Capcom remakes another PlayStation 1 era Resident Evil on PS4 and Xbox One, but how successful is the return of Jill Valentine and Nemesis?
Everyone has their favourite Resident Evil, whether it’s the original mansion horror, the terror of Mr. X and the Resident Evil 2 police station, or Resident Evil 4’s masterful reinvention of the series. But, especially when considering only the series’ first decade, we don’t think many people would say that Resident Evil 3 was the best one. Central villain Nemesis was certainly memorable but beyond that the game’s contribution to the franchise has been fairly limited, and that goes for the remake just as much as the original.
Given how good last year’s Resident Evil 2 remake was it does make complete sense to try the same trick with its immediate sequel, since both games are set just a few hours apart, after Racoon City is ravaged by the T-virus and almost everyone is turned into a zombie. Obviously, Capcom didn’t know anything about the coronavirus when they first started work on the remake, but apart from a bit of exposition at the beginning it’s barely a factor in the story and Resident Evil is far too shlocky and silly for anyone to take offence.
Like almost all the Resident Evils, the original 1999 game had a fraught development and was originally planned to be merely a standalone expansion to Resident Evil 2. With Code: Veronica – which did much more to move the plot and gameplay forward – a timed Dreamcast exclusive and Resident Evil 4 still years away, Capcom were worried that the franchise would lose visibility on the PlayStation and so Resident Evil 3 was rushed through to completion. And that’s equally as obvious in the remake as it was the first time around.
Resident Evil 3 starts an hour before the events of Resident Evil 2 and ends a little after it, as it follows Jill Valentine, from Resident Evil 1, in her attempts to escape Racoon City and the Nemesis creature that’s been sent to kill her. There’s a neat gameplay twist in how the game starts, that we won’t spoil, but after a brief, mostly on-the-rails, encounter with Nemesis you soon find yourself on the streets of the zombified city, and even revisiting familiar landmarks such as the police station and Gun Shop Kendo.
Resident Evil 3 looks and plays almost identically to the previous remake, right down to the same graphical glitch affecting some reflections, with an over-the-shoulder camera view rather than the original’s pre-rendered, fixed camera angles. The area of city you can explore is very small though, with most roads blocked off with crashed cars and debris, and so everything still works very much like a traditional Resident Evil as you tussle with zombies using only limited ammo and solve absurdly impractical logic puzzles – although there are far less than the original.
Nemesis works like a more athletic and heavily armed Mr. X from Resident Evil 2. Except, for various story reasons, he’s not actually around all the time and if you do the sensible thing and run as soon as he appears you actually see surprisingly little of him. When he is active he can appear anywhere, except when you’re in a safe room, but since all you can do is slow him down there’s zero point hanging around when he turns up, reducing him to more of a mild inconvenience than the unstoppable menace he was intended to be.
As in the original, you also get to play as good-hearted mercenary Carlos Oliveira, but much more than before and to the point where his sections take up at least a third of the game. This only underlines that Jill, and to be honest most Resident Evil characters, doesn’t really have much of a personality and there’s no attempt to portray her as a human being with likes, dislikes, or weaknesses. That’s hardly unusual in video games but considering how well known these characters are, despite them being essentially costumed avatars, it’s a missed opportunity of both remakes.
The script no longer features the hilariously bad dialogue of the originals, although by the time of Resident Evil 3 it had already stopped being borderline incomprehensible and was by 1999 simply bland and cliché. The remake is the modern equivalent of that and while it’s competently written, adding swearing and more nefarious backstories for the villains just comes across like try-hard edginess. Thankfully it doesn’t go overboard, but the last whiffs of old school cheese, which still permeated the Resident Evil 2 remake, are now gone and the game loses a lot of its personality as a result.
The real problem with Resident Evil 3 is that it doesn’t do anything to evolve either the gameplay or the mythos of the franchise. It’s also not at all scary, and it’s telling that the brief return to the police station is by far the most tense sequence in the game. This, and most of the other problems, were also issues with the original game but if anything the remake makes things worse.
The original’s depiction of Racoon City had some very odd art design, that didn’t look anything like a real American city, but there was at least plenty of visual variety. But this remake is a much looser adaption than the one for Resident Evil 2, and many locations just aren’t represented at all, replaced instead by more sewers and other overfamiliar locations cribbed from Resident Evil 2. The majority of the original game was spent only in Racoon City, but here you barely seem to spend any more time on the streets than in the last remake.
The first three Resident Evils all have the same basic plot and structure, but this remake only increases the similarities, to the point where it starts to feel like the video-on-demand knock-off to the cinematic original. Altering the setting for the finale (and getting rid of Jill’s one-liner when she finally defeats Nemesis) is very strange and while it doesn’t ruin anything it’s also nothing you’d count as an improvement.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some things that are improved though, beyond the general gameplay and excellent graphics. There’s a fun Resident Evil 4 style siege towards the end of the game and the story tie-ins to Resident Evil 2 work much better than the original. But there’s also a strange refusal to use QTEs that seems a shame given how good Resident Evil used to be at them, as even when they do pop up they’re extremely simplistic.
The binary decisions that used to appear at certain points in the story have also been removed, so this is now just a straight linear adventure that lasts around 12 hours. That’s longer than a single playthrough of the Resident Evil 2 remake but there’s no real replayability this time, beyond a small collection of unlockables.
Resident Evil Resistance review
The original Resident Evil 3 was even shorter, and it tried to compensate for that with the first incarnation of the popular Mercenaries mode. The remake doesn’t have that but instead features 4 vs. 1 multiplayer mode Resident Evil Resistance. This is a completely separate game, where one person plays as a ‘mastermind’ character laying traps and triggering zombies as four ordinary players try to escape from an Umbrella testing facility.
You’ve only got a limited time to do this, although you can gain more by killing zombies (and lose it for dying yourself). There are also what the game refers to as puzzles, but they really just have you collecting objects scattered at random throughout the game’s four maps. You can buy new weapons and items using in-game currency and while there are loot boxes there doesn’t seem to be any microtransactions.
There’s nothing actively wrong with Resistance but having four people running around like headless chickens in the cramped level designs of a Resident Evil map doesn’t seem the best idea for a multiplayer game. And while it works okay in practice it’s not something we can imagine wanting to go back to in the future. There’s a practice mode you can play on your own, and custom rules you can set-up for playing with friends, so a lot of effort has gone into it, but it’s really just another Resident Evil multiplayer spin-off that you’ll quickly forget about.
The star attraction, pun intended, is the remake of Resident Evil 3 and that has its own problems, many of them not of its own making. At times it barely resembles the PlayStation 1 game, which is fine in theory but what replaces it is just an inferior rerun of the last remake. There’s a tightly designed, almost Metroidvania style structure to Resident Evil 2 that helps make it such a great game, but Resident Evil 3 feels disjointed and uninspired by comparison.
If you were really going to remake the game, and try to fulfil its true potential, you’d probably be looking at some kind of open world adventure closer to a more serious take on Dead Rising. But that’s not what this is. The Resident Evil 3 remake is a fun and breezy survival horror but it’s not scary and it’s never surprising. Which means that, despite all the deviations from the PlayStation 1 version, this is one remake that’s just a bit too similar to the original.
Resident Evil 3 remake review summary
In Short: The source material already had its problems, but this disappointing remake manages to make Resident Evil 3 seem even less inspired than it did originally.
Pros: Excellent graphics and fun action, that’s consistently engaging even when it’s at its most predictable. Project Resistance tries its best to offer a compelling multiplayer experience.
Cons: Nemesis and the Racoon City setting are strangely underplayed, in favour of just rerunning Resident Evil 2. Bland story and characters. Not scary.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC
Developer: Capcom and NeoBards Entertainment
Release Date: 3rd April 2020
Age Rating: 18
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