Resident Evil 3 isn’t your average remake.
Following the high bar of last year’s Resident Evil 2 (our 2019 game of the year, no less), this doesn’t just remake the original PS1 game from the ground up, but manages to take inspiration from much of the series’ history.
There’s the surprise use of live-action footage in the intro, not seen since the first game’s much lower budget efforts, a couple disarming moments in first-person that recall Resident Evil 7’s new perspective, while a more action-packed pace almost reaches the memorable heights of Resident Evil 4.
More importantly, we get to reacquaint ourselves with the series’ original leading lady Jill Valentine, who’s brought back down to earth since her last appearance in Resident Evil 5 saw her arc effectively jumping the shark.
My Bloody Valentine
Gone is the boob tube and short skirt of the original, and instead we have more emphasis on a former S.T.A.R.S officer suffering sleepless nights, fighting for her life minutes into the game, covered in cuts and dirt, and swearing like a trooper. Even with the modern revamp, Jill is every bit recognisable as the capable survivor fans remember, while her reputation as ‘the Master of Unlocking’ remains intact.
Arguably it’s mercenary Carlos Oliveira who’s had the more drastic makeover. Along with his new rugged, manly good looks, he’s also given more of a part to play, including a section that takes players back to the police station 24 hours before Leon and Claire’s arrival.
The bigger highlight is that we get to see much more of the city, particularly in the first half. There’s plenty of lovingly crafted detail - the unfinished box of doughnuts, the fake film posters on the subway, the vibrant signage of stores and diners - giving you a vivid picture of a city before everything went to hell.
He might not have a subtitle billing anymore but Nemesis is still very much a star of the show. A hulking unstoppable force who’s hot on your pursuit right from the get-go, if you dreaded encounters with Mr. X in the Resident Evil 2 remake, well, this guy cranks things up to 11.
Yet despite being a more agile pursuer who’s constantly evolving over the course of the campaign, his presence is never overwhelming either. As this remake leans more towards the series’ later action-oriented entries, you’ve always got a decent amount of resources to fend off Nemesis - if you manage to put him down, you can even pick up some useful upgrades or supplies.
Of course, he’s not the only thing you have to worry about. I actually met my demise mostly at the hands of regular zombies - despite a button-mashing prompt, it seems impossible to escape getting bitten once grabbed. There are even more disgusting monstrosities, such as the sewer-dwelling hunter gammas that can swallow you whole, or face-hugger creatures that plant something so gross down your throat that you need to ingest a green herb to puke it back out. Nice.
Keep your distance
That said, overall I found Resident Evil 3 considerably easier than previous entries. Inventory management can be taxing to begin with, but ammo - or materials for crafting ammo - is ultimately in good supply, and even respawns during boss fights.
The city’s more open spaces also gives you more room to avoid the shuffle of zombies, while conveniently placed objects, from explosive red barrels to electrocuting generators, do well to stop Nemesis or any other enemies in their tracks.
Even more helpful are control improvements from the ability to quick-turn in any direction and the all-new quick step. The latter takes unexpected direction from both Dark Souls and Vanquish - if you time it just as an enemy attacks, it becomes a perfect dodge roll that lets you aim the next shot immediately after in slow-motion.
Nowhere to run
If Resident Evil 3 does a lot to modernise and expand upon the 1999 original, it also takes away elements that old-school fans may find disappointing. There are considerably fewer puzzles, while a consistent but linear narrative means there are no longer live choices that can change the path and outcome of the story.
Even with some expanded sectons, you’re still looking at a game that can be beaten in a few hours, and without different story perspectives like Leon and Claire’s paths in Resident Evil 2, there’s little incentive to replay for story.
Yet the shorter runtime does make it more compelling for speedruns - you’ll need to finish it under two hours in order to get the coveted S rank. Whether you decide to don a new costume or unlock some more useful items at the start to speed things along, or challenge yourself to tick off the achievements list, it’s worth hanging around in Racoon City for longer.
Resident Evil 3 Verdict
Resident Evil 3 is a tense and exhilarating thrill ride with rarely a dull moment, only guilty of not quite reaching the same astonishing heights as last year’s Resident Evil 2.
As a remake, it echoes both the series past and present while also giving one of gaming’s original heroines a welcome return to the spotlight.