Review: Resident Evil 3 Remake

Sometimes, less is more. Sometimes, more is more.

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Horror, Action, Adventure
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Rating: M for Mature
Price: $59.99

Beginning with 2005’s definitive Resident Evil 4 (RE4), the Resident Evil (RE) series on the whole shifted from a slow-paced, dreadful, and tense “survival-horror” genre to an “action-horror-shooter” genre that influenced everything from Gears of War to God of War.

RE4 broke with the wider franchise’s conspiratorial, sci-fi storytelling by featuring a mystical, black-clad arms dealer who spoke in a cockney accent but was hanging out in rural Spain for some reason. This was a far cry from the pure survival-horror of the PlayStation 1-era RE titles, and it’s fair to say that every RE title from RE4 up until 2017’s Resident Evil 7: Biohazard took its biggest cues from the critical and commercial success that was Resident Evil 4.

2019’s Resident Evil 2 Remake (RE2 Remake) marked a shift in game design principles for Capcom. Combining the third-person POV of the post-RE4 titles with the themes of the pre-RE4 titles, Capcom forged a stick of gaming dynamite in 2019 that both honored and exceeded the original RE2, pleasing old and new fans alike.

Just over a year after the RE2 Remake premiered, Capcom released Resident Evil 3 Remake (RE3 Remake) in the midst of a real-life pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus.

Whether fighting zombies or Coronavirus, it’s important to wash your hands.

Like RE2 Remake, RE3 Remake is a reimagining of 1999’s Resident Evil 3: Nemesis rather than a remaster. Despite all of RE3 Remake’s successes, many die-hard fans are disappointed with it. Is this remake worth your time and money, and what does it mean for the RE series moving forward? Read on for one nerd’s opinion. 

Content Guide

Christian gamers should be aware that language, violence, and gore abound. F-bombs thrive, and the Lord’s name is taken in vain. People get impaled and eaten. If your character dies, you have to watch a disturbing animation of their demise. Overall, RE3 Remake is actually tamer than the RE2 Remake, but, you know, it’s rated “M” for a reason, people.

No sexually explicit content to speak of.

Gameplay and Mechanics

In my review of the RE2 Remake, I wrote:

“You’re not playing as action heroes, but as regular people thrown face-first into an insane situation. Limited controls reinforce RE2‘s tone…”

The original RE3 introduced to the series dodge mechanics, branching choices at crucial moments, exploding barrels, and other additions to gameplay. Even in 1999, RE3 was a step toward a more dynamic playstyle overall, shifting away from the sluggishness of the first two installments.

Similarly, RE3 Remake is a more dynamic approach to the games built in the RE engine. Jill Valentine is a survivor of the Spencer Mansion incident, so she’s killed plenty of Umbrella monsters. Prior, she was a U.S. Army soldier and a member of the elite S.T.A.R.S. Carlos Oliveira is a U.B.C.S. mercenary who had to have served in some military in the past. Compared to college student Claire Redfield and rookie cop Leon Kennedy, RE3’s playable characters are combat veterans, and the game adapts to this fact. Aiming is quicker and more fluid. Jill and Carlos run faster than Claire and Leon. The reintroduction of a dodge mechanic makes avoiding foes more manageable, and Carlos can literally punch monsters in the face with good timing from the player.

The game controls fluidly, and in that sense, there isn’t much to criticize on its own merit. However, the adeptness of the player characters marks a shift in tone that will be pleasing to some and disappointing to others. More on this below.

Presentation

RE3 Remake’s presentation is an area where critics and fans alike can agree Capcom succeeded. The graphics, character design, sound design, and every aspect of production are all the children of a AAA gaming studio with a budget. Everything looks and sounds great. Every alley, every save room, every creepy laboratory is crafted with careful detail that carries, at times, tragic narrative weight.

RE3 Remake is a Hollywood-quality cinematic experience with excellent cutscenes. Special kudos to the voice acting across the board. There is no cheesy voice acting in this game at all. That’s one big RE change everyone can agree is good…unless you’re really into Jill sandwiches for some reason.

While the downgrade in some presentation elements from RE2 Remake to RE3 Remake (ambient sound is lower quality, less gore, no ragdoll physics when enemies die) are disappointing, overall, the presentation is stellar. I doubt anyone would complain if we did not have the RE2 Remake as a standard. Which leads me into an important point:

The Problems of Legacy and Tone

If RE3 Remake were essentially the same game it now is, but produced by an indie developer with no formal connection to the RE series and no standard of immediate comparison, it would be celebrated as a masterful achievement in all aspects of presentation and gameplay. Subject matter aside, it’s a beautiful game.

But RE3 cannot be interpreted in isolation. It is a remake of an older game and it exists as part of a larger series with which fans are familiar. Every Final Fantasy (FF) game is different, yes, but fans know what they’re paying for when they play an FF game, and for better or for worse, those games are compared to one another. These are the cards studios must play with when they choose to make a series. It’s true for movies, for books, TV; all of it.

RE3 Remake is a far more cinematic experience than its immediate predecessor…to the point that many of the game’s most intense moments essentially force the player to run on scripted rails. Rather than avoiding Nemesis organically, the player simply holds or taps an action or move button. This happens 3-4 times, and it’s pure gaming tokenism.

RE2’s Mr. X compared to RE3’s Nemesis is a microcosm of this entire problem.

On my first playthrough of RE2 Remake last year, there was a point where Mr. X cornered me in the safety deposit room by the west office and then patrolled the hallway outside for about five minutes, his footsteps booming as he threw open doors in search of poor Claire. I sat there, saying to myself, “This is my life now, there is nothing else,” until I remembered that I am a Christian and I have the hope of eternal life with Christ.

Anyway, I hid in the back of the safety deposit room, waiting to hear X’s footsteps grow fainter until I mustered the courage to pause the game and go tell my wife what was happening. I did, and she gave me the “impatient wife look.” So I decided that I am a man and I would not download the mod that makes Mr. X into Thomas the Tank Engine. I went back to the game, and ran Claire Redfield like a baby the nearby darkroom to save.

Nothing in the RE3 Remake was at any point comparable to the ridiculous, silly dread I just described. Absolutely nothing.

The scariest and most tense parts with Mr. X are not the scripted events and boss fights, but his unscripted looming presence. His footsteps banging outside the room you’re hiding in. Having to plan your route across the Raccoon Police Department in order to avoid him. Remembering which windows you boarded up on the first floor because you don’t want your gunshots at random zombies to alert Mr. X and possibly draw him to your location in close quarters. Yes, X is avoidable. Yes, his mechanics are simple once you understand them. But even the most seasoned player is never free from considering the X factor when they play RE2 Remake.

My assumption when I wrote last year’s review of RE2 Remake was that Nemesis would be a fiercer, more relentless version of Mr. X. While Nemesis is more dangerous in a straight fight than X, he at no point made me want to download a mod that would turn him into a children’s show character.

By-and-large, Nemesis is a scripted threat who attacks at predetermined times. I was never organically chased by Nemesis because I knew that if I tried to run through the donut shop, he would spawn. So I detoured through the alley and only dealt with him during scripted moments—and the game let me do this. This is a tremendous step backward from RE2’s imposing, inescapable Mr. X. In this regard, it feels almost as if RE3 Remake is the game we should have gotten last year, not the other way around.

Tone is an issue in RE3. Is it an action-horror-shooter? Or is it survival-horror? It carries plenty of the trappings of a survival-horror game, yet many of its core mechanics lend themselves to an action-shooter gameplay style. RE3 Remake is not a dreadful, meditative experience like RE2 Remake was. Weapons and ammo abound, exploding barrels and electrical generators are all over the place, the main villain drops goodies when you shoot him up, and both playable characters are combat veterans who know their way around military-grade weapons. And let’s not forget this frigging Sephiroth gun:

Seriously.

In order to illustrate the importance of tone to myself, I replayed much of RE3 Remake with the music off and also loaded up RE2 Remake, doing the same. Having done this back-to-back, I can tell you that RE3 Remake is a much less-tense game without music. RE2 Remake is just as or even more tense without music. The reason is that the overall tone of RE2 is more dreadful than RE3, which moves through various locations at breakneck speed. The closest comparison to a truly dreadful environment in RE3 is the hospital. But like so much of the game, it’s just about over by the time its weight really settles on you because the game is so fast-paced and so short.

Multiplayer—Resident Evil: Resistance

Resident Evil: Resistance is a multiplayer download separate from the base RE:3 game, though included as part of the purchase. The game features four playable “survivors” per game who must escape from an Umbrella testing facility being controlled by a playable “mastermind,” who observe the area through security cameras and can spawn traps and monsters to oppose the survivors.

Though cool in concept, the Resident Evil: Resistance multiplayer mode feels incomplete at launch. It was a surprisingly disappointing experience, and seems to favor heavily the four-player team of survivors rather than the mastermind.

On Replayability

The length of RE3 Remake is an area of legitimate concern that is not helped by the Resistance multiplayer experience. Some speed runners have already completed RE3 Remake in as short as fifty-two minutes. A single campaign of RE2 Remake can be completed nearly as fast, but there are at least two campaigns depending on the order of play, with up to four slightly different playthroughs and the extra game modes.

RE3 Remake cuts out at least two major portions of the original game that would have lengthened it—not to mention it doesn’t randomize some items that the original did—but it’s unfair to judge the game based on what it didn’t do that the old one did. Nonetheless, under an hour is under an hour. Even a competent player who isn’t speed-running can finish the game in a few hours, and this is a $60 game.

I repeat the points I made about the RE2 Remake here, though they’re now more serious: this is a game to be played about once per year. When you understand the mechanics and the jump scares, the game is rudimentary and not difficult. It’s not a game that should  be replayed over and over again to get the best time because to do so negates the experience of playing it. Yet this is what Capcom has always encouraged players to do with these games: creating a dreadful, tense atmosphere with a dark backstory, yet giving players endless rockets and daring them to run past every enemy as fast as possible.

For die-hard fans of Resident Evil, it’s of course worth the money to get the game now. For those who are kind of interested or who are new to the series, wait until RE3 Remake goes on sale, borrow it, or rent it. It’s too short, with minimal replay value unless you’re really into speedrunning. The “store” bonus mode doesn’t’ mitigate this because it just grants you unlockables to replay the game faster. The harder modes are the same game with increased damages and additional monsters here and there. To me, this isn’t worth such a hefty investment, regardless of how pretty the graphics are and how good the voice acting is.

I wish I didn’t have to say that.

Conclusion: Resident Evil Moving Forward

On more than one occasion, RE3 Remake hints at a Resident Evil 4 Remake. The insect-like parasites Nemesis lodges onto the heads of zombies bear more than a passing resemblance to the las plagas parasites that drive much of the conflict of RE4. A letter from Dr. Bard to the Umbrella European office (PROTIP: RE4 takes place in Europe) straight-out says that Nemesis is a fusion of the T-Virus and an unnamed parasitic organism which I’ll bet a dollar is RE4’s las plagas or something quite close to it. The pale head zombies that appear in the laboratory at the game’s end are surely nodding to the creepy regenerator zombies of RE4.

Is he referencing RE4’s Las Plagas?

For me, Resident Evil is best when it focuses on dread, mystery, and unethical science grounded in plausible events. The games in the series that are convoluted with cartoonish tropes are the most lambasted because they’re about as convoluted as the plot of Kingdom Hearts. Dr. Marcus (Resident Evil: Zero) is ludicrous. The “Ashford Twins” (Resident Evil: Code Veronica) are ludicrous. Albert Wesker eventually becomes as ludicrous as buff Chris Redfield punching a boulder in a volcano.

Capcom realized a few years ago that they needed to go back to their roots with RE7, and what followed has been celebrated for a reason. My concern is that RE3 Remake hints that Capcom isn’t planning to stay the course.

It’s disappointing that RE3 is over so quickly, that the multiplayer experience is forgettable, that Nemesis is basically a scripted plot device, and that we seem to be, once again, moving in the direction of action-shooter-horror over and against survival-horror. Not all audiences can be completely satisfied with every product, and the RE series as a whole has worn two hats for going on fifteen years.

My hope is that as Capcom continues releasing titles in this reimagined series built on the RE engine, they remember what established Resident Evil in the first place.

Agree? Disagree? Something nice to say? Leave it below.

The Bottom Line

10/10 if Resident Evil 3 Remake were not a Resident Evil game. As a Resident Evil game within the broader series, 7/10. What’s good about it is good, but what’s lacking is lacking.

 

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Daniel Rodrigues-Martin

DANIEL RODRIGUES-MARTIN is an author, editor, and gamer. Buy his books on Amazon and Visit his website at www.danielrodriguesmartin.weebly.com.

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