Resident Evil 3 is a classic case of unrealized potential.
NOTE: This review only covers Resident Evil 3’s single player campaign. You can read our thoughts on the multiplayer component of the package, Resident Evil Resistance, through here.
Resident Evil 3 should have been a slam dunk. Coming on the heels of the one-two punch of Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 2, it had an incredible foundation to work with, and Capcom’s two-for-two track record with remakes in the series only inspired further confidence. Somehow, though, this return to Raccoon City isn’t nearly as much of a convincing victory as it should have been. In isolation, this is a good game- it’s slick, it’s polished, it’s got incredible production values. But it pales in comparison to the series’ recent output, and fails to do proper justice to the PS1 game that it takes inspiration from.
"In isolation, this is a good game- it’s slick, it’s polished, it’s got incredible production values. But it pales in comparison to the series’ recent output, and fails to do proper justice to the PS1 game that it takes inspiration from."
More than anything else, this is an example of a game that constantly hints at greatness, that constantly excites with its potential, but almost always fails to capitalize on that potential. Nowhere is that as apparent as it is in the way it handles Nemesis himself. Back in 1999, the terrifying bioweapon was a menace that dominated every second of the experience. In the remake though, Nemesis has been woefully underutilized, especially as a stalker enemy.
From a narrative and visual design perspective, he’s still a terrific antagonist, and the boss fights against him are truly spectacular- but the number of times you’ll find him dynamically pursuing you the way Mr. X pursued Leon and Claire in last year’s Resident Evil 2 is disappointingly low, and the sections that do feature him as a dynamic stalker-type enemy are also over much too quickly. One he begins functioning as a stalker, he only operates in that capacity for a very brief period, after which he just goes back to only appearing in scripted sequences. As such, Nemesis’ threat can be felt throughout the game’s story and in scripted set-piece events, but he doesn’t come anywhere close to evoking the sort of constant palpable fear from a mechanical, gameplay perspective that Mr. X did in last year’s remake.
That’s a little surprising, because Capcom had a great base to work off of here- they built an excellent template with Mr. X, and enhancing that further with an even more threatening and terrifying Nemesis could have made for one of the greatest stalker enemies in the genre’s history. Certainly, that’s what this was being advertised as in the months leading up to Resident Evil 3’s launch, which just makes this woeful underutilization of him as a pursuer that much more disappointing. While Resident Evil 2’s Mr. X felt like a constant presence that you had to deal with for the vast majority of the experience, in Resident Evil 3, the times Nemesis poses a similar dynamic threat are very rare, and very brief.
"While Resident Evil 2’s Mr. X felt like a constant presence that you had to deal with for the vast majority of the experience, in Resident Evil 3, the times Nemesis poses a similar dynamic threat are very rare, and very brief."
Hinting at greatness but not following through on that promise is an issue in other areas of Resident Evil 3 as well. For instance, Raccoon City as an environment could and should have been one of the stars of the show here – and this, too, was something Capcom had been outright promising in the pre-launch buildup – but this, too, is an area where the game doesn’t even come close to realizing its potential. During my playthrough as I was going through the opening section of Raccoon City, I was ecstatic about what I was seeing- for an introductory area, it was excellently designed. It encouraged exploration and backtracking, and I was excited about what I thought it would lead up to.
As it turned out, that was just it for Raccoon City- that was all it had to offer. And that is a recurring problem with most of Resident Evil 3’s locations. They all come along, hint at greatness, and are well enough-designed for what they are, but they all end too quickly, never really touching the heights they should touch. As a result, they end up feeling too short, each of them, and, in one or two cases, too small-scale and pared back- like the game didn’t get all out of these areas and their unique themes and ideas that it should have.
It is not a surprise, in fact, that I felt the entire game felt too short. I finished the campaign in under six hours on normal difficulty, and I by no means rushed through it- and by the time I was done, I was left wanting more. Not because I couldn’t get enough of it, but because I felt there wasn’t enough of it. Like I’ve mentioned a few times by now, Resident Evil 3 constantly made me look forward to great things in the imminent future, but it almost never delivered on those promises, and that feeling of unfulfillment didn’t take long to turn into dissatisfaction.
"Resident Evil 3 constantly made me look forward to great things in the imminent future, but it almost never delivered on those promises, and that feeling of unfulfillment didn’t take long to turn into dissatisfaction. "
Thankfully, that short length is offset to some degree by the game’s solid replay value. There’s multiple difficulties, of course, and as is the case with every Resident Evil game, repeat playthroughs to get those S and S+ ranks and those knife-only or no-healing runs will surely give this game plenty of legs. Meanwhile, similar to Resident Evil 2, there’s also costumes, concept art, and models to unlock, while the in-game achievements known as records make a return as well. Interestingly enough, this time, unlocking records also nets you with points, which you can then use to purchase various bonuses – including things such as extra hip pouches, or a reloading tool that gives you more ammo when combining gunpowder, or healing and damage boosting items, or special weapons – and that’s something that adds to the replay value immensely.
Like Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3 makes a lot of changes to the original game, but it’s success in this area is far less consistent. To avoid spoilers, I’m going to avoid any specific details, but it removes a lot of things from the original game that I was baffled by. Many of these were things I was really looking forward to seeing in the remake, and some were things I considered downright essential to the original RE3. Not seeing them in the remake wasn’t only disappointing, it was downright confusing. I’m all for trimming away the fat – Capcom did that to great effect in last year’s RE2 – but here, I couldn’t help but feel like they trimmed too much. Just as a microscopic example, there are less than half a dozen puzzles in this game (I can remember just two off the top of my head), and they were nothing to write home about either.
To it credit though, nearly every single change Resident Evil 3 makes to its story is for the better. It’s actually far more willing to take liberties with narrative changes than last year’s remake was, and that boldness is something that fans of the original will appreciate, because most of its changes work out very well. Characters have been greatly fleshed out, and thanks to tight writing, excellent performances, and slickly directed cutscenes, they all feel much more real and relatable than they did two decades ago. Carlos, especially, really shines, both in terms of the story and the significantly longer time you spend playing as him. The game also deepens the lore greatly, and fills in some gaps in really interesting ways- that’s all I can say without veering into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say, I was quite satisfied with Resident Evil 3’s reimagined story.
"To it credit though, nearly every single change Resident Evil 3 makes to its story is for the better."
Being built on the RE Engine, Resident Evil 3 is also – unsurprisingly – a technical marvel. Every location you visit, every character you encounter, and every repulsive enemy you fight is rendered gloriously and with painstaking detail. Cutscenes are directed in the same stylish and grounded style as RE7 and RE2, and music and sound design are top notch. There are some frame rate drops here and there, especially for objects, environmental elements, and enemies in the distance, but none of them every really hinder gameplay in any meaningful way.
If the rest of Resident Evil 3’s shortcomings were as negligible, then it would have been a far greater game, one that met its true potential as possibly one of the best games in the series. Unfortunately, its shortcomings are many, and most of them are quite major, which means it doesn’t ever live up to its incredible potential. It ends up, as a result, as a perfectly competent, but ultimately disappointing remake.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Excellent narrative changes; Carlos is a much bigger (and better) part of the story; Nemesis boss fights are spectacular; Plenty of replay value; Top notch visuals and audio design.
Nemesis has been underutilized as a stalker-type enemy; Almost each area feels too small-scale; Too short; Removes some crucial things from the original game; Occasional frame rate drops.
Resident Evil 3 constantly hints at greatness, but never quite reaches the heights of the PS1 original. It's a solid enough game, but not nearly as impressive as other recent Resident Evil titles, and not nearly as good as it could and should have been.