Resident Evil 3 (2020) Review – Someone’s Been Splicing With Formulas Again…

When the Resident Evil 3 remake was announced, fans were divided. Depending on who you ask/what you read, last year’s remake of Resident Evil 2 was either the best thing ever, or it completely besmirched the legacy of the series (because it’s not like 6 had already done that or anything…).

The consensus seems to be that while it looked amazing, handled well and had a decent run time to it, the removal of certain areas and enemy types was enough for people to cry afoul and whinge about the whole thing. I know, strange concept…

So, all Capcom had to do with the follow up, a Resident Evil 3 remake, was make it a shot for shot retread without any creative license or “reimagining” and it’ll be game of the year, right? Well, no.

What Capcom have done, much like last year, is follow the same mold as its predecessor: take the original concept, spruce it up with modern gaming notions and trends, and release a modernised take on the old classic.

And for the most part, it does work. It looks amazing, has the same frantic and faster paced action than the original(s) did, but it’s hard to ignore that there are some massive omissions this time around. Like more replayability, for one. But I digress, let’s get into what makes it as good as, yet not better, than last year’s offering…

Take Me Back To Raccoon City

One of the initial mysteries of the original Resident Evil 3 used to be Jill’s introduction by way of tumbling out of an exploding corridor into the street. Whilst it may have set the scene for the more action-focused gameplay to come, it was slightly jarring.

Whereas this time round, R3make (as I’ve come to dub it) does the opposite. Starting sedately, with Jill waking from a bad dream, we get a moment of time to collect ourselves and take in the new scenario. It’s when the phone rings that really kicks things off. And I mean that quite literally, as a warning from ol’ Chickenheart, Brad Vickers, is cut off by the Nemesis’ grand entrance.

And boy, what an entrance. Crashing through a wall, booting our caught unawares heroine across the room, this introduction starts one of many chase sequences in the game. The Nemesis has carved a path of destruction to get to you, inexplicably causing fires and tearing parts of building down to hurl at you, sheer determination its fuel. Following a pretty linear escape sequence, in which you meet Brad on the street, thus begins our adventure once more into Raccoon City.

Playing out similar to last year’s offering, the first twenty minutes or so is a case of “Run, go here quickly, don’t stop or you’ll be overwhelmed!” by way of establishing that yes, the city really has gone to shit. Brad meets an unfortunate fate again, but now how you’d expect, before the game steers you towards a spectacular set piece, complete with over-the-top ending.

It’s here that we meet our foppy-haired savour, Carlos Oliveira, and then the game begins properly…

Adding A Two-Step To The Policeman’s Beat

Gameplay-wise, Resident Evil 3 largely follows in the footsteps of Resident Evil 2 last year: still over the shoulder, zombies still take more bullets than it seems necessary to use on them to stay dead (or undead, technically), and ammunition can still both be found and crafted for your small arsenal of weapons.

There are a few changes, though. The sub-weapon button, reserved for grenades and knives has gone. These now take up assigned slots as part of your normal loadout, or you can just equip them as and when required from the inventory screen. What this does mean, however, is that they’re no longer classed as “defense items”. For those familiar with them in RE2 (and even as far back as the first Resident Evil HD Remaster), it meant if you were grabbed from the front, you’d get a momentary reprieve, if you wanted, to react and break free. It gave you that safety net, provided you had the necessary net, to not get chomped/mauled/instantly killed by all things nasty. That this is gone adds more to the “Don’t get caught” credence of the originals, and maybe highlight our reliance on easier mechanics. Or I just get eaten a lot, who knows.

What Resident Evil 3 has done instead is bring back the very same dodge mechanic first introduced in the original, all the way back in 1999. Whilst that one was pretty fiddly to get right, in which you had to press the aim button just as you were about to be munched, this one is a bit more lenient. Triggered with the dedicated dodge button (in place of the sub-weapon option) sees Jill pull a little quick-step manoeuvre in whichever direction you’ve got her facing. It’s not guaranteed safety, as she doesn’t exactly pull her best Max Payne impression and dive out of the way of danger. It doesn’t help that some zombies get a bit fiesty and will go the proverbial extra mile with a lunge and catch you at the end of a dodge.

What does help, though, is when you get that sweet spot with your timing you’re treated to little revenge shot, in the form of a slowed-down auto-aim that lets you fire a couple of retaliatory rounds into a foe’s dome (or thereabouts). This can also be triggered as it was in the original, so there are times when you can inadvertently gain the upper hand in a firefight. However, it’s a fiddly beast at the best of times, and unless you’ve played this verbatim and know every enemy’s attack pattern, it shouldn’t be constantly relied on.

Otherwise, it’s all pretty similar. Additional parts can be found for weapons, making them more formidable, and hip pouches can once more be utilised for all the ammo and medicines you can carry. What you won’t be carrying much of, however, is the standard fare of puzzle pieces one would associate with the older Resident Evils.

One of the biggest criticisms of last year’s remake was the “dumbing down” of a lot of the original’s puzzles, and it brings me no joy to report that it’s even worse this time around.

Alright, “worse” is a pretty strong word. But it’s one thing to make them easier, it’s another to entirely remove them. Remember the music puzzle from the clock tower? That’s gone, as the clock tower gets turned into a boss fight arena at the front of it instead. Or how about that infuriating water treatment one, that was always randomised? Gone, as is the entire section.

I can see what Capcom have done; they’ve kept it fundamentally true to its original, in that there was a lot more action than its horror predecessor. But to ignore the major complaint over the 2019 remake and essentially double down on removing more and more of what made the series a tactical, brain-scratching action adventure is somewhat insulting. In an age of checkpoint-fed, by the numbers gaming, it’d be nice to rely on the old guard to pull out what made them great. To ignore that charm to appease the masses makes no sense, considering it’ll be the fans that buy this straight away.

Fantastically Gross Beasts And How to Avoid Them

Conversely, it does seem like Capcom have listened to some of the complaints, at least in the monster department. One of the biggest was the complete removal of staple enemies like giant spiders, crows, and that [albeit pointless] moth boss. Whilst this time round the giant worm boss fight has also gone, there are some new and recurring enemies to contend with. The most prominent new addition is a sort of enhanced/warped zombie that has been Nemesis’d. Their heads encased in a mess of smaller tentacles, these things will extend to slap or trip you up, which can be frustrating if the big man himself is in the vicinity. Then there’s the inclusion of the Pale Heads from the Ghost Survivors DLC: stronger zombies that need killing quickly, with heavier firepower, or they won’t stay down.

The Hunters from the first game (and funnily enough, its prequel, Zero) return in two flavours of annoying: there’s the Gamma, an amphibious type, and the Beta, an absolute bastard type. The Gammas are found in the token sewer segment of the game and are deceptively vicious. They’re thick skinned, so you need to provoke them into opening their gaping maws before blasting them. The catch is that if you get too close, it’s a one-hit kill if they grab you, much like the Ivy enemies from last year’s game. The Betas are your garden variety asshole of a hunter: sharp claws, evasive skills and general all-round nastiness if you’re not prepared for them. They can and will still leap for you, so consider this a warning.

Bringing up the rear of the gross and annoying, replacing the Lickers, are the insectoid Drain Deimos’ from the original. Instead of showing up at random on the streets, Deimos only turn up at a particular section this time around. Fans of the original will remember the power station early on, but instead of a Nemesis encounter, it’s a lair for the creepy beasties. In what feels like a little throwback to the series’ creepy routes, Deimos are smaller, but they pack a nasty surprise.

Getting grabbed by one sees them pull a Facehugger and stick some nasty protuberance down Jill’s throat, causing a new ailment to your health: the Parasite infliction. Green herb brings them back up (as a handy note tells you), but failure to do so results in them eating you from the inside out. It’s not pretty, and it’s genuinely one of the creepiest sections of the game.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the only creepy and tense part of the game. The vast majority, as I’ve mentioned earlier, is more in favour of running away from the titular Nemesis in oft-predictable situations.

The Fault in Our S.T.A.R.S

This was always going to be a sticking point for a lot of players: the titular titan that relentlessly pursues our hero. The obvious comparison was going to be against that of Mr. X from last year, who in itself was pretty damn terrifying. The constant threat of him appearing at any time, or even at scripted points, was enough to genuinely put me on edge.

But the inherent problem is that that mechanic was in a way inspired by the Nemesis of the original version. For those unaware, Mr. X in the original was only available in scripted areas, and even then was only around on a character’s second scenario. So for the 2019 remake, the ante was upped and he could track you pretty much everywhere you went.

Now, had they just applied this to the new Nemesis, I guarantee everyone would complain that it’s no different from Mr. X (with the inclusion of Nemesis’ weaponry). Instead, they seem to have gone back to what the original Mr. X did and have the Nemesis show up at [mostly] staged events. The main problem with this is that bar the few times you can stand and fight him, it’s usually set pieces that just involve running away.

Given that the live choice system from the original Resident Evil 3 has been removed, the few times you do get to fight him are scarce, albeit rewarding if you down him. Otherwise, it’s a case of running through admittedly gorgeous looking staged areas, making it one step up from a quick time event. And this, sadly, detracts from any real challenge when you know you just have to run.

There are a few moments in firefights that he did get the upper hand on me, thanks to a health-devastating combo he can land on you, but that was down to user error more than anything. Once you get used to the dodge mechanic, even if you don’t nail the counter timing, and have enough ammo to stand your ground, the challenge is removed. I’m sure I’d be singing a different tune on a higher difficulty, but I’m not at that stage yet.

Not Enough Meat on These Bones

In a weird inversion, the portion of the game that has you play as Carlos, much like the original, has been surprisingly fleshed out. Your motives are still the same, but the overall tone and length of his mission has more weight to it than the first time around. It also humanises Carlos, or at least makes him more endearing. He’s still smug, but not like his original counterpart (or Steve Burnside from Code: Veronica), instead being more of a character we can sympathise with by the end of his story arc.

Yet sadly, whilst Carlos’ story has been fleshed out and given more merit, it seems like sacrifices have been made in other areas of the game. Namely, the rest of it once you’ve finished the relatively short campaign. Now, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the main game is short, again drawing that parallel between the original second and third titles. Whilst there was no second scenario, the endgame content in Resident Evil 3 did have one redeeming feature: the Mercenaries mode.

Well, that has been removed. The greatest feature that complimented the main game has gone, instead replaced with a shop feature. In the original, you earned points through repeated runs or attempts as a merc, which in turn could be spent towards item in the main game, such as unlockable weapons and such. In its place is a rewards/records section in the main game, which has a range of criteria that’ll earn you points instead.

These records are as you’d probably expect: get a certain amount of kills with certain weapons, as well as an overall amount of total kills. There’s another statuette hunt, which in turn will earn you more points for breaking them all. Then you’ve got the clear game prerequisites, such as completing on certain difficulties, under a certain time or even stricter rules, like not open the item box or a certain amount of healing items. This is what is supposed to be the main replayability factor for the game, to encourage you to go back and unlock these records, and in turn treat yourself to new weapons and items.

The main problem with this logic: what if you don’t want to play the game over and over again? Sure, hardcore fans are going to get their monies worth, because they’ll be striving for 100% and all the trophies/achievements, but those who don’t want to play the same game ad nauseam aren’t going to see the benefit.

So Long, Raccoon City

The ultimate, concluding question then is this: is it better or worse than the Resident Evil 2 remake? And to answer that question is… yes.

As an action game, it’s outstanding. A graphical improvement from last year, a much faster pace and some absolutely disgusting body horror moments (that I won’t spoil) make Resident Evil 3 a great experience to play. The frantic pacing, the sheer terror at some of the horde moments, as well as some of the Nemesis fights themselves make this really shine.

As a continuation of what Capcom achieved last year, it’s disappointing. I won’t be crass and snidely call it “Resident Evil 2.5”, because it is its own game. It’s just that the content outside of the campaign is so lacking that as much as I hate to, I can only compare it to The Order 1886. In terms of comparison, it’s a spectacle game that has you follow a predetermined path. The omission of the multiple choice/live selection system forces you to take the path laid out for you, often whizzing by as an almost custcene-like delivery of gameplay.

The removal of the clock tower as a segment, the giant worm battle, and even the little things like seeing Nicholai being more of a shit than we already suspected may make sense thematically, but it’s at the cost of replayability. Sure, the clock tower was an established rendezvous in the original, but in the pace of this one, halting your escape from the Nemesis to solve a music box puzzle wouldn’t make sense narratively.

It just feels like nothing was put in its place to make up for it. The Resistance multiplayer is a separate entity (that I haven’t touched yet), and therefore shouldn’t be counted as “added content” as a defense. It can’t be called a rushed game, because the groundwork was already laid out for it twenty one years ago.

So what it boils down to, really, is how much of a Resident Evil fan you are. For me, I’m going to try and tackle the higher difficulties, kill a certain numbers of enemies in different ways and purchase some sweet rewards for doing so. But for those, and I don’t want to cheapen them as “casual” players, who just want a decent story experience, they may be put off by the price over length argument that always crops up.

It’s a shame that Jill Valentine’s last visit in Raccoon City was so fleeting that to many it might get dismissed. But, never say never, as we did get the Ghost Survivors in the last game. Maybe Capcom may surprise us yet…?

But knowing them, they’ll probably charge us for the privilege.

A visual treat with solid gameplay, sadly let down by its minimal amount of content.

Resident Evil 3 (2020) is available now on PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro), Xbox One and PC.

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.

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