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‘Resident Evil 3 Remake’: A Big Thing in a Really Small Package

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Resident Evil 3 Remake Review

Think of everything you know about the original Resident Evil 2 and 3. You’ll probably land somewhere at Resident Evil 3 is a shorter, more scripted and action-orientated experience than its predecessor. Now, if you take that understanding and transpose it for the remakes of both games, then this review practically wrote itself in 1999. The ultimate question then asks whether the expected repeating of history is acceptable in this case, or is it a dereliction of Capcom’s duty to so flawlessly recreate RE3’s perceived inferiority to RE2?

Naturally, the source material is what it is – or isn’t, in some cases, but more on that later – but regardless of what they have to work with, Capcom has consistently produced outstanding results when remaking Resident Evil games. Until last year, you’d have to submit a pretty hefty argument to sway the opinion that the GameCube remake of Resident Evil was the most expertly reverential-yet-fresh remake ever made. 2019’s Resident Evil 2 further raised Capcom’s own bar so significantly, it left the runt of the original trilogy quite a hefty task to even give it an extra nudge.

I kid you not, this first zombie encounter in the entire game killed me in one hit. RE3 ain’t messing around!

As with the original title, then, the RE3 remake has a lot of similarities in terms of look and setting to the previous title, but never has Raccoon City come close to looking this good. Clinging to the glowing iconography of a once-vibrant metropolis, this ravaged dystopian version is a macabre masterpiece. The neon signs of the city’s various outlets overlook utter chaos – burnt-out cars, landslides, corpses and fires litter the streets, soaked in the narcissistic glow of neo consumerism.

The pieces that fit into this apocalyptic diorama are largely unchanged from last year’s game, but they slot back in effortlessly. Zombies still look fantastic – their decaying, shambling carcasses, vicious attack animations and pinpoint, gory reactions to damage remain unparalleled in the genre. Likewise, Jill and her fellow humans are all brilliantly modelled and motion-captured. Everything about the moving parts in RE3 is stellar, none more so than the hulking, nightmarish visage of the series’ ultimate Big Bad, Nemesis.

Last year, Capcom began spearheading the movement to make zombies scary again, and RE3 has them in full flow. Boxed-in rooms and narrow alleys are ripe for zombie shithousery, and these buggers are no mugs to put down. Multiple headshots aren’t always enough to stop the ravenous hordes from advancing, and when you multiply their numbers and tenacity by the terror of having Nemesis on your tail, you’re in for big scares and constant tension.

The enemy reaction animations in RE3 are second to none.

Where RE2 had Mr. X ominously pacing towards you and stomping around on the police station’s floorboards, Nemesis is ruthless and relentless sprinter right from the start of the game. Whenever the game opens up the chase sequences, he is devastating. Able to close distance with giant leaps, you simply cannot pin all your hopes on turning and running, as he will end up in front of you before you know it. He throws down like Tyson on T-Virus, with additional grabs and chokes, and it’s not long before he’s packing some serious heat – quite literally, with rocket launchers and flame throwers in his arsenal.

It’s not even an issue that Nemesis’ appearances in the game are all scripted to start at certain moments – the problem is that too many of the chase sequences are on rails or even just in a cutscene. While this gives his presence more of a cinematic quality, the original RE3 version was arguably more of a direct threat. All too often it becomes clear that you’re only in danger of a mis-timed QTE rather than at the mercy of your lack of wits or skill. Yes, the original had its paused decision-making screens, but ol’ Nemmy was let loose to chase you far more often, and it’s a real shame that he’s not allowed to do that here.

“Oh bah gawd! What a chokeslam, King!”

It seems that Capcom decided to make a trade-off with the player on this front, and their bargaining chip is an increased number of arena-based boss fights with Nemesis. Unfortunately, they’re a bit of a mixed bag. Early fights, while he’s still in his standard form, are fantastic – a rooftop fight against flamethrower Nemesis is arguably the game’s best – but he changes form more frequently in the remake, and it’s not always a welcome change. The game’s lowest points are the cheap, throwaway ‘puzzle fights’ that permeate the second act. Specifically, when Nemesis takes on an almost canine form, inexplicably breaking from fights to run around in circles across buildings or elevated tanks, with very obvious solutions needed to bring him down to ground level and lay into his prone, stunned body – protruding weak spot and all.

Nemesis also takes up all the game’s boss fights, which means the original’s Grave Digger worm is cut entirely. It wasn’t exactly the best boss Resident Evil has ever done, and it’s understandable that Capcom wanted to keep the focus on the ever-lingering presence of Nemesis, but when losing the Grave Digger also means losing the whole clock tower segment (replaced with a sewer portion and some new enemies) of the game, we have a problem. Quite why the developers thought they couldn’t get much out of a spooky old building filled with giant spiders is beyond me. Forced to also say goodbye to Raccoon City Park, the graveyard and the dead factory, the game’s campaign length runs criminally short.

Nope, I’ll just save these for later!

Consequently, as you’d expect, the story is slightly altered in the remake to work around cut content and modernize the cinematic aspects. The result is undeniably a better story with a massively improved script and some excellent voice acting. Everything is fleshed out better here, from Carlos and Jill’s relationship to Nikolai’s motivations and gradual descent into full on scene-chewing bastard. The action is better, too. One of the game’s unsung achievements turns the construction site from a corridor with a couple of Drain Deimos to a chilling, lights-out tunnel of terror. Yes, Capcom has cut out some large pieces from the original, but their fleshing out of what was kept in should not go without praise.

A clear decision was made to keep the game feeling tight and having the player feel nothing but adrenaline throughout, and the lack of any real puzzles is testament to that mandate. Despite being heavily used in the original, and a sizable inclusion in RE2’s remake, you can count on one hand the number of puzzles here. Worse still, barely any of them are memorable or even remotely challenging. It’s often been apparent that Capcom doesn’t think players really want puzzles in Resident Evil anymore, but I am firmly in the camp that believes they are essential to the experience and a fundamental part of what makes the series so enjoyable. To see so few here compared to the original RE3 is a huge disappointment.

Lighting, enemy placement and level design is flawless here.

Perhaps it was the shorter development window alongside a potential division of resources for the utterly forgettable Resident Evil Resistance multiplayer – which comes tacked on to the RE3 package as the answer to a question no-one asked – that caused the campaign to be so short, but a full-price AAA title that lasts about 5-7 hours on a first run is bordering on criminal. When a $60 game has a trophy for beating it in under two hours, you know you’re in trouble. Especially as the campaign itself truly is an adrenaline-filled ride full of tension, action and scares. The true disappointment is that Capcom could have made this game twice as long without eschewing quality – we saw that with RE2 – and what we have here is so good that it deserves more time to shine.

Ultimately, it comes back to Resident Evil 3 Remake carrying on the legacy of the original game. We know the shortcomings of that game versus Resident Evil 2, but why did that create a seemingly inevitable repeat of history where the remake is concerned? Especially when RE3 only falls short of RE2 as a value package – as a game it has its own strengths and identity that it rightly leans on. Jill, Carlos, and Nemesis all shine brightly as the stars of the show, and it’s a show that will have you constantly on the edge of your seat, it’s just a seat that you’ll spend less time in than one in the office for a single working day.

Resident Evil 3 Remake packs a lot into very little, and it should be commended for that. It just seems like it’ll never escape the shadow of its predecessors and, arguably, even the original in this case. Capcom was far more liberal with their changes here than in Resident Evil 2 and hopefully, Capcom takes this criticism to mind if/when they decide to remake Code: Veronica. Hey, at least that game was so long it needed two Dreamcast discs, so they probably don’t have a choice.

Crotchety Englishman who spends hundreds of pounds on video game tattoos and Amiibo in equally wallet-crippling measure. Likes grammar a lot, but not as much as he likes heading out for a sesh of Bakamitai karaoke in Kamurocho.

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