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Resident Evil 3 has big boots to fill. Let's not beat around the bush here, and pretend like Capcom didn't absolutely pull it outta the bag with the Resident Evil 2 remake from 2019. It wasn't just one of the best games of the year, but one of the greatest Resident Evil games in a generation; bringing back that sense of looming dread and claustrophobia franchise fans have been begging for since, arguably, Resident Evil 4 back in 2005.
No pressure then. But Resident Evil 3 was a different game to its predecessor back in the late '90s, and so too is it today. Taking the shambling bones of what made Resi 2 great, and doing something different enough to make it fresh, but not so different to distance itself from its source was always going to be a delicate operation. The answer? More action. More intensity. A broader look at the story unfolding in the doomed Raccoon City. And, of course, Nemesis.
You play tenacious super-cop Jill Valentine (of Resident Evil 1 fame) and UBCS soldier Carlos Oliveira, plunged into the chaos of a city, quite literally, tearing itself apart during a zombie outbreak. If that weren't ugly enough, right from the get-go you're being pursued by a cop-hungry bio-weapon called Nemesis, who has a penchant for showing up when you least want him to and ruining your otherwise cheerful day. But we'll talk more about Nemesis in a moment.
To Capcom's credit, they've gone above and beyond in giving fans something new to get their teeth into with this remake. While the broader story beats of Jill's escape are still basically the same as the 1999 original, the story here manages to pack in plenty of surprises. Gone are the branching choices, making way for something more linear, again leaning on the successes of RE2 to make the experience more modern and believable. I mean, as far as Resident Evil has ever had a believable story, that is.
New threats like the redesigned Hunter Gammas and Drain Deimos will give you pause for thought in how to progress as well. Fans will remember the re-worked iconic Licker moment from the Raccoon Police Department in Resi 2, and how the developers played on the expectations of them to dish out something entirely new. Once again, the tension becomes amplified tenfold when things don't play out exactly as you expect them to, and it makes for a terrifying ordeal, even for seasoned pros.
There are a lot of nice call-backs to the Resi 2 remake in Resi 3; the games are, after all, set in and around the same time. Without going into spoiler territory, fans of last year's game would be well served in revisiting it before playing this one, if only to jog their memory of the overarching story.
Speaking of the story, Resident Evil 3 will take about six and a half hours to get through on standard difficulty, and that's with some exploring and going around in circles during puzzles - but there is incentive to dip your toes back into the festering waters once the credits roll. A brand-new shop will unlock when you complete the game once, stocking items like more powerful weapons, buffs and costumes to purchase using XP (which you can only get by playing and completing the game) and carry them into your next playthrough.
Naturally, the better items require more XP, which in turn require more playthroughs in pursuit of that coveted S-Rank and yet more XP. This could very easily have been a cash grab for Capcom via microtransactions, but it's nice to see them staying away from that particularly sordid path.
Playing on a PS4 Pro, Raccoon City itself is nothing short of breathtaking in all its anarchistic glory, much more so than ever before. It's refreshing to get out and see so much more of the city at street level. If there weren't a zombie in sight, you get the idea that it would be a gorgeous place for a city break, and the urge to poke around in every nook and cranny for signs of life before the outbreak is almost overwhelming. There's a sense of depth that you never really got in the cramped confines of the haunted house-esque RPD, and it gives validity to the belief of a lived-in city pre-infection.
Character models and monsters are achingly well put together also. They certainly aren't leaps and bounds ahead of those used in the previous game, but who cares? Leon, Claire and company were already downright beautiful to behold, and things here are no different. Capcom have taken the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' approach, and anybody would be hard-pushed to find an argument against it.
Similarly, the sound design is second to none. I'd fully encourage listening with headphones to truly be immersed in the intoxicating aural horror of it all. Walking into a pitch-black room and hearing a barely audible shuffle and moan welcome you from the darkness will make the neck hairs of even the most steely S.T.A.R.S. members stand on end in an instant.
If we are going to be picking nits here, I'd like to have spent more time on the streets, drinking in the atmosphere of the outbreak. I felt that before too long, I was moving from location to location or being chased by Nemesis too much to get a proper idea of what it would be like to participate in a zombie apocalypse. A minor gripe, but a valid one. The allure of being handed the keys to Raccoon City is one players have been feverishly anticipating, and while it is undeniably gorgeous to look at, it's hard to not see that beauty as merely skin deep, sometimes.
While we're talking about annoyances and Nemesis, let's talk about Nemesis being annoying. To give the hulking behemoth his dues, he shows up when you least want him to (though not randomly, as some rumours had us believing) making the encounters truly apprehensive affairs that will leave you scrambling to escape his clutches, dangling by your last threads of health. But that's where the problem lies.
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In order to make Nemesis a more prevalent threat than RE2's roaming Mr. X, his moveset when you encounter him in the early game basically allows him to cheese you until you die, through no obvious fault of your own. More times than I'd have liked he would stun-lock me as I tried to escape, and kill me with unblockable attacks. He's much more palatable in the designated boss-fight areas where you can match up to him carefully and methodically, without thinking you died because of his god-mode-enabled moveset.
While Jill does have a new dodge skill that can keep her out of range of overly bitey zombies, it doesn't always work against Nem - and when it does work against zombies it feels almost a little too easy. As mentioned, Resi 3 was always the more excitable younger sibling to Resi 2's methodical middle-child, so while it makes sense within the confines of the franchise, it can tip the balance away from survival and into action-horror more often than I'd have liked.
But these niggles are by-the-by, as Nemesis (thankfully) isn't always on your case. The rest of Jill's campaign is fraught with nightmare-inducing creatures and set-pieces that will delight fans. You always have just enough ammo and health items on the standard difficulty setting to scrape by, but you will find yourself rationing items for desperate situations that could be just around the corner.
This remains true later in the game where you play as soldier Carlos, who could have used his assault rifle to simply gun down waves of the undead in a hail of bullets. While you do get to unleash some pent-up anger like this, it balances itself out fairly quickly to continue the excellent pacing throughout.
Unlike the original Resident Evil 3, this remake ships with a brand new, stand-alone challenge in Resident Evil Resistance. While not strictly part of the main game itself, Resistance is Capcom's attempt to bulk out the experience by adding something a little different for fans: an online experience.
Taking control of either one of a plucky band of four survivors or the maniacal Mastermind intent on overseeing their demise, the game plays out a little like Left 4 Dead for the survivors, and a tower defence game for the Mastermind. The 4v1 dynamic is very well balanced - in my time with the game I came out with equal wins playing as the lone Mastermind and one of the group of survivors.
The survivors are all fairly generic in their appearance and personalities (though they can be customised to some extent, via loot crate unlocks) but their abilities are what's important. Picking the right skill set that not only suits your play style but also complements those of your teammates is key to making it through the three stages of challenges that present themselves in each five-ish minute-long games.
Undoubtedly though, it is more fun to play as the Mastermind, and you can queue specifically for the role you want to play. Switching between cameras and choosing the precise time to drop zombies, traps or powerful special abilities (utilised in a kind of card deck that can be customised) brings with it a sick voyeuristic thrill when everything falls into place and you manage to stop the survivors from escaping.
Since this is an online game, there is inevitably an in-game currency with which you can customise your characters and Mastermind decks. In the case of Resistance, we have Resistance Points, or RP. (Where do they think of these names?) At present, it can be earned by simply playing the game and levelling up your characters. You can buy RP boosters that, err, boost the amount of RP you receive per game which can be purchased via the PlayStation Store. Once acquired, they're put to use buying upgrades and new special skills. From what I played of the game, it doesn't look like different skills offer a significant or unfair leg up in battle, which is always nice to see.
In the back of my mind, I was hoping Resistance would be like a modern re-imagining of the ill-fated Resident Evil Outbreak, which was sadly too ahead of its time in utilising the online capabilities (or lack thereof) of the PlayStation 2. Realistically though, it doesn't seem like this was ever the aim, and the bare bones of Resistance offer some fun respite from the campaign of Resi 3, while giving Capcom something to look at after the excitement of the initial launch has dissipated.
There's enough of a handful of unique maps and enemies that don't feature in the main game, so fans will likely find something to love in this new venture. But realistically, the gameplay loop of Resistance isn't satisfying enough to provide long-term thrills. Capcom had to include something else alongside the main attraction, especially when you consider Resident Evil 2 had a lot more going for it in terms of content than RE3, so as far as something free to elongate the experience goes, it's not a bad little bonus.
Resident Evil 3 proper goes to great lengths to liken itself to its superb predecessor, while still maintaining its own sense of identity. It knows what it is and is unashamed in its delivery of a more Hollywood-style telling of the Raccoon City incident. While Nemesis undeniably has his flaws, and a more open approach to traversal would have been nice with the grander scale, there's still a lot to love about the game even if it isn't breaking new boundaries like Resident Evil 2 did last year.
It won't change the way you think about Resident Evil, but Resident Evil 3 is a faithful and thoroughly entertaining retelling of one of the most fondly remembered zombie games ever made. Throw in the replayability and an entirely new game in Resident Evil Resistance, and you've got yourself a title fans will be pining over for some time to come.
Resident Evil 3 is out April 3rd for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The game was tested on a PS4 Pro. Code for review was supplied by the publisher. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.
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