By Marty Mulrooney
Resident Evil 3 is a remake of the classic survival horror game of the same name that debuted on the original PlayStation in 2000 here in the UK (it was released in 1999 in Japan and the US). Following on from last year’s incredible reimagining of Resident Evil 2 (be sure to check out AMO’s review here), this much anticipated follow-up returns players to Racoon City as former S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics and Rescue Service) member Jill Valentine, who is trying to escape the city before it’s destroyed by a missile strike while being hunted by a deadly bioweapon called Nemesis.
The original Resident Evil 3: Nemesis felt in many ways like Resident Evil 2 (1998) DLC, before DLC was even a thing. It revisited some of the same locations (the iconic Racoon Police Department) and was much more conservative in length and scope. However, what it lacked in size it more than made up for with an increased focus on action, improved controls and a memorable villain.
Resident Evil 3 (2020) is a direct descendant of the original game that inspired it, for better or worse. The explosive opening – starting off in first-person for a creepy nightmare sequence before switching to third-person as Nemesis bursts through Jill’s apartment wall – sets the tone perfectly. Last year’s Resident Evil 2 was all about the build-up; Resident Evil 3 is more concerned with dialling the experience up to 11 and keeping it there.
For the most part, it works. After fighting her way through the mansion in the original Resident Evil in 1996 (which received a wonderful GameCube remake in 2002, later remastered and ported to multiple platforms in 2015… Capcom sure likes revisiting the classics), Jill is a combat veteran who knows a thing or two about kicking ass.
The controls feel snappier than last year’s remake and Jill can now dodge incoming attacks with a well-timed press of the R1 button. Timing this just right will result in a ‘perfect dodge’ where time slows down, momentarily allowing Jill to squeeze off a few precision shots. In a tight alleyway full of zombies this can give Jill the edge; against Nemesis it’s a lifesaver.
Nemesis. The iconic villain returns in 2020 to relentlessly hunt Jill as she tries to escape Racoon City – and he’s more intimidating than ever before. His first appearance works in much the same way as last year’s Mr X, with Jill needing to constantly keep on the move to avoid his parasitic tentacles and heavyweight punches. He can even leap over Jill to block her path. Shooting him will only slow him down, although doing so will result in some worthwhile upgrades throughout the game.
While solving puzzles and fighting zombies in the game’s first semi-open area, he will stalk the city streets like a Terminator. Yet once a certain point is reached, he will only appear during scripted events and boss battles. As someone that found Mr X’s constant interruptions in Resident Evil 2 somewhat annoying after a while, this reviewer welcomed the more scripted implementation of Nemesis. However, some gamers might be disappointed that he isn’t a constant stalking presence throughout the entire campaign.
This remake/reimagining will also disappoint fans expecting a 1:1 remake. Resident Evil 3 expands some areas from the original game, condenses others, and outright cuts locations such as the iconic clock tower while removing any branching paths. It doesn’t feel incomplete and the pace never lets up, but the developers at Capcom haven’t been afraid to move away from the 20-year-old blueprint of Nemesis.
The above might be a deal-breaker for some Resident Evil fans, but judged on its own merits this remake offers a tight, confidently executed survival horror experience. There’s no padding and every second feels like it counts. Some nice variety is also introduced when the player takes control of U.B.C.S. (Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service) mercenary Carlos Oliveira, his visits to the Racoon Police Department (Lickers!) and an abandoned hospital (Hunters!) being particular tense and scary highlights.
The characterisation of Carlos is significantly improved when compared with the original game (Jeff Schine plays him with oodles of charm; he also has much cooler hair) and the same can be said for all characters both lead and supporting (they all have pretty nice hair too).
State-of-the-art performance capture has been used to bring each character to life and the result is a small but effective cast giving it their all, with each actor gesticulating and delivering their intentionally B-movie lines like a consummate pro. Neil Newbon is particularly effective as duplicitous U.B.C.S. member Nicholai Ginovaef, while William Hope (Lieutenant Gorman in the film Aliens) does a lot with his limited screen time as the weary yet focused leader of the platoon.
Yet Nicole Tompkins as Jill Valentine is of course the highlight, somehow always managing to make her sound defiant, optimistic and hopeful no matter how dire the situation gets. Jill has long been a favourite and much loved protagonist among Resident Evil fans and this will no doubt be remembered in years to come as her definitive appearance in the series to date; part Sarah Conner (The Terminator has clearly been an influence here) part Ellen Ripley, Tompkins quite simply is Jill Valentine and she’s the ultimate badass.
On a technical level, Resident Evil 3 is superb. The rain-slicked, flame-licked, zombie-infested streets of Raccoon City have never looked better, and image quality on PlayStation 4 Pro is excellent. The 4K resolution might be upscaled (it definitely is; native resolution is apparently 1620p), but it’s difficult – if not impossible – to tell. The rock solid 60fps framerate also makes the gameplay feel incredibly smooth, and it never seems to buckle under pressure no matter how many horrors are being rendered on screen. Sound design is likewise excellent, although the soundtrack is largely forgettable (the iconic save room music aside).
Some of the late-game locations can admittedly feel a bit generic (the sewers, the NEST 2 lab), especially after completing Resident Evil 2′s stunning remake last year. Yet the breakneck pace of this follow-up – coupled with the series’ most refined gameplay thus far – gives players little chance to become bored. There is always a new weapon, gruesome enemy or heart-pounding action sequence waiting just around the corner.
In truth, the experience of escaping Racoon City and defeating Nemesis is so much fun time just flies by… and then it’s all over. Resident Evil 3 is about 6 hours and change long, which will no doubt make many gamers baulk at the idea of handing over £49.99 of their hard-earned cash (even when taking the bundled 1 vs 4 multiplayer game Resident Evil: Resistance into account). I can certainly understand this mindset, even if I don’t usually prescribe to it. Resident Evil 3 is undeniably short, but it’s oh-so sweet… which makes watching the final credits roll even more galling. It’s a crying shame there wasn’t more to this remake, especially when so much was excised from the original game and what is here is so good.
Reservations about value-for-money and completion time aside (which are issues that unfortunately must be taken into account), this is a great Resident Evil game. Where it fails as a remake, it more than succeeds as a vivid reimagining. Nemesis is an iconic villain, Jill Valentine is an iconic hero, and seeing them duke it out in high definition is well worth the price of admission. Just set your expectations accordingly and you’ll have a rocket launcher-fuelled blast.
8.5 OUT OF 10
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You should also check out AMO’s recent interview with Nicole Tomkpins, who plays Jill Valentine in the Resident Evil 3 remake!