The Resident Evil series is enjoying something of a renaissance of late. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard successfully revitalized the franchise back in 2017. Capcom followed that up with Resident Evil 2, a sterling remake of the PlayStation original. Both RE7 and RE2 embody everything that's great about the series. Where RE7 is a terrifying journey through a monster-infested nightmare land, RE2 returns to the franchise's schlocky action-horror roots. Resident Evil 3 broke new ground for the series back in the original PlayStation days. With that in mind, its remake has some pretty big infected shoes to fill even without the purple patch created by its predecessors.
It won't come as any shock to learn that Resident Evil 3 is fine. Gone are the days when Capcom could do no right by its flagship horror franchise. These days, it seems Capcom has learned its lessons. The studio arguably hasn't delivered a truly bad main-series Resident Evil experience since Resident Evil 6 (and even that game has its defenders, misguided as they are). Whether Resident Evil 3 is more than just fine will depend on what you're bringing to it. If you want something that captures the pioneering spirit of the PlayStation original, you'll be disappointed. If you're after a more action-oriented version of the Resident Evil 2 remake, then Resident Evil 3 will likely enthrall and astound, even if it is a little familiar.
Resident Evil 3 Feels A Touch Confused
Right out of the gate, Resident Evil 3 announces its intentions. After a slightly trippy first-person dream sequence, Jill is thrown straight into the action against the Nemesis. A setpiece follows in which you must escape your dogged pursuer through burning buildings and alleyways. There's a worrying shade of Resident Evil 6 about this opening, and while things do settle down a little after this, RE3 is a touch overreliant on big action moments to tell its story. This is still very much a survival horror game, but certain moments and gameplay sections lean a little too hard on the action button.
If you're expecting deep narrative, you've probably not played a Resident Evil game before. The dialogue in Resident Evil 3 is just as silly and overblown as it's ever been. There are very few lines here that sound like real human beings would actually say them. The voice acting is excellent, which just makes the bad writing feel even more strange. Unlike Resident Evil 2, though, it feels like Resident Evil 3 is leaning a little harder into its campy nature. Jill is a more expressive and vocal protagonist than Leon was. She's much more liable to swear her way through a scene than to shrink in fear, which makes RE3 feel more kinetic than its predecessor.
There are moments when the story slows down, the moments when Resident Evil 3 shines. When Jill is limping through claustrophobic sewers or navigating spider-infested nests, Resident Evil 3 truly terrifies. Other times, though - such as the regular Nemesis chase sequences - the intent is obviously to galvanize rather than to scare. These two halves never quite come together, and Resident Evil 3 ends up feeling like it's between two stools. It's the Resident Evil 5 to its predecessor's RE4: an action-packed thrill ride with horror interludes that feels like two different games vying for supremacy.
Horror And Action In Resident Evil 3
For the most part, Resident Evil 3 plays like a souped-up version of the Resident Evil 2 remake. Some quality-of-life features have been added and are very welcome. The knife gets a dedicated weapon slot this time, which feels like an essential fix from the previous game. Jill can quick-dodge out of the way of zombie attacks, which makes combat feel much more fluid, although the dodge is a little clunky at times. Otherwise, it's still the same over-the-shoulder RE4-style mixture of zombie combat (zombat?), puzzles, and inventory and resource management.
Resident Evil 3's world feels more organic than that of RE2. Raccoon City's doors are blocked by padlocks and chains, not spade-shaped keyholes and statue puzzles. There are one or two notable exceptions, but the puzzles and exploration here feel much more grounded. Since RE3 wants to be more of an action game, there are fewer puzzles and key-hunting sequences this time around. That gives Capcom more room to throw enemies and action sequences your way, but it also makes things feel less tense and mysterious.
In some ways, Resident Evil 3 feels like nothing more than a victory lap for RE2. Since that remake was so good, RE3 seems content to bask in its systems, merely throwing in a few new monsters and setpieces for good measure. That's fine for the most part. Resident Evil 3 still looks and feels great, and during its most tense moments, it rivals its predecessor. There was more room for improvement than this in the core gameplay loop, though, and Resident Evil 3 mostly misses those opportunities. At best, it can feel a touch smug; at worst, it wallows in both the triumphs and mistakes of its predecessor, adding nothing significant to its franchise.
Resident Evil 3's Enemy Design (Mostly) Works
If you approach Resident Evil 3 as a horror-tinged action title, it works pretty darn well. Its combat encounters feel tight and well-designed. An early parasite-spewing enemy provides plenty of creepy scares and forces you to alter the tactics you've been using thus far. Elsewhere, the returning Hunter Beta enemies are as delightfully terrifying as they are frustrating to fight. Some of RE3's encounters do feel a touch cheap, but that sense of danger compounds the tension. There's nothing here as scary as Resident Evil 2's plant zombies, but some of the new enemies are wonderfully ghoulish nonetheless.
The central Nemesis figure fares a little more poorly. In Resident Evil 2, Mr. X was a stomping herald, a titan who followed you everywhere you went and could show up without warning. Nemesis seems confined to action setpieces and cutscenes, which is disappointing. When you do get to fight him, the boss fights are skilfully crafted, each asking you to master a different facet of Resident Evil 3's surprisingly varied combat. Unlike Mr. X, though, Nemesis rarely feels like more than a nuisance when he does show up. That sense of terror at hearing the stomping footsteps of a pursuer is gone, replaced by an unfortunate relief when a cutscene or setpiece starts.
That's due in part to Resident Evil 3's renewed focus on open spaces and a more linear sense of progression. Without Resident Evil 2's tightly interlocking corridors and winding passageways, the ever-present terror of a force like Mr. X is hard to portray. Perhaps it's not fair to ask Resident Evil 3 to match or exceed Mr. X since it's a different game aiming for different things. Still, it's hard to ignore the fact that Nemesis - much like everything in RE3 - fails to evoke the same dread or terror that his more suave cousin managed with nothing but a few footsteps and a fedora.
Something Is Missing In Resident Evil 3
Since it's a remake, Resident Evil 3 clearly doesn't feel any kind of pressure to innovate or build on its predecessor. To a certain extent, that's fine. What it provides is more of the same, and if that's what you want, this is a satisfactory experience. It's hard not to feel like there's something missing, though. Resident Evil 2 arrived in a relatively creatively barren horror landscape and rewrote the rulebook on both remakes and survival horror titles. Resident Evil 3 is treading water in comparison. It lacks a central hook. Where RE2 had both Mr. X and its alternate playthroughs, RE3 has...well...nothing.
That's not necessarily a handicap. Resident Evil 3 is a perfectly playable action-horror game that's occasionally great and usually good. It's just following on the heels of a much scarier, more effective and more content-rich game. RE3 has a pretty measly runtime. There's plenty of replayability, but nothing as smart as the Leon-Claire dual-playthrough gimmick of RE2. As such, you'll probably be done with this one in much less time. That feeds even more into the idea that this is a Resident Evil 2 expansion pack rather than a full game in its own right.
That feeling that there's something missing extends to the story too. The characters are fine, but they're rarely more than Resident Evil archetypes. They're all here: the scheming Wesker type, the capable action hero, the wisecracking sidekick. None of them reveal any extra depth and the monster storyline doesn't go anywhere particularly interesting either. Resident Evil 2 wasn't exactly Dostoyevsky, but it had some nice moments, and Resident Evil 7's story was positively gripping. Next to those, RE3 feels lightweight in the narrative department. That doesn't kill it, but it's a wobble for a game that was already struggling to find its own identity.
Resident Evil 3 | Final Thoughts
Resident Evil 3 is a solid attempt at remaking a REvolutionary horror game. If it wasn't for Resident Evil 2 setting peskily high bars, RE3 would be a stellar experience. As it stands, it plays things a little too safe and never strikes out for more than being pretty good. The Nemesis might be front and center on the box art, but it's the smaller moments - the spider hive, the Hunter Gamma enemies in the sewer - that stay with you. There's nothing here that's offensive, but nothing that's massively remarkable, either. In the wake of RE2, Resident Evil 3 represents the franchise taking a step towards complacency it can't afford. Capcom gets away with it this time, but the next Resident Evil game needs to play a blinder.
TechRaptor reviewed Resident Evil 3 on PlayStation 4 Pro using a code provided by the publisher.
- More Great Resident Evil Gameplay
- Some Truly Unsettling Moments
- Looks Incredible
- ...But It's More Of The Same
- Less Scary Than Resident Evil 2
- Plays Things Too Safe