Review: Resident Evil 3 (2020)

Resident Evil 3 Review

Note: This review only pertains to Resident Evil 3 and not Resident Evil: Resistance. Please look forward to our review of that title soon.

When the Resident Evil 2 remake released last year, ecstatic isn’t quite strong enough a word to describe my feelings about it. From the presentation, enjoyable gameplay, to the faithfulness of the overall adaptation of the original — I was over the moon with it and proudly proclaimed that it was “the best Resident Evil game ever made, full stop.” I still stand by that, although I do acknowledge many of the gripes fans had with it at release. Frustrations over cut content from the original and a lack of a true 2nd scenario are things I can completely understand as being major disappointments. Personally, I found the general trim around RE2’s edges to be negligible due to the sheer jaw-dropping quality of the overall package. I reference my feelings for the remake of RE2 because I feel they directly relate to the Resident Evil 3 remake. It’s important to look at both games as a pair rather than in a vacuum, so to speak. 

Does this highly anticipated remake of one of the most beloved games in the Resident Evil series manage to deliver like its predecessor? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for.

As a standalone title, the Resident Evil 3 remake is a very enjoyable action-horror game. Featuring solid gunplay and fluid control that turns Jill into a veritable zombie-killing machine. You’ll quickly find yourself braving the streets of Raccoon City with a degree of confidence unachievable as Leon or Claire. A mix of survival horror and action game design bring Resident Evil 3 back towards the happy medium Resident Evil: Revelations 2 inhabited, generally splitting the two tones between Jill and Carlos. While there is only one campaign, we shift gears between Jill and Carlos for prolonged sections this time around.

Sadly, the more action-driven design comes at the cost of the more intricate and dynamic zombies from RE2, which required a certain level of strategy. While you can still dismember them, the animations are noticeably toned down, and there’s no real reason to do so other than just to have fun. This allows for combat against many more enemies on screen than RE2, even in its DLC, so some might find the trade-off worth it. You’ll find yourself facing down hordes of the undead, and they can even respawn in a few areas. You’ll have to stay on your toes throughout your adventure, rather than being confident that a cleared out space will remain that way. 

The implementation of a dodge mechanic, which enables Jill to tuck and roll past a zombie and Carlos to sort of hip-check them, works wonders for balancing out the more action-focused game design. In addition, some enemy grapples have a new QTE prompt for getting out of their grip faster with more health intact. Even though this is a mainstay of multiple games before RE7, it feels out of place and unnecessary with the ported-over RE2 zombie encounters. Another unfortunate note is that this action focus has led to a significant reduction in the number of puzzles in comparison to the original. Gameplay rounds out into a loop of combat and key hunting. It’s disappointing, especially after RE2 managed to integrate the puzzles so well.

Combat against Nemesis is a different story altogether. Agile and clever, this beast focuses on outmaneuvering attempts at escape when facing him. Running, leaping, yanking you across the pavement with his tentacles — Nemesis is a challenging foe that demands to be met either head-on or fled from. A poor calculation in ammo count can lead to a brick wall of challenge against him, but stock up for a potential encounter and you can bring him to his knees. Spitting out weapons parts that can upgrade your arsenal, you will always feel rewarded for standing your ground against the deadly pursuer, although that’s only up to a certain point in the adventure. Versatile and overwhelming, this is the best Nemesis has ever been represented in real-time combat since his original 1999 appearance.

Despite how well designed Nemesis is, it’s disappointing that he’s also heavily scripted; Nemesis only appears a handful of times throughout the story and is almost always introduced with a cutscene. Repeat playthroughs will make him incredibly predictable and easy to prepare for as a result. RE2’s Mr. X ends up feeling more like an actual pursuer in comparison, omnipresent in his circuit through the R.P.D.. Nemesis, on the other hand, shows up now and again in select scenes — primarily in scripted chase sequences and boss fights, with a very limited number of areas where he could dynamically appear. It’s an odd step back that results in a less engaging monster. This scripted design also makes for too many instances where Nemesis, a monster specifically designed to kill S.T.A.R.S. members, tosses Jill aside for the sake of being dramatic rather than ripping her apart. It’s trope-y and feels out of step with the character’s primary directive. 

Presentation is perhaps the most paramount aspect of Resident Evil 3, as a clear love for detail and style oozes from every corner of Raccoon City. From the neon lights reflecting off of blood-soaked streets to the subtle and haunting atmosphere around you, you’ll find yourself wanting to stop and drink in the sites of this iconic city. On top of that, a score made up of updated versions of classic RE3 tracks helps set the stage for an instantly nostalgic feel. If you were let down by RE2’s more subdued and ambient interpretation of its score, the no-holds-barred approach to adapting RE3’s original score is a delight. Though speaking of audio, there are some minor audio-synch issues (mostly with voiceovers) that will hopefully get addressed in a patch.

Wrapping this all up in a wonderful bow is the presentation of the story itself. Jill, Carlos, Nicholai — none of these characters have ever been brought to life so vividly before. Charming, human, and emotionally impactful, Jill and Carlos experience one of the best “partner” stories the series has offered yet. Seeing their relationship grow is a major highlight for me, and I hope that this won’t be the last we see of Carlos (given that he’s never reappeared outside of retellings of RE3). The rest of the cast manages to be surprisingly memorable, even those with limited screen time. A remarkable amount of work was put into making these characters combat the stigma that the Resident Evil series has clunky, poorly translated dialogue, and I appreciate the hell out of it.

That said, one aspect of the narrative that stands out as fairly awkward is the tone. While the cutscenes tend to play the circumstances fairly straight (in a ‘90s action movie sort of way), gameplay and flavor text comes across as a jumbled mess. The series staple notes and diaries are weirdly goofy and often deliberately funny, while some gameplay mechanics are so video gamey that they end up undermining the atmosphere of the game’s setting, such as a public city monument rewarding puzzle seekers with bullets and grenades. These aspects would be out of place even in Resident Evil 5 at times, feeling more akin to some sort of arcade mode. I’ve appreciated the franchise taking a more self-aware approach in recent years, but this seems to try just a little too hard, damaging itself in the process.

Now, sadly, we must address the elephant in the room. The Resident Evil 3 remake makes tremendous strides in nearly every aspect, clearly making an effort to one-up RE2 as often as it can. One area that it fails miserably at, however, is being a remake. If last year’s RE2 trimmed around the edges of the original experience, Resident Evil 3 carves into the core of the initial 1999 release with an ice cream scoop. 

Tremendous amounts of the classic game’s DNA was ripped out without any real care or attention to what fans loved about it, and it hurts the experience deeply. Many aspects that you may have been looking forward to, be they the enemies, specific locations, weapons, or bosses, are simply missing, and there’s not much that satisfactorily replaces them. Many omissions are frankly shocking; an absence of some original scenes pushed me from mere disappointment and into frustration. 

After a certain point, the game stops trying to be a remake of the original Resident Evil 3 and wanders off to do its own thing, lightly touching a handful of story beats along the way. I have watched fellow series fans gossip on social media about the elements they were most excited to see recreated here, knowing that many of these aspects are gone, and it broke my heart. One fan-favorite shot from the original game’s intro, which even the movies did justice, is noticeably absent from Resident Evil 3. 

On top of all of this, Resident Evil 3 is both pathetically easy and painfully short. My initial clear time was less than that of my first playthrough of RE2’s 2nd scenario, and a replay nearly halved that. Make no mistake, Resident Evil: Resistance was packed in with Resident Evil 3 to make up for the latter’s shortcomings, not the former’s. Reports that both Resident Evil remakes were originally intended to be a single package shine true here as this entry ends up feeling more like a high-budget expansion rather than a full numbered entry in the series. It will take skilled players more time to complete one of the light-gun RE games than it would to clear this. 

The game’s harder difficulties perplexingly drop the ink ribbon save system that RE7 and RE2 brought back, adding to the list of things that are missing without explanation. There is a new unlockables system where you earn points by playing through the main campaign multiple times and complete challenges along the way. While novel (and not exactly new, RE5 had a similar system), it feels designed to make up for length rather than add depth.

On the surface, Resident Evil 3 does everything it can to provide a memorable and exciting adventure-themed after the original classic. I imagine fans and newcomers will delight in the gameplay and presentation, especially the relationship building between Carlos and Jill. Still, anyone looking for anything more specific than a few bullet points from the original game retold here will be left disappointed. I do not, by any means, hate Resident Evil 3, but by the time the credits rolled, I felt none of the lasting joy that I had for RE2 last year. Instead, just an apathetic outlook that it may be time for Capcom to stop chasing the past and look ahead to the future.

6.5 out of 10 stars (6.5 / 10)

Above Average

Rely on Horror Review Score Guide

A Steam review copy of the game was provided by the publisher.

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