When Capcom revealed that they were going to remake the original Resident Evil games, many fans were fairly skeptical. These are classic games that defined the survival horror genre, and no one wanted Capcom to degrade them in any way. Well, just like last year’s RE2 remake, the new, updated Resident Evil 3 makes another case for great remakes that respect the source material as well as update the core gameplay for a modern audience.
Like the original, RE3 takes a more action-oriented approach. That doesn’t mean that you won’t be solving puzzles or having a lot of eery downtimes, but when compared to Resident Evil 2, those are in less quantity here. The story also has a sense of urgency the previous one didn’t, with the (formerly) titular Nemesis posing a more involved threat than RE2’s slower, more patient Mr. X. You can watch the video review here. So let’s get on with it!
Story and Narrative – Jill Vs Nemesis
Let me talk a little bit about the story, in case you’ve never played the original. Resident Evil 3 follows Jill Valentine a couple of months after the events of the 1st game. In terms of chronology in the larger RE universe, it takes place both before and after the events of last year’s Resident Evil 2. As players of last year’s remake will have noticed, RE3 also tweaks certain narrative decisions so returning players will have plenty of surprises to find.
It starts off with a nice cinematic that sets up the current situation of Raccoon City and the Umbrella corporation. After that, we jump into Jill Valentine’s shoes as she recovers from the traumatic memories from Arklay mountain. We don’t get any recap of the said event though, perhaps deliberately in case, Capcom decides to remake the original game (?). In any case, if you haven’t played the original, then you might find yourself in a confused state in the opening few minutes. But that doesn’t matter as the game wastes no time in putting you in the heat of action. Within the first 10 minutes, you’re already being chased by Nemesis, the T-type bioweapon sent by Umbrella against Jill.
Soon after, you get introduced to the other supporting characters in Carlos, Mikhail, and Nicholai. Throughout the game, there will be moments where you’ll switch perspectives to Carlos. In classic Resident Evil fashion, both perspectives run together at the same time, often preceding or following the events the other character faces. Both are strong on their own with slightly similar playstyles but aside from that, we don’t get much in terms of backstories of motivations. This is especially the case with Carlos, who appears to be more two dimensional here. You can know more about the backstory of the characters with hidden notes lying around the maps, but really that’s more optional.
Gameplay – Classic Resident Evil
Fans of the original PlayStation game will have a blast with the remake. However, not everything should be looked at with nostalgia-filled glasses. I, for example, have never played the original personally. That puts me in a position that most modern players who’ll experience this installment as a brand new one. With that in consideration, this Resident Evil 3 feels more like an extremely fresh game in 2020. That of course, comes with the assumption that you didn’t play last year’s title. In that case, well, it might seem a little too familiar in certain areas.
Like the last game, you’ll find most of your time wandering around darkly lit corridors or streets, trying to put together pieces of a puzzle that’ll grant you access to locked off areas. It’s a linear game, but with tons of replayability and player freedom. I played the opening area (the same one from the demo) about 5-6 times for our performance benchmarks and they weren’t the same experience always. Throughout the map, you’ll find many locked off areas or collectible chests/treasure boxes that need special equipment to access. With just the right amount of open-ends in the map design, it becomes instantly addictive to find and solve those puzzles. Oh, and shooting zombies in the head to never gets old, until you run out of bullets.
How about the scares though? It is a horror game after all, right? Well, the answer can become a little complicated. While there are elements of survival horror that are implemented well, the Nemesis sections do feel more like a straight-up action movie sometimes. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, but there are some sudden changes in tone and pacing once the big bad guy comes around to haunt you. You’ll spend the majority of the game in aforementioned darkly lit areas and that’s where the atmosphere of the game really plays with your psyche.
Exploration – The Beating Heart of RE3
Exploration is the key to, well, not just survival but game progression. The amount of backtracking here isn’t as much as in RE2, but it’s enough to turn you off if you weren’t expecting it. As I said above, you’ll have to constantly explore new and old areas to find the missing pieces of puzzles. And I’m not talking about classic “open this safe for a hidden note” puzzles, but narrative ones. Often times you’ll find your path blocked by locked doors, fallen debris and other exhaustive elements. The only way to get past these roadblocks is to trace your steps back to find more clues on how to progress ahead.
Although the game is quite linear in terms of story progression, the maps don’t strictly adhere to that. You’ll quickly find yourself memorizing map layouts and floor plans as you bounce around the streets/corridors to find the next key or weapon equipment. This is where inventory management comes back into play. Like the classic games of the past, you’ll have to consistently manage what you have in your (invisible) backpack. Be it healing herbs, keys, guns, ammo or mysterious collectibles, you’ll have to make snap decisions in the heat of battle about keeping or discarding them for the greater good.
Performance (PC vs Console)
We played the game on PC and are looking forward to playing the PS4 version when we can.
Performance on the former is really good, holding high (and steady) framerates even on modest graphics cards. For a more detailed performance review check out our deep dive on that.
Update: After playing the PS4 version I can say that most gamers on the platform could have an unbalanced experience. The framerate target is 60fps, but the game’s actual framerate will fluctuate below that for more intense scenes.
Resident Evil 3 makes yet another case for Capcom’s immense talent in updating the classics to a modern standard. Everything from the characters to the visuals, the atmosphere and the addictive gameplay loop here reflect the original game’s big ambitions. The story here gets some nice tweaks along with the freakishly awesome design of Nemesis, which newer players will also find rewarding.