Resident Evil 3 Review: Pushing the Standard for Remakes Even Higher

Capcom really set a new bar for remakes in 2019 with Resident Evil 2 by showing what some iconic Resident Evil characters could look like in a new era of gaming, so the next logical step for the company would be to move the bar even higher with a remake of Resident Evil 3. Some smart decisions made in this latest remake help achieve that goal by rectifying some frustrations and making movements feel more fluid than ever before. The game trades away some of the franchise’s signature horror elements for a more action-oriented approach, but the result is a fresh hybrid experience and the best version of Raccoon City seen in a long time.

Timidity permeates the start of Resident Evil 3 as chaos erupts in Raccoon City and players, controlling Jill Valentine, have to navigate their way through the streets and shops to complete the first few missions. Rattled by an early run-in with Nemesis, the ever-present antagonist of the game who’s essentially a much more aggressive version of Mr. X from Resident Evil 2, any confidence players have coming into the game is immediately shaken. Threats of an ambush or a zombie playing dead in a doorway is hard to shake when you’ve only got a few resources to your name, and pretty much every thought you have is about better preparing yourself and second guessing whether that zombie over there is about to try and take a bite out of you.

That same feeling doesn’t hold up throughout the whole game, but it’s more of a trade-off instead of thrusting players into a new genre mid-game. As players become better equipped and more acquainted with Nemesis, there’s a shift from survival-horror to horror-shooter. Ammo and resources are plentiful on the game’s Standard mode, and zombies appear in clusters more often than they do in unexpected places. Jump-scares and grotesque monsters you don’t want anywhere near you like the Pale Heads still manage to keep players on edge, so the change in tone isn’t nearly as pronounced as going from an older Resident Evil game to something like Resident Evil 6. It’s more like playing through Resident Evil 5 and going from worrying about dying to finishing enemies with style, but the transition is gradual enough that it feels natural.

The open settings of Raccoon City contribute to this action vibe since they replace doorways with alleyways and opens things up for players to make more tactical decisions instead of split-second ones. Despite it being mostly devoid of human life and in shambles, Raccoon City still manages to feel alive and begs to be explored if not to find resources than to just piece together the stories of the people who lived there. One of the best chapters of the game that pulls the whole city together sends players back to Resident Evil 2 in a way few franchises can pull off so smoothly.

Resident Evil 3’s best feature by far is one that’ll work regardless of the playstyle you prefer. The “Perfect Dodge” command can’t be praised enough for what it contributes to surviving and balancing Resident Evil 3. It’s your get out of jail card for Nemesis and a way to manage swarms of zombies and look cool doing it. Knives don’t break in Resident Evil 3, which means you can try and poke at zombies all you want, but future games can remove the knives entirely if they want so long as Capcom keeps adding the dodge feature.

Once you’ve beaten Resident Evil 3, a grading system, in-game challenges, different difficulties, and a unique shop through which players can purchase items and bonuses for their next playthrough adds to the game’s replayability factor, though not as much as Resident Evil 2’s dual storyline format did. One playthrough on Standard took about seven hours, but seeing how the time requirement for an A or S Rank is beating the game in under two hours, you’ll probably be incentivized to give it another go with your newfound experience.

While the shop rewards like cosmetics and an infinite rocket launcher make for entertaining replays, the journey to those prizes is better than the destination since some of the game’s challenges force players to play with unique restrictions. Lots of the challenges are essentially things like "kill so many zombies with a particular weapon," but some of them, like one that asks players to use one or fewer healing items throughout the whole game and another that says never open the Storage Box, proved to be interesting tests of restraint. You can essentially set rules for yourself to diversify your replays. Going for an S Rank, which means finishing the game in under two hours and saving no more than five times while also layering on the challenges, creates a completely different experience compared to your first playthrough.

Resident Evil Resistance being part of the package adds to the game’s value, but the multiplayer game mode’s so different compared to Resident Evil 3 that it deserves its own discussion. A few games marred by server issues resulted in a Resident Evil experience that certainly has potential, but it’s definitely not going to be for everyone. It’s too early for a verdict on Resistance, but if players don’t like it, it’s easy to imagine they’d feel like they’re missing out on part of Resident Evil 3 since it’s included in the purchase.

Multiplayer experiments aside, Resident Evil 3 itself should delight anyone who’s playing it for the first time or those who already know its story inside and out. It’s easier than ever to become immersed in Raccoon City and Resident Evil mechanics have never felt as fluid as they do in this game. Resident Evil 3 proves that Resident Evil 2 wasn’t just a one-off success of a remake and shows that Capcom has a winning formula on its hands.

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Rating: 5 out of 5

Resident Evil 3 releases for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC platforms on April 3rd. A PlayStation 4 code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.