In 2019, Resident Evil 2 set a new gold standard for video game remakes, brilliantly reimagining the classic survival horror game with modern flair. Even more surprising was when Capcom followed up just a year later with a Resident Evil 3 remake. Resident Evil 3 takes an integrally different approach from its predecessor, and while it doesn’t reach the same heights its action focus creates a pulse-pounding horror game that’s unforgettable from start to finish, and embraces some of Resident Evil’s best aspects. Even better, if you’ve got Xbox Game Pass, you can jump into Resident Evil 3 for free starting this month.
The events of Resident Evil 3 take place alongside those of Resident Evil 2, chronicling a different side of Racoon City’s zombie apocalypse. This time you follow Jill Valentine, a former member of the Raccoon City Police Department, trying to uncover the the crime and corruption of the Umbrella Corporation. Along the way, she meets Carlos Oliveira, a hapless Umbrella mercenary who quickly finds himself in over his head, and functions as a secondary protagonist.
Jill is a fantastic, strong-willed protagonist who injects a lot of charm and personality into the experience, along with a few classic one-liners. Her being more experienced than Resident Evil 2’s Leon and Claire is also important context, because of the much greater threat she goes up against. She also has a great dynamic with the more happy-go-lucky Carlos, who has a much bigger role here than in the original PS1 game.
Right out of the gate, Resident Evil 3 shows its hand as a more action-y take on the series, as just minutes in a hulking monstrosity named Nemesis explodes through the wall of her hotel room. Nemesis is by far the most iconic creature the series has ever created, and he’s been terrifyingly updated with gruesome features and an imposing figure that can evoke terror the moment he enters your vision.
Nemesis hunts for Jill, a constant threat that can appear at any time and throw things into disarray. While the previous game’s Mr. X is more of an emergent gameplay mechanic, Capcom uses Nemesis for big set-piece moments that ratchet up both the tension and adrenaline. And it’s effective.
If Resident Evil 2 was the Funhouse in a theme park, Resident Evil 3 is more of a roller coaster: funneling you through action sequences at a breakneck pace and challenging you to make sure you have enough ammo along the way. There’s still some degree of exploration and puzzle-solving, but Resident Evil 3 is largely linear. In the minute-to-minute gameplay this is supported by tighter controls and shooting, compared to Resident Evil 2, as well as a fantastic dodge mechanic that lets Jill evade anything with ease.
While the survival elements are still there, those big climactic story sequences are what elevate Resident Evil 3 to something more than a lackluster follow-up: like fleeing from a rocket launcher-wielding Nemesis, or setting up a last stand in a hospital lobby as Carlos. These unforgettable moments are what tie the entire experience together, and the pacing does an impeccable job of keeping things moving, never giving you a chance to catch your breath. It’s much shorter than Resident Evil 2, clocking in at roughly four to five hours, but that’s not a bad thing in this case.
Resident Evil 3 is a lean and mean action game that encourages multiple playthroughs, pushing you to get even better with its combat and refine your skills and playtime. It’s tremendously different from the experience Resident Evil 2 provides, but that’s a good thing. Resident Evil 3 doesn’t take the easy road and do the same thing as its wildly successful predecessor but rather proves the franchise is most successful when it’s continuously changing and experimenting. While serving up the usual scares, Resident Evil proves that there’s room for a side of action-packed thrills to boot.