Resident Evil 3 Review — A Jill Royale With Cheese
Resident Evil 3 is an excellent remake of a fan favorite game that features great action gameplay, jaw-dropping visuals, and not enough Carlos.
The Resident Evil franchise has long been one of my favorite series in gaming. I vividly remember staying up late into the night, devouring the Resident Evil remake on GameCube. More than anything, the original game’s lore stuck with me, so I quickly went out and bought all of the S.D. Perry novels based on the games. I was so into the story of Resident Evil that when the first movie came out, I begged my mom to rent it. She finally relented, on the condition that I didn’t let my brother watch. So, he sat in the other room and I just described the movie to him. The obsession was real.
Anyways, because I came to the series relatively late and never owned a PlayStation One, the two series entries that always evaded me were Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Granted, I knew the basic story from the novelizations, but never got the chance to play them myself. So, when Capcom announced the Resident Evil 2 remake a few years ago, I was ecstatic to finally play the games that had evaded me for so long. Fortunately, Resident Evil 2’s remake was a masterclass in how to update an old classic for modern audiences and would have been my Game of the Year in 2019 if not for the sublime Judgment.
With the success of RE2, it was a surprise to literally no one when Capcom revealed they would remake Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Both games are fan-favorites that deserved the update and, after seeing what the team did with Mr. X, I think I speak for everyone when I say that we needed to witness how the stalking mechanics would evolve with Nemesis. But, given the totality with which the RE team knocked RE2’s remake out of the park, how could they possibly hope to top it with RE3?
Well, the short answer is that they didn’t. Now, don’t take that to mean Resident Evil 3 is a bad remake. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. However, while many of the designer’s decisions help to make the game better, there were enough niggles that kept the RE3 from completely surpassing its predecessor. That said, this game is an absolute must-play whether you’re a fan of the series or not.
The first thing that really stands out to me is the visuals. It’s not just that RE3 looks beautiful (and it does), it’s the detail Capcom has put into everything. I mean sure, Jill’s model is absolutely stunning, but what I really want to talk about is a blink-and-miss-it moment at the very start of the game.
After the opening cutscene, you wake up inside Jill Valentine’s apartment. On one wall of her apartment, she’s filled this massive board with clippings, notes, and connections about Umbrella Corp. Imagine the conspiracy board from the Pepe Silvia scene from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but with zombies and secret buildings owned by a pharmaceutical company. Next to the board, there’s an oscillating fan that’s been left on, presumably to beat that late September heat. As the fan moves back and forth, you notice that when it points toward the board, all the notes and string sway in the breeze. I’m not an expert on oscillating fans in video games, so, while I’m sure others have done it before, this was the first time I’ve seen it.
Either way, the point is that Capcom’s attention to detail is incredible. Here, they’ve taken a minuscule detail that most people likely won’t notice and made sure that it feels as lifelike as possible. That focus on detail in the graphics and animation is apparent throughout the entire game. From the viscera you see on each and every zombie to how they’ve altered Nemesis’ design to make him look like even more of a barely contained monstrosity, RE3 nails just about everything it goes for visually. And you cannot convince me that they didn’t give Carlos Oliveria that doofy haircut for any other reason than to show off their top-notch hairtech. The RE engine is a powerhouse and Resident Evil 3 is my favorite example of it so far.
But this beauty pageant winner doesn’t lack substance. In fact, in a few ways, the gameplay actually feels better than the RE2 Remake, depending on what you’re looking for. For the most part, if you’ve played RE2, you know what you’re getting. RE3 is, at its core, a survival horror game with a heavy emphasis on mitigating danger over mowing down zombies. Instead of clearing a room by killing everything, it’s much more effective to pick and choose who and where you shoot. If you can blow off a zombie’s leg, you force them to crawl. These even slower moving zombies are much easier to deal with and avoid than their still walking brethren. Even some of the larger, more deadly monsters you face are often easier to avoid than kill outright.
However, Capcom has given you a new move in your arsenal that makes avoiding enemies much easier. Like the original Resident Evil 3 game, the remake lets you execute a perfect dodge as enemies close in. Compared to the original though, this version’s dodge is much more cinematic. As far as I could tell, the game doesn’t really tell you how to do it, so the first time I pulled one off, my jaw hit the floor. It’s such an action movie-esque move that completely changes the game. Instead of feeling constrained by both the enemies and the environment, you feel like you can make it past anything. Of course, the move does take some practice to truly master, but once you have it down, you’ll be dodging Nemesis and all his undead friends on your way to victory.
For some people, this is going to be a net positive. You absolutely feel like the baddest chick in town every time you perfect dodge past a string of enemies while Nemesis is breathing down your neck. That said, for me, it takes away a lot of what made the RE2 remake so scary. Sure, you can dodge enemies in that game once you get the controls down, but it never felt as easy as it does in RE3. And, unfortunately, I think the improved dodging takes away from the game’s main antagonist.
In RE2, Mr. X felt menacing. His constant presence in the police station filled me with dread. Nemesis, on the other hand, feels more like a nuisance. I never really felt in true danger when facing him. So, while his presence in the game is absolutely more explosive, and his threat isn’t simply contained to one area, I didn’t think he was as effective an enemy as Mr. X. His design is phenomenal and the way he can arrive nearly anywhere is incredible, but your increased moveset makes him feel like a lesser version of what he could be.
One big thing RE3 does better than RE2 is how tight the campaign is. Playing through two separate campaigns for Claire and Leon always felt a little weird. Their playthroughs are supposed to be happening at the same time, but it never really feels like that’s the case. RE3 ditches the multiple playthroughs and gives you one streamlined campaign. Given the way it’s structured, Capcom could have easily made a campaign centered around Carlos and filled the game out with filler missions. Instead, they’ve built a cohesive, action-packed journey that incorporates both characters flawlessly. Obviously, the focus is mainly on Jill, but Carlos’ sections feel absolutely vital to the story.
And, if you want to play through the game multiple times, Capcom gives you plenty of reasons to do so. Not only are there unlockable difficulties, but you earn points through completing challenges. You can use the points to buy new equipment and costumes to use in your next playthrough. It’s a fun system with some cool rewards that led to me jumping back into the campaign right after finishing to see how fast I could blow through the whole game again.
Speaking of Carlos, what a joy his sections are. While Jill feels incredibly powerful with her new perfect dodge skill, Carlos is an absolute war machine. He starts the game with an assault rifle (Jill also starts with this on Assisted difficulty), which literally cuts zombies down to size in seconds. Remember earlier where we talked about how effective shooting off a zombie’s legs is? Well, Carlos can do that to a room of zombies like it’s nothing. He also has his own version of the perfect dodge where he literally punches a zombie in the face to knock it away.
If you thought Jill’s move was cool, you haven’t seen anything yet. Plus, Carlos’ mission takes you to a fun area that is full of callbacks to past Resident Evil games. To say more, would be spoiler-y and I don’t want to ruin the moment for you. I would’ve liked to play with Carlos for another section or two, but what we do have is a treat.
That all being said, by making the game a tighter narrative, you lose a little bit of what made RE2 special to me. There was something my brain loved about being stuck inside a building and having to carefully plan my route through the police station to make sure I was getting everything I needed in the most efficient manner. That’s not really necessary in Resident Evil 3. It very much feels like a linear carnival ride with much less backtracking. For some, that’s going to be a big positive. Personally, I think you lose a little bit of the Metroidvania-esque fun that was present in RE2.
I also felt like there were several holes in the plot that just don’t make sense. Some of them are super minor but still took me out of the experience. For instance, in multiple encounters with Nemesis, he’s shown how easily he can just bust through a brick wall. Like, it’s nothing for him to just ram his way through solid concrete. But then there’s a section where you’re running away from him and narrowly dart through a giant metal door.
As you lock it behind you, Jill breathes a sigh of relief because he can’t get you. However, the wall surrounding the heavy-duty door is made of brick. And it’s not like this is a safe room. That I understand. This is just another room that Nemesis could easily chase you into, but he doesn’t. Obviously, it doesn’t really matter, but it completely took me out of the game. Why would something that he’d already shown would never stop him, randomly stop him now?
Some of the holes are much weirder to me. There’s a second U.B.C.S. operative working with Carlos named Tyrell Patrick. Every time you go to a new infested zone with Tyrell, he refuses to tackle the mission with you. He’s always sitting back and claiming he needs to do computer stuff. In RE2, when you meet Marvin, it makes sense that he can’t go with you. He can barely move due to a zombie bite.
As far as I can tell, Tyrell is completely able-bodied. There are zero reasons that he wouldn’t just go with you and lower the zombie threat for both of you. You could even explain it away by having him go search another wing of the building you’re in. Instead, he’s just playing Ski Free or something while you’re risking your life fighting zombies. Again, do things like this really matter? Not really, but they’re totally immersion breaking and I don’t remember them happening nearly as much in RE2.
So, usually, this is the point where I would wrap everything up and give you my final thoughts. I’ll do that shortly, but I think it’s important to talk about one more thing. It was oddly surreal to play this game while we’re living in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Seeing cutscenes of people rioting in the streets and watching a city deal with a large-scale outbreak felt a little too real at times. Obviously, we aren’t in those stages yet (and hopefully never will be); however, I still needed to take a few breaks during my playthrough just to ease my mind.
If you’re someone who is struggling with your mental health during the ongoing pandemic, I would just caution you to know going in that RE3 can hit a little too close to the real world at times. I still think the game is worth your time. I just wouldn’t fault you for waiting a few months before you try it out.
It’s also important to quickly talk about Resident Evil Resistance, the free multiplayer mode included with Resident Evil 3. Basically, this is an asymmetrical mode. One player takes on the role of the “Mastermind” while the four other players are various survivors. The Mastermind’s goal is to stop the survivors from progressing through all three stages of the game within the time limit. They move through the environment by switching between different security cameras and can use different abilities to slow down the survivors. Masterminds have access to everything from normal zombies to several traps to super-powered bioweapons. They can also jump into their minions, taking control of the fight against the survivors.
The survivors, on the other hand, are trying to solve puzzles and shoot through the hordes on their way to victory. As mentioned, the whole thing is timed, so you need to move quickly to win. You lose and gain time in numerous ways though, so, while speed is key, you also have to play smart. Currently, there are six different survivors, though Capcom has already confirmed that Jill is coming to the mode later. Personally, I’ve played most of my games as either Valerie or my boy Martin Sandwich. Each character has their own set of skills. For instance, Valerie has a ping that lets her mark items and threats and a free health spray. Martin, on the other hand, uses his engineering skills to build mines and flashbangs.
Because the mode relies on players working with strangers, it can be a bit frustrating at times. It’s also currently very difficult to get into games; however, that problem will hopefully iron itself out when the game launches. That said, I do not come to Resident Evil games for this kind of thing. It was a fun distraction for a few hours, but probably not something I’ll be jumping back into. That isn’t to say the mode isn’t worth your time. There’s plenty to do, and it would not surprise me if Resistance built up a solid community in the coming months.
And Capcom has earned a bit of leeway given their recent track record. Even if Resistance isn’t a complete hit out of the box, the game definitely feels like something they could continue building out over the summer. I’m certainly willing to give Capcom some time to see how they support Resistance going forward.
With that out of the way, I found Resident Evil 3 to be a bit of a tough nut to properly rate in a review sense. The game is an absolute treat to play with action-packed sequences, tense exploration, and a few genuine scares. As mentioned above, I was having so much fun playing it, I immediately jumped back in and started again. However, from a survival horror standpoint, the game takes a significant step back from Resident Evil 2. But really, when you think about it from a thematic standpoint, that totally makes sense. In RE2 you’re playing as either a rookie cop or a civilian. Jill Valentine is the Master of Lockpicking and a battle-hardened member of S.T.A.R.S. It makes complete sense for her to have a few extra zombie fighting tricks up her sleeve.
So, while I probably prefer RE2 ever so slightly, most of that just comes from Mr. X and the police station just being one of my favorite sections of video gaming in years. I would absolutely recommend Resident Evil 3 and would not be surprised if a sizable portion of the fandom ends up preferring this remake. After all, it’s hard to top the excitement that comes with jumping back into the shoes of Jill. Regardless of which you may like more, it is so refreshing to see the Resident Evil franchise come back in such a big way. Here’s hoping Capcom can continue the momentum with whatever comes next.