Resident Evil 3 Remake Review: Survival Horror at 200MPH

I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve replayed Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Every time I finished the game, I felt an urge to play it again, try out different scenarios and unlock different endings and costumes. With impeccable pacing, environments and puzzles, it struck a fine balance between action and horror and frequent encounters with Nemesis were goosebump-inducing.

Hearing his bulky footsteps and signature “S.T.A.R.S.” growl always kept me on edge and I never got accustomed to dealing with him properly. My best strategy was to pump a few shotgun rounds into him, then scream like a girl and run toward the nearest save room. It worked then and it still works to this day. Resident Evil 3 was always known for being an action-oriented entry in the series, but nontheless, action segments were generously supplemented with exploration and puzzle-solving.

Following in the footsteps of its 2019 predecessor, the first reveal of Resident Evil 3 Remake made it seem like the game is set to replicate the better qualities of the original game. It was an opportunity to expand the city environment, tell new stories and make Nemesis into a persistent threat.

But while many improvements were no doubt made, numerous opportunities were missed and corners were cut in favor of maintaining the game’s fast pace. Resident Evil 3 Remake starts out promisingly, with a first-person sequence allowing you to thoroughly explore Jill’s apartment.

Jill is a more multi-faceted character this time around and the nightmares of the mansion incident still haunt her. Jill’s apartment is filled with research and evidence pertaining to Umbrella’s work on biological weaponry. She takes pills, likely anti-depressants, experiences nightmares and is evidently deprived of sleep. Her redesign is as good as it gets; she’s beautiful and witty, she’s strong, but also vulnerable. Not in a stereotypical “damsel in distress” kind of way, but more in a “everyone needs a friend” kind of way. And that friend is none other than the familiar Umbrella mercenary Carlos.

Much like Jill, he’s a much more complex and thoughtful character and not just a handsome guy who’s loved by all the foxy ladies. But because of his affiliation with Umbrella, Jill doesn’t initially trust Carlos and frequently takes jabs at him. Conversations between them are full of chemistry and watching their relationship develop and form a badass tandem is among the highlights of the game, in no small part thanks to the brilliantly delivered voice-work by actors.

There’s also a seemingly greater depth to Jill’s relationship with Brad, but his screentime is too short to capitalize on that. And the same goes for salesman Dario Rosso. Instead of elaborating upon his story and his daughter’s fate, Dario’s role is limited to no more than thirty seconds. And if that sounds bad, Murphy Seeker barely manages to complete a single sentence before being wiped from the rest of the plot, but for whatever reason gets one of the more detailed backstories. Go figure.

Often, it feels like characters are introduced only to get killed a few seconds later. But one of them keeps coming back no matter how many times you kill him. Even though his name is gone from the game’s title, Nemesis is still supposed to be the star of the show. And Resident Evil 3 Remake does an excellent job at introducing this hulking threat much earlier than anticipated.

Nemesis is much more unrelenting and seemingly more prevalent than Mr X. He’s faster and stronger; he’s also much taller, which makes him unable to fit into regular door frames. Most of the time, he won’t follow you indoors or into save rooms, either. A revamped save room theme plays whenever you enter one and the music still lets you know if Nemesis is nearby.

Early encounters with him are filled with adrenaline as he quickly cuts distance, even when there’s a large gap between you and him. Up close, he delivers one haymaker after another or grabs Jill with his tentacle if she’s too far. He breaks through brick walls and jumps from buildings, he carries a flamethrower and shoots rockets from his RPG; Nemesis establishes complete dominance.

After a few of these fistfights, however, it becomes clear that he’s not as threatening as he appears to be. His attacks have a long wind-up animation and are fairly easy to dodge thanks to the improved dodge mechanic. Timing your dodge perfectly temporarily slows down time and allows you to aim at his weakpoint: a heart-like pump system on his chest. Taking several shots at this spot will usually incapacitate Nemesis long enough for a safe retreat.

But by far the easiest way to deal with him on the standard difficulty setting is a grenade. Throwing just one frag at Nemesis puts him out of commission for roughly half a minute and sometimes he even drops one of those classic supply crates. Just like in the original game, these crates contain items ranging from unique weapon upgrades to bundles of ammo.

As such, it feels more rewarding to fight him, which doesn’t exactly translate to boss battles. Certain pursuits lead to an isolated arena where you must face off against Nemesis one on one. These are enjoyable the first time around, but no longer challenging on repeat tries. Most of the time they involve shooting a blatant weakpoint, like a napalm tank on his back, until Nemesis dies.

Furthermore, segments leading up to these fights are nothing more than disappointing and glorified quick-time events. Having to press or hold certain buttons removes any sense of urgency from the pursuit. And aside from several scripted encounters in the city, Nemesis assumes a background role and almost never pesters you outside of specific confines.

Because of that, zombies and other nasties will consume most of your resources. Zombies seem to be even more erratic and unpredictable than before, especially on higher difficulties. Different zombies move at a differing pace, chunkier dudes take more damage, while cops (ex cops) often move so unpredictably that it may just warrant a kiss from the shotgun. Classic weapons, like the assault rifle and grenade launcher are back in action, but there’s not much in terms of new firearms.

There’s a fair bit of variety when it comes to dealing with walkers, however. Shooting a zombies’ arm will eventually rob them of their ability to grab Jill. They will attempt to miserably lunge at Jill and bite her in the neck. Similarly, shooting them in the legs will eventually prevent them from walking, making it easy to just run past. And yes, landing one of those rare critical shots to the head and watch it explode in a fountain of blood and gore is still just as satisfying.

Zombies stagger and fall back from certain shots, particularly from the shotgun. Shots to the head disfigure their faces and it’s possible to completely dismember them. For ammo preservation, dodging works on every enemy, including zombies, but it’s not always as intuitive to pull off as against Nemesis. Sometimes Jill will make a dodge and sometimes she will get grabbed anyway. The timing of the dodge is crucial and you can’t just dodge a group of zombies like you’re Jackie Chan.

Certain enemies from Resident Evil 2 Remake are back for more, such as Lickers and the Pale Heads introduced in the Ghost Survivors DLC. Classic Hunters are prevalent during Carlos’ hospital section and to kill even one, you must destroy the armor covering the front of its head and make a few more careful shots at its exposed brain. Alternatively, they’re weak to acid rounds if you’re playing as Jill.

As unnerving as these creatures are, disposing of them quickly becomes routine, but the first encounter against any of them is scary nonetheless. Reimagined monsters like Hunter Gamma seem intimidating the first time you encounter them. But a few shotgun shells later, you realize that their gaping mouth is a weak spot and dealing with his brethren becomes a walk in the park.

Not just any park because many iconic locations from the original game, like the Raccoon Park and the nearby cemetery, were cut. And the famous clock tower, with its eye-catching architecture and memorable puzzles, is reduced to an arena for an unimaginative boss battle against Nemesis.

Raccoon City itself is very much like it was; abandoned police cars with sirens still spinning, empty stores and panicked screams in the background. Some areas feel familiar and nostalgic. For instance, the locker tucked into a corner of a donut shop is reminiscent of a similar spot in the restaurant area of the original game. And the power plant is almost identical to its 1999 counterpart.

Clearly, a lot of thought and consideration went into designing many of these areas. Moon’s Donuts shop has the ending credits song from Resident Evil 2 playing on the radio. Advertisements for Umbrella Noodles and similar products are plastered across the city. And the many bright billboards for vendors like Jim’s Crabs and Toy Uncle provide the city with a unique character. But sadly, most of them are inaccessible and don’t offer anything new story or exploration-wise.

As detailed as it is, the city environment feels very limited in its scope. With optional exploration and most puzzles removed, these areas are designed in a way which favors pace over adventure.

This is reflected in the game’s humble length as well. It takes roughly 6 to 8 hours to beat the campaign on the first playthrough. And depending on how quickly you go, it could feel like an expansion to Resident Evil 2 rather than a full-blown sequel. Instead of adding to already existing stories, Resident Evil 3 Remake cuts them even shorter, making every scenario feel rushed.

With an unlockable costume (singular) and modes, multiple items and infinite weapons, there’s certainly an ample amount of replay value in this package. Going through the same story on a higher difficulty with overpowered weapons is both challenging and fun. But I really felt the lack of the Mercenaries mode, especially with how well written Carlos and Mikhail are this time around.

Resident Evil 3 Remake is an excellent game, but it sacrifices too many important aspects for the sake of speed. To prove a point, when I played Resident Evil 2 Remake, I no longer wanted to return to the original as the remake had improved upon almost every aspect of it.

But contrarily, when I completed Resident Evil 3 Remake, I felt an urge to replay the original game and experience all the things that were missing in this version. Don’t dwell on comparisons with the original; treat it as its own unique experience and you won’t be disappointed.

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