Horror stays home
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Who’d have guessed it would happen so soon? A remake of another RE classic, coming hot off the heels of 2019’s RE2. Anticipation was high since the reveal trailer back in December.
After playing it, the end result is another remake that captures the essence of the original while bringing it into the modern era. Several gameplay elements have been improved upon since 2019’s RE2. And although it falls flat in certain areas, Resident Evil 3 is pretty much a must-play for any RE and survival horror fan.
For those that never tried the original, RE3 is a direct continuation from the stories of the first two games. OG heroine Jill Valentine is traumatised by the events that killed most of her colleagues several months ago. And from the outset, RE3’s attention to detail with its level design is striking: Prescription bottles litter Jill’s messy apartment, and she’s haunted from the outset by disturbing nightmares.
The first 20 minutes or so are exhilarating, and easily on par with any big-name action movie excitement. The excellent level design continues throughout. The game keeps its original 1998 setting without shoving the retro-goodness down the player’s throat. Boxy CRT computer monitors and references on subway posters always keep the player grounded in the setting.
Presentation: Graphical perfection
The graphics are astonishing, and it’s clear Capcom keeps refining its proprietary RE Engine. Facial details and environmental effects like fire look particularly good whatever system you’re playing on. The voice acting is also top notch, and it’s clear the games are grounded in a more sombre tone now.
The revamped Jill Valentine feels more realistic than ever. Her Sarah Connor-like, survivalist look and personality make her very likeable. The hints at her depression and anxiety, as well as her relationship with teammates like Brad and Carlos, are nicely woven into the game’s story.
And with survival horror arguably depending as much on sound design as visuals, RE3 does not disappoint in that regard. The mostly minimalist backdrop adds to the creepy, doom-laden feel of the game without overstaying its welcome. A particularly great track is the one that starts playing as Jill leaves the subway station.
Gameplay: Jill’s new moves
What’s also clear is that Resident Evil has swung back to its survival horror roots. This was apparent from RE7’s (2017) tagline “Horror comes home”. And the subsequent remakes of the original games have also had a strong focus on fear and suspense over guns-blazing action.
The original RE3 was more action focused than the first two games, and there are definitely some scenes that stray far from survival horror. But the bulk of the game, where you’re deciding whether it’s worth dropping a healing herb to carry more ammo, or watching a zombie stumble out of a tight, dark alley, is true to the series’ roots.
A welcome addition to character movement is Jill’s dodge. And you’re going to need it, especially when facing the game’s notorious bad guy, Nemesis. He makes the already terrifying Mr. X from RE2 look like a toddler in comparison, and chances are he’s going to kill you a lot at first.
A hidden easter egg in the game’s demo rewarded players for successfully dodging, which seemed almost like training for the full release. It’s extremely satisfying to execute a perfect dodge just as a zombie or Nemesis is about to grab you, with a slick animation showing you’ve done it right.
Short but satisfying
On the subject of Nemesis, a lot of fans are disappointed at his relegation to mostly being set dressing. Apart from a couple of early sections where he stalks you through the streets, most of your encounters with him will be cutscenes or scripted boss battles.
If you’re a big fan of the original RE3, where Nemesis’ appearance felt far more random and frequent, this may disappoint you. On the other hand, if you found Mr. X appearing out of nowhere in 2019’s RE2 annoying, this might be something of a relief.
Another major gripe for most people is the game length. This is a full-price AAA title, costing US$60 and £50 in the UK. You do also get the asymmetric multiplayer game Resident Evil Resistance, which I’m personally having a lot of fun with, but it’s not for everyone.
In any case, it took me around 5-6 hours to complete the game on my first playthrough. I certainly didn’t rush, either, taking my time with exploring each area when I wasn’t defending myself against the undead.
The post-game unlockables include a new outfit for Jill, various health and combat upgrades, and infinite weapons. Plus, there are Nightmare and Inferno difficulty modes for the truly hardcore players.
Summary: A short but super satisfying RE experience
If you’re not into the idea of the multiplayer Resistance mode and don’t like replaying games, RE3 could be a tough sell at its high price point.
A single playthrough can be achieved in a single night no problem. And while there are some post-game unlockables, essentially you’ll be retreading old ground. Certain removed scenes from the original and Nemesis also being cut back will sting for some veteran players.
That said, this game is short but very sweet, with superb presentation and gameplay. If you’re a fan of Resident Evil, this new take on series veteran Jill Valentine is truly unmissable. It doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of the wonderful RE2 remake from last year, mainly because it doesn’t have two campaigns and B scenarios.
But it’s still a solid experience that should satisfy any survival horror fan.