Resident Evil 3 Review: A Beautiful, Terrifying Experience

by David Sanchez April 11, 2020 @ 10:21 am

Zombie outbreak in Resident Evil 3.

Reviewed on PlayStation 4

In Stanley Kubrick’s film rendition of The Shining, Jack Torrance famously said, “You set ‘em up, and I’ll knock ‘em back, Capcom.” Okay, so he didn’t quite direct his comment toward Capcom — it was a ghost bartender named Lloyd — but he very well could have if he was a Resident Evil fan in 2020. Last year, Capcom brought literal joy to the world with its remake of Resident Evil 2. The experience was tight and polished, and it was a true masterpiece worthy of the word “remaster.” Well, folks, Capcom has done it again with Resident Evil 3.

Like its predecessor, Resident Evil 3 has been rebuilt from the ground up. The DNA of the 1999 original this remake is based on is all there — right down to the bits that annoyed people — but this updated, enhanced, and, above all else, new version of RE3 is absolutely delightful. It’s also scary — like, really-good-horror-movie levels of scary.

A New Challenger Appears

Jill Valentine in Resident Evil 3.

Resident Evil 3 follows Jill Valentine as she attempts to escape Raccoon City during the height of the zombie outbreak.  Acting as a secondary protagonist is the wild-haired Carlos Oliveira. Individually, the two make for decent characters — Jill is especially remarkable due to her relatable and at times snarky demeanor. When they interact with each other, though, we get some good back-and-forth banter that establishes Jill as a kick-ass lead and Carlos as a likable dude in his own right.

It doesn’t take long for Resident Evil 3 to get going. After an initial guided playable moment inside Jill’s apartment, you’re introduced to Nemesis, a large, hulking monster-man who shows up every once in a while to make Jill’s life a living hell.

Nemesis in Resident Evil 3.

One of the biggest complaints people had when they played RE3 back in 1999 was how Nemesis showed up and sort of blocked your progress by being, well, annoying. If you played the original version of the game and didn’t like those moments then, you might not be crazy about them here — or you might actually enjoy them. I didn’t have a problem with the Nemesis encounters. Resident Evil 3 genuinely feels like a horror movie in playable form — as such, those Nemesis interactions actually add to the tension and terror the game thrives on.

Resident Evil 3 Reimagined

Upon loading up Resident Evil 3, I thought the game looked really good. It wasn’t until the part where Jill leaves her apartment, though, that I realized just how gorgeous the whole thing looks. Raccoon City is drenched in bright neon lights and decaying urban landscapes. This makes for an aesthetic juxtaposition that just works.

It’s not all bright lights and dilapidated buildings. RE3 does an excellent job of mixing things up with varied locations that feel like they were once lived in, now all but abandoned as a result of a zombie plague. Every location looks really good, and it’s clear the development team put a ton of effort into making not just one of the best-looking Resident Evil games, but a really great-looking game in general.

A shot of Raccoon City in Resident Evil 3.

The impressive graphics extend to the character designs in RE3, too. Straight-up, Jill Valentine has been redesigned to look less like a typical female protagonist in a ‘90s video game and more like, well, a real person. Carlos also looks pretty decent — a mix of buff video game bro and anime-haired hero — and while I may not be the biggest fan of that big, poofy hair, it gave me a good chuckle, so it’s a win in my book. Then there’s Nemesis, who’s more imposing than ever and looks like a true monstrosity.

Modernized Survival Horror

It’s not just the visuals of Resident Evil 3 that are impressive — the gameplay also shines is this enhanced remake. The game ditches the fixed camera angles and tank controls of the original 1999 Resident Evil 3: Nemesis in favor of full control over the characters and camera angles. Everything controls incredibly well. The game gives you the tools to survive in terms of character movement, shooting, dodging, and so on, but you’re still challenged by the low amount of resources and deliberately-paced character animations.

Ammo is scarce, and taking down zombies with your guns can feel damn near impossible at times. Sometimes all it takes is a well-placed shotgun blast to a zombie’s face. Other times you may find yourself overwhelmed by zombies. These moments add the type of tension you’d see in a George Romero Living Dead movie or early-era episode of The Walking Dead — those horror-centric parts are super intense and will keep you on the edge of your seat. 

Jill Valentine exploring sewers in Resident Evil 3.

The puzzles in Resident Evil 3 can be tricky at times, but they’re never overly vague or frustrating. Instead, they require you to use your environment or items you find along the way. Some of these — like fitting jewels or other items into slots — are throwbacks to an older style of puzzle-solving, and they’re a lot of fun.

You’ll do quite a bit of backtracking in RE3. Thankfully, it never feels tedious. That’s thanks in large part to your map, which might be a little tough to read at first but quickly becomes an invaluable resource. It also helps that as you explore different places you’re able to unlock shortcuts, so moving back and forth between areas is pretty smooth. I got Metroidvania vibes whenever I revisited areas with new items and unlocked new paths or triggered cut-scenes. The game does this stuff really well, and it adds a fun layer of exploration that’s super engaging.

The great thing about RE3 as a remake is that it bridges the gap between old school and modern sensibilities. It successfully blends retro-styled gameplay and mechanics with contemporary levels of polish. Simply put, Resident Evil 3 feels nostalgic, but it doesn’t feel old, and that’s what makes it so incredible. And sure, there could be a few moments of minor frustration when Nemesis keeps kicking your butt or you can’t take down a horde of zombies, but the bulk of the action is satisfying and addictive.

Carlos Oliveira in Resident Evil 3.

Resident Evil: Resistance

If you’re just running straight through, you can probably get through Resident Evil 3 in five to six hours. That’s not very long, but the multiple difficulty options — as well as the fact that RE3 is just really, really fun — may encourage multiple playthroughs. Even then, if you’re just looking for a fun romp, the adventure may be over before you know it, which is kind of a bummer.

On the plus side, though, there’s an additional, brand new multiplayer mode called Resident Evil: Resistance. This 4-v-1 mode follows in the footsteps of other asynchronous multiplayer games like Dead by Deadlight and Left 4 Dead. You play as either a group of survivors trying to escape a facility or an evil mastermind making the survivors’ escape impossible.

Resident Evil: Resistance multiplayer component in Resident Evil 3.

There are multiple survivors to choose from in Resident Evil: Resistance. You’ve got hackers, healers, tanks, and brawlers. The best teams are obviously the ones where players utilize their characters’ strengths to the best of their abilities. So if you’re a healer, for example, you’ll want to make sure you drop some heals for your group in between rounds or when there are at least a couple of teammates nearby so more people can reap the benefits of your abilities.

Playing as a survivor can be difficult, and the mastermind can stack the odds against you, making it tough to progress through the multiple rooms. The difficulty is exacerbated when you’ve got a team that’s not exactly running like a well-oiled machine.

Resident Evil: Resistance multiplayer mode in RE3.

Playing as the mastermind in Resident Evil: Resistance is pretty fun. You can add traps and zombies to the map to act as roadblocks for the survivors. You can also spawn a Nemesis-like mutant that you control directly to take down the survivors with pure brute force.

Admittedly, while I did enjoy Resident Evil: Resistance, it didn’t quite hit all the marks for me. It’s decent, and it provides a good deal of intense gameplay and fun multiplayer moments, but it can sometimes feel off. Obviously, your mileage may vary, but while playing Resident Evil: Resistance, all I could think about was playing Dead by Daylight instead. That said, if Capcom supports this multiplayer component with more content down the road, I’ll definitely check it out — it’s a quality multiplayer component, even if it’s far from perfect.

Keep ‘Em Coming, Capcom

Jill Valentine exploring Raccoon City in Resident Evil 3.

There’s no denying that Capcom is on a roll. Between Resident Evil 7, last year’s Resident Evil 2 remake, and now the updated, built-from-the-ground-up remaster of Resident Evil 3, the company has managed to put out compelling, worthwhile content. One can only hope that the studio’s next project is just as inspired and entertaining as this latest batch of Resident Evil titles.

The awesome touches employed here to make Resident Evil 3 feel both new and nostalgic make this one of the best games of the year so far. It looks and plays great. It’s also pretty damn scary and feels like a bloody grindhouse horror movie at times. Throw in the flawed-but-fun Resident Evil: Resistance multiplayer mode, and you’ve got a complete package that’s totally worth diving into.

Score: 9 out of 10

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