Resident Evil 3: Nemesis has always been the black sheep of the family, even when it launched near the back end of 1999. The original PlayStation was nearing the end of its lifespan at the time of its release. Sony’s console audience had already began to cast their gaze towards the PlayStation 2 that would launch in March of 2000. Even so, that didn’t mean that Resident Evil 3‘s presence was any less impactful for the time.
The most noticeable deviation from the first two titles was the game’s move towards more action-oriented gameplay. Jill moved with more swiftness than her compatriots. Zombies on the Raccoon City streets were agile and spry. The focus on action didn’t necessarily mean puzzles were any less complex, however. There was still a fair amount of backtracking and investigatory work to be done in order to defeat the bio-hunter known as Nemesis and escape with (hopefully) your limbs attached.
When you look at the growth from Resident Evil 2 (1998) to Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999), there is a level of continuity despite the two having differences in playstyle. Many of the mechanics, items, and set pieces were shared between the two experiences. For Resident Evil 2 (2019) and Resident Evil 3 (2020) remakes, that same congruence is present, even if that means shedding a lot of the backtracking and fever-hunting for ammo, herbs, and puzzle pieces.
The Resident Evil 3 remake shaves off much of the unneeded weight of its fatter sibling, with Capcom crafting an experience that stands on its own. Even if that means moving away from the new standard set by the Resident Evil 2 remake the year prior.
For the uninitiated, Jill Valentine is a member of the Raccoon City Police Department’s Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.). This was also the team that responded to the Spencer Mansion incident, setting in motion the events of the very first Resident Evil. Jill then finds herself at ground zero as the monsters and bioweapons have moved on from the Arklay Mountains and are now tearing her midwestern city apart.
When I really started to think about it, the representation of Jill Valentine in the new Resident Evil 3 reminded me of Square Enix’s recent reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. The reboot acted as an origin story for budding explorer, Lara Croft. It often portrayed her taking her lumps in stride on her journey towards becoming a hardened explorer. Jill shares in that same ruggedness, often having her grit shine through in dialogue and character interactions. She doesn’t hesitate to stick up for herself or her city.
The more nuanced writing makes for better conversations. In other words, dialogue doesn’t feel like a conversation you’re witnessing between two video game characters. Rather, it feels natural, often having small asides act as a vehicle to humanize Jill with personal thoughts and reactions to situations unfolding on screen.
Not so dire straits
It’s very early on in Resident Evil 3 that you start to realize how much has changed between it and its 1999 outing — and not just in looks. Much of the backtracking has been reduced, and in some cases, completely removed. I often found myself exploring Raccoon City in its newfound openness. This is in part due to the newly implemented dodge ability, providing Jill a roll or quickstep to evade enemies when timed right. And yes, that means Nemesis, too. Even then, it isn’t something I often remembered I could do, even in the recently released Resident Evil 3: Raccoon City Demo. This also varies from enemy-to-enemy.
In prior Resident Evil outings, you would scour rooms for gun part upgrades, ammo, or extra health. This also meant managing your inventory to ensure that you had enough space for the right weapon, key, or part to solve the next set of puzzles. If you were out of inventory space for a crucial item, well, that meant hoofing it back to your safe room to throw items in storage before making the return trek.
Resident Evil 3 doesn’t usually present that familiar feeling of “What if I’m going to need this?” You’ll rarely experience that anxiousness in regards to what you’re carrying or if you had room to store more. Instead, the standard story progression, crafting, and items feel as though they are all working in tandem, one never outpacing the other.
What’s old is new again
As I watched the credits roll, I couldn’t help but think about how much effort Capcom had put forth in order to craft this reimagining. This didn’t just have to ensure that the lore from the original two games and the franchise were kept intact; it also had to keep in mind the foundation that Resident Evil 2 (2019) had laid, unifying story and graphics for one hell of a ride. Most of that was thanks to the RE Engine, Capcom’s in-house technology.
With that in mind, it’s important to mention that the new engine has allowed Capcom to breathe new life into its properties. Jill, Carlos, and many other character models are almost unrecognizable from their source material. Faces have detailed emotions, such as Jill wincing and making personal comments in response to something outrageous Carlos said — minor details completely impossible on the PlayStation. Even the way in which Jill grabs her grenade launcher, individually slappin’ in each explosive shell, has real impact.
Minute details such as these make it more than just a coat of new paint on an old property. It shows Capcom’s willingness to tear down its IP to what made it memorable and somehow create something better from it. For us fans, it starts with the characters.
Same, but not
Honestly, this was not the Resident Evil 3 experience I was expecting. The Resident Evil 2 remake from the year prior offered a new way to look at its puzzles and story while still refining elements that made the original tick. Gunplay and inventory management were core elements in both old and reimagined titles. The Resident Evil 3 remake deviates from some of those elements, shedding dead weight where needed while still keeping the core story elements intact, if not improving upon them.
I kept trying to pinpoint where exactly on the RE spectrum this Resident Evil 3 lands. I feel that it’s now much more in-line with Resident Evil: Revelations than its 1999 counterpart. Despite moving towards a more linear type of experience, that doesn’t mean that the story is any less punchy or worthwhile. If anything, it stands as proof of Capcom’s ability to recognize the wants of both old and new, while still modernizing an experience that’s more than two decades old and making it seem effortless.
Resident Evil 3 is available for PC on April 3, 2020.