Long, long ago, in the days of full-motion video and The Blair Witch Project, I missed out on the original release of Resident Evil 2. The game seemed to take the world by storm and it was all the rage with all of my young counterparts. So, when Resident Evil 3: Nemesis hit the scene, I was all over it, As a result, even after playing Resident Evil 2, Nemesis was always my favourite of the early Resident Evil games. I spent hours mastering that game, beating down the titular stalker and even improving my score in the Mercenaries side game.
Initially, that was going to be the context for this review, me once again arguing that, while Resident Evil 2 was a great game that pushed the genre forward in big, meaningful ways, you should not sleep on its successor with its ornery mercenaries and toothy, tentacle-y antagonist. Then the intro started and a reporter told me how fast this virus was spreading and the city was going under quarantine. To be completely fair, that is the story from the original game, but given the current state of the world, it certainly hits harder than I was expecting. It isn’t something that they harp on frequently, but it is something to be aware of if that’s not a narrative that you want to interact with given your current situation.
With that out of the way, Resident Evil 3 is, once again, a great game. Like the original, it follows Jill Valentine, the protagonist from the original Resident Evil as she tries to leave Raccoon City amidst the chaos of a large scale zombie outbreak and being hunted the whole time by a hulking monstrosity that could come out of anywhere and feels like a tank on two legs with a very limited vocabulary. All of this runs concurrently with the events of last year’s Resident Evil 2 remake. Important events from the previous game are reflected here, and players of that game will see a slew of nods and references to those events over the course of the game.
As you might expect, given how quickly this game came after 2019’s release, all of the systems and graphics feel very similar to the ones in Resident Evil 2. That’s not really a bad thing; Resident Evil 2 was our Game of the Year last year for good reasons. Zombies still move in an unpredictable way making aimed shots frustrating and depleting already scant ammo reserves. It’s not all a rehash, though. Ammo crafting is a big thing here, with different combinations of gunpowder resulting in different ammo types, letting the player have more control over the way they play and the guns they favour. Also, more open environments lead to a stronger feeling of paranoia, as enemies can attack from any angle, but frequent environmental hazards help to flow away those masses of stumbling horrors.
One notable omission from the original game were the decision points, where the player would need to make a split-second decision on how to progress, usually because a huge leather-clad monstrosity was spoiling for a fight. Resident Evil 3 is a much more linear affair, usually with a clear goal like “Escape the monster,” or “Get to the street,” and this really is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it drastically reduces the amount of backtracking is necessary, but in the old game it was during those excursions back and forth that you were liable to run into the Nemesis, the unstoppable abomination that was constantly at your heels. Now, interactions with your murder stalker feels more like extended chase sequences. They’re still frequent enough to keep you on your toes every time you turn a corner, and unbelievably stressful, but it’s a different feeling.
Graphics wise, everything still looks great. Enemies are disgusting whether they are trying really hard to deeply tongue kiss our protagonist or just being horrifying, hungry frog monsters. Carlos’ hair looks terrible, but that’s more of a personal life choice and not a graphics thing. Carlos’ mop is the most horrifying thing the Umbrella Corporation has ever created, and it’s a real problem.
Resident Evil 3 is a great game nipping at the heels at its already great predecessor. The changes it makes to the existing formula are few, but if it isn’t broken then there isn’t really much to fix. Players from the original game should be happy to know that they’ll still be surprised by the way everything plays out, and new fans can look forward to a lot of stress, a little ammo, and a lot of fun.