Capcom’s remake of RESIDENT EVIL 2 was the most fun I had playing a video game in 2019, so needless to say I was pretty stoked for the follow-up act just over a year later. Like RE2, I’ve never played the original RESIDENT EVIL 3: NEMESIS, but I’ve absorbed enough context through this wacky, labyrinthine series to get the gist of it: Nemesis is a big ugly dude who wants to kill Jill, and so do a bunch of zombies. While the world of story never goes much further than that in any RE title, there’s always at least a SAW movie’s worth of puzzles and deathtraps laying around to build on complexity.
There’s a glimmer of that manic menagerie in the opening minutes of 2020’s RESIDENT EVIL 3: a wacky live-action newscast sets the stage for the zombie outbreak in Raccoon City, followed by a first-person exploration of protagonist Jill’s barricaded apartment, could not have come at a more appropriate time. RE3 remake’s graphics really shine during this segment, as this has been one of the best looking series out there ever since RESIDENT EVIL 7’s total overhaul back in 2017. An explosive entrance by Umbrella Corporation’s zombie hitman Nemesis kicks Jill out of quarantine and into action, and after a frantic escape, some quirky interactions with the city’s escaping populace, and plenty of callbacks for the fans, a promising evacuation narrative is teed up for the player.
Tfw you can finally go outside again
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. Supercop Jill immediately comes into possession of a staggering arsenal and proceeds to blast her way straight through Raccoon City’s shockingly linear streets towards the escape chopper, with half-a-dozen Nemesis boss fights punctuating the ordeal. Backtracking is kept at a minimum, puzzles never extend beyond “kill zombies to get key for door,” and essential items like health and ammo are always plentiful. Outside of a few instances where control is switched to Jill’s buddy Carlos, the campaign is a straight shot to the finish line that rarely tests your abilities.
There’s not a lot of game in this game, either. My jaw hung open when I reached the credits after just five hours of gameplay—I average about 10 the first time around on most RE games—and it hit the floor when I realized after some postgame Googling that there were none of the alternate paths, endings, or bonus modes beyond enhanced difficulty settings that last year’s RE2 had spoiled me with. Yes, there is a PvPvE multiplayer mode in the form of RESIDENT EVIL RESISTANCE, but that comes packaged in a completely separate app.
Yet more than anything that didn’t make the jump, I missed the scares from RE2. Mr. X, a runt in comparison to RE3’s stalker, nonetheless frightened the bejeezus out of me everytime he Kool-Aid Manned his way into a room, cornered me in a room full of zombies, or even just stomped around on a floor above me. The maze-like layout of RE2’s police station, with safe points few and far between, made me want to cry at the thought of returning to a previous area when I remembered that the Scary Big Man was patrolling its halls like a cartoon bully. Nemesis, on the other hand, is a pushover. Sure, I’d shit myself if I saw him standing outside my apartment, but in-game he’s a fairly predictable villain who appears at scripted intervals, can either be avoided or defeated pretty easily, and looks like an uncircumcised penis. He’s mostly an unpleasant nuisance, not the soul-draining monster he’s supposed to be.
Capcom kind of shot themselves in the foot with RE3 by knocking it out of the park so thoroughly with RE2. Mr. X wasn’t even a big part of his original game—the guy was a hazard constrained to a handful of rooms—but RE3 is and has always been Nemesis’ show. The set pieces that each encounter is built around are admittedly rad as hell, but the cinematic panache is far cooler than the fights themselves.
This action-heavy approach is ultimately the biggest flaw in RE3, which is ironically the same criticism levied against it back in 1999. Eschewing traditional survival horror design for more guns and explosions can work, but the gameplay needs to adapt to reflect the more gonzo premise. Classic Resident Evil’s tank controls and fixed cameras were claustrophobic and limiting; great for horror, not so much for a power fantasy. The disparity between these two concepts caused the series to decline until RESIDENT EVIL 4 reinvented itself, and third-person shooters, forever. RE3 2020 handles like a jet fighter by comparison, but it’s still nothing compared to the frenetic heights the shooter genre has reached today.
If you squint, this Hunter kind of looks like a Hell Knight from DOOM, a game you should probably pick up instead
RESIDENT EVIL 3’s short runtime and linear structure make it a tough sell to hardcore fans and casual gamers alike. This would absolutely be a knockout Redbox rental if that was still a thing, but at $60, I struggle to even recommend the game to series faithful like myself. When I beat RESIDENT EVIL 2, I immediately started it again to see the other half of the story; when I beat RESIDENT EVIL 3, I immediately uninstalled it to make room on my PS4’s hard drive for better games. That, more than anything, makes me doubt the staying power of Capcom’s latest remake. Here’s hoping they take a different approach with their next game.