‘Resident Evil 3 Remake’ review: a missed opportunity to revitalise a beloved classic

Unfortunate downgrades and a reliance on action hack away at the survival horror heart of this frustrating remake

It’s hard not to fall in love with how Resident Evil 3 Remake looks. As soon as you start trudging around the streets of Raccoon City, you’ll quickly be immersed in the situation thanks to the minimalist HUD and detailed, photorealistic textures.

Particularly, I adored the detailed posters homaging movies from a bygone era and the figurines referencing past Capcom franchises that litter the subway stations and toy shop windows. Even the typography and donut store mascots feel evocative of the cultural milieu in which the original game was launched in 1997, which is testament to the game’s exquisite art direction. Hats off to the developers for making me take the time to lean in and study the paraphernalia among the chaos of a zombie apocalypse!

Resident Evil 3 Remake Review
Credit: Capcom

However, speaking of 90s sensibilities… I soon run into Carlos Oliveira, Jill’s sidekick, who quickly reveals himself to be a bona fide cringe cannon. This is a man ready to deliver a salvo of groan-worthy clangers at a moment’s notice. His inopportune pick-up lines and comments cause me to roll my eyes so dramatically that I could have easily been mistaken for one of the game’s brain-dead zombies. It’s distracting, but fortunately, our heroine Jill Valentine takes all of his annoying jibes in her stride and shines through as a funny and powerful protagonist.

She tackles the undead horde with gusto and kicks plenty of mutated ass across Resident Evil 3 Remake’s six-hour runtime. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in her personal journey and enthusiastically root for her as you’re pumping the dreaded Nemesis full of Acid Rounds. However, beyond the push and pull of the protagonist vs bioweapon narrative, the story really isn’t up to much.

The rest of the characters beyond Jill aren’t so memorable, fitting into unfortunate stereotypes you’ve certainly seen before, and the set pieces start to blend into one. A remake with so much more technology in play should have at least developed these side characters rather than let them feel just as forgettable. Expect diatribes about how the real monsters are the humans, for example – it doesn’t quite balance out between the B-movie schlock and the serious situation in the way that Resident Evil 2 Remake did.

Resident Evil 3 Remake Review
Credit: Capcom

In another weird downgrade from last year’s Resident Evil 2 Remake, the gore in this game is much less impressive. Zombies feel like bullet sponges – limbs don’t split off once shot like they used to. As ironic as it sounds, the undead feel much less alive. It means that eventually, you don’t treat them like real threats and the experience starts to feel like an arcade shooter rather than a nuanced survival horror game.

Many may rebuke this point by noting that the 1997 original is more action-oriented, but it was still a Resident Evil game, and even as an out-and-proud scaredy-cat, this remake failed to stir me in the way that I imagine the developers had intended. Nothing in the soundtrack jumped out to me, but the impressive and often unnerving sound design was appreciated, even if it felt hamstrung by the lacklustre encounters and pacing.

Luckily, there’s still an enjoyable heft to the guns, and the laser-pointed aiming system revels in its own satisfying jank. I did feel, though, that I had an abundance of ammo throughout, so it was rare to be on the back foot in combat, which is most of the fun in Resident Evil.

Resident Evil 3 Remake Review
Credit: Capcom

That was until I first encountered Nemesis. Unlike Resident Evil 2 Remake’s Mr. X, he feels thrown into situations carelessly, not even for the scare factor. Nemesis seems to exist to annoy players and force you into a stopgap. Instead of the teeth-chattering games of cat and mouse you may be expecting, you’ll instead be sprinting through conventional corridors and hammering button prompts to get past him.

The game asks little more of players in its boss battles. The problem here is that a lot of these encounters are repetitive and don’t require much intuition – you mostly play Ring a Ring o’ Rosie with the big guy, arbitrarily circling an arena to fire off a shot and then repeat. There was no real spectacle to keep my eye off the woefully conventional encounter design. These moments became about endurance rather than skill, and the monotony of completing the same task over and over again was enough to drive me to boredom.

The odd pacing and scattershot Nemesis encounters in Resident Evil 3 Remake ruin any chance of a curated atmosphere. At its best, I was shocked and grossed out by some of the new creatures in the sewers, for which I would applaud the developers for their outrageous approach to enemy design. Yet even then I’d have to backpedal, as later on it’s all over the place.

The aforementioned filth-dwelling Hunter Gammas are deeply unsettling pale blood fish monsters, but the Hunter Betas are just armoured lizards that feel totally out of place, like you’re suddenly squaring up against the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They’re not scary or imposing in combat – they’re just fast and annoying. Something of a theme here…

Resident Evil 3 Remake Review
Credit: Capcom

Some of the most engaging parts of the game occur when you return to the setting of Resident Evil 2 and face a tense trip through the Raccoon City Police Department, encountering Lickers and dealing with the dead.

The benefit of this game being a prequel means that you get to see how the characters in Resident Evil 3 Remake affect the environment and story of Resident Evil 2 Remakeif you can recall the locker codes from previous games, you can even use them here, which is a nice touch.

Unfortunately, I was left thinking that this only serves to make the other game look better. There are a few spots where it provides new and surprising gameplay, like throwing more zombies at you than usual, but that’s it. This is the only fresh approach in which Resident Evil 3 Remake asks you to adapt in an interesting way to its more action-oriented style. But they’re too fleeting to really care about, and eventually become lazy, turning the game into a wave shooter for a chapter, hacking at the compelling survival horror that sits at the core of Resident Evil’s brand.

Resident Evil 3 Remake Review
Credit: Capcom

There are new additions like the Mine Rounds, which boast an interesting tactical element to the grenade launcher, and the in-game shop that unlocks after you beat the game, letting you buy new weapons and outfits. Yet, as you may be starting to understand, complimenting Resident Evil 3 feels like pulling positive needles out of a parasite-infested haystack.

When I completed the game it felt like something of a one-shot – there weren’t any unexplored areas of the map that I wanted to get back to from another perspective, even if I was given the option. This may leave players feeling short-changed, especially in comparison to Resident Evil 2 Remake, which had four scenarios and a suite of secret game modes. In exchange, Capcom has tacked on Resident Evil Resistance to Resident Evil 3, an asymmetrical horror experience that may well be the saving grace of the entire package.

Resident Evil 3 Remake Review
Credit: Capcom

Familiar to those of you who’ve played games like Dead By Daylight, Resistance works perfectly within the lore of Resident Evil and offers heaps of necessary terror. It’s a claustrophobic multiplayer experience that forces you to communicate to survive, one that indulges your darkest impulses as you play the malevolent mastermind, tactically unravelling groups of survivors with your traps and zombie placements. It’s like Left 4 Dead only you’re playing as the AI Director, overseeing the map and creating the tension yourself.

The only problem is that right now it takes too long to find a game. Hopefully it gets picked up by a strong community, as it’s a really special spin on multiplayer that fortunately exists beyond one of the three genres that are popular right now. Maps are small and force out adrenaline, and the arcade trappings and B-movie charm of the wider game fit perfectly into this context in a way that feels far more natural than in the campaign.

Resident Evil 3 Remake is out on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One now.

Our Verdict

Resident Evil 3 Remake is a disappointingly safe reimagining of a beloved classic, one that feels rushed – as if it could’ve done with a lot more variety and attention. While the visual style of the world is just as effective and the gameplay functional, the narrative and characters feel hollow and the gameplay eventually slides into monotony. Luckily, the asymmetrical multiplayer horror package tacked on to it acts as a surprising saving grace.

Pros

  • An immersive world full of intricate detail
  • Jill Valentine is an incredible protagonist
  • Resistance is an exciting multiplayer experiment, but it needs a player base!

Cons

  • Feels more like an arcade shooter than a survival horror game
  • Campaign is short and lacks replayability
  • Nemesis is more frustrating than imposing or scary
  • Forgettable side characters and a lack of innovation
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