Last year, Capcom finally released the long-anticipated remake of the seminal survival-horror classic, Resident Evil 2. A game that both managed to please longtime lovers of the original while also introducing the haunted halls of the RCPD to a whole new generation. Later that same year, Capcom surprised the world when they revealed that not only had they been working on Resident Evil 2, they had yet another remake in the works: Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, now simply titled Resident Evil 3.
Just as it was in 1999, Resident Evil 3 doesn’t come close to matching the quality of its predecessor, but rather manages to creatively recycle ideas into something that manages to be a brilliant companion piece to last year’s outing that, while not the reimagining die-hard fans were hoping for in some respects, is yet another hit in the making for Capcom.
Resident Evil 3’s plot is the bread that makes up a Resident Evil 2 sandwich. Taking place both before and after Leon and Claire’s nightmarish trek through a police station overrun with zombies and monsters, players are put in the shoes of S.T.A.R.S operative Jill Valentine as she attempts to escape a city that’s overrun with Umbrella’s experimental T-Virus run amok. Standing between Jill and her freedom though is a terrifyingly gargantuan bio-weapon — dubbed Nemesis — that’s hunting those who threaten to expose Umbrella’s unethical experiments.
Resident Evil 3, similar to the original game, is much shorter than last year’s Resident Evil 2, giving you one campaign only that will take you around 8 hours to complete on the normal difficulty. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis encouraged replay value by offering choices at certain junctures — called “live selection” — that changed your route depending on the choices you made.
This is a feature that has been axed from Resident Evil 3, but this new direction has allowed Capcom to create a game that barely gives you a chance to breathe while also giving time to expand the original’s small cast of characters.
Jill Valentine is perhaps the most human she has ever been in the franchise’s history, and even though she’s more than capable of dodging her relentless stalker, you can tell that the Umbrella Corporation has forever changed her, evidenced in the opening moments where you’re allowed to explore Jill’s apartment where pill bottles lay strewn about and alcohol lines the shelves of her fridge.
Despite this though, Jill manages to push through her trauma, throwing herself into danger to protect what little remains of the living citizens of Raccoon City. This little goes a long way in giving Jill some character instead of just being a “bad ass,” even though she has plenty of moments where she very much is one.
The game’s other protagonist, Umbrella mercenary Carlos Olivera, easily tops the somewhat one-note counterpart from the original game, often stealing the show in the few segments where you get to take control of him. Like Jill, Carlos is altruistic to a fault, never once wavering in his goal to help those in need.
Carlos’ arc comes from the revelation that the company that he initially thought sent him into help was the catalyst for the mission in the first place. Even as he learns of this deception though, Carlos’ own moral compass never wavers. And though he has since shown up in more live-action films than video games, it makes you hope that this version of Carlos will make an appearance somewhere in a future Resident Evil game.
For those who spent hours running through the RCPD, sewers, and NEST lab that made up Resident Evil 2, you’ll have little trouble picking up Resident Evil 3 as the basic functions of the game, down to the menu for inventory management, remains unchanged. As Jill is a highly trained operative, she’s more capable in handling herself than either Leon or Claire, and this is represented through the new dodge mechanic.
Tapping the right trigger button allows Jill to slide away from enemy attacks, and when timed right, opens enemies up to some free hits. This doesn’t mean that this makes the game any easier though, as the timing window is very difficult to master, and when necessary, it’s best to avoid enemies when at all possible.
Resident Evil 3 is not without its scares as there’s plenty of dark corners, sewer tunnels, and a maze full of bug-like creatures waiting to drop down on your from above ready to eat up your precious healing resources.
There’s a much greater emphasis on action this time around though, which may be disappointing to some, and on the normal difficulty there always seems to be just enough ammo to let you power through. As higher difficulties unlock by completing the game, much more challenging difficulties eventually become available to appease survival-horror purists.
Jill is going to need every piece of ammo that she can find as the Nemesis is always watching, just waiting to strike. Nemesis is just as terrifying as Mr. X from last year’s Resident Evil 2, with the main difference between the two being how nimble Nemesis is for his size.
When the black clad bio-weapon appears, it’s best to turn tail and run, but know that he will leap in front of you, pounding you into the ground with his mighty fists or tripping you to the ground with a whip-like tentacle.
What’s disappointing about Nemesis though, and why his name was probably taken out of the title, that he doesn’t stick around to hunt you for as long as Mr. X does, or even as long as the 1999 game. He never disappears from the game, but encounters with Nemesis quickly become more scripted. It eliminates the tension you get from the opening area where you’re unsure just when his gruesome face will make an appearance.
Throughout the game, Nemesis never once ceases to be a threat, and makes for terrific boss fights as he continues to mutate, but you’ll wish that he stuck around in the way you remember him best just a little whole longer.
The updated version of Resident Evil 3 uses similar areas as the original, but this feels like more of a full on overhaul compared to Resident Evil 2 which stuck much closer to the blueprints of the original. An area that made up a memorable portion of the 1999 title can only be seen from the outside here for example.
There’s also a distinct lack of puzzles, but this is mostly made up for with Resident Evil 3’s terrific map design that’s begging for you to speed run through it with plenty of incentive to do so.
If you’re just looking at the time it gets through Resident Evil 3 on your first go around, you might feel that it doesn’t justify its price tag. Even though it comes paired with the asymmetrical multiplayer game: Resident Evil: Resistance.
Resident Evil 3’s value comes from digging into its shop system. As you complete challenges like getting through the game with a certain grade, killing a set number of enemies with a specific type of weapon, or hunting down collectibles like files and Charlie dolls, you earn currency which can then be spent on things like powerful weapons, coins that when equipped buff your character, and items that allow you to sequence break entire sections.
Once you start digging into this, Resident Evil 3 becomes highly addictive as you keep running through it over and over, bypassing whole sections just to shave entire minutes off of your previous time to unlock things like Jill’s classic outfit and a knife that can light enemies on fire.
Like the last two Resident Evil games and Devil May Cry 5, Resident Evil 3 is powered by the RE Engine and once again looks stunning from the photo realistic characters to the chaotic streets of Raccoon City. There’s new areas to explore and creatures to contend with, including a few powerful new zombie types. But you can also expect to see a lot of familiar recycled assets too.
It’s hard not to notice that every zombie you come up against are the same that hungered for you in the RCPD, but this is to be expected given how again like the original, it parallels the events of Resident Evil 2. If you can, play with a good set of headphones and expect to skyrocket through your ceiling once Nemesis starts to explode through walls.
Resident Evil 3 manages to build upon Resident Evil 2’s foundation with enough new ideas of its own to allow it to have its own identity. It never reaches the highs of its predecessor, but still makes for a wonderful companion piece.
When played with Resident Evil 2, it’s a wonderful retelling of the downfall of Raccoon City. For those expecting an extended campaign, Resident Evil 3 will assuredly disappoint. But for those who really dig into its systems, levels, and nuances, it can be a title you can sink dozens of hours into. Between 2017’s Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and now two expertly crafted remakes, it’s a great time to be a fan of Resident Evil.
Resident Evil 3 is now available on the PS4 and Xbox One. This review is based off a copy of the game purchased at retail.
Resident Evil 3
- Depth given to established characters
- Level design
- Systems that provide lots of replay incentive
- Environment, sound and creature design
- Length may disappoint some
- Frequency of scripted Nemesis encounters
- Reused assets, in particular zombie types