’s not the problem. There simply isn’t enough content packed into this title. You can unlock alternate costumes, purchase gameplay altering weapons/equipment at an in-game shop, or view 3D models and concept art from the game in a viewer, but these didn’t feel like a large enough incentive to convince me to replay the game. It’s a shame, considering what the original version of the game had to offer.
The original 1999 release offered three endings based on in-game decisions you made, eight epilogues that you had to beat the game eight times for, and even an extra mode that put you in the role of a mercenary. Here, none of that is present. You have one seven hour campaign with mostly linear levels that features one ending, and then achievements or trophies… And that’s about it.
Most Resident Evil games have a knack for being shorter games that are highly replayable, but only the former is true for this one. Resident Evil 3 is a game that starts off with one hell of a first impression; a bigger, badder villain, a great opening level, and an intriguing story all work together to set a high standard for the rest of the game, but try as it might, the rest of the game fails to ever reach that standard, resulting in a final product that feels like an empty, undercooked Jill Sandwich for which you paid sixty dollars.