Can Capcom make lightning strike twice with Resident Evil 3 Remake?
Frankly, no. Resident Evil 2 Remake was one of the breakout surprises of E3 2018, launching in 2019 to universal acclaim. Capcom's retro zombie revamp was nominated for four categories at the 2019 Game Awards, including Game of the Year and Best Action/Adventure.
RE3 Remake struggles to get out from under its older sibling's formidable shadow, with clumsier gunplay, diminished replay value, and excessive reliance on quick-time events to move the story forward. Several heart-pounding set piece showdowns with the mutant undead will delight fans of the action-packed franchise, but RE3 Remake doesn't measure up to the impeccable gameplay that made its predecessor a must-buy.
Under my Umbrella (Corporation)
RE3 Remake takes place over the same few days as RE2, focusing instead on S.T.A.R.S. special-ops cop Jill Valentine’s escape from Raccoon City. Along the way, she gets chummy with Carlos, who’s working security for the villainous Umbrella, the organization responsible for unleashing the mutation-causing T-virus that's turning everyone into shambling corpse monsters. The government plans to lay waste to the city with a missile barrage to contain the disease, which leaves Jill and Carlos on a desperate hunt for the vaccine while outlasting the unrelenting pursuit of Nemesis, the mutated brick shithouse who wants nothing more than to see Jill’s blood spatter.
Thematically, Resident Evil 3 is a tough sell in light of the ongoing public health crisis, and a lengthy introductory montage about much of the United States being in lockdown due to a pandemic didn’t help. Thankfully, after the preliminaries are over, the action is very resolutely back in fictional territory, and the game’s story and environments don’t feel too close to reality.
Completely revamped from the original 1999 PlayStation game’s choice-driven narrative, you’ll control Jill for much of the game, with some brief interludes as Carlos. RE3 Remake has more varied environments to explore, but it never quite recaptures the claustrophobic foreboding of its predecessor. (RE2 Remake's atmosphere was enhanced by its impeccable sound design. You could hear Mr. X tramping around upstairs or down the hall and know it was time to find another route to your destination.)
The open environments of its early hours are probably RE3 Remake’s weakest, owing to a whole lot of ludonarrative dissonance on the maps. I can drive a car off a rooftop and live, but I can’t hop on top of a crate to scuttle up a fire escape? Things get more fun once you start spelunking around confined areas like sewers and labs, but the puzzles and environments never hit the same highs as RE2 Remake.
An unreliable trigger finger
In the previous game, zombies required a ridiculous number of direct headshots to fall down. RE3 Remake tweaks the zombies and gunplay mechanics, but many of those changes make it worse.
Jill's arsenal feels oddly unbalanced. Two or three handgun bullets easily taking down most average foes in the first half of the game, but swap to an assault rifle, and you’ll need to unload a good 15 rounds to get the undead to take a knee. Your armaments range from pretty much useless to strikingly overpowered with little middle ground.
Allowing players to take would-be zombies out of commission with a few preemptive headshots was a small but impactful addition in RE2 Remake. So it's a shame RE3 Remake eliminates this strategy, which means you’ll waste some ammo on a highly suspicious corpse, only to walk two more steps to “trigger” it to attack. You’ll also no longer automatically use the knife when attacked at close range, which means every lunging zombie chomps on Jill for damage, rather than allowing her to shove them and get some breathing room.
Instead, RE3 Remake wants you to rely on the “quick dodge” mechanic, which is not particularly quick and doesn’t get you far enough away from anything — but you’ll be forced to use it anyway. It can be fiddly and exasperating, especially during encounters with Nemesis, which are often more about memorizing quick-time prompts instead of strategy. Worse, there were several instances where simply holding the sprint button while challenging Nemesis caused Jill to inexplicably pull out her firearm and aim, slowing me down and leaving me wide open for a big fat Game Over.
A one-way ticket outta Raccoon City
RE3 Remake dives deeper into the Resident Evil mythology, and it’s fun to see an alternate perspective on Leon and Claire’s experiences in the previous game, Back to the Future II-style. Carlos makes a great sidekick, and it would have been nice to play as him for a little longer since his sections are among the game’s strongest. Unfortunately, RE3 Remake offers less single-player replay value than its predecessor, which had four potential ways to experience the story, along with tweaked cutscenes and endings for each. Granted, each of these routes treads a lot of the same ground, but it was still fun to go back and see what you missed the first time through.
RE3 Remake took me about eight hours to complete, going at a leisurely but thorough pace on standard difficulty. There are no alternate ways to experience Jill’s story, and I don’t see myself revisiting RE3 Remake a few months down the line like I did with RE2 Remake.
Project Resistance, the 4 vs. 1 multiplayer game that brings a S.T.A.R.S. spin to the Left 4 Dead formula, is definitely a fun inclusion if you’ve got pals who are eager to get in on the online action. If that’s something you could get a lot of mileage out of in the coming weeks, a full-price purchase might be more worthwhile. As someone who tends to prefer single-player games, though, $60 feels a smidge too pricey for an eight-hour experience that's often frustrating for the wrong reasons.
Resident Evil 3 Remake comes to PS4, Xbox One, and PC April 3.
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