The Resident Evil 2 remake in 2019 was one of our favourite releases of the year, bringing the best of the original game up to date and offering nostalgia and thrills in equal measure, as well as a lengthy campaign to play from multiple perspectives. In much the same way as the originals happened, Resident Evil 3 gets the same treatment barely a year later, and this time brings a full standalone asymmetric multiplayer offering in the form of Resident Evil Resistance. Will a return to the story running parallel to the previous game prove fulfilling enough? Can it capture the form and feel of the original again? And has the online component got enough going for it that it will draw gamers in? It’s time to re-familiarise ourselves with Raccoon City before it gets overrun.
Much like the last remake, Resident Evil 3’s story is straight from the 1999 original (even if they have dropped the Nemesis subtitle for this), and arguably with a few more, and less, bells and whistles than before. Playing the part of Jill Valentine as she’s recovering from the events of the very first game, things go south fast when a monstrous figure heads into the city to kill her. With nothing seemingly able to stop the Nemesis, Jill must battle her way through the ruins of Raccoon city, avoiding being cornered by the bioweapon stalking her, and not getting chewed to pieces by any of the other zombies and lab experiments littering the streets. Help is on hand from the charismatic Carlos Oliveira and stoic Mikhail Victor as remnants of the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service left to clear the place out before it really gets bad; yet they’ve got their own mission to complete and Jill has a mystery to solve.
The original Resident Evil 3 was a step change in terms of action being the focus rather than the survival horror setup, and it’s the same here. Whilst ammo and health is pretty scare in the early stages, the pacing and structure pushes things forward at breakneck speed. Right from the first couple of minutes where the Nemesis brings buildings down to get to Jill, the gameplay style is set. This isn’t about finding several weirdly shaped keys to access room after room after room, methodically backtracking to open every door and scrounge up weapons. This is running through the streets, dodging flailing arms and blasting whatever gets in Valentine’s way to reach the next objective. Stand and fight or run and avoid are options, and the game supports either approach. Ammo becomes more prevalent and supplies litter the place in the later stages, and it’s needed because these revamped enemies are no push over.
It feels like the showcase environment – the streets of Raccoon City – are there for the first act, and then it’s back to tight corridors and creepy buildings to skulk around. Whilst it’s not an open world in the beginning, it does have a look and feel that starts the brain wondering if that could work for this type of game. Just as it’s becoming familiar, Jill gets thrown underground and it’s back to more of the classic style, but with monsters that can one hit kill. Joyous. Give it a few minutes and there are enough hints lying around about how to deal with the Hunter Gamma’s that they suddenly stop being a threat, and forward momentum continues. Rinse and repeat until the next Nemesis encounter. It’s going to sound odd, but there’s not a lot new here despite all the environments being created from scratch and not at all resembling the original. The gameplay is standard Resident Evil, the puzzles simpler than usual with no lengthy fetch quests to drag them out, and there’s the occasional swap to another character.
Carlos plays more of role and his sections are even more action packed than Jill’s. Decked out with an assault rifle with a few hundred rounds as standard and it becomes a bit of a shooting gallery. It’s nice relief from managing the dwindling handgun rounds and paltry shotgun ammo. He also gets to explore parts of the R.C.P.D. which gives context to a number of things in Resident Evil 2 – again, nice callbacks to the originals and the remake. The reuse of assets is well done and practical without it becoming a rehash of the same environment, or the same puzzles just presented in a different way, and it’s genuinely refreshing to play through. With some neat direction, the game allows the return to Jill to still be pretty bad ass and not feel like diverting away from Carlos is a bad thing. It clearly shifts to an action game and doesn’t spend the time lingering on the past. With more weapons and options for taking out the things roaming the world, it becomes more fun, and the combat mechanics are mostly supportive. Mostly.
One thing that I couldn’t reconcile throughout is the dodge move. Hitting a shoulder button and a direction is meant to make Jill dodge that way, and trigger a slow-mo evade if timed right. In theory it’s a great idea for getting out of zombies reach and avoiding any Nemesis strikes, and on the latter it does work. For the former, forget it, they still grab and head in for a bite regardless of how far away they seemed to be. QTE’s exist to get out of the hold, yet the animations persist for several seconds after success, and our heroes still get bitten. It breaks up the flow and can be annoying when you know you were heading out of reach. It feels like it needs something more dynamic to really make best use of it, and because of its unreliability it can get forgotten about until the end of the game, which comes far too swiftly. It’s a stretch to get it to 6 hours on the standard difficulty, and the par time is far less. If exploring is nixed and you avoid unnecessary combat, you’ll be sorely disappointed at the length.
As if to help pad things out, Resident Evil 3 ships with multiplayer on the same disc, but not in the same game (because who doesn’t need two installs, and a separate nagging icon for the disc itself on the XMB). Resident Evil Resistance is a 4 vs 1 battle of mastermind and survivors. One player takes control of the battle arena through using CCTV cameras and placing creatures and obstacles in an attempt to make the team run out of time; and the other four players work together to find keys, unlock doors, activate security systems, and escape. It’s an interesting concept that’s easy to grasp and start playing, yet needs practice and skill to really understand how all the systems work. It plays pretty much in the same way as the core game, and has a reasonable tutorial to get the basics across, then drops you in with mixed ability players to get slaughtered. At least that was my experience most of the time. It’s a distraction at best, and there are some nice touches like being able to control the creatures when you’re the mastermind, but it’s clunky, obtuse in its upgrade and cosmetic system, doesn’t explain all the mechanics, and is very slow to level up to gain any ground against the higher level players. At least you can uninstall it without removing the Jill’s adventure.
In brief, which is what you’ll get from Resident Evil 3, this is a great looking game that captures the essence of the original by forcing a more aggressive approach, has some well thought out level design, and includes one of the all time great boss characters who’s been honed to be even more lethal. It drops a lot of what wouldn’t feel right today (timed escapes!), but also ditches some of the pieces that really did work (Mercenaries mode!), and the result is a mixed bag. I’ve enjoyed the change in pace and the realisation of the world in the throws of chaos, and lamented the run time and by the numbers corridor wandering. Gone are the multiple endings and the ability to play through again under different scenarios, only rewards remain at the end that would help with speed-running if you’re that way inclined, or have earned enough points to actually buy anything. Sadly, the production values feel wasted on what could have been the perfect accompaniment to Claire and Leon’s epic tale, and given the price differential it might be better to go for that instead.
Resident Evil 3 is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC for around £40, and the main game plus Resident Evil Resistance are bundled together.