Also available on Xbox One and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 10/15/2020 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is an iconic game not only for the Resident Evil franchise but for the survival horror genre as a whole. Even folks who haven’t played it are usually familiar with the titular character’s deep growl of “STARS!” With the smashing success of the previous remake of Resident Evil 2, it only makes sense that Capcom would have immediately begun work on remaking the third entry in the series especially considering that Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 take place at the same time in the same city.
I’m a huge fan of Resident Evil and the survival horror genre as a whole, so I’m a little biased, but this game really does feel like a nearly perfect package. The visuals are stunning, the voice acting is top-notch, the motion capture is incredible, and the overall atmosphere of the game is nearly perfect. It’s every bit Resident Evil 2’s equal. At the game’s beginning, you start in a first-person perspective reminiscent of Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, and that’s how they introduce Jill Valentine, badass supercop on the Raccoon City Police Department’s Special Tactics and Rescue Service team and one of the few survivors of the Arklay mansion incident from the first game which took place two months earlier just outside of Raccoon City. In those two months, patients started showing up at the Raccoon City hospital with a mysterious illness that caused severe fever, rapid necrosis, and hyperphagia (or excessive hunger). At the same time, incidents of brutally violent murders were spiking. The city was facing an outbreak of the T-virus, a secret biological weapon developed by the multinational corporation, Umbrella. What’s worse, though, is that a super bioweapon codenamed Nemesis has been dispatched by Umbrella to hunt down and permanently silence the few surviving members of S.T.A.R.S., the elite RCPD team that had investigated the Arklay mansion.
One thing that Resident Evil 3 gets perfect is the atmosphere that conjures a sense of foreboding from mere sight and sound. A lot of folks say that what makes a horror game scary is limited ammo and difficulty. That can certainly put you on edge and make you anxious. Others say that it’s the jump scares that give a game its horror. That can certainly be an important element if executed properly. Resident Evil 3 nails true horror, though, beyond the shallow definitions of “difficulty” or “jump scares.” I could be walking down a hallway in an abandoned apartment building with 30 rounds of ammunition and not a zombie in sight, and I still felt the fear. No zombie jumped out at me; Nemesis never burst through a wall to turn my skull into tomato paste, yet I still felt a lingering terror deep inside my lizard brain. The darkness of the city. The fires still burning in the distance. The disheveled storefronts. The destroyed vehicles. The few odd zombies, slowly shambling through the street. The knowledge that at any moment, that perilous tranquility becomes a blood bath, and it wasn’t a foregone conclusion whose blood would be bathed in and who would be doing the bathing. That’s the atmosphere that can instill true horror in a game, and that’s what Resident Evil 3 knocked out of the park.
True horror may be all about atmosphere and presentation, but it’s absolutely true that other factors contribute or enhance that such as the aforementioned elements of ammo scarcity and jump scares. Resident Evil 3 has those, but what it also has going for it is incredible graphics. Playing Playstation 4 Pro, the game’s presentation at 4K in HDR takes the realism of the presentation to a whole different level than its 32-bit original version; I can only imagine what the experience would be like on a high-end gaming PC. I normally am the first person to dispute the game that good graphics equal a good game, but with how visceral Resident Evil’s content is, the graphical fidelity is a massive enhancement. When you shoot a zombie, that damage is reflected on their body whether it’s a chunk of meat blown out of the chest or a sheet of flesh ripped from the rotting face. The dismembered and disemboweled victims of the outbreak are on full display in the game’s various locations, and unlike the original release, these are more than primitive polygons tinted red; these are detailed human beings, faces oftentimes visibly twisted in agony. That’s not to say that the game’s perfect – I vividly recall one instance of running through a donut shop to escape Nemesis and seeing him bug out and just walk through the wall of the shop as if he could phase shift – but it’s damn near perfect, and Capcom’s attention to detail with character models is truly impressive.
What will always make-or-break my immersion in a game is the voice acting, and Resident Evil’s earlier entries are notorious for some of the worst voice acting of big-budget games from the late 1990s; I’m sure everyone remembers (and cringes at the memory of) Barry’s “Jill sandwich” line from the first game. As has been the case with most of the series after Resident Evil 4, that craptastic voice acting is gone. In its place is an incredible performance from a stellar cast of voice talent, and Jill’s voice actor’s line delivery as well as the quality of the motion capture – a critical element of game design often overlooked by gamers – kept me firmly immersed from start to finish. Beyond the voice acting, the sound design, in general, was extraordinarily well done. Most of the game is silent as far as background music goes. That not only enhances the feeling of dread and isolation that the game evokes, but it also heightens the anxiety players feel when there is music in the background as that only happens in high-stress situations like being chased by Nemesis.
I spent a long time debating what score to give Resident Evil 3. On the one hand, it’s one of the most effective games of the genre at making me feel terror, and the presentation is flawless. On the other hand, the game is really short – even with my backtracking, pausing to answer texts and walk the dogs, and being generally bad at video games, I finished in six hours – and there were a couple of minor bugs I noticed. In the end, though, no game is ever going to be truly perfect, and this game definitely came close enough to perfection to earn a nearly perfect score. After all, as far as length goes, I prefer quality over quantity; the quantity of game here may be lacking for some folks, but the quality is undeniable. This is an S tier horror game. With the kind of name recognition and pedigree that an IP like Resident Evil has, I’m sure everyone reading this has either played the game already or firmly plans never to play it, but on the off chance that someone is still on the fence, don’t be. Play the game. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.