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Resident Evil 3 Remake review

A disappointing step back for the series.

(Image: © Capcom)

Our Verdict

Both the Nemesis and Raccoon City are massively underused in this disappointing step back for the series.

Need to know

What is it? A loose remake of Resident Evil 3.
Expect to pay £50/$60
Developer Capcom
Publisher In-house
Reviewed on RTX 2080 Super, Intel i7-9700K, 16GB RAM
Link Official site

When I first encountered the Nemesis in Resident Evil 3, a monstrous bio-weapon sent by the Umbrella Corporation to hunt and kill protagonist Jill Valentine, I felt my pulse rise. This towering stack of ugly muscle can move alarmingly fast, snag you with a pair of slimy tentacles, and even use weapons, including a colossal rocket launcher.

You can outrun the Tyrant in the Resident Evil 2 remake fairly easily. Wait for a gap to open up, then slip through it. But running can't save you from the Nemesis, who stalks you relentlessly through the zombie-ravaged streets of Raccoon City, and always feels one step ahead of you. Seeing something that big and scary move so quickly is really unnerving.

At this point I assumed Resident Evil 3 would be one long, tense game of cat and mouse against a dynamic and unpredictable enemy. But, sadly, this is far from the case. That first run-in with the Nemesis is not only more scripted than it first appears, but basically a one-off set-piece in disguise. And for the remainder of the game the creature is promptly relegated to cutscenes and pedestrian boss battles, which is deeply disappointing.

(Image credit: Capcom)

Replay that first encounter and you'll notice that the Nemesis always appears in the same places at the same time, which swiftly shatters the illusion that this is an intelligent killing machine with a mind of its own. It feels like it's a step ahead of you because it literally is, set to spawn when you reach certain parts of the level. I wasn't expecting Alien: Isolation levels of reactive AI here, but at least something to chew on. It's frustratingly half-baked and so, unfortunately, is the rest of the game.

The streets of Raccoon City have a very different feel from the claustrophobic corridors, polished floors, creepy statues, and grand hallways of Resident Evil 2's police station. There are a handful of larger, more open spaces here, connected by alleyways, apartment blocks, and sewer tunnels. The city is illuminated by an explosion of neon signs, which make it feel more like Las Vegas than small-town America, but it looks cool. I like that I occasionally find myself using the larger space to reposition zombies, luring them down one staircase to escape up another.

The city is illuminated by an explosion of neon signs, which make it feel more like Las Vegas than small-town America.

Raccoon City is a nice change of scenery, but it's short-lived. Later environments are dingy and artistically uninspired—particularly the Spencer Memorial Hospital, a location you visit towards the end of the game. Compared to the visually striking, architecturally rich RPD building, this maze of samey corridors and wards is totally forgettable. It's somehow less interesting to look at than the hospital in the original game.

Speaking of which, this is a remake of Resident Evil 3 in the loosest sense. The plot, locations, and characters are vaguely similar, but it's a departure in so many other respects that it might as well be an entirely new game. Whole locations are missing, including the clock tower, even though its exterior features in a scene. And those sections where the action stops and you have to make story-altering decisions have been cut entirely.

(Image credit: Capcom)

Resident Evil is best when you're lost in a complex, labyrinthine space, forced to make a mental map as you play, unlocking more of the sprawl by solving puzzles and finding keys. But Resident Evil 3 has none of this, and is actually stiflingly linear. You're frequently funnelled down a prescribed path to the next cutscene, and it doesn't help that the story is lean to the point of nonexistence, with one-dimensional characters and a narrative through-line so flimsy I kept forgetting what I was doing or why.

I do like the way it connects to Resident Evil 2, though. The story takes place 24 hours before Leon and Claire arrive in Raccoon City, and you'll witness events that provide additional backstory to stuff you saw in the previous game—including how Marvin ended up bleeding all over the lobby of the police station. There are a few fun set-pieces in here too, including a fraught, chaotic siege straight out of a classic zombie movie, and a darkly hilarious homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark's boulder chase.

What about multiplayer?

Resident Evil 3 comes with a 4v1 multiplayer mode called Resistance, where a group of players are tormented by a player-controlled 'mastermind' who lays traps and other obstacles for them. We'll have more on this when the game goes live and the servers are populated.

But man, what happened to the combat? One of the most surprising things about the Resident Evil 2 remake was how it made slow, shambling zombies exciting again. Its undead were brilliantly physical and clumsy, tripping over each other, tumbling down stairs, flopping into comical ragdoll heaps. But here they seem strangely disconnected from their surroundings, and shooting them just doesn't feel as satisfying. It's like the physics that govern them have been severely reduced, or removed altogether.

They hardly react to the limp, rattly assault rifle (a new weapon), and even popping them with a pistol has less of the crunchy feedback that made Resident Evil 2's combat so enjoyable. At least the shotgun still packs a punch. This reduced fidelity may be a trade-off for having more zombies on screen, but it wasn't worth it. You don't even have as many ways to deal with them, thanks to the removal of the system from Resident Evil 2 where you board up windows with planks of wood to manage the flow. Why does a high profile sequel like this have less in it? It's baffling.

(Image credit: Capcom)
Survive Raccoon City with these RE3 Remake guides

(Image credit: Capcom)

Resident Evil 3 codes: All locker and safe solutions
Resident Evil 3 train puzzle: How to get to Fox Park
Resident Evil 3 vaccine puzzle: Find the samples
Resident Evil 3 Magnum: The iconic gun's location
Resident Evil 3 bolt cutters: Get the shotgun
Resident Evil 3 lockpick: Where to find it
Resident Evil 3 settings: Get the graphics right

And before you know it, it's all over. Resident Evil 3 rarely gives you a chance to soak anything in before it fast-tracks you to the next story beat. There's nothing wrong with a short game, but the pacing here feels off, like it's hurriedly shoving you to the next location just as you're starting to get comfortable—and before its ideas get a chance to fully form. It's ultimately an extremely shallow game, with lavish production values failing to mask just how rushed and unambitious it feels.

After the imaginative, tradition-defying Resident Evil 7, and the sublimely polished, playable Resident Evil 2, this is a massive leap backwards for the series. The Nemesis is wasted—a bit player in its own game, neutered by its chronic lack of purpose. There are barely any puzzles and you're rarely given the chance to wander off the beaten path.

Resident Evil 3 is essentially a chain of action set-pieces, threaded together with a paper-thin story and a few too many cutscenes. This is the direction the series started to take post-Resident Evil 4, when it seriously lost its way and we ended up with the abysmal Resident Evil 6, and I'd hate to see that happen again.

The Verdict

Resident Evil 3 Remake

Both the Nemesis and Raccoon City are massively underused in this disappointing step back for the series.

If it’s set in space, Andy will probably write about it. He loves sci-fi, adventure games, taking screenshots, Twin Peaks, weird sims, Alien: Isolation, and anything with a good story. He lives in Yorkshire and spends far too much time on Twitter.