The test of a remake is how well it can improve on the source material. It has to bring a different interpretation while staying faithful to the original. That’s a challenging task when the remake’s inspiration has inherent flaws.
That’s the case with “Resident Evil 3,” which is a reimagining of the 1999 title that was the most radically different of the PlayStation trilogy as it followed the protagonist Jill Valentine on her escape from Raccoon City. It featured ruined city streets instead of the claustrophobic mansion confines. Zombie hordes shambled through scenes and players had to dodge them rather than fight head on. The biggest departure, though, was the presence of the title character, Nemesis, who stalked Jill throughout the campaign.
In many ways, “Resident Evil 3: Nemesis” was ahead of its time as its vision pushed against the limited specs of the PlayStation One. With the remake functioning on more powerful systems, Capcom fixes some of the shortcomings of its predecessor. Unfortunately, it also exposes the problems with the original.
Initially, “Resident Evil 3” appears to follow the same path of the highly successful “Resident Evil 2” remake. The campaign fleshes out Jill’s situation as the undead outbreak spreads in Raccoon City. While answering a phone call from fellow STARS officer Brad Vickers, Nemesis attacks her and sets off a pursuit that lasts through the game’s short campaign.
Like the original, Capcom tweaks the core gameplay. “Resident Evil 3” is more reliant on inventory management and the survival aspect of the survival-horror genre. Jill starts with a tiny amount of space to hold guns, ammo, medicine and keys. She adds more inventory space as the campaign unfolds, but players will be constantly going back and forth between safe rooms storing items and taking others out.
That’s mitigated part way through as she finds more hip packs, but the way “Resident Evil 3” unfurls itself, the developers make strange decisions in how they places safe rooms and other items. At times those items feel too close together while other times they seem bizarrely far apart. The design has a ragged quality that’s exacerbated by Nemesis, who chases after Jill.
All of this pulls “Resident Evil 3” forward whether the players like it or not. The remake has a built-in pressure that propels the campaign forward. It goes against the slow-roll exploration that has defined the series. It trades this for chase scenes and the panicked chaos when Nemesis runs after players.
While Jill’s journey is the main part of the narrative, “Resident Evil 3” breaks up her story with that of Carlos Oliveira, a Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service commando who helps the supercop. He acts as her ally in a relationship that players eventually control in two scenarios — one in Raccoon City Police Department (Capcom recycles the setting here) and a hospital.
Armed with an assault rifle and handgun, Oliveira’s part of the campaign plays differently. The developers use him to show off a more action-oriented element, one in which players battle zombie mobs or more powerful hunters. He’s a change of pace that helps lengthen a narrative that’s short.
Despite their divergent play styles, both characters face similar puzzle elements, but it never gets too complicated. They’re often solved by reading missives that players find. They offer clues on how to crack safes, open locked doors and even defeat more difficult foes.
All of this culminates in several confrontations with Nemesis, including a final one that is satisfying after a difficult ordeal, but the journey there isn’t always so smooth. Players may encounter bugs or disappearing foes. They’ll be disappointed to find out that Carlos can’t leave items for Jill or vice versa. That’s a missed opportunity to add a “Resident Evil 2”-type system and make their two stories more interconnected.
Although “Resident Evil 3” smooths over many of the original’s flaws, it doesn’t go far enough to fix the pacing and improve the underlying gameplay issues. That makes this remake fall a step short of the stellar one last year.
As for the extras, “Resident Evil 3” offers a notable addition with the introduction of “Resident Evil: Resistance.” It’s the four-versus-one multiplayer mode that’s noncanonical. It follows a team of four survivors who are kidnapped by Umbrella for an experiment. They have to survive three stages while a Mastermind tries to kill them with zombies, monsters and traps.
“Resistance” is reminiscent to “Left 4 Dead” but with more complications. Each survivor has distinct abilities help the group survive through maps with three phases. Valerie is a healer. January is hacker that disables cameras, making it tougher for the Mastermind to spawn zombies. Martin disables traps and sets them up while Becca does major damage from afar. Samuel hits hard from up close while Tyrone absorbs damage and specializes in melee attacks. Each hero a role and players can mix and match to form a solid crew.
On the opposite end, the Masterminds are the dungeon masters. They plants zombies and obstacles trying to prevent the squad from reaching the exit. Each has a different method of confrontation. Ozwell Spencer uses technology to block paths while Alex Wesker relies on traps. Annette Birkin and Daniel Fabron toss out monsters and power them up in different ways. The goal for the Mastermind is to delay the squad so that they don’t escape within the time limit.
In theory, it’s a compelling idea, but Capcom still needs to work out the balancing issues, and players need to understand the roles of each character. This is a multiplayer mode that has a high learning curve, but if players give it a chance and the developers fine tune the settings or the approach, “Resistance” could be something special.
‘RESIDENT EVIL 3’
2½ stars out of 4
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
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