[Writer’s Note: I have not played the original 1999 release of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis for PS1. This review is based solely on the merits of the 2020 release.]
Resident Evil 3 is the finale of Capcom’s efforts to remake their original PlayStation Trilogy – after Resident Evil (2002) and Resident Evil 2 (2019) – both are considered amongst the upper echelon of gaming remakes. Rather than being a faithful remake like RE1, it re-imagines it in a similar manner to RE2. Taking the setting, characters, and plot of the original while almost entirely changing the core game.
Resident Evil 3’s story takes place almost simultaneously to Resident Evil 2 (starting one day prior to the events of RE2 and concluding a day later). Both games’ narratives tell the tale of the ‘Raccoon City Incident’, with RE3 following Jill Valentine, two months removed from the ‘Mansion Incident’ of the original Resident Evil.
The game distances itself from the survival horror style of the first two right away; immediately plunging the player into a fast-paced action set piece throughout Jill’s apartment building, whilst being pursued by the hulking monster that is Nemesis. Jill eventually meets up with Carlos Oliveira: Member of the ‘Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service’ and certified hunk, setting the plot in motion.
In terms of gameplay Resident Evil 3 sits somewhere between the slower paced third person style of Resident Evil 2 and the more frantic action of Resident Evil 6. The main difference in Resident Evil 3 is the dodge mechanic, allowing Jill to evade in any direction, with perfect timing granting her a slow-motion lock on headshot. This one detail changes RE3’s pacing to better fit your standard action game. Considering Resident Evil had just got back on track to its survival horror roots a couple of years ago, this change will understandably rub some people the wrong way.
Arguably Resident Evil 3’s most disappointing aspect is Nemesis. After Resident Evil 2’s implementation of Mr X (a hulking figure who stalks the player throughout the game), everyone’s first thought was excitement over the prospect of Nemesis (another hulking figure who stalks the player throughout the game) being used in this same style.
Resident Evil 2’s Mr. X would appear in an area and follow the player around the map as they tried to complete what they needed to do in an area. This eventually culminates in a scripted boss fight at the finale of Leon’s campaign (with scripted boss fights mainly being saved for encounters with Birkin).
Nemesis, however, is almost entirely used in scripted sequences – barring one section incredibly early in the game – acting more like Birkin than X. While the sequences with Nemesis are good in a bubble, it feels like an absolute downgrade from its predecessor.
Conversely, one of RE3’s best new aspects are the performances. Resident Evil has a reputation for it’s voice acting, whilst that isn’t always a positive thing, RE3’s is possibly the best in the series to date. Nicole Tompkins and Jeff Schine’s performances as Jill and Carlos are brimming with charisma, with the chemistry between them making every shared minute of screentime a complete joy. While those two are (literally) the stars of this show, the remaining cast aren’t slouching in the slightest. William Hope (Mikhail) and Sterling Sulieman (Tyrell) both make the absolute most of their minimal screen time, making these bit-part characters as memorable as the protagonists.
Obviously, this is bolstered by some great writing from Capcom. RE3 feels a tad lighter than RE2 did, Jill and Carlos are both more likely to crack jokes than Leon and Claire were, Jill herself rivals Resident Evil 4’s interpretation of Leon in terms of quality one liners, and along with Tompkins’ performance makes this version of Jill my personal favourite Resident Evil protagonist.
On a technical level the RE Engine continues to be a wonder. While not as showy or consistent with its performance as Devil May Cry 5 was, RE3 looks incredible. It manages to keep a solid framerate throughout on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, while varying between 30 and 60 fps on the base consoles (which is in line with RE2’s performance).
Resident Evil 3 is a flawed game when compared to its predecessor. It doesn’t feel as consistent, it’s a lot shorter and is missing sections present in the original release. That aside, the action game fan in me loved RE3’s faster paced gameplay and as previously mentioned, the versions of the characters in this remake are up there as my favourite cast in a Resident Evil game. On its own two feet – with objectivity thrown out the window – this is probably one of the best experiences I have ever had with a Resident Evil game.