Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is a fantastic follow-up to Resident Evil 2, but suffered from its predecessor’s success. RE2 was a step up in every way from the original and has been lauded as a survival horror masterpiece since its release. RE3, on the other hand, launched at the tail end of the PS1’s life cycle, only offered marginal gameplay improvements and has lived in the shadow of RE2 ever since.
The big question is whether history is doomed to repeat itself. Last year, Resident Evil 2 remake wowed fans with an updated and expanded take on Leon and Claire’s iconic escape from Raccoon City and nabbed our Game of the Year award. Just 14 months later, Resident Evil 3 remake is poised to launch, but can it match or surpass RE2?
Resident Evil 3 Remake Review | Last Escape
Like the original, Resident Evil 3 remake is a prequel and sequel to Resident Evil 2 remake. The game follows Jill Valentine’s escape from Raccoon City starting a day before Leon and Claire make it into town and continuing into the day after. It also features Umbrella Biological Containment Service (UBCS) soldier Carlos Olivera, whose team is cut off from the outside by the rampant hordes of undead.
The story was a bit spotty in the original RE3, but fortunately, that’s been rectified. The relationship between Carlos and Jill and Carlos and the rest of his team has been expanded significantly. Everyone’s actions are accounted for throughout the game, so there’s no more of Carlos just popping up and dipping out.
For the most part, the plot hits the same beats as the original game, but long-time fans will find themselves in unfamiliar territory almost from the get-go. I’d call last year’s Resident Evil 2 a genuine remake. The game was expanded, but the environments and progression took heavy cues from the original. Resident Evil 3 is a true reimagining with significant sections of the game happening in new locations.
Unfortunately, Resident Evil 3 remake does omit and change areas to a degree that may upset some fans. I enjoyed the adventure thoroughly, but I have to admit I was disappointed with the absence of familiar locations, especially towards the latter parts of the game. However, I did enjoy the areas that were expanded. Downtown Raccoon City and the hospital, in particular, have opened up considerably, and are absolutely beautiful.
However, I would have liked to have seen the game take a closer look at how the infection started and how it later consumed Raccoon City. Early on, you see civilians that the UBCS has evacuated to the subway. However, you don’t interact with these people at all or hear their stories. This game was a perfect opportunity to expand the lore of what is arguably the most significant event in the history of Resident Evil, and we don’t get to see much in that regard.
There’s also a distinct lack of puzzles in RE3 remake, which removes some of that classic Resident Evil charm. Beyond the series standard, find key item A and use it to unlock door B conundrums, there’s less than a handful of puzzles that require you to put on your thinking cap. The original RE3 had some of the more challenging puzzles to solve of the classic REs, so it was disappointing that more weren’t included in the remake.
Resident Evil 3 Remake Review | Fighting fear
RE3 remake is more combat-oriented than RE2 remake and has added new options for you to fight the undead. The most significant addition to your repertoire is the dodge mechanic. This mechanic first appeared in the original RE3, where it could be used to great effect, but was hard to master and unpredictable at best. In RE3 remake, there’s a dedicated button for dodging, and it’s invaluable throughout the game.
There are two types of dodges you can perform. By tapping the button at any time, your character will perform a dodge in the direction in which you’re holding the movement stick. However, if you hit the dodge button at the precise moment when an enemy starts its attack, you can perform a perfect dodge, which automatically rolls you out of harm’s way. A perfect dodge also allows you to draw your weapon to enter slow-mo and automatically aim at an enemy’s weak point. This lets you get one or two free shots in, and at higher difficulties (especially Nightmare and Inferno), it’s essential for you to master it.
The dodge is also critical because enemies are much harder to put down in RE3 remake. You can’t put 3-4 rounds in a zombie’s kneecap and just slip past anymore. Instead, you have to either fight them or dodge past. Zombies seem more resilient in general, especially on harder difficulties, which means you have to really watch your ammo.
Also, the gore itself seems to have been toned down. You can still blow off zombie limbs and heads, but it doesn’t seem quite as gruesome as it did in RE2 remake. This may be a technical limitation because the environments in RE3 remake are generally more expansive than those in the previous game, but I do miss how juicy zombies used to be.
Resident Evil 3 Remake Review | Fear fighting you
Of course, the star of RE3 remake, besides the living cast, is Nemesis. This trenchcoated cousin of Mr. X is a thorn in Jill’s side throughout the game and represents an upgrade over the Tyrant seen in RE2. While Mr. X was imposing and unrelenting, he was content to clomp after you at a brisk walk. Nemesis is not as patient, and he’s a much more imposing villain to face.
Nemesis looks great in RE3 remake and remains a formidable opponent. You can still choose to fight him when he appears for a case of goodies, but he no longer goes down for the count. After he goes down into repair mode, you have about a minute of peace before he’ll charge back into action. Also, unlike Mr. X, Nemesis doesn’t have any compunction about warping around, and if you manage to outpace him, he’ll take to the rooftops and drop down in front of you.
Unfortunately, Nemesis has many of the limitations Mr. X did. For gameplay purposes, he won’t follow you into specific areas, and the chase sequences with him are relatively brief. However, they do strike the right balance between exhilarating and annoying. There’s only so much you can be chased in a game like this before it starts wearing thin, after all.
Resident Evil 3 Remake Review | Only one choice
While some features introduced in the original Resident Evil 3 remain intact in the remake, there are a few notable omissions that disappointed me. The Live Selection system really served to distinguish Resident Evil 3 from Resident Evil 2 and led to some interesting variations in gameplay. Unfortunately, those have been stripped out of the game completely, which give RE3 remake a more linear feeling than the original.
Live Selections also often served the purpose of letting you choose whether to engage in combat or not. For example, in the original RE3‘s RPD area, you could grab Brad’s ID card to unlock the doors inside the station and risk getting pummeled by Nemesis, or you could run inside and have to go out of your way to find Jill’s ID. Each choice gave a feeling of risk versus reward that could make or break a playthrough. With RE3 remake, there’s one path, and there aren’t really any decisions to be made outside of inventory management.
Also gone are the random events that occurred in the original (which are illustrated wonderfully here by legendary guide writer Dan Birlew). Now, the plot works in a straight line. You always meet Carlos at the same place, instead of having the possibility to run into him in the restaurant or newspaper building. Ammo, enemies, and weapons are always in the same place in RE3 remake (at least until you unlock the Nightmare difficulty). It feels like some of the core gameplay additions that made the original RE3 an evolution in design from RE2 are absent here.
Without Live Selection and randomization, the story mode features little replayability unless you’re a completionist. There is an in-game store where you can buy items like infinite ammo firearms, defense medals (e.g., RE7), and extra side packs to start the game with. However, once you’ve hit S rank in each difficulty, unless you’re into speedrunning, there’s not much of a reason to play the story again. There are two difficulties unlocked, which feature remixed enemy, weapon, ammo, and item spawns, and which force you to change your route through the game a bit. However, they don’t add any new story elements or endings, and as far as I can tell, they’re not true randomizers.
Resident Evil 3 Remake Review | An imperfect specimen
With many of the gameplay elements introduced in the original RE3 stripped away, Resident Evil 3 remake feels inferior in design to RE2 remake. Last year’s Resident Evil 2 felt like a proper remake because it had everything the original did (besides a few enemies), and then added on top of that foundation to form a great modernization of the classic. Sure, the B scenario was a bit weak compared to the original, but you got two really solid campaigns, and great revamps of the 4th Survivor and Tofu Survivor bonus modes.
Also missing from Resident Evil 3 remake is Mercenaries mode. Operation Mad Jackal was an excellent evolution of The 4th Survivor seen in the previous game and had players scrambling through the ruins of Raccoon City, killing creatures, and saving hostages for points. It added a considerable amount of replayability to the game and made up for the lack of a second scenario.
As it stands, Resident Evil 3 remake has one story scenario with relatively low replayability, which clocks in around the time of one of the 1st Run scenarios from RE2 remake. I beat the game in around seven hours my first time through on Standard (Normal), watching every cutscene and thoroughly exploring each area. However, my time was 01:37:49 on Assisted (Easy), and I clocked just over two hours on Hardcore (Hard) on subsequent playthroughs.
If you consider Resident Evil: Resistance part of the RE3 remake package, the above isn’t as big of a deal. However, I don’t really feel like an online multiplayer mode, one that will eventually shut down and is entirely dependent on player count and cooperation to enjoy, is a proper replacement for Mercenaries mode. I’ll be able to play the original RE3 Mercenaries from now until the day I die as long as I have a PS1. You can’t say the same about Resistance.
I guess the thing that strikes me the most with RE3 remake is the feeling of absence. If you’re a long-time fan of the series, it’s hard not to be disappointed with some aspects of the game. The big difference between this title and RE2 remake is that RE2 remake felt like it supersedes its source material, it’s the new standard. RE3 remake only exceeds the original in graphical prowess and story coherence (which is mostly due to the elimination of the random branching, which helped make the original so compelling).
Resident Evil 3 Remake Review | A value purchase
Despite my disappointment at some aspects of Resident Evil 3 remake, it’s far from a bad game. In fact, my biggest issue is that I want more than what’s there. Though the story is short, what’s there is exhilarating, and it kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. I can only imagine how good it would be if Capcom gave it another six months to a year in development, and all the missing features and abridged or cut locations were included.
If you look at the $60 price tag for Resident Evil 3 remake and consider it to be $40 for RE3 and $20 for Resident Evil: Resistance, I think you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck. Sure, RE3 remake doesn’t have the amount of content and replayability that RE2 remake does, but it’s also technically not full price if you think about it.
I thoroughly enjoyed escaping from Raccoon City again, and I loved the expanded story. Resident Evil 3 remake is a great game that is held back from being truly excellent by a few factors. However, series fans will love seeing Jill and Carlos in a new light, and it’s practically a must-play for anyone who loved RE2 remake.