The breakout star of the Resi 2 remake was undoubtedly Mr. X, the massive fedora-wearing mutant who relentlessly hunted Leon and Claire. But imagine if Mr. X could jump, use weapons, and choke you with gross, slimy tentacles. You've just imagined Resident Evil 3's Nemesis, whose meme-spawning predecessor seems a minor inconvenience in comparison.
While the previous game was largely confined to the shadowy corridors of the Raccoon City Police Department, this remake takes the action to the streets. It's a compelling change of scenery, with dark, claustrophobic alleyways opening up into big, open areas lit by colourful neon signs.
"There's a lot more Raccoon City this time around," says Resident Evil 3 producer Peter Fabiano. "The events of this game are happening right at the time of the outbreak, and you'll see first-hand how it's transforming the city. We wanted the setting to feel alive. Everything isn't shut down and dark, and you have the sense that there's still life left in the city. The lights are still on."
Set 24 hours before the events of Resident Evil 2, Jill Valentine is trapped in the city with the aforementioned Nemesis, a monstrous, towering bio-weapon created to hunt down members of STARS, the RPD's special forces team. The shift to an outdoor setting is a dramatic one, but through devious placement of crashed cars, fences, elaborately locked doors, and other obstacles, it still has the complex, labyrinth-like feel that defines the series.
"You'll still get that sense of creating a mental map as you play," says Fabiano. "This is not an open world game where you go out and explore and it just keeps opening up. It's a horror experience with defined pathways. It's more open than the Resident Evil 2 remake, but it still has that feeling."
My demo begins on a street lined with abandoned shops, and I notice immediately that there are a lot more zombies in this remake. The streets are full of 'em. Capcom has widened some areas to suit the urban setting, but balanced this out by throwing a lot more undead at you.
I decide to evade them to save ammo, and find myself using the larger space to reposition the zombies, luring them up one staircase so I can slip safely down another. There are still plenty of tight, narrow corridors, but these moments give this place a very different feel from RE2's lab and police station.
A lot of the shops, including a pharmacy and a toy store, are locked at first. But later I find a couple of handy tools—a lockpick and a bolt cutter—and I'm able to return later and loot them for weapons, ammo, and puzzle-solving items.
Navigating the wreckage of the city is my main concern as I attempt to restore power to the subway network. As well as all those zombies, which have a terrible knack for lunging out of the shadows when I least expect it, I find myself blocked by a fire, which requires a special item to extinguish.
Later I have to activate breakers in a basement, made difficult by the presence of giant, fast-moving mutant fleas. If they get too close they infect Jill with a parasite that slowly saps her health, and the only way to get rid of them is to munch on a green herb. Eat one and Jill theatrically pukes the parasite up.
I manage to get the subway back up and running, but because this is Resident Evil, the relief is short-lived. As I run back to grab a train to the next area of the city, the Nemesis crashes through a brick wall and charges towards me with terrifying purpose. I run past him, as I've done with the Tyrant in Resi 2 so many times, but he catches up with me and immediately and kills me.
"There was some overlap with the development of Resi 2 and Resi 3," says Fabiano. "And when the director of Resident Evil 3 saw what they were doing with the Tyrant he was like 'Wait a minute, you guys are making him into Nemesis!' But that added a fire to him, and he wanted to outdo that."
"One of the biggest differences is that Nemesis can use weapons, so he's definitely more advanced in that sense," says Fabiano. "His movements are also a bit more nimble. He can jump. In the original game he was known as the Pursuer, and you'll still have that sense of not knowing where he's going to come from. And when he does, he'll absolutely make himself known."
Next time I see him, I lob a frag grenade and he's stunned long enough to let me gain some distance. He also drops a supply case containing a weapon upgrade—a reward that also seems to be a clue from the developer you have to be more aggressive in dealing with this guy. I can shoot objects in the environment to slow the Nemesis down as well, including explosive barrels and generators that zap him with arcs of crackling electricity.
The speed the Nemesis moves at is incredibly unnerving. Sometimes he seems to fall from the sky, landing like Iron Man, creating a shockwave that knocks nearby zombies over. And when a series of rapid shotgun blasts to the chest barely make him stagger, the feeling of being massively underpowered only adds to the game's constant, rumbling tension.
After a brief boss battle, in which the Nemesis comes at me with a flamethrower and I empty seemingly hundreds of shotgun shells into him, I finally escape and the demo abruptly ends. Resident Evil 3 doesn't feel as excitingly fresh as the Resident Evil 2 remake did when it was first released, but relocating the action to the wildly different-feeling Raccoon City does enough to set it apart.