Jill Valentine and one unforgettable stalker at it again (Image from GamingBolt)
Resident Evil 3 is one of the strangest experiences I can remember having in a long time. It’s a paradox of odd proportions. It is a satisfying…disappointment?
It is both a wonderful re-imagining and update on one of the franchises’s more overlooked main entries, despite it featuring the debut of one of it’s most iconic characters, the Terminator-esque Nemesis, and includes an ending that put a definitive end to one of the series most important locations, Raccoon City.
It features moments that are clear, loving callbacks to the 1999 original yet also features surprising changes and omission of content that I just know fans were chomping at the bit ( pun intended) to see return in a gorgeous new game engine.
To be fair, some of these changes are worthwhile replacements like the fate of one notable character. But then not one but two entire sections of the original game are cut, not to mention a memorable enemy encounter.
Resident Evil 3 (2020) is a game that is both faithful to its original source material like last year’s remake of RE2 yet takes huge,risky divergences that will lead many to very different avenues of opinion on whether those changes were for the best. This remake somehow manages to be the remake I wanted and at the same time, not what I wanted. It’s certainly better than never having it at all, but let me explain as best I can.
RE3 is as best as a I can call it more interquel than sequel despite the number order. It takes place before, during and after the events that transpire in Resident Evil 2. Raccoon City in both games is engulfed in a viral outbreak that transforms most of its citizens into zombies.
RE2 had you play as five survivors looking to escape, two of them being the principal leads Leon Kennedy, a rookie cop on his memorable first day and Claire Redfield, the college student sister to major series lead Chris, who debuted in the original Resident Evil title.
RE3 puts you in the shoes of two more survivors: the main protagonist Jill Valentine, who was the other playable character to choose from in RE1. Joining and assisting Jill is Carlos Oliveira, an uncharacteristically ethical private mercenary working for the same company, Umbrella, that (accidentally) caused the viral outbreak that endangers our heroes.
What makes RE3 generally stand out from the rest of the RE crowd was its focus on Jill being relentlessly hunted by a monstrous figure known as Nemesis. A “bioweapon” from the same family that created the huge,clawed Tyrant of the first game and the hat and trench-coat wearing pain train Mr. X of the second, Nemesis is the smartest and most devious of the three. He is literally dropped into the city with one objective: kill the S.T.A.R.S. of Raccoon City.
For newcomers, the S.T.A.R.S. are a paramilitary police force that were the main figures of the original Resident Evil and were the ones who discovered Umbrella’s dark, secret experiments that create monsters like zombies and tyrants. Jill Valentine just so happens to be a member of S.T.A.R.S. and one of the witnesses to Umbrella’s true nature.
Umbrella sends in Nemesis to ensure that no member of S.T.A.R.S. live to expose to the world their crimes. Unfortunately for Nemy, only two members are left in the city: Jill and Brad Vickers, the team’s helicopter pilot. The other three, consisting of Chris, Rebecca and Barry had already left town before the city’s collapse into chaos.
In a move that will divide the original fans to no end and I would be lying if I’m not of two minds about it, the Remake truncates what was already a brisk experience. Few Resident Evil games are legitimately lengthy in a single run. It’s the alternate playable characters, scenarios and plentiful replay and speed-run opportunities which make RE games so bountiful in the long run.
Due to the original being created first as a spinoff rather than the real third Resident Evil, the classic’s size and content had to adjust to having only one main playable in Jill. There were many clever ways they dealt with that issue.
Beating the game up to eight times would give you epilogue slides which showed the fates of various RE characters in and out of the third game as well as teasing future titles like the next entry, Code Veronica, released the following year.
There were several moments where the game would stop and let the player make a choice that could affect both the narrative and gameplay path that also led to multiple endings. For example, the first one involved Jill deciding whether to face Nemesis after his terrifying introduction or instead to flee into the police station next to her. There were benefits and drawbacks to be discovered through what the developers called “live selection.”
The game would also randomize item locations, puzzle solutions and even when Nemesis could show up both to switch things up on multiple playthroughs and put you even more on edge. There was even rewards for those who had the skill, patience and supplies to fight Nemesis when it wasn’t a mandatory fight and successfully downing him (temporarily) gifted you items and parts to powerful weapons like a flippable shotgun similar to what the Terminator uses in T2.
For a game that had less to offer than REs 1 & 2, 3 in the eyes of many fans did make up the difference pretty well. There was finally an unlockable bonus mode called Mercenaries, which would eventually become a series staple, where the player chose to play as a member of the private mercenary force hired by Umbrella that Carlos is part of. The player would then have to rush through Raccoon City taking out as many enemies as possible within both a time limit and getting to a goalpost.
So, how does the remake honor the 1999 classic’s methods of making up for what is essentially one character’s short but quite eventful fight for survival?
Not nearly as well, I’m afraid. Live selections were strangely taken out, despite the considerable replay value and fun that could be had in old decisions players made being playfully re-imagined in a modern engine. Some fun new ones could have also been created.
Mercenaries mode is entirely cut but that one makes a little more sense as RE3 REmake’s release ships with a brand new multiplayer mode called Project Resistance. It’s absence still stings, especially as RE2’s REmake included the two bonus modes of the original that helped inspire Mercenaries in the first place. T
here are no epilogue slides to unlock whatsoever, entire sections of the game are gone as mentioned earlier and the randomization of items, enemies, puzzles and Nemesis is gone too.
The unlockable high difficulty mode called Nightmare does give you a changed layout of all that thankfully so technically you get that but not in the way I had hoped for. To be fair, I’m at least glad puzzle solutions aren’t randomized any longer as having to figure out a new solution to some of the series’ most confusing and frustrating puzzles is to me the low point of the original.
So, why has the RE3 Remake gone out of its way to remove content and features that fans like myself were so excited to see return? It’s not as if these concepts were too archaic or unable to be translated in modern day. If anything, the original was rather forward thinking when it came to games and having multiple options or devious randomizing of content. RE3 seems strangely, unexpectedly less ambitious than you would think, especially riding off the critical and commercial highs of 2019’s RE2 and 2017’s RE7.
If there was ever a time for RE3 to double down not only on what was already there but expand beyond the original, the time was now. The same time restraints of RE3 99′ were seemingly absent. What happened?
Well, I’m thinking that Project Resistance happened. Capcom, the company that acts as both publisher and developer for Resident Evil, wanted to push the new multiplayer mode based off the foundation of Resident Evil 2 Remake’s design.
Resident Evil 3 was also clearly being favored by the many players who played and enjoyed RE2’s return. There was also the matter of Resident Evil 3 being a “missing link”, the one old RE that hadn’t yet received a modern re-release or recreation. 2000’s Code Veronica hasn’t been remade but the original game has at least been remastered for modern systems.
Capcom saw an opportunity to boost the possibility of people playing Project Resistance by having RE3 receive the much desired remake treatment and to capitalize on RE2 2019’s success. Capcom is also very firm on having their games meet their release deadlines and rarely suffer delays.
People were surprised by how soon the launch days for Resident Evil 7 and RE2 Remake’s were after their crowd-shocking and pleasing E3 annoucements, both coming out the following January.
RE3’s return was during a December PlayStation Experience stream, which surprised everyone once again by it’s announcement happening much sooner than expected and that it would be arriving next April, three and a half months later. As promised and despite a real-world viral outbreak, RE3’s encore arrived on-time.
Perhaps Resident Evil 3’s Remake hit all the development guidelines they wanted to hit. Perhaps this was the vision they had always had for this game. I doubt it. They knew that fans and even critics were very much expecting a certain number of things to return along with Jill, Carlos and Nemesis.
RE2’s remarkable fidelity to it’s original’s amount of content inspired much confidence to say the least. We,more so myself than others, maybe expected even more than what was present twenty years ago.
All my complaining until this point should not at all imply that Resident Evil 3 (2020) is an unmitigated disaster or slap in the face to fans of the past work. There is still, in spite of it all, a lot here that is more than commendable about the new RE3. I did put a “satisfying” in the same sentence as disappointment, after all.
Despite the shorter length, omission of desired content and a pace that honestly seems too fast for its own good at times, Resident Evil 3 is still a well-crafted survival horror game that manages to up the action without losing a legit horror atmosphere, much like the original.
Nemesis remains authentic as a threat to Jill and Carlos and is perhaps even more intimidating than before for the new facet that at times he seems to be purposefully lengthening the “cat and mouse” game. There are several moments where Nemy basically has Jill dead to rights.
He allows Jill just enough time to make either an escape attempt or a counter-attack. He’s not acting stupid. He wants a challenge from Jill and for the “game” to not be over too soon. Mr. X, his tyrant counterpart from the last game, could really care less how short or long it takes to kill Leon or Claire, so long as he does it in the end. More so than the original, this Nemesis wants to have fun with Jill and that is honestly pretty spooky for a guy who never yields from a mean grimace.
For all my praise I will give Nemy for his slight re-characterization and redesign, which I am personally quite cool with, the game still doesn’t take enough advantage of the guy. Considering that Nemesis is likely the first thing people know about this RE entry, you would expect Capcom to go all out on making him a bigger, badder menace than ever before, befitting his legacy.
A legacy so strong, when he appears in one of the otherwise godawful Resident Evil movies, he’s arguably the most visually and behavior-wise accurate thing in that entire film series, only derailed by giving him a stupid,heroic change of heart at the end.
Capcom goes 50% in the right direction. There is only one section of the game where the game allows Nemesis to actually do what he did best in the original: hunt Jill around the game map. And it is glorious. Nemesis is faster than you think based on his size, more brutal with his attacks and can often jump in front of you when you’re running away.
There’s one part of that hunt scenario that put both a shocked expression mixed with a cheeky smile on me. Jill can run into a building hoping to escape Nemesis. In this store, you can look out the window and instead of Nemy following you in, he casually walks up to the window and patiently waits for you while doing some intimidating breathing. He knows there’s no other option other than me going back outside.
He best emphasizes, as he should, the new “dodge” mechanic that is based off of the difficult-to-perform mechanic from the original. At just the right moment before an enemy attacks, Jill and Carlos can respectively execute a stylish dodge and counterattack. Mastering this ability is essential on the higher difficulties.
Again, when it comes to Jill and you scrambling for a safe way to go about your business and survive while Nemesis is on the prowl, there’s only one time that happens. There were certainly more occurrences of that back in a twenty year old PS1 game. They were even able to randomize some of his encounters with ominous music suddenly playing to warn you that once you enter the next area, you better be ready for him.
All the other encounters amount to either highly scripted chase sequences or boss fights and the saving grace of that is that they’re awesome and never fail to make him any less frightening. His first overall appearance in the game is quite different than the original and arguably better if only for the context surrounding it.
The boss fights, while easy to figure out are also quite good and still emphasis how dangerous and clever Nemesis can be, to say nothing of how they best showcase the gorgeously detailed game engine the title runs on. For how quick a single run of the game can be, RE3 is still a visually unforgettable adventure.
The game engine, the same used for RE2 Remake and RE7, does a fantastic job of showcasing a beautifully realized Raccoon City. Another of RE3’s strengths in comparison to its two predecessors was that it showcased the infected metropolis the best. The first took place entirely in a mansion in the middle of a forest while RE2 mostly keeps to a police station, set of sewers and an underground research facility, though the station is the main focus.
RE3 1999 had no set location, rather it was various hub areas of Raccoon that Jill and Carlos venture through while evading Nemesis and a hundred other creatures. It lets you really dig the beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds that were commonplace in the PS1 era, to mitigate the system’s lack of capabilities in rendering compared to Nintendo’s N64.
RE3 REmake, for it’s sad loss of the beloved clock tower and city park areas, nails the overall late 90s’ feel of an American city while still giving it an identity that despite the four generation gap between games, feels complementary to the other.
If it wasn’t for all the dangerous creatures and an evil pharmaceutical company effectively owning/ running the city, I wouldn’t mind visiting Raccoon City. In far better circumstances, I would personally even feel at home there. That perhaps makes the city’s state and ultimate fate all the more tragic, as likely intended.
Another saving grace of RE3 Remake is the overhauled combat focus which manages not to forsake the survival horror mentality, like the divisive, even hated fifth and sixth games. The puzzles are less numerous and difficult. Only two had any real effort needed in figuring them out. In the place of that kind of depth comes a depth in really understanding your finding and storing of items and knowing when it is the best time to use them.
RE1 and 2,old and new, have a more exploratory framing that still involves careful survival considerations. RE3, more so the new than the old, doubles down on the need to be ready to fight. There is still plenty of moments where you’re advised to circumvent and get around the enemy as is survival horror convention. But there are more enemies, stronger enemies. There is Nemesis. More so than other REs, the motto is “prepare or die”. And for the more experienced players,” do that but also faster.”
RE3 REmake does include replay value, don’t get it twisted. It is not really the value that was expected of, but much like Jill and Carlos’ situation, it’s a case of take what you can get.
For beating the game on “Hardcore”, the default hard option, you unlock the aforementioned “Nightmare”, where not only are you weaker and the enemies faster and stronger, they are also in different places as is your precious resources and weapons. Once you beat Nightmare, you unlock “Inferno” which ramps up the challenge even further, and gives you a limited amount of times to save your game.
If that isn’t enough, there is a shop where “records”, feats performed ingame that range from beating the game to number of enemies slain to some clever little things that can be done like speak to this jerk of a person three times, can give you rewards. Rewards in the form of unlocked viewable models of characters/enemies and concept art which is decent incentive on its own merits.
You also earn points which can unlock a considerable number of bonus items like unlockable costumes for Jill, new powerful weapons, and items that can seriously improve your chances. I would dare say that many of these unlockable items are essential for beating the harder difficulties, especially within a certain time limit, which itself garners further rewards in models and art, not just bragging rights.
All of this bonus content is practically the same as RE2 Remake’s “record” system, which was an ingenious and successful system to push me to 100% the game, culminating in me unlocking a Resident Evil tradition since day one: the infinite rocket launcher. In this remake’s case, you can by that weapon with a lot of points and you might just need it if you want to overcome RE3 2020’s greatest challenges.
I suppose in the end, that is enough for now when it comes to the new RE3 offering you something once you have gotten Jill and Carlos to safety the first time. That being said, I cannot shake my dismay at what was lost in re-translation. From the minute I saw last December RE3’s premiere trailer, I was so stoked to see that game get the same loving treatment as my 2019 Game of the year.
In the end, I would say half the time it is that game and half the time it isn’t, though I would be lying if the whole somewhat sparse package isn’t still pretty great. Of course, it’s possible that post launch support in the form of DLC content could resolve some of the issues of the base product.
Resident Evil 7 received a big single-player expansion called Not a Hero for free among other offerings that further colored in the main game’s lore and story. RE2 Remake also had a free DLC called Ghost Survivors which involved what-if scenarios for characters that did not survive the events of the game.
Perhaps considering the high price tag of $60 dollars at launch and the economic trials occurring during the COVID-19 outbreak, it would behoove Capcom to not only consider substantial DLC additions, but make them cheaper if not free. Resident Evil 3’s remake could become a bigger, better liked entry in the franchise, with the only true price having to wait a little longer to see that true potential come forward.
If I was in the development process for RE3 after launch, I would go beyond new cosmetic options like more costumes and weapons for Jill and Carlos.
How about another round of Ghost Survivor stories for the characters in this game that didn’t make it? Why not have a DLC where you get to play as Nemesis himself? Add Mercenaries. Maybe even craft entirely new full-length scenarios where other S.T.A.R.S. members take the place of Jill like the ones mentioned having left RC before the outbreak began. All I’m saying is that Capcom is not lacking for options for making up what is lacking as of this writing.
I should end this review/rant on a positive note as ultimately against all odds I feel better about RE3’s return than I feel bad. There is a love for the original that shines through. It’s an endorsement for what works in the game that I wish and maybe will get more of RE3 as it could be, rather than it is.
Perhaps one day, Resident Evil 3 will truly and unmistakably shoot for the stars.
For your listening enjoyment, the end credits score for both RE3s.