Revived but short lived…
Riding high off the remarkable success of 2019’s Resident Evil 2 remake, Capcom unsurprisingly decided to capitalize off its universal acclaim and critical reception, through the release of 2020’s remake of Resident Evil 3. The original Resident Evil 3 was released in tandem with its predecessor, complimenting off one another to craft a fully realized notion of perspective. The remake of Resident Evil 3 follows the theoretical footsteps of the original, releasing only a year after its predecessor and offering a sliver of perspective on the concurrent events in Raccoon City. Resident Evil 3 had a lot to live up to, not only as the follow up to one of the greatest remakes of all-time, but also as a remake of a beloved entry to this renowned series. The 2020 remake is one of the most streamlined experiences in the series, trimming a significant amount of stapled conventions and mechanics, while funneling the player down a narrow, scripted path. This results in a straightforward experience that is consistently engaging, putting a heavier emphasis on action and scripted set pieces, but loses fundamental components of Resident Evil’s eccentric DNA. Its lack of meaningful exploration, backtracking, puzzles, and unsettling aura of terror dampen the experience significantly. A large amount of content was removed from the original and the titular Nemesis is relegated to scripted encounters, lacking the unexpecting sense of terror and dread that Mr. X brought to Resident Evil 2. On its own merit, Resident Evil 3 is an engaging action title that is exceptionally gorgeous and an absolute blast to play. Due to its linear stature, Resident Evil 3’s pacing is deliberately efficient and consistently engaging, resulting in arguably the most efficiently paced Resident Evil experience to date. Granted, Resident Evil 3 is unable to live up to either its predecessor or original due to its omissive nature and obtuse creative design, all of which hold it back from the greatness it easily could have achieved.
This iteration of Resident Evil 3 is exceptionally well directed and produced, exuding a remarkable level of orchestrated quality and deliberation. Its narrative is tightly focused and surprisingly straightforward, given the series’ typical convoluted exposition. Jill Valentine continues to be such an excellent character given her tangibility and charismatic nature. We see her suffering from PTSD – in correlation to her experience in the first Resident Evil – adding a welcomed sense of vulnerability and empathy to her character. Her witty rapport with Carlos, while cringey at times, is endearing and entertaining, with their chemistry being a notable improvement over the stiff interactions between Leon and Claire. Certain elements, however, have difficulty sticking their landing. For instance, with Carlos serving under UBCS (Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service), his discovery of Umbrella’s true monstrous nature has no empathetic value whatsoever; with Umbrella being a known sinister entity for over a decade, expecting this reveal to have any emotive value is downright laughable. From a presentation standpoint, Resident Evil 3 is exceptional with little to complain about. Resident Evil 3 is easily one of the best-looking games of the year and of the generation. The RE Engine continues to defy insurmountable expectations, arguably being the best engine utilized for third-party titles. Its detailed implementation was impressive in Resident Evil 7 in 2017, and remarkably refined for Devil May Cry V and Resident Evil 2 in 2019. By some miraculous intervention, Resident Evil 3 manages to look even better than the immaculate graphical prowess exemplified last year. Raccoon City is one of the most gorgeously detailed vistas of the generation, with its exceptional display of reflective lighting crafting a pristine level of unparalleled detail. On top of its surreal environments and immersive defining detail, Resident Evil 3’s character models and facial animation are top notch, lending a realistic touch to its cinematic quality. While its level of perpetual fear and terror is less prominent due to its heavier reliance on action, Resident Evil 3’s atmospheric aura still evokes an unsettling sensation that pays homage to the masterful craft of its predecessor. In cadence to the franchise’s expected structure, Resident Evil 3’s sound design is also an exceptional work of art, sculpting the sole remaining element of its survival horror roots.
Let’s get the positive out of the way first. Resident Evil 3 is some of the most fun I have had with the series. It is consistently engaging and a conspicuous genre bridge between the survival horror foundation of Resident Evil 2 to the bombastic action of Resident Evil 4 – it truly feels like the natural evolution and transformation of its gameplay. Resident Evil 3 essentially sacrifices its iconic horror foundation in exchange for accessible fun, which surprisingly works in its favor. Its notable lack of ammo scarcity and improved sense of capability result in a more controlled experience that is resoundingly more enjoyable from an action gameplay perspective. Resident Evil 3 also introduces an extremely useful dodge mechanic which results in a counterattack or slow-motion precision when timed correctly, further catering to a superior sense of control and mobility. Set pieces are bombastic and frantic, creating a profound level of scale and intensity that the series would continue to replicate through each iteration. The Nemesis encounters, in particular, result in breath-taking set pieces that range from destructive escape sequences to intense confrontations. Nemesis is the titular villain of the classic Resident Evil 3, so it is undoubtedly nice to see his scripted encounters adapted in such adequate fashion. Additionally, Resident Evil 3 has an impressive level of enemy variety to consistently keep you on edge, with certain encounters exuding profound instances of tension and routing back to the stapled survival horror framework. Aside from one enemy type that would consistently kill me in one hit, Resident Evil 3 has very few moments of frustration, which is an unfortunate commonplace for the series. I cannot even begin to express my frustration with the Mr. X boss fight in Resident Evil 2 – where I had insufficient ammunition and health items to complete the encounter. Every element, resource, and encounter is placed deliberately in Resident Evil 3 to maintain a balanced sense of flow and cohesion, all of which cultivate into an exceptionally coherent and enjoyable gameplay experience. While typewriters are still available to perform manual saves, Resident Evil 3 also has a reliable autosave mechanic, eliminating any expected sense of tension and further cementing its less frustrating nature.
While there are a number of elements in Resident Evil 3 worthy of praise, there are just as many questionable decisions that hinder the overall experience. Resident Evil 3’s primary focus on action and suspense, instead of survival horror, creates an inevitable sense of identity dissociation – losing an integral strain of the core Resident Evil DNA. Its general lack of tension, due to this newly adopted structure, adds to this residual feeling disconnection. Given the game’s more linear structure, a notable lack of exploration becomes quickly apparent. While the first two Resident Evil games had sole locations that could be explored throughout different stages of the story, it ultimately felt like an enthralling labyrinth that had something new and discoverable behind every corner. You could either get lost in the winding paths of its beguiling structure or master its deliberate intricacies, resulting a remarkably compelling and rewarding experience. While you are able to explore the remnants of Raccoon City and the General Hospital in Resident Evil 3, these minor exploration segments pale in comparison to the sprawling nature of its predecessor’s labyrinths of awe. With a minimal reliance on backtracking and rewarding secrets to find, Resident Evil 3 lacks the ingenuity of discovery that is a staple for the series. On top of the lack of exploration, the remake practically removes puzzles, a deliberate decision to progress the narrative forward and prevent any delay towards the established pacing. With puzzles normally relying heavily on exploration, backtracking, and uncovering secrets, the decreased emphasis on these elements would naturally result in the omission of puzzles. As with its explorative counterpart, puzzles are also an established crux of the Resident Evil formula and their omission is downright criminal, especially since the original Resident Evil 3 had significantly more. Additionally, a significant amount of content from the original was removed for this remake – the cemetery, clock tower, and Raccoon Park have been removed entirely for some notable reason. The questionably cut content, lack of puzzles, and deemphasis on exploration and backtracking unsurprisingly results in a relatively short game. My final clear time was about five and a half hours – although my total playtime was around seven and a half. With the short playtime, exuberant amount of cut content, and general lack of replayability, it is difficult to recommend Resident Evil 3 as a full priced game. Adding onto its severe lack of replayability, the remake also removed the original’s live selection feature. This feature not only added a welcomed layer of player agency but allowed players to slightly alter the narrative based on their decisions, encouraging multiple playthroughs to see the outcome of different decisions. While Nemesis’ scripted nature fundamentally works for the intentional boss encounters and set pieces, he simultaneously feels restricted and underutilized. Aside from his initial encounter in Raccoon City, encountering Nemesis is purely scripted and lacks an expected sense of terror and unpredictability. The sporadic encounters with Mr. X in Resident Evil 2 were profoundly unnerving and given his unpredictable nature, there was seldom a moment of safety. Nemesis shares none of the menacing qualities of Mr. X, when he rightfully should, and his predictable and scripted nature is an undeniable disappointment. There are additional segments where you take control of Carlos; these character switches are relatively underwhelming, with one particular segment serving no narrative purpose whatsoever. Adding insult to injury, this segment takes place in the RPD station which is a replicated asset from last year’s Resident Evil 2.
Resident Evil 3 is a very good game – it is the most mechanically sound Resident Evil experience to date, its action is palpable and addicting, and its production value and pacing are downright remarkable. Each element executed correctly cultivate it into such an extraordinarily enjoyable experience. Its opening set piece was an absolute adrenaline rush of chaos and intensity and appropriately sets the stage for the experience that follows. Despite its many highlights, a bevy of disappointing factors prevent Resident Evil 3 from reaching the monumental heights of its predecessor and original. The questionable decision to cut substantial amounts of content, Nemesis’ scripted and disappointingly restrictive design, its notably short length, and insulting display of reused assets, Resident Evil 3 fails to live up to expectations through a myriad of issues that were easily preventable. On its own merit, this is still one of the best action games of the year and an absolute masterclass in terms of graphical fidelity. Resident Evil 3 is exceptionally engaging and exquisitely enthralling, but ultimately stumbles as it wrestles with the established conventions of the franchise.