Resident Evil 3 Review – New Dog, New Tricks

Last Night, I Lived 1000 Years

I love it when we get into these last six to eight months before new consoles release. It’s the time in a system’s lifespan when we see developers able to fully utilize the potential of our Xbox’s and Playstations. We routinely have games released in this window of time that go on to resonate for years afterward, and that’s thanks to the work of developers like Capcom that aren’t satisfied with resting on their laurels. Resident Evil 3 is a masterclass in what it means to be a remaster. Throughout your time in Raccoon City, you’ll feel the familiar beats of a story that’s been told for twenty years; however, you’ll also explore the exhilaration of experiencing something you love for the first time again. 

Continuing the trend of updating their classic takes on the zombie genre to feel more modern, gone are the tank controls and fixed camera angles that gave these games their distinct flavor all those years ago. In place, much like the stellar Resident Evil 2 remake, you’ll find you’re able to control Jill and Carlos with pinpoint accuracy. A big part of what makes these remakes so fun is the level of detail in the character as you maneuver around. The way Jill or Carlos move, the fluidity, the way they dodge enemy attacks (even though the hitboxes can feel inconsistent) – it all just feels so natural, and so smooth, that these characters end up genuinely feeling like extensions of the player. In this way, these remakes nail the sense of connection between humans and AI that many developers strive for.

This incredible level of detail extends far beyond just your own characters. Capcom continues to show why they’re in a class of their own when it comes to the zombie genre, as these are the best looking versions of the walking dead that I’ve ever seen. Much like Resident Evil 2, the flesh and bone of these monsters will peel and pull away as you empty your rounds into them, giving way for some truly gruesome kills when it’s time to finally put the nail in the coffin. Heads will explode with a satisfying crack, and fire will cook the flesh of your enemies so well you’ll swear you can smell the barbecue. I also love how every now and then, as a zombie dies, it will make one last desperate attempt to grab on to you, only to be brushed aside and disposed of. All of these little details come together to help add to the feeling that you’re barreling through the most arduous night of your life and it’s excessively effective. I would have liked to see a little more variety in the zombie models, however.

Equally as impressive as the detail is while playing the campaign, the cutscenes throughout the journey are some of the most breathtaking works of art in gaming. This generation pushed the notion that games should look and feel like cinema more than any other before it, and Resident Evil 3 is one of the best examples of why this is the case. Scenes are stunningly rendered, with certain parts of the game looking indistinguishable from real life. The game also flows seamlessly between cutscene and gameplay, so well, in fact, that there were times when I didn’t even realize I had regained control of my character. 

Letting Go Is Hard To Do

Keep in mind that this is still very much the same story that we experienced all those years ago, for better and for worse. I think a lot of Resident Evil fans would agree that by the time the third game rolled around in 1999, the (essentially) same story that they had been telling over and over had run a little dry. All this time later, and with the zombie genre having gone through peaks and valleys of popularity, the story of Jill and Carlos trying to outrun and outsmart the Nemesis is more effective the second time around. Their desperation is captured in such a new and beautiful way that while I had a sense of deja vu playing through the game, I also consistently felt like I was playing something I had never experienced before. And that’s the key to being a successful remaster.

Some fans may find it unfortunate that Capcom chose to keep around certain aspects of the original game that haven’t exactly aged gracefully. There are times when a lack of direction can be frustrating as you search every nook and cranny until you stumble upon the answer you’re looking for. It also feels like there are moments when common enemies take an insanely inordinate amount of ammunition to finally be put down. But most frustrating of all is the lack of any real change to inventory management. I understand – this is still survival horror. And I respect and appreciate that. But the fact that you can’t use an item you find on the ground without first putting it into your inventory is entirely illogical, and only works to annoy the player more than it does make them feel like they’re in a battle for survival. Why, oh why, can I not just eat a green herb off the ground? Why can I not immediately load ammunition I’ve found into a gun? These things may sound nitpicky, but Resident Evil 3 isn’t exactly an easy game, and it certainly doesn’t need any more advantages working in its favor.

It’s hard to fault the game too heavily for its shortcomings, though, as, for every misstep, Resident Evil 3 does ten things right. No matter the frustration I felt with the inventory management, I knew there was another incredible sequence right around the corner waiting for me. Overall, the package is so perfect that the small imperfections become easier to look past, and I commend Capcom for continuing to push the perception of what it means to be a remastered game.

Final Thoughts

If Capcom continues to push these remakes out with the care and quality of Resident Evil 2 and 3, then I can’t wait to see what we get in the future. While the game still stubbornly hangs on to a few of the original’s mechanical shortcomings, the vast majority of the package is a breathtaking recreation of material we fell in love with two decades ago. And I use the word ‘recreation’ lightly because, for all intents and purposes, this is an entirely new game doing its own thing, ready to terrify old and new players alike with its bag of tricks. The only question left is – Could this mean Resident Evil 4 is next?

***Review codes provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • What Remasters Should Aspire to Be
  • Outstanding Visuals
  • Incredible Sound Design
  • Best Zombies in Gaming

The Bad

  • Inventory Management Is Outdated
  • Dodging Feels Inconsistent