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The original Resident Evil 3 doesn’t send me back to any particular place and time. The original game holds no special place in my heart. I played Resident Evil 1 and 2 on the PSX, dabbled in Code Veronica, and got back into the series hardcore when the PS2 got RE4. 3 fell right in my dabbling period, so I didn’t go into this game with a lot of wants, desires, or trepidation regarding what I thought this game “should” or “should not” be.
Resident Evil 3 begins with Jill “Sandwich” Valentine (from the original Resident Evil) immediately thrust into the fray. She briefly encounters her old S.T.A.R.S. partner Brad Vickers, who shows up long enough to heroically play Hodor, allowing Jill to escape deeper into the city.
It appears that in the middle of the chaos happening in Raccoon City, they are both being pursued by Nemesis, the relentless, unstoppable force that seems to hold a personal vendetta against the S.T.A.R.S. members. I do clearly remember that one of the creepier aspects of the original game was the guttural snarling of the Nemesis when he was hunting you. Here, he is an unsolvable problem—for now—and even though most of the action takes place via cut scenes and quick time events, I still found this method of storytelling engaging and interesting.
The graphics are top of the line, and the carnage of downtown Raccoon City is beautifully lit. Once-thriving businesses are now shut down but their bright, colorful signs, displays and awnings pop. Traveling through buildings with the power cut means danger could lurk behind anything. Resident Evil zombies tend to be rather proficient at jump scares when the spirit moves them, even if it makes no sense for a zombo to orchestrate a gotcha moment.
Early on, you are helped by Carlos Oliveira, along with his superior, Mikhail, who are trying to get a subway train running again so they can evacuate survivors. This section was featured in the demo version of the game, and should be familiar to those who played it. I don’t want to get into the story too deeply because the gameplay and overall quality is what we’re here for so let’s dig in.
RE3 plays similar to the previous remake, as it uses the same engine, and you can tell. While this game looks more detailed, and the graphics are better, this is what you would consider a game built on top of another game. That’s not a bad thing. Intuitive controls are always key to a great game, and I have to admit that I instinctively recalled from memory most of the moves and button controls from RE2 that carried over to this installment. Shooting, running, inventory control, and the general overall aesthetic is the same as the previous game, and I feel like that was a smart move, especially with both installments occurring around the same time.
You still have your map, good for knowing your location, as well as showing points of interest and items you found but didn’t grab (most likely due to inventory management). Cleared areas will register as blue on the map, while areas that are being investigated, or require further investigation display in red. Hip pouches are back, allowing you to expand your inventory slots, which is crucial. Green herbs are back, but this time they also work as ipecac for when plant monsters pollinate your mouth (it’s even worse looking than it sounds too).
The streets of Raccoon City, where the early parts of the game take place, are littered with little touches like chalk drawings drawn by children spattered with blood. Citizens frantically race around, some flat out refusing your help, while the undead lurk behind rickety chain link fences, just waiting for the inevitable to happen so they can slowly surround you from all angles.
Outrunning Nemesis is challenging. Often times you will need to lure him into an area where you can circle around in order to lose him. You can attempt to run past him, but you will often be straight-up blocked by him, or you will slide past him, only to get taken down by his massive tendril that works like a giant, elastic, festering lasso that will knock you to the ground, and drag you back to him. It’s all about dodging his attacks.
Another thing I found surprising was that Nemesis only appears at set points in time. I had been under the impression that he appeared randomly, which isn’t really the case. Structurally, this is necessary but it does feel a little “safe.”
It’s still difficult to avoid getting attacked big the big fella, as well as standard zombies and hell hounds, but you do have a dodge move that is rather effective. Moreover, a successful dodge will cause a short bullet-time effect allowing you to execute a few damaging head shots.
After almost 7 hours in Raccoon City, I can safely say Resident Evil 3 is a fast paced, action-first RE experience. While the RE2 remake kept (or reworked) many of the puzzle elements of the original, RE3 is surprisingly light on them. Not that the problem solving in these games was ever all that brain busting to begin with, but it does show that this iteration trends more towards the RE4 style than the original three PSX games, and the GameCube versions of the original and 0.
Does this remake suffer from being too similar to the RE2 remake? I’d say no, as this game has a slightly different vibe to it. For one, I only did a scant amount of backtracking, and the environments are set up so that you don’t find yourself disoriented, mostly because the locations are so interesting and remarkable.
This does change later on when you descend (once again) into the sewers of Raccoon City (although this section is brief), and when you play as Carlos in the Spencer Memorial Hospital section. The environments are still pretty, but sterile at times.
Games that hew close to the ones that came before them often get damned with faint praise. I can’t count how many positive Borderlands sequel and DLC reviews have basically said, “It’s more of the same, and at the end of the day, isn’t that all we want? Shoot. Loot. Repeat!” Well, as a disenfranchised Borderlands fan since The Pre-Sequel, I say no. Regurgitating the same thing over and over isn’t a good thing. Luckily, RE3 has so far been an absolute joy to play, keeping the best parts of the RE2 remake and shifting the focus to a more action oriented experience.
- The game does a clever thing at the outset, where they show everything from Jill’s POV, intimating that the game will be more like RE7 than RE2, but alas, it’s just a brief tease before we settle into the over the shoulder view.
- Is Dario Rosso a reference to giallo horror icon Dario Argento, who directed my favorite giallo movie Deep Red (Profondo Rosso)? I’m guessing it is.
- To answer a potentially burning question, when you hit the start button on the title screen, there is no gritty Don LaFontaine-esque voice saying, “Resident Evil Threeeee…”
- Join me soon for my full, final review of this game coming soon.
- Until then, I leave you with an image from the part of the game that killed me the most times. It’s a slightly BS section that reminded me of the awful “Outrun the exploding cars” opening from the Leon section of Resident Evil 6. At least it’s not a QTE. That would bite.