It’s no secret that last year’s Resident Evil 2 was one of the best games of the year, successfully reimagining one of the most beloved horror titles of all time, built from the ground up. It’s also no secret that fans were living for the announcement that Resident Evil 3 was next on the list of remakes from Capcom. After how stellar Resident Evil 2 ended up being, it’d be nice to see its sequel follow suit.
And Resident Evil 3 does follow suit, but through its fairly weak narrative and lack of engaging environments, we’re reminded that the gap between the two games is still great.
Set before, during and after the events of Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3 follows protagonist Jill Valentine, who finds herself woken up by the sounds of the apocalypse as a zombie outbreak consumes her home, Raccoon City. The game spares no time in pushing you along, and you’ll quickly be in a familiar setting (the streets of the city) as you work to evacuate a batch of civilians. Jill meets up with Carlos Oliveira, part of the mercenary force hired by the Umbrella Corp to put a pin in the whole “deadly virus” thing, and the two of your work against a corporate conspiracy that could spell doom for humanity.
Before we dive into specifics, it’s worth reiterating just how gorgeous this game looks. It’s not any sort of wild iteration on last year’s title — and that’s OK, because the engine Capcom is working with is modern art. Character detail and expressions feel lifelike, textures and lighting amp up the game’s realistic tension and the physics, well, they just work.
Where Resident Evil 2 had you spending most of your time in the Raccoon City Police Departments, solving puzzles, finding keys and hiding from Mr. X, Resident Evil 3 opts for a more “pseudo-open” approach, taking Jill and Carlos through a lot more that the city has to offer. Given that this title is releasing only a year after the original, it’s no surprise there are some familiar spots. You’ll spend some time in the police station, the parking garage and the sewers, but all at different times from Resident Evil 2. But while this might feel lazy (and maybe you thought the same in 1998), it’s actually pretty genius. These are companion games, and through a combination of expert lore and iconic locations, they weave together wonderfully.
But Resident Evil 3 lacks the horror soul of its predecessor in a few different ways. The game’s constant threat, Nemesis, is a far cry from the intrigue and dread of Mr. X. Now, Nemesis starts out as an ample threat, but as it mutates beyond recognition, the experiment feels a lot less subtle. The gargantuan appearance and Cronenberh-esque body horror sure doesn’t help. Nemesis ends up a lot more gross than scary.
But the game as a whole is also more action-oriented. If you use the patented “double tap” technique, you’ll only hit one or two scripted jump scares in the entire game. There are standoffs against hordes of zombies, large bosses and only one real encounter with the thing that crawls on the walls with an exposed brain. That thing is still awful.
Thankfully, Jill and Carlos elevate Resident Evil 3. Both of them are just so dang likeable, which, of course, is a common trope in the Resident Evil series. There’s an organic tension between them throughout the game, but it’s one nested on respect rather than romance. They constantly come in clutch for each other, and their motives are both morally sound. It’s refreshing to see. Even the game’s side characters feel less like caricatures and more like actual support — even when Nemesis cuts the tension with a knife.
And, of course, the gameplay is still expert-level, with each shot, dodge or swipe carrying a tremendous amount of weight and realism. This isn’t Chris Redfield punching boulders, even when the story tends to veer in that direction. Thankfully, it seems Capcom has struck a happy medium between impactful gameplay and suitable action.
And while Resident Evil 3 is about as short as the previous game, it clearly encourages you to replay. There are costumes and infinite-ammo guns to unlock, puzzles to go back and solve and corners of the still-amazing map system to solve. Seriously, the game rewards you for how fast you can complete it. And, sure, it might not live up to others in the series, but Resident Evil 3 is still a fantastic shooter that just happens to lose a little bit of its soul. But hey, maybe now’s the time to lose yourself in some mindless zombie hunting. It’s video game comfort food.
Resident Evil 3 is now available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Resident Evil 3 is still leagues ahead of the competition, but fails to capture the passion of the series' previous remake entry.