Resident Evil 3: Nemesis may not have been the true sequel to Resident Evil 2 – that honor goes to Resident Evil CODE: Veronica – but it actually took more incremental steps forward in terms of core mechanics than its successor, not to mention introducing one of the series’ most feared enemies to date with the eponymous, rocket launcher-wielding S.T.A.R.S. killer.
Launched in 1999, Resi 3 not only introduced future staples such as the 180-degree turn and gunpowder mixing but crucially, spiced things up with the addition of Live Selections and a dodge mechanic. Okay, so the latter was about as much use as a pair of sunglasses on a bloke with one ear at times, but it definitely gave Capcom‘s venerable undead-slaying franchise the shot in the arm it needed at the time.
Fast forward 20 years and Resident Evil 3 has received a massive overhaul for PS4. And just so we’re clear, this is not a remake; there are a lot more creative liberties taken here compared to Resident Evil and even Resident Evil 2‘s high-definition revamps, to the point where it is better labelled as a full re-imagining.
Resident Evil 3 PS4 Review – Seeing S.T.A.R.S.
Set against the backdrop of a city-wide T-Virus pandemic in fall 1998 (and crucially, 24 hours before and after Leon and Claire’s exploits), Resident Evil 3 features Jill Valentine, the former S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team member from the first game. With Chris and Barry having buggered off to Europe to take down Umbrella, Valentine opts to stay behind to continue her own investigation, but the dead comes knocking and muck things right up.
There’s also the small problem of a massive bloke in a black trench coat that loves to smash through walls and attempt to shove a slithery tentacle in her face. Just another day on the front lines of the Raccoon City Police Department, then.
Resident Evil 3 hits the ground running. After a brief spell in your apartment – including a lovely little nod back to Resi 7’s controversial first-person perspective – you’re on the streets and right into the thick of things. Capcom absolutely nails the atmosphere and chaos from the get-go: streets are packed with ravenous zombies, police cruisers lie abandoned in the streets, blood cakes the sidewalks, and civilians run like hell for cover.
It’s total carnage, and there’s a palpable sense that this once-cosy mid-western town is firmly in the decaying hands of the undead. And, unlike Resi 2, you really get to see more of the city as it collapses. Jill spends a lot of her time outside on the streets in the first half of the game, making for a welcome change to the halls of the RPD; it’s still very much linear, but there’s room to explore and soak up the atmosphere, with dilapidated shops and trashed apartments ripe for the picking in terms of precious supplies.
Resident Evil 3 Is An Atmospheric Treat
Capcom succeeds in cultivating a believable atmosphere in Resi 3, making it all the more enjoyable to explore when given the chance. The attention to detail is equally impressive: neon-lit signs dangle precariously over shop doorways, crushed bodies pile up amidst car wrecks, and pieces of everyday life lie abandoned and decaying. It’s ruddy fantastic, and you can’t help but feel this was once a living, breathing city.
The meat and potatoes of Resi 3’s gameplay doesn’t deviate too much from what you’d expect. You’ll still be fighting off flesh-hungry zombies, conserving ammo where possible, and hunting down key objects and solving puzzles, the latter of which are thankfully a little more grounded in reality than the original. The shooting still feels as robust and satisfying as ever, with weapons delivering the meaty punch you’d expect.
The addition of a dodge mechanic – activated by pressing R1 and the direction you want to move – keeps things fresh, and you can’t spam it needlessly. Executing a perfect dodge requires solid timing, and it’s incredibly gratifying to pull off when it gets you out of a tight squeeze.
You’ll need it too, as there’s more than just packs of zombies roaming the streets. From the grotesquely redesigned Drain Deimos and Hunter Gammas to mutant zombie dogs, Raccoon City is crawling with blood-thirsty critters that will quickly overwhelm you if you aren’t quick to adapt and know how to fight back.
Nemesis Never Looked Better
Combat comes thick and fast here, and there’s definitely more of it than Resi 2, with packs of enemies filling the screen at times. Fortunately, your armory is equally impressive, with pistols, shotguns, grenade launchers, and machine guns helping you splatter the innards of T-Virus mutations across the pavement and walls.
Then there’s Nemesis himself. This guy makes Mr. X look like one of the Gummy Bears; a relentless, towering, and brutal thug of a Tyrant that will reduce you to mush if you aren’t careful. He can not only outrun you, but also loves to jump over you to block your path, attempting to duff you up with his meaty fists and grab you from a distance with his tentacle-like appendage.
Fighting Nemesis is tough, and requires some serious firepower – and that’s only when he’s chasing you in the streets. Mandatory boss fights against this inexorable foe are superbly executed and even more challenging, requiring adaptation and strategy on your part to effectively take him down. It’s also made more difficult as Nemmy loves to whip out his flamethrower or rocket launcher at times too, leading to some of the series’ best boss fights of recent memory.
Capcom has managed to strike a wonderful balance between firm but fair with these encounters. You never feel completely outclassed, but you’re always going to be cautious and aware of your health and ammo, which is exactly what you’d expect from a Resi game. They’re also a welcome change of pace from the regular action too, and there’s a punchy sense of satisfaction to be had when you emerge victorious.
Carlos’ Sections Are Equally Impressive
Meanwhile, locations aren’t just restricted to the city streets. You’ll explore power plants, labs, sewers, and even the RPD as you progress through the game, with control switching to Carlos at a few points. In fact, Carlos’ segments are some of the more polished in the game, with claustrophobic, tension-fueled moments proving a refreshing change from the more bombastic nature of Jill’s antics.
One of the biggest compliments I can give Resi 3 is that you’re constantly on edge; I had that familiar perpetual knot of dread in my gut, never knowing when Nemesis would show up to kick my backside or what lay around the next corner. Capcom has always been experts at pacing, and this latest remake is a testament to the polished paradigm that the developer has been steadily improving ever since RE4 blew our socks off 15 years ago.
Jill and Carlos’ redesigns are also a welcome change. There’s none of the cringe-worthy ‘I know you, wanna ask me out? All the foxy ladies love my accent, it drives them crazy!’ guff from the South American mercenary this time around, with Carlos instead more rough around the edges while still retaining that boyish charm.
Jill is superbly handled, too. While she’s still the hardened zombie slayer we know and love, her characterization is more nuanced this time around. You see the repercussions that the Mansion Incident has had on her mental state, and there’s a believable growth to her character based on her interaction with the rest of the cast, especially Brad and Carlos.
Resident Evil 3 Cuts Some Notable Content
By far the most egregious aspects of Resi 3 are the conspicuous lack of certain enemies and locations that fans of the 1999 version (myself included) will definitely miss. Giant Spiders continue to be left on the cutting room floor for reasons that continue to elude me, and the omission of the Grave Digger boss is frankly incomprehensible.
Likewise, iconic locations that made up the original game are either gone or no longer fully explorable; instead, we get new, albeit formulaic, sewer area at the expense of more unique environments. I’m not quite sure why Capcom decided to give them the boot, but the game feels less complete because of it, so that’s a big disappointment. As I said, you can’t really call this a remake, even if people are content to label it as such.
Equally irksome is the fact a lot of the zombies are cut-and-paste jobs from RE2, which is a shame considering the original game added a ton of new designs for the undead. There’s also a distinct lack of post-completion content; the Mercenaries mini-game is missing, and there are no unlockable modes à la The Fourth Survivor etc, so hopefully DLC is on the horizon.
The omission of the Live Selections and alternate endings are missed too, but given the campaign is well-paced and tightly packed, it’s still fun to dip back into (plus there’s a few collectibles worth hoovering up).
Still, these issues don’t stop Resident Evil 3 remake from being an accomplished horror romp, providing bouts of adrenaline-pumping action with pant-wetting horror in ample supply. It’s also the perfect complement to Resi 2, neatly wrapping up the Raccoon City saga in meticulous fashion. Oh, and Nemesis – ’nuff said.
Review copy kindly provided by the publisher.
Resident Evil 3 Remake is slated for release on PS4, PC, and Xbox One on April 3.