Resident Evil 3 takes place nearly concurrently with the events of the equally accomplished Resident Evil 2, and follows different characters. The endearingly practical Jill Valentine – last seen in the original Resident Evil and its Director’s Cut – is called upon by a roguish Umbrella Corp mercenary by the name of Carlos Oliviera to help save the remaining inhabitants of a demolished Raccoon City from the carnage spawned by the T-Virus outbreak. Of course, nothing goes to plan, and Jill finds herself in a wonderfully labyrinthine, zombie-studded playground where she – and your nerves – must also contend with the threat of an invulnerable monster called Nemesis.
[widget path=”global/article/imagegallery” parameters=”albumSlug=every-ign-resident-evil-game-review-ever&captions=true”]
It’s a very classic Resident Evil set up, but then, this is a remake of a classic, goofily fun Resident Evil story — the original 1999 game. The major story events from the original Resident Evil 3 are all there, albeit rearranged, and the cheesiness the early trilogy is known for is delivered in a charmingly self-knowing way. “How is it no one in the hospital ever noticed all this?” Jill wonders aloud after discovering a massive underground base that isn’t particularly well hidden. Resident Evil 3 is also, fortunately, very efficient in its storytelling; the villain is perfectly villainous, the heroes are all selfless and charming, and cutscenes are lean yet efficiently deliver big dramatic moments. It carries the gameplay swiftly along, in other words, and never gets bogged down in unnecessary exposition.
[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=Capcom%20has%20done%20an%20incredible%20job%20in%20the%20small%20details%20here.”]The chaotic, ruined Raccoon City goes a long way toward bringing Resident Evil’s story and the broader universe to life. Once again working within the RE Engine that powered both last year’s Resident Evil 2 and 2017’s Resident Evil 7, Capcom has done an incredible job in the small details here; from the in-universe advertising (“No Spares in This Game!” reads the tagline for a movie called “Sudden Death Bowling”) to the detritus left by citizens who had to escape in a hurry, to Resident Evil 2-related Easter eggs (“Now here’s a weird f****ing door!” Carlos says upon encountering the Spade Door, which is so significant in Resident Evil 2’s police station) and genuinely compelling in-game notes and journals that give background context to some poor guy’s tragic death and/or reveal a code to open a safe. These are spaces that feel realistically inhabited and then abandoned, full of the sort of detail that had me poring every inch of a room after I’d killed everything in it.
[widget path=”global/article/imagegallery” parameters=”albumSlug=the-best-resident-evil-bosses&captions=true”]
This detail and polish extend to Resident Evil 3’s broader environments, which are stunning. Smashed cars are piled up outside of flickering neon signs, fires lick their way across kitschy storefronts, and broad industrial spaces are eerily empty. Although you can’t interact much with the world unless you are specifically instructed to (this is still a Resident Evil game and is thus inhospitably rigid with its options for touching things) the atmosphere around you is always pulling out all the stops to make you feel vulnerable and small. Not to lean too much into cliches, but I literally jumped at my own in-game shadow more than once.
[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=At%20the%20very%20least%2C%20every%20room%20has%20useful%20items%20or%20a%20secret.”]Like its predecessor, and indeed, every decent Resident Evil game before it, every part of Resident Evil 3’s world feels deliberately put together. No enemy is thrown in for the sake of it, no room is there ‘just because’; at the very least, every room has useful items or a secret. Areas house problems to solve or clues that lead you to other areas and then back again; a fire obstructs one route, for example, and must be extinguished with the help of a part hidden in a nearby building – a building which also houses a weapon that can’t be accessed without the use of a tool that’s located past the area obstructed by fire.
[poilib element=”poll” parameters=”id=cbc7a642-d09e-48d1-9e7b-ab39ecdccd89″]
These tasks might sound video-gamey (and they are), but solving them is never a chore thanks to elegant, interlocking level design that makes backtracking easy. When I say “easy,” I don’t mean “safe,” though, because that corpse on the floor in that building you were in 30 minutes ago, for example, may not be a corpse any longer. Thankfully, the Resident Evil 2 Remake map screen returns, dutifully logging exactly where you saw that locked safe and highlighting if you’ve missed any items after exploring a room.
[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=As%20long%20as%20you%E2%80%99re%20careful%20you%20won%E2%80%99t%20feel%20like%20you%E2%80%99re%20being%20punished.”]Item micromanagement is where Resident Evil 3 leans hardest into its old-school survival horror lineage. Like the original (and in RE2), items are your lifeline and inventory is limited, and running back and forth between storage chests to make sure nothing is wasted and certain items are combined in smart ways is a must if you want to survive for long. I rarely ran out of bullets and health – at least during my first run on Standard mode – but this was due to diligent scavenging rather than items being plentiful. As long as you’re careful in Resident Evil 3, you won’t feel like you’re being punished, and that’s the mark of any good classic survival horror game.
[ignvideo width=610 height=374 url=https://www.ign.com/videos/2020/03/27/resident-evil-3-jill-valentine-trailer]
A sense of dread as you navigate Resident Evil 3’s puzzle box of a world is not unfounded, as you can be easily caught unawares by a number of deadly nasties. There’s plenty of variety in enemy design here to keep things fresh, such as the spider-like Drain Deimos who will poison Jill with parasites (the cure is to eat a green herb and then throw up), Pale Heads (first seen in the Resident Evil 2 DLC) who can only be downed by a very accurate blow to the head with your most extreme weaponry, and more things trying to eat your brains beyond your garden variety zombie. Even the latter can prove deadly, especially because they feel faster and more erratic in their movements than their predecessors in Resident Evil 2 and can show up in big enough numbers to really overwhelm you.
[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=There%E2%80%99s%20plenty%20of%20variety%20in%20enemies%20to%20keep%20things%20fresh.”]Fortunately, Jill is a lot nimbler on her feet than Leon Kennedy or Claire Redfield, which gives Resident Evil 3 a more frantic, action-oriented feel than its predecessor (though it’s not all-out-action like Resident Evil 5 or 6, don’t worry). Jill has a quick step move that allows her to sidestep an incoming attack, and when timed just right it earns you a slight slow-motion effect to help you escape. It’s a move I used regularly and compulsively, and it proved as important to the minute-to-minute combat as Jill’s handgun. Some of its best moments involved me getting a jump scare from an unexpected zombie and dodging out of its way via pure muscle memory before lining up a headshot with my shotgun.
[ignvideo width=610 height=374 url=https://www.ign.com/videos/2020/03/23/resident-evil-3s-knife-is-now-indestructible-ign-news]
Of course, Jill isn’t limited to a single gun; she gradually unlocks the classic Resident Evil arsenal (handgun, shotgun, grenade launcher, etc.), and each weapon feels satisfyingly weighty to shoot. More importantly, I used every gun right up until the end, thanks to upgrades to basic weapons that extend their shelf-life significantly. My original shotgun, for example, was upgraded with a Shell Holder, Tactical Stock, and a Semi-Auto Barrel, which made it far more efficient against Resi 3’s tougher enemies in the latter part of the campaign.
[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=I%20faced%20one%20of%20RE3%E2%80%99s%20most%20delightfully%20difficult%20challenges%20as%20Carlos.”]To shake up the pace, Resident Evil 3 intermittently switches you to Carlos’ perspective; our merc is a little less scrappy and nimble and a little more action-forward than Jill, equipped with a powerful assault rifle that can clear a room from the get-go, at the cost of precious ammunition. That doesn’t mean it’s easier – I faced one of Resident Evil 3’s most delightfully difficult challenges as Carlos, which involved plowing down wave after wave after wave of enemies in a very confined space. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, a blast.
[ignvideo width=610 height=374 url=https://www.ign.com/videos/2020/03/25/resident-evil-3-demo-every-zombie-is-nemesis-mod]
But this is primarily Jill’s show, and she needs everything at her disposal. Resident Evil 3’s central antagonist, Nemesis, is powerful and fast, moving like a giant, horribly disfigured cat stalking and pouncing on its prey across a series of exhilarating boss fights. These battles see you face off against him in sprawling arenas; it’s just you and your arsenal against whatever horrific form he’s evolved into. Executing a perfect dodge as he leaps at you from afar is a wonderful feeling, as is blowing him off the side of a building with a mine grenade.
[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=Nemesis%20is%20powerful%20and%20fast%2C%20moving%20like%20a%20giant%2C%20horribly%20disfigured%20cat.”]It’s a shame, then, that he doesn’t show up more often. Mr. X in Resident Evil 2 is so frightening because his presence felt unexpected, which led to a feeling that you were never safe even if you were in areas you thought you could be. Nemesis apes this pattern in Resident Evil 3’s first couple of hours – there’s a brilliantly climactic showdown with him that involves you desperately trying to escape through a vent as he pursues you – but he soon gets relegated to big, pre-programmed boss fights. Once that happens, that sense of the looming pursuer operating under his own AI is lost.
[poilib element=”poll” parameters=”id=bf8bce16-66f9-48d4-83f4-291575056b48″]
There is no New Game Plus after Resident Evil 3’s campaign, but completing in-game challenges – such as collecting all bobbleheads, knocking X number of hats off a zombie, X number of kills with a certain weapon, etc – unlock a shop where you can cash in your points on useful items to be used in a second or third playthrough. These items, such as coins that make your attacks more powerful or weapons with infinite ammo, made my next playthrough on Resident Evil 3’s hard mode a lot more…manageable.