If Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the perfect game to play in self-quarantine during a pandemic, the new Resident Evil 3 remake is quite possibly the worst. This is a game that begins with live-action footage of a reporter saying “This pandemic has spread faster than any disease in modern history,” depicting burning buildings and chaos in the streets even before the zombies show up. It is not what I would describe as a relaxing escape.
If you’re of a similar disposition to the countless viewers who’ve been helping put things like Contagion in my Netflix recommendations, though, Resident Evil 3 might be just the ticket. It’s another blockbuster Resident Evil release from Capcom that does its part to continue the revitalization of the franchise.
Unfortunately, Resident Evil 3 can’t quite live up to its predecessor. Last year’s Resident Evil 2 remake was incredibly good, blending old and new to create what I’m now comfortable calling my favorite Resident Evil game yet. Resident Evil 3 follows that same blueprint, but it ends up managing to feel both overly familiar and not familiar enough.
Resident Evil 3 sees the return of original Resident Evil protagonist Jill Valentine in a story that plays out at the same time as Resident Evil 2. The PlayStation release was called Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, a reference to the iconic, unstoppable creature that pursues Jill throughout the game as she attempts to escape Raccoon City. That’s very much still the defining feature of the latest version’s plot.
I really like what Capcom did with Jill’s character in this remake. Her visual design is, shall we say, considerably less ‘90s, and her sarcastic, irritable personality feels cathartic given both her situation and our own. Like its predecessor, the Resident Evil 3 remake script leans into the schlocky nature of its source material and comes out sounding far smarter and more confident. That’s on full display in the phenomenal one-shot opening sequence, which begins with Nemesis attacking Jill in her collapsing apartment building and ends with a spectacular flameout.
Resident Evil 3 doesn’t really let up from there. It’s a much faster-paced game than Resident Evil 2, with a greater emphasis on action and far less focus on puzzle-solving or exploration. Ammo is in more plentiful supply, and the environments aren’t particularly creepy. I was expecting Nemesis to be more of an ever-present threat, like Mr. X in Resident Evil 2, but its role is mostly limited to scripted jump-scare sequences and boss fights.
Beyond a couple of additions like a dodge move, Resident Evil 3 looks and plays more or less identically to 2. On the technical side of things, that’s not a bad thing; this is a visually stunning game, and Capcom continues to do amazing work with its RE Engine. But with its straightforward structure and reduced scope, Resident Evil 3 feels much less substantial. There’s nothing like the police station in Resident Evil 2, a satisfyingly sprawling area that you’d get to explore a little further with each solved puzzle or found item. In comparison, Resident Evil 3 tends to rush you through its small, linear stages. It looks and plays like Resident Evil 2 but sometimes feels more like Uncharted.
To some extent, this was to be expected. The original Resident Evil 3, after all, was also a more action-oriented game that focused on Jill and reused certain environments from 2. Capcom’s shift in tone and design has been mirrored here in the remake. But there are also things that didn’t make it through. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis had several branching paths and different endings based on your decisions made in cutscenes, and those elements are totally absent here.
That’s particularly unfortunate given the remake’s brief running time. Last year’s Resident Evil 2 wasn’t a long game, either, but it was very replayable. In fact, you really had to play through several times in order to get the full story, with multiple protagonists, story paths, and game modes. This is not so much the case with Resident Evil 3, which I finished in around five hours my first time through. Another person with early access to the game told me one of their later playthroughs took about a fifth as long. (I should note that, unlike a lot of games, this one does stop its timer whenever you pause, use the menus, or reload after dying. Steam tells me I spent closer to eight hours with Resident Evil 3 running before the credits rolled.)
To be clear, Resident Evil is a series with a long history of speedrunning, something Capcom often encourages with scores and unlockable rewards. I wouldn’t hold 3’s short length against it if there were good reasons to get to the ending more than once. As far as I can tell, though, there kind of aren’t.
Resident Evil 3 does include a separate asymmetrical 4-on-1 multiplayer game called RE Resistance, which could add some longevity to the package. I haven’t had a chance to check it out extensively, though, so I’d recommend waiting to see whether it takes off before considering it a selling point. It’s tough to turn games like this into a success, as evidenced by the likes of Evolve.
Resident Evil 3 is an entertaining, well-made game that brings one of the series’s less-heralded entries right up to date. But almost everything it does right was part of Resident Evil 2 as well, and many of that game’s qualities are no longer present. Overall, the package is a lot less appealing. It feels more like an expansion to 2 than an entirely new game. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth playing, but it does mean you should know what you’re getting into before pulling the trigger.
Resident Evil 3 is out on April 3rd for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.