Although I wouldn’t call myself a super fan, I do quite enjoy the Resident Evil franchise. I’ve played pretty much every main entry in the series, from the very first all the way up to last year’s Resident Evil 2 remake. Shockingly, though, the much-lauded Resident Evil 3 was one of the few I missed out on. I’m familiar with the details, such as the reintroduction of Jill Valentine and the ever-present Nemesis, but most of the title is alien to me. This lapse is part of the reason why I jumped at the chance to cover this remake. The series has never been better, so what better time than now to experience such an iconic chapter?
Taking place concurrently with the events of the last title, Resident Evil 3 thrusts Jill Valentine back into the spotlight. Not far removed from the events at the mansion, Jill has been suspended from S.T.A.R.S. and is getting ready to ditch Raccoon City once and for all. Unfortunately, Umbrella has other plans. Not only has their T-virus spread throughout the city, but a biological killer known as the Nemesis is stalking the young officer. In order to make her escape, she’ll need to work alongside someone affiliated with her greatest foe: Carlos Oliveira, of the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service (UBCS).
Much like past entries, Resident Evil 3 is a well-oiled, B-movie thrill ride. Jill is immediately thrust into action, with her apartment becoming the first battleground against the Nemesis. From there, it’s not long before she meets up with Carlos and the other members of the UBCS. The relationship between the former S.T.A.R.S. member and Carlos is fantastically developed, and it helps that both characters are brimming with personality.
I love how Jill is never portrayed as a damsel-in-distress. She’s no-nonsense, competent, and more than adept at handling the situation. Carlos also stands out as a great supporting character. He is just as capable as his female counterpart but has a slightly sunnier disposition.
If there’s one issue I have with the plot, though, it’s that the last act feels kind of rushed. From the final showdown with the Nemesis to escaping Raccoon City, it all goes by in a blur. A little bit more time with either would have been gone a long way.
Resident Evil 3 carries the franchise even further away from its survival horror roots, too. The remake continues to build off the more action-heavy gameplay that the series has favored in recent years. Like the last re-imagining, the game ditches the tank controls for the much more convenient over-the-shoulder camera. Both Jill and Carlos know how to wield their weaponry, so they are more than adept at handling the undead masses. However, that doesn’t mean either of them are tanks that can bulldoze their way through Raccoon City.
Capcom has done an excellent job of always making you feel like you are in imminent danger. Whether it’s dealing with a herd of regular zombies, or fending off some Hunter Betas in the local hospital, it’s incredibly easy to get overwhelmed. These tense situations are further amplified by the lack of inventory space. The decision between whether to take another herb or box of ammo will drastically change how you approach any situation. It’s in these encounters where the terror of the title shines through – not through a well-timed jump scare or gruesome image, but from the hopelessness that seeps in.
Oh, right, and on top of all that, there’s the Nemesis. The iconic, unstoppable killer from the original game lives up to his reputation in the remake. Even more of a hassle to deal with than Resident Evil 2‘s Mr. X, Nemesis has no shortage of ways to terrorize you.
He can shoot you with a rocket, impale you with a tentacle, or just mash you to pieces with his fist. He’s fast, agile, seemingly impervious, and he makes Raccoon City even more terrifying to escape. And though he doesn’t show up all the time, every single one of his appearances gives an already intense adventure another jolt of terror.
On the whole, Resident Evil 3 feels like the purest distillation of what the series has become in 2020. It still features some of the franchise’s more archaic aspects – the limited inventory space, the strange puzzles in strange locations, the constant ingestion of colorful herbs – but the gameplay has been modernized, and more importantly, drastically improved. The gunplay feels excellent, and moves such as Jill’s dodge and Carlos’ punch add additional depth to things. It’s arguably the most enjoyable entry in the series from a gameplay perspective.
One area which might prove to be polarizing is Resident Evil 3‘s relatively short length. My initial run through the campaign took me around eight hours, and that was with me taking my time. Raccoon City may not be fully open for exploration, but there’s a good amount of information and collectibles to seek out. I can go either way in regard to the length, though.
On the one hand, I do wish there was more to do. From what I can tell, sections of the original game were cut for the remake, and I can’t help but wonder if Capcom could have found a way to fully integrate them. On the other hand, though, the shorter length lends itself to a tighter campaign with an emphasis on replayability. There’s no fluff in the story, and every moment is included for a reason. If I had to give a definitive answer, I’ll take the less drawn-out experience, but you can make the case either way.
Considering how close we are to the end of this console generation, it’s no surprise that Resident Evil 3 looks phenomenal. Raccoon City is depicted in all of its run-down glory. Despite what’s going on in the real world with the coronavirus, I don’t know how a zombie pandemic would actually look, but I have to imagine it’s not far off from what’s on-screen here. I especially love the revision to Jill’s design, though. It keeps some of the touches from the original game but updates her to better suit the character. She’s a tough, badass cop, and she certainly looks the part. Really though, all the character models are great, but it’s Jill’s that stands alone at the top.
Other developers can learn a lot from Capcom when it comes to re-imagining older games. They pulled it off with RE2, and they do it once again with Resident Evil 3. It’s a smart remake that consistently delivers on the action. The gameplay threads the needle between the cheesy thrills the series was built on and the tighter action of the later entries, and although it may not last long, between the different difficulties and hidden secrets, there’s good enough incentive to make repeat trips to Raccoon City. As much as I would like the storied developer to move onto a brand-new chapter in the series, if they keep delivering remakes of this level, it’ll be hard not to keep coming back for more.
This review was based on the Xbox One version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Capcom.
Like a well-oiled machine, Resident Evil 3 delivers a chaotic burst of action in a short amount of time. Capcom has done an excellent job of bringing the classic into the modern era with tight gameplay, gorgeous visuals, and overhauled character designs.