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Review: Resident Evil 3 Is a Slick Hell Ride that Doesn’t Stick in the Mind

The element of fear that Resident Evil is known for isn’t as fully baked into the mechanics of this remake as it could have.

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Resident Evil 3
Photo: Capcom

After two games in the Resident Evil series that do revolutionary work in bringing the horror back to survival horror, it’s a little disappointing to encounter a title in the series that feels so safe and expected. Nonetheless, it’s a disappointment that many would still kill for, as Resident Evil 3, then and now, doesn’t lack for spectacular frights.

Set a few days before the events of Resident Evil 2, the game follows original Resident Evil protagonist Jill Valentine—now bearing an odd, uncanny resemblance to Natalie Portman in Annihilation—on the night the T-virus outbreak kicks into high gear. Raccoon City’s fires are still burning and survivors are still running for cover. Jill is holed up in her apartment when she’s brutally confronted by Nemesis, a massive abomination of calcified flesh and teeth that’s deliberately hunting the surviving members of her squad. She goes on the offensive after she joins up with a squad of Umbrella mercenaries trying to find a way out of the city.

This new but not so improved Resident Evil 3 feels closer to an extended DLC package for Resident Evil 2 than a major advancement of its ideas. Graphically and mechanically, not much has changed between the two except the characters involved, as this remake also uses a third-person, over-the-shoulder camera, features stronger-than-usual undead ghoulies, and places in your hands weapons that, while they hit hard, necessitate ammo that’s hard to come by. And it all leads to an eventual showdown with the hulking monstrosity who’s hunting you down.

This does mean that Resident Evil 3 shares its predecessors strengths: The game is phenomenal at making not just gore, but tried-and-true jump scares, deeply effective and unnerving, while also showing off some truly inspired and terrifying creature designs in the process, especially when the more mutated behemoths start showing up. Of particular highlight here are the Gamma Hunters wandering Raccoon City’s sewers, whose gaping maws can gruesomely swallow characters whole if they get close enough to them.

But the fear that this game instills in the player isn’t all-encompassing, and that’s in spite of the hard-hitting action set pieces involving Nemesis. They’re well-executed, for placing the giant brute where he can best send an impromptu, panic-stricken bolt up the player’s spine, but he’s not utilized nearly as well as the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-hearing Mr. X was in Resident Evil 2. This Resident Evil 3 can be hair-raising, but there’s a sense of predictability that keeps you from being truly unmoored and paranoid throughout the campaign. There are a few moments of abstract terror—the most intriguing of which is a particular sequence early on where Jill must navigate a power grid maze while being pursued by spiders that infect her with hallucinatory parasites—but these moments are brief and rather self-contained.

In the end, the element of fear that Resident Evil is known for isn’t as fully baked into the mechanics of this remake as it is in prior entries in the series, and it’s up to the rest of the game to pick up the slack. This is, yes, a Resident Evil with a flimsier storyline than most, and the developers at Capcom at least knew that leaning harder into the action side of being a horror-action title was an admirable direction to go in. Indeed, the action here is consistently frenetic and bloody, and there’s still a gruesome, wet streak to the design of this urban-apocalyptic hell ride. It’s just that, overall, this new Resident Evil 3 offers a more fleeting experience than Resident Evil 2, out to electrify in the moment than truly stick in the mind.

The game was reviewed using a code provided by fortyseven communications.

Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom Platform: PlayStation 4 Release Date: April 3, 2020 ESRB: M ESRB Descriptions: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language Buy: Game

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