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Resident Evil 3 remake - title

In a Nutshell

WHAT I LIKE

  • Time spent on city streets
  • Hordes of zombies
  • Knife doesn't break!
  • Knife is actually useful
  • Audio design
  • Gritty, cluttered, slimy environments
  • Carlos' scenario directly affects Jill's

WHAT I DON'T LIKE

  • No option for Ink Ribbons at all?!
  • Rushed pacing
  • No procedural chase from Nemesis?
  • No chase camera?
  • Knife not mapped to own button
  • Too much ammo, heals, and inventory space
  • Going out of my way to backtrack
  • Character design of Nemesis
  • Pay-to-win multiplayer mode with loot boxes replaces original's Mercenaries mini-game

Overall Impression : C-
Less survival horror, more action spectacle

Resident Evil 3 remake - cover

Developer:
Capcom

Publisher:
Capcom

Platforms:
PC (via Steam),
PlayStation 4 < (via retail disc or PSN digital download),
XBox One (via retail disc or XBox Live digital download).
(< indicates platform I played for review)

MSRP: $60 USD

Original release date:
3 April 2020

Genre:
survival horror

ESRB Rating: M (for Mature 17+) for:
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language,
In-App Purchases

Player(s):
single player

Official site:
www.residentevil.com/re3/us/

I played the demo of Nemesis that came packaged
with Dino Crisis, but never played the full game.

Right off the bat, I have to say that Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was never my favorite Resident Evil game. In fact, I never even played the whole thing. I played the demo that was included with Dino Crisis (back in the day when game publishers released playable demos before a game even came out). The original Nemesis erred more on the side of fast-paced action, which just doesn't appeal to me as much as the slower, more thoughtful design philosophy of the original Resident Evil, along with Silent Hill and Dino Crisis. This is why I love the original RE and its GameCube remake, why Resident Evil 4 rubbed me the wrong way, and why I never really got into the rest of the Resident Evil franchise beyond the first game. I tried playing all of the Resident Evil games up through 5, but the only one that came close to holding a candle to the masterful original was 2.

So even though I was excited to play Capcom's remake of the PS1 classic, I went in with tempered expectations. If they stayed true to the original, then RE3make (or whatever we're calling it) would be far more high-octane and action-heavy than the Resident Evil 2 remake that was released a mere year ago. As such, I expected that I just wouldn't be quite as into RE3make as I was into Resident Evil 7 or RE2make. I could only hope that it hit some happy medium between RE2make and Resident Evil 4. But that's really just personal preference on my part. Your tastes may vary.

So now that you hopefully understand where I'm coming from, what do I actually think of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis in 2020? Did Capcom learn any lessons from the few mistakes that were made with RE2make?

Resident Evil 3 is more reliant on spectacle action set pieces than on slowly building atmospheric tension.

The different nature of "Hardcore" mode

If you remember my review of Resident Evil 2 remake (and my lengthy YouTube critique), then you know that one of my core issues with that game was the fact that Capcom locked the Ink Ribbon save system behind that game's hard difficulty. Resident Evil 7 actually had the same problem, but it didn't bother me in that game because RE7 wasn't a remake of a game that included Ink Ribbon saves as a core component of its design.

I felt the Hardcore mode and breakable knife were huge design flaws in RE2make.

In summary, the hard mode made death come much swifter in RE2make. Resource-management wasn't as important as skillful aiming and shooting. Instead of taking a bite or two here and there and having to decide when to fill your scant inventory with a healing item just in case (in the original Resident Evil games), RE2make's hardcore mode made you have to heal pretty much every time you took damage because you couldn't survive a second hit. This low tolerance for mistakes and strict punishment for death felt considerably less fair for someone in a first-time playthrough.

The fact that your knife could break and you could literally be stuck with a save file in which you have zero damage-dealing potential certainly didn't help the feeling of fairness in my book.

My recommendation was for Capcom to separate the hard difficulty setting and the hardcore save system into two options. You should be able to chose whether you want to use Ink Ribbons, and then you should also be able to chose whether you want to play the game on easy, normal, or hard difficulties.

Typewriters are still here, but Ink Ribbons are completely absent.

Instead, Capcom opted to just remove Ink Ribbons for its Nemesis remake. Entirely. They are not locked behind hardcore mode. They are not locked behind New Game Plus. Typewriters are still here, but Ink Ribbons are not in the game at all.

I get why Capcom removed the Ink Ribbons, and it's actually far more justifiable here than it would have been with RE2make. The more fast-paced, linear, action-heavy scenario of Resident Evil 3 doesn't lend itself as well to the more logistical and exploratory challenges of the first two RE games. With all the trial-and-error instant deaths from Nemesis, having to go all the way back to the last save would be even more irritating than the more-deserved deaths in RE2make.

And it isn't just the Nemesis that can instant-kill you. The Hunters are annoyingly lethal. One of their attacks can kill you in a single hit, even on standard difficulty. You first encounter them with Carlos, and Carlos doesn't even have a dodge move. If I were to lose an hour of progress because a single monster that I had no experience fighting took me from full health to dead in a single swift, borderline-unavoidable hit, I'd certainly be rightfully pissed. As such, Nemesis uses frequent autosaves, and large amounts of progress are never lost.

Instant deaths from various enemies make loss of progress unfair.

Of course, Capcom didn't have to make these encounters so lethal. I still would not have minded if they had toned down the lethality of these encounters on standard difficulty and included the option for Ink Ribbons, even if they weren't the intended way to play this game. Would it have hurt?

The survival knife is almost a combat knife!

The Ink Ribbons weren't the only controversial mechanic from RE2make that Capcom decided to scrap. They also dropped the idea of knife durability. You get one combat knife this time around, and it never breaks. This means that you can never be stuck in a situation in which it's impossible to deal damage -- unless you make the mistake of discarding the knife, but that's on you if you chose to do so.

The defensive daggers of REmake and breakable knives from RE2make have been replaced with a dodge move.

No, you can't stab zombies in the face with the knife in order to prevent yourself from taking damage -- even though an early cutscene shows a knife being used in this way. That functionality is gone. Instead, Jill has a dodge button and Carlos has a shoulder charge button. The game intends for you to use proper timing of these techniques to avoid damage in close quarters, rather than using your knife as a grab escape. This is actually more in line with how I suggested things should have worked in RE2make. If you recall, I proposed that a timed button press could allow the knife to be used in a sort of "parry" move. A dodge is a similar idea, just not tied to an inventory item. The downside is that you have no defense against being blindsided by a zombie that you didn't see.

The fact that the knife doesn't break means I had no reservations about taking out a zombie's legs with a gun, then trying to finish it off with the knife while it's crawling around the ground. Zombies are surprisingly nimble when crawling around the ground, and I took a lot of bites to the shin because of this. I didn't mind as much because Nemesis is fairly generous with its supply of healing items on standard difficulty.

Not having to worry about the knife breaking left me free to use the knife against downed zombies.

I also felt much more free to use the knife to tap zombies I find laying on the ground, or to double-tap zombies that I took down with a gun. I don't have to feel like I'm wasting precious knife durability slashing at a zombie that might already be dead.

The knife is still crap in a fight though. It does very little damage and zombies can spin around a lunge at you surprisingly quickly. Sadly, the knife is not mapped to its own button, which is a significant downgrade from RE2make in my book. You have to remember to equip the Knife into a shortcut and switch to it whenever you want to use it. This makes the knife considerably slower and more difficult to use in a pinch.

Fortunately, the knife has other uses. There's silly bobble-head collectibles scattered throughout the game that you can smash with your knife (as opposed to wasting a bullet). There's also supply crates that you can break with the knife in order to get other resources. The net result is that I actually carried the knife on me virtually the entire game, and I used the shit out of that knife!

Smashable bobble-heads and crates give the knife lots of non-combat utility.

Not representative of the original?

There were other lessons that Capcom could have learned from RE2make, but didn't. Despite (once again) being a game largely about being chased by a lethal ... um ... nemesis, RE3make still lacks a chase cam. You still have to manually rotate the camera around (or perform a quick turn) if you need to see what's happening behind you or whether you have adequate separation from Nemesis (or other enemies, such as hunters) to make an attack or perform another action.

Still no chase cam?

We also still can't use items directly off the ground. So if your inventory is full and you find a green herb, you can't just use it to top off your health.

Sadly, the improvements to the knife and overall liberal distribution of ammunition ended up making the game far easier and less tense than its predecessor. I had plenty of ammunition on the standard difficulty to kill almost every enemy in the game without having to think twice. In almost every room, I repeated a process of 3 shots to the knee to take the zombies to the ground, one shot to the head to stun them, then finishing them off with the knife while they lie prone on the ground. In rooms with larger groups of zombies, I even used the handgun to finish off prone zombies from a safe distance. I never felt like I had to run away from a fight, find a creative way to neutralize the zombies with fewer shots, or to just tank the hits and use the generous supply of herbs to keep my health topped off.

The original Resident Evil games got around this problem by keeping your inventory space highly limited. Sure, you could carry the knife with you the whole game, but it would take up a precious inventory slot with an item that was intended to be used only as a desperate last resort. In this remake, I always had enough inventory space to keep 2 guns, the knife, and a grenade, as well as spare ammo and healing items, and still have multiple empty slots for picking up key items or additional supplies. This also served to make the Nemesis encounters in the Downtown map far less threatening (on standard difficulty) because I always had high-powered weapons on hand to deal with him, and then got fancy weapon upgrades and an additional inventory pouch as my reward for stunning him. Two extra inventory slots was well worth the one hand grenade that it cost to get the upgrade!

I never felt pressured to conserve ammunition, nor was I ever low on inventory space.

RE2make had a similarly large, upgradable inventory. But ammo was scarce enough that I had to keep multiple guns on me because I never had enough ammo with any one gun to be able to clear out a room. I was constantly alternating between different weapons for different encounters in an attempt to conserve as much ammo as possible -- even on the standard difficulty. And I also feel like RE2make had more key and puzzle items consistently littering my inventory. Not so in RE3make.

Perhaps I should have sucked it up and played on the hardcore mode this time around...

Unnecessary backtracking in a Resident Evil game?

Another annoying side effects of the autosaves and action set piece-heavy design is that it actually lead me to do a lot more unnecessary backtracking. The various levels of Nemesis do not take place in a single, contiguous space, as the first two Resident Evil games did. When you are done with a particular area in the Nemesis remake, you leave and never come back. This puts more pressure on the player to frequently backtrack to collect items whenever you can, because an action set piece might create a point of no return.

I learned this lesson very early in the game, after I had collected the lockpick and chain-cutter. I went on to complete the current objective to power-up the subway car, assuming that I could use the pick and cutter to explore the optional areas on my return trip. Instead, completing that objective triggered a Nemesis chase sequence, and spawned in a whole bunch more dangerous enemies. When I died and reloaded, I stopped before that objective, went back to explore all the areas unlocked by the lockpick and cutter, than backtracked back to the objective.

Key items will trigger Nemesis chase sequences and spawn in harder monsters,
which makes it impractical to explore optional areas during a return trip, and encouraging repeated backtracking.

Not knowing when I'd hit a point of no return, or a checkpoint that would spawn in more enemies (including potentially the Nemesis), I was lead to follow a similar procedure for the remainder of the game. I'd make my way to the objective, but before picking up the key item, I'd backtrack through the level to get any straggling optional areas or supplies. Then I would cycle back to the objective again.

This is a far cry from RE2make, which had Mr. X persistently pursuing you, lighting a fire under your butt to optimize routes and avoid unnecessary travel. The Nemesis in RE3make only ever seems to appear in scripted chase sequences. When you escape that chase, you're safe until the next chase sequence, which is usually triggered by some milestone of progress (such as collecting a key item). Furthermore, the circular maps of the first two Resident Evil games helped to minimize backtracking by always leading you back through previously-explored areas later in the game, giving you an opportunity to pick up any resources you may have missed, and leading to a more elegant flow and pacing. While Nemesis does give you opportunities to backtrack and clear warning that completing a certain objective will end a particular level, the nature of its fast-moving scenario creates enough uncertainty about the possibility or practicality of returning to a location, that it encouraged me to go out of my way to backtrack.

The procedural pursuit of Mr. X in RE2make has been replaced by scripted set-piece chases in Nemesis.

Even though I never played the entirety of the original Nemesis game on the PS1, I did spend a day with a migraine headache and wasn't able to play the RE3make myself, so I watched a couple longplays of the original PS1 game on YouTube to see how similar or different the remake might be. From what I saw, it looks like RE3make is a completely different game from the original! Even though RE3make gives the player more time out on the rough streets of Raccoon City fighting hordes of zombies (compared to RE2make), it still pales in comparison to how much of the city Jill explored in the original.

The subway escape that makes up the first quarter or so of the remake marked the half-way point in the original. The entirety of Uptown Raccoon City, the city hall, and Raccoon City Park maps are gone in RE3make, but some of their events and puzzles have been compressed into the downtown area of the remake. You play as Carlos when exploring RCPD instead of Jill. The entire clock tower level is gone. And the Dead Factory is replaced with yet another underground Umbrella lab.

Whole levels from the original have been cut or scaled-down to a fraction of their original scope.

Instead, we get what might be some pretty blatant asset-reuse from RE2make. The RCPD is virtually identical to the location in RE2make, but we only explore half of the west wing. The sewer and underground laboratory levels look and feel like shortened, stripped-down reskins of the similar locations in RE2make. Meanwhile, locations that were unique to the original RE3: Nemesis have been scaled down to a fraction of their original scope, if they're present at all. Furthermore, transitional areas have been replaced with cutscenes or time-skips.

Carlos keeps saving Jill throughout the game.

There's other, more subtle changes. Carlos shows up very early and saves Jill from Nemesis several times throughout the first half of the game. In the original, Carlos was kind of a borderline incompetent, sniveling coward for most of the first half of the original, and he doesn't come into his own until Jill is injured and he has to save her. It's nice to see him given more agency this time around. Unfortunately, Carlos' increased competence comes at the cost of him stealing a lot of Jill's thunder, which takes away from the impression of her being a hardened, quick-thinking, zombie-killer. In fact, she spends most of the game getting thrown around by Nemesis and taking an excessive amount of beating that soon starts to shatter the suspension of disbelief -- very similar to the Tomb Raider reboot. The lack of the uptown area to open the game means we never get to see Jill as the self-sufficient survivor that she was in the original, because almost as soon as the game begins, she has a Barry stand-in bailing her out of life-threatening situations. It's like the Spencer Mansion all over again.

I do like that Carlos' scenario in the hospital has a direct impact on Jill's exploration of the hospital later. In RE3make, the zombies that Carlos kills in the hospital will still be dead when Jill wakes up, making it much easier for Jill to quickly run through the building and pick all the locked lockers that Carlos was unable to open. This is something that I was hoping to see more of in the A and B scenarios of RE2make, but no such luck. This is another area where Capcom seemed to have learned from RE2make. And hey, at least the accents in this game aren't as comically bad as in the original.

All the zombies that Carlos killed or disabled in the hospital remain killed or disabled when Jill goes through it.

I'm also not particularly keen on the Nemesis redesign. A giant zombie wrapped in garbage bags and police tape just isn't as intriguing as the original trenchcoat-wearing version.

The right lessons learned?

Capcom learned lessons from the few mistakes that were made with RE2make and they took steps to correct them. I'm not sure that the lessons they learned were necessarily the right ones, but it's better than repeating the exact same mistakes verbatim, which is what Ubisoft, Bethesda, Activision, and EA keep doing with their franchise games. But with the rushed pacing and segmented design of RE3make, I feel like it might be a "one step forward, two steps back" sort of situation. But then again, RE3make also seems to be less ambitious than RE2make was, so there's simply less to be disappointed about.

It might also be the result of a shortened development cycle. This game was released only a year (and some change) after the last game. Development was also split between the campaign and the new pay-to-win, Left 4 Dead copy-cat, multiplayer "Resistance" mini-game that came packaged with RE3make. Were the shortened levels and rushed pacing of the game deliberate design choices from the developers because they thought it would streamline the game? Or were they the result of not having enough time to implement all the additional content because of an annual release cycle and wasting resources on a mini-game designed to scam people out of more money and sell un-regulated gambling to children? Oh, and by the way, if you're expecting to see the mercenary mini-game that was included in the original RE3: Nemesis, then too bad. The pay-to-win online mode replaced that as well. I'm sure Capcom will sell the mercenary mini-game to us as DLC.

So what's next? Does Capcom take all the lessons they learned from these three games (RE7, RE2make, and RE3make) and make a re-re-make of the first Resident Evil using this snazzy new game engine? Do they remake Code Veronica, or any of the various spin-off games? Or maybe we'll see Resident Evil 8 right around the corner? Or maybe a Dino Crisis remake? Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing Capcom take all that they've learned with their Resident Evil successes over the past few years and put them towards a brand new horror IP. Hey, it worked with Dino Crisis back in the day!

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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