Developed and Published by: Capcom
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Release Date: Out Now
Jill Valentine (Nicole Tompkins) is improvising. After the monstrous Nemesis (David Cockman) spontaneously smashes into her Raccoon City apartment amid the beginnings of the T-Virus outbreak, she has seconds, if that, to make choices that keep her alive. Instinctive dodges, reflexive decisions to block the path behind her, and a fiery determination to avoid the clutches of the closing tentacles leads her outside, where she discovers the extent to which the situation has escalated. Infected residents are all over the streets, amid survivors running desperately for safety. Fellow Special Tactics And Rescue Service member Brad Vickers (Darren O’hare) appears and informs her about the creature she just narrowly avoided; it is set upon hunting down those in the S.T.A.R.S. group with relentless tenacity. In the following sequence, Jill makes her way through more infected, meeting Nemesis again in a brutal face-off with another narrow escape before the first moment where you can catch your breath.
Know Your Enemy
This is the brilliant, heart-racing opening to Resident Evil 3, the remake of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis that was initially released in 1999 on the first PlayStation. It’s been revamped with the same RE Engine introduced for the recent remake of Resident Evil 2, switching the fixed perspectives up for a contemporary third-person over-the-shoulder viewpoint of 3D environments. Just before the sequence described above (and after a delightfully stylised opening roll), you spend a few first-person moments as Jill in her Raccoon City apartment that immediately makes clear not only the production value, but the intricacy of the visual upgrade. The character-informing posters, the detailed notes of her investigation into Umbrella Corporation, the food left on the table; it’s all-encompassing. From there, you go to the bathroom window, switch to third-person, and away you go, soon into that first meeting with Nemesis.
If I was making a list of the top ten video game openings, Resident Evil 3 would be in there (that’s actually a fun idea, may do that!). It grips you with immediate effect and does not let go, even after the credits roll! On my journey through the Resident Evil series this year, this has undoubtedly been the high point, combining the tense survival horror and incredible, dramatic action of the series into one cinematic package. Pacing is exceptional, never lingering too long in a tone or setting; the balance makes the game very malleable to differing play styles and speeds. My first run took around 4-5 hours, similar when on thorough collectible searches, but you can also feasibly finish the game in under two hours if you know how to operate. Put it this way: I have played through this game 5 times so far, and am enthusiastic to go again!
The majority of Resident Evil 3 is spent playing as Jill Valentine; the game is set post the Mansion Incident she was caught up in from the original Resident Evil, which is part of why she is now investigating Umbrella. In the Resident Evil series, Jill Valentine is my favourite character, and she is awesome in the protagonist role here, self-confident and evidently skilled but also clearly fighting internal issues. This very human strength and solidarity drew so much empathy from me – I would say that further insight into those images troubling her could have added even more of an emotional edge to Resident Evil 3. We follow her attempts to save and escape from Raccoon City whilst being hounded by Nemesis; the events happen concurrently to those of the Resident Evil 2 remake, with clever crossovers here and there, but 3 is structured quite differently. Whilst 2 had two campaigns, one each for Claire Redfield and Leon Kennedy, 3 is focused on Jill, though there are admittedly sporadic sequences playing as Carlos Oliveira (Jeff Schine) that hint at inspiration from the previous remake.
Hold on, I hear you say, who is Carlos Oliveira? Jill meets him after one of the encounters with Nemesis, and discovers Carlos is part of U.B.C.S. (Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service), trying to get survivors onto a train and out of the city. Despite friction due to their Umbrella origin, Jill agrees to help them out, as there are innocent lives at stake. Other members of U.B.C.S. we meet around his point are the directing voice of Mikhail Victor (William Hope), the efficient and supportive Tyrell Patrick (Sterling Suliman), and the suspicious Nicholai Ginovaef (Neil Newbon). These scenes of the characters conversing are another example of the remarkable visuals of Resident Evil 3; the character models are detailed and expressive, moving with wonderful fluidity, and the voice acting is on-point as well, suitably serious, charismatic, and just that slight bit melodramatic!
Inevitably, going back to the surface of Raccoon City escalates into many tense instances – I mean, this is Resident Evil, after all! A variety of threats arise to hamper progress as Jill tries to get the train back up and running, from the expected – y’know, zombies – to the not-so-much of a particularly gruesome nest of spider creatures. Though the game is much more linear than the Resident Evil 2 remake, there is satisfying depth to each locale; alternate routes are there to discover, and as you acquire equipment such as the Lock Pick, you can access hidden items previously out of reach. The RE Engine makes inventory management streamlined, snappy, and smooth, letting you put your focus on surviving and getting to know area layouts. This is especially important in 3 as Nemesis can suddenly land in front of you and throw your carefully-considered plan out of the window!
Nemesis completely changes the situation. In addition to the imposing build, hard-hitting close combat attacks, and tentacles to grab Jill, it also has frightening speed when running, meaning for much of the game – and especially on harder difficulties – dodging is your main form of defence. A tap of the mapped trigger causes Jill to take a cautionary step or roll which, if you time it just right, causes a slowdown effect with more opportunity for retaliation. It’s so gratifying, requiring exquisite timing to successfully perform. Otherwise, intense damage can lead to Nemesis temporarily pausing the chase, but do note the word temporary – when in pursuit, Nemesis is tough to shake off. Furthermore, the presence of Nemesis adds complications to other infected – there is not the same leeway to line up a headshot when you can hear thundering footsteps close behind. The instinct of fight or flight vividly kicks in as your priority becomes the next point of relative safety. Not that save rooms necessarily stop Nemesis…
I’ve really got to emphasise the feat of achieving this gameplay feeling. It isn’t common; there are plenty of hard games, plenty of scary games, but to strike the balance of the thrill of the chase, the suspense of the intermissions, and the energy of knowing you have a way to retaliate – it’s incredible, leaving you scrambling to react from moment to moment, without any sense of unfairness. After the Resident Evil 2 remake, the return to Raccoon City could have been samey, but that is not the case; as the game continues you move to intriguing and occasionally vibrant new settings, whether that be a waterside confrontation, a creepy hospital, or a clinical but blood-tainted facility. This contributes to maintaining the air of surprise – the opposition also responds to the change of location.
On the Same Side?
With so many threats all around, making use of the firepower available to Jill is crucial; as well as her iconic Samurai Edge, Jill gets access to a shotgun, grenade launcher, and more. When playing as Carlos, this differs. He has more of a military vibe, with the rifle and how he lunges forward instead of dodging. It is refreshing in that it encourages a slightly different approach, less reflexive and more about raw damage. There are other subtle differences – for example, Carlos does not have the option of using a Lock Pick, so in one location later on, only when you go through as Jill are certain locks made available to open. It’s a fun form of Metroidvania puzzle design mixed in as Jill and Carlos make their way through the story and continue to have their paths meet.
In just a few scenes, a respect is built that Jill and Carlos have for each other based on their individual qualities, not the affiliations they have, which I really appreciated. They help each other out in the game, but it’s a friendly and proactive sense of camaraderie that drives it more than an antiquated romance story. Tyrell Patrick is a great foil to the two as well, bouncing off each well and stopping it being just the Jill and Carlos show. There are enough moments of downtime interspersed in Resident Evil 3 to allow the characters to have those important quieter moments – and for you to catch your breath! – but also not so many that Nemesis, and other threats, lose impetus. Agh, just writing this makes me excited to jump back in yet again! OK, William, finish the review first…
At first impression, Resident Evil 3 being around 2-5 hours could be an issue, but I really disagree. In my eyes, a game is not valued on the factual hours of the length of the narrative; it is the potential in that for enjoyment, for affecting moments, and for longevity and replayability, and in that regard Resident Evil 3 is exceptional. No one scenario is lingered on to the point of getting too comfortable, and even the types of infected you meet aren’t repeated much, and when they are, they’re in a new scenario where a new approach may be needed on the player side. It keeps you on your toes, as you’re never quite sure on that awaiting you around the next corner, Nemesis or otherwise.
I’d say that in the Resident Evil series, the entry that Resident Evil 3 is closest to is – despite the shared engine – not the Resident Evil 2 remake, but actually Resident Evil 4. The more linear path and fusion of horror with action are similarities, though Resident Evil 3 also has the intense Nemesis chases. To go back to the game length again; I found myself really connecting to Resident Evil 3. The idea of a story that knows where it is headed with a laser-focus on the narrative and gameplay is one I am very much here for. It may not be to the taste of everyone, but for me it clicked into place as the pinnacle of interactive storytelling within the Resident Evil series.
All Over Again
The question is, then, quite why have I played through Resident Evil 3 so many times? For starters, it is because I garner such joy from the experience. As well as this, there are plenty of rewards to further push you in this direction. First I did my initial playthrough, then on the second occasion I paid especially close attention to trying to find as many collectibles as I could. Next, I started the harder difficulties, and woah-oah. Wow. The easy option would have been just to up the damage you take and lower your health; but no, depending on which difficulty you play on, Resident Evil 3 becomes a very different type of game.
Enemy placements change. Different enemies spawn in different areas. Items are moved around. Traits of enemies themselves markedly deviate. It’s as though the puzzle has been shaken up, and all your knowledge is put to the test as the early encounters immediately become incredibly challenging. Infected react much more violently and appear in places you might not have even considered before, cutting you off in Nemesis meetings and literally falling from the air over your head. Again, though, it never feels unfair, it’s just as though you’re being asked to demonstrate your proficiency at the game.
The final fight in particular turns into an utter test of gaming skill as you dance around the attacks flying in, using every trick you have learned from playing Resident Evil 3 to that point. Seriously, that sequence on the hardest difficulty is so tough, so brutal, but oh-so-satisfying. Helping out is the Shop which – wait, hold on! – is to my delight completely transaction-free! You earn points from completing challenges in the Records menu, such as defeating a set amount of enemies, finding collectibles, and completing the game in certain ways. Several of these, such as completing the game using one or less of the healing items, are also requirements for the Trophy list.
With these points, you can purchase item that have in-game effects. Increasing stats, having access to a new weapon, crafting more ammo at once; the shop is very helpful to ever-so-slightly soften the harder difficulties. The means of getting those points to spend also bring with them extra unlockables, in the form of Concept Art and Models that are fascinating to view. There is a coherent sense of longevity in Resident Evil 3.
From All Sides
Now, I am going to put aside space to mention more on the audio. As aforementioned, the voice acting is superb at capturing the essence of the characters and the tone of the game, with Nicole Tompkins as Jill Valentine the standout, but no weak points in the cast either. David Cockman is the supplier of the intimidating roars and growls of Nemesis; the sound design for the roster of enemies is, as is often the case for Resident Evil, effectively ambient, often signalling their arrival before you see them!
The audio design is so key to the suspenseful exhilaration sustained in Resident Evil 3. With the way that this game carries itself and constantly pushes you, the sounds resonate through you and contribute to that energetic flow that fluctuates depending on the situation. The reloading of a gun, the groans of zombies, the sounds of Jill short on breath when injured – it all goes together, signposting you through sound of where your attention should be going next. It is masterful, and matched with the beautifully extravagant camerawork and polished visuals, makes for a breathtaking presentation.
Before I get to my Final Thoughts for Resident Evil 3, a note on Resident Evil Resistance, which is only playable through purchase of Resident Evil 3 but is intentionally split from it as a separate game. It was worked on by a different developer, namely NeoBards Entertainment, and centres on a group of new characters taken by Umbrella who try to escape in 4-against-1 multiplayer gameplay; the RE Engine is again in action, and since launch there has been the addition of Jill Valentine as a playable character. Going by how the two games have been released, I have decided to keep my reviews apart. Yet, as the acquisition of Resident Evil Resistance is so tied to Resident Evil 3, I have put a link to that review below:
Resident Evil Resistance Review
To make it clear, Resident Evil Resistance is not being included in the consideration of my verdict for Resident Evil 3. You can sense that the development teams of the two games were not the same, as Resident Evil 3 is considerably more cohesive and successful than Resistance. There is fun within Resistance though, so if you’re intrigued by that game, my review is there for more detail.
Resident Evil 3 is a showcase of how it isn’t the extent of a game, but the content within, that counts. Jill Valentine leads an engaging cast of characters caught up in a compelling scenario; this is a game that is keenly aware of the style of story it is telling, and leans into it with phenomenal effect. It never gets complacent, constantly challenging you with new enemies and situations that are all heightened by the Nemesis factor. In addition, the impressive longevity of difficulty modes and unlockables opens up such enthusiasm for repeat playthroughs. For me, Resident Evil 3 is my Game of the Year so far, a seamless, stunning combination of narrative and gameplay, classic and contemporary, horror and action. Right, time to start that 6th playthrough…