When Capcom announced Resident Evil 3 Remake late last year, I was juiced. Despite the PS1 original’s shortcomings, I have a particular fondness for it–a love rooted in a youth spent organically discovering its charms shortly after the release of Resident Evil 4. With my rose-tinted passion for the game, I expected that I’d be partial to what Capcom is doing with its reimagining of RE3, especially after last year’s incredible Resident Evil 2 Remake, but I still had some concerns. Chief among them: how could Capcom hope to reinvigorate another classic Resident Evil game so soon? Not only that, but one that’s mostly a point-five-sequel that branched off in a more action-focused direction? After playing a few hours of RE3 at a preview event, I found that the answer is once again by creatively reinterpreting the original’s legacy.
Set before and after the second game, RE3 has you playing as fan-favorite protagonist S.T.A.R.S. officer Jill Valentine, as she struggles to find a way out of Raccoon City at the onset of the T-Virus outbreak. With zombies lurking, that’s a big ask, and it gets worse when Jill realizes she’s being hunted by a Tyrant-like Umbrella bioweapon known as the Nemesis.
There’s a welcome familiarity to RE3, not only because it’s a reimagining of something that came before, but because of how it was only a year ago that we experienced Resident Evil in this form. You can tell that RE3 is built on the foundation of RE2, but even with identical assets and mechanics, RE3’s exciting potential is in how steadfast it is in re-envisioning the spirit and design of the original, while also making it feel like a fresh, yet iterative sequel to its predecessor. Iconic events and locations are revamped, the action has been elevated, and the infamous Nemesis has been reborn with a menacing unpredictability. At times, RE3 feels like a second go-around at RE2–as it should, to a degree–but the more I played, the clearer it became that it’s shaping up to be more than that.
This preview will focus primarily on my time spent with the RE3 campaign. We also got to play Resident Evil Resistance, a standalone asymmetrical multiplayer game packaged alongside it. But aside from a couple of new characters, much of it remains the same as what we previously played and discussed in our initial impressions a few months back, which you can watch in our Resident Evil Resistance preview.
A Deeply Reimagined Raccoon City
At the start of my demo, I was immediately thrown into the pandemonium of Raccoon City’s streets. A wave of death had recently washed across most of the city, and in its wake, I found nothing but abandoned storefronts and the shambling undead. Like its predecessor, RE3 focuses on reimagining the events of its source material rather than creating a 1:1 remake. Circumstances and objectives are similar to their original counterparts, but everything in-between is drastically different. As Jill, I once again had to reactivate a substation to power a train car to get out of Racoon City. However, the journey to doing so involved a new series of areas to explore and puzzles to solve.
RE3’s Racoon City is larger in scale than RE2’s labyrinthian environments, but the few pathways remaining in between the barricades still felt like cramped, dangerous corridors capable of trapping me as punishment for overconfidence and curiosity. It’s unclear if more spacious areas await later on, but in the span of a few minutes, I made my way through several alleyways and shops, like a drugstore and a ’50s era-inspired donut shop. Diverse areas like this already make Raccoon City stand out from the bleak damaged urban backdrop it was in the original.
Dread and panic hung over me in my efforts to navigate each area, which made exploring Racoon City feel urgent and unpredictable. Dead bodies littered the streets, but I wondered, would one rise to meet me? And what about the other threats I couldn’t readily perceive just outside my view in the open night air? Those uncertainties gripped me just like they had when this premise first appeared in the PS1 original. As someone familiar with that game, RE3’s reimagined moments also kept me on my toes. The trip to the substation, for instance, yielded no power regulator puzzle as it did in 1999, but an area infested with what I assume to be this game’s interpretation of the Drain Deimos, which can now reach inside your mouth and shove its insect babies down your throat. Gross.
There were also plenty of classic Resident Evil resource-gathering moments where I had to consider whether to grab supplies, imagine how I could go back to get them if I didn’t take them, and then weigh the odds of my ability to nab them without getting hurt. While RE3 hurries you through numerous terrifying locales, there’s time to backtrack and get what you need along the way. You’re still incentivized to explore, though the game encourages you to do so more hastily.
It’s hard to go into much more specifics about the changes without ruining the surprise of it all, but know that this version of RE3 takes far more liberties in twisting and retooling events, making the descent into a mid-outbreak Raccoon City feel fresh, believable, and exciting. Where the early goings of RE2 instilled a sense of warmth with the familiar yet subtly remixed hallways of the Raccoon City Police Department, RE3 seems to displace further your sense of safety and nostalgia with a world that barely resembles the one you might remember.
More Action-Packed, But Still Survival-Horror
Admittedly, all this talk about how RE3 compares to the original probably matters little to newcomers to the series, and that’s fine. The additions and refinements made to RE3 from RE2 are proving substantial enough for a return visit to Racoon City, regardless of whether you’re familiar with the series’ extensive history.
There’s a greater emphasis on action compared to RE2 with more zombies populating areas. It never approaches horde-level numbers, but the increase in the undead coming at you on all sides is enough to feel overwhelming. The ones you’ve killed (and not decapitated) are also more prone to getting back up over time. Fortunately, you seem to get just enough ammo and gunpowder to accommodate this shift in pace, as well as a diverse arsenal of weapons that become available far sooner than in RE2 to help deal with the substantial threats lurking in the city streets. There’s also a multi-directional dodge maneuver that can help you slip past enemies, which, when timed right, allows you to perform a brief slow-motion headshot on the creature you evaded, should you choose to do so.
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