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Resident Evil 3 is a decent horror-action game that falls short of the Resident Evil 2 standard.

Resident Evil 3 Review: A Mutant of a Remake

Resident Evil 3 is a decent horror-action game that falls short of the Resident Evil 2 standard.
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Resident Evil 3 is okay. It does the job. It could be longer, it’d be nice if it had a more open map design, and it feels rushed in a few different ways. However, it’s not bad. It’s a solid B or B-minus of a game, great for a weekend rental, endlessly replayable, and ideal for speed runs.

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My biggest problem with it, frankly, is that I came out of last year’s Resident Evil 2 with a good idea of what I’d want out of a Resident Evil 3 remake, and it definitely wasn’t this. RE3 Remake is a decent horror-action game, and you’d probably like it if you’re coming at it cold, but it’s not as good as the original.

It’s not an unusual problem for the franchise. I argued, back in the day, that the biggest problem that Resident Evil 5 had – aside from, you know, all the racism – was that it was the follow-up to Resident Evil 4. It needed to have at least some of the same lunatic intensity that RE4 did, but instead, it was a muted, comparatively sober deep dive into series continuity. RE5 has aged well — and wasn’t a terrible game  but it was a lousy follow-up to RE4.

The same is true here. If RE3 had come out last year, it’d feel like a solid attempt to recapture the fun wonkiness of late-‘90s survival horror, with some impressive storytelling and great character work. It’s a short, occasionally intense action game with a couple of genuinely memorable sequences.

When compared to the original RE3 or last year’s RE2, however, it can’t live up to the hype.

Resident Evil 3 Review: A Mutant of a Remake

Resident Evil 3 is set in September 1998, on the night before RE2 begins. For the last few days, Raccoon City has been consumed by rioting and street violence that, on the evening of September 28, makes its final descent into a full-blown zombie apocalypse.

Jill Valentine, who’s dealing with PTSD after the events of the original Resident Evil, has been laying low in a cheap apartment for the last month while she prepares to skip town. Unfortunately, now that Raccoon City has caught fire, the Umbrella Corporation takes the opportunity to send a new breed of bio-engineered assassin after her: an eight-foot-tall unstoppable killing machine code-named Nemesis. Jill barely escapes from it, and with the Nemesis in hot pursuit, she has to figure out a way to escape from the city.

I do need to mention here that I’ve cleared the original 1999 Resident Evil 3 more times than I care to admit, and that’s coloring my opinion of its remake.

If I was coming into this from a completely fresh perspective, 2020’s RE3 would likely strike me as decent. It’s well-written, well-acted, and kept my attention all the way through. It’s even got a broad assortment of interesting bonus material, which rewards a few replays. As a modern update to the later era of ’90s-style survival horror, when the balance started to shift more towards pure action, it’s a good time.

However, it also makes a lot of big changes from its source material, and much of them aren’t improvements. The city park and Dead Factory from the original are just gone, the Raccoon City Clock Tower is limited to what amounts to a cameo appearance, and the remake actually adds a short sewer level.

Most of the broad strokes from the original RE3’s storyline are still here, but the new level design doesn’t feel like a natural update the way that RE2‘s environments did. Instead, it mostly comes off like it was done so the developers could reuse assets from RE2, particularly as you approach RE3‘s endgame.

Nemesis himself is a particular weak point. His presence in the original RE3 is arguably why that game has the reputation that it does, and the idea of a next-generation, RE Engine-fueled Nemesis seemed to be on everyone’s mind from the moment they saw how Mr. X worked in 2019’s RE2.

In the original RE3, Nemesis was a constant background threat from the moment he showed up. There was always a chance that any time you entered a new area, he would pop out of nowhere to cancel your Christmas. He has patterns, and you can clown on him if you know how, but he was a terrifying presence on your first run.

In 2020’s RE3, Nemesis only pursues you like he did in the original game for a short period of time near the start. After that, his appearances are limited to heavily scripted chase scenes and boss fights. While some of those sequences are certainly memorable – the bit shown in the trailer where he hunts you with a flamethrower might be the best single section of the game – they can’t help but feel like a letdown compared to the original RE3, or even to the constant menace of Mr. X in 2019’s RE2. In fact, looking at them side-by-side, Mr. X is a better modernization of Nemesis than Nemesis is, and that’s weird.

If you’re as familiar with the 1999 RE3 as I am, the 2020 version feels particularly rushed. You meet Nemesis right away, run into Carlos shortly afterward, and spend the rest of the game running through it at a breakneck pace. Most of the areas in the game are extremely linear, with little need for exploration and all of two real puzzles. Even Nemesis feels like he’s on fast-forward, moving through his various mutations and incarnations so quickly that you can barely register each particular shift.

To be fair, though, RE3 is trying some new things. It’s much more of a straightforward action game than RE2, keeping a lot of the trappings of survival horror while emphasizing RE4-style shoot-’em-up gameplay. You need to be a little careful with your resources, but the game is built to encourage you to blast through anything it puts in front of you.

Jill’s got more health than Leon or Claire did, and while she can’t use defensive items, she does get a useful dodge move. It takes some practice to use it well, but if you duck away from enemies’ attacks with perfect timing, you even get a short window of slow-motion in which to turn around and dump a magazine into the side of an unaware zombie’s head. The timing can be tricky, particularly on higher difficulties when it’s all that’s keeping you alive against some of the bosses, but it feels great when you pull it off.

RE3 does continue the knack for deft character work that Capcom picked up, seemingly out of nowhere, starting with Revelations 2 in 2015. Jill and Carlos make compelling, likable leads, with some surprisingly subtle characterization for both of them considering the sort of story they’re in.

The voice acting is on point, the script is straightforward, the redesigned monsters are gross as hell, and while I have some real questions about the game’s timeline, there’s actually a lot to like here.

The game is short, even by comparison to 2019’s RE2, but RE3 is made with multiple runs in mind. Getting achievements and records in-game gradually earns points you can use to buy new options in an in-game Shop, such as new weapons and items which enhance your basic abilities. Many of those records, like RE2’s, require you to replay the entire game in dramatically different ways, and there are a couple of additional difficulty levels you can unlock that actually reshuffle things like enemy and item placement.

Resident Evil 3 Review — The Bottom Line

  • The shooting and dodging both feel good
  • Some truly memorable and scary scenes
  • The unlockable bonuses do a lot to change up and incentivize replays
  • Too many linear stages and chase sequences
  • Not really an improvement on the original
  • Nemesis is a series of wasted opportunities

Most of my problems with Resident Evil 3, then, aren’t with the game itself, although it could stand to be longer and less linear. There are good ideas here, along with great characters and interesting challenges.

It’s just not much of a remake. Instead, it feels like a 90-minute Hollywood adaptation, where it’s skipped out on a lot of the original work’s texture. It’s another example of the Resident Evil series suffering from an unfortunate sophomore slump.

[Note: A copy of Resident Evil 3 Remake was provided to the writer by GameSkinny for the purpose of this review.]

Resident Evil 3 Review: A Mutant of a Remake
Resident Evil 3 is a decent horror-action game that falls short of the Resident Evil 2 standard.

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Thomas Wilde
Survival horror enthusiast. Veteran of the print era. Comic book nerd.