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Resident Evil 3 review: STARS in his eyes

By Jon Bailes. Posted

Resident Evil 3’s prime antagonist, Nemesis, takes murderous stalking to new heights. He’s a far more dynamic and versatile indestructible beefcake than Resident Evil 2’s Mr. X, and his ferocious intensity distinguishes this latest remake from its still-warm predecessor. But such energy comes at a cost. Nemesis’s performance flares brightly, then quickly fades against the steady focus of last year’s model.

On the surface, not much has changed. Capcom’s bespoke engine again flaunts its style with impressive character details (not least Carlos’s hair), chaotic scenes, and rotting inhabitants. Weapons are still satisfyingly feisty, and control still strikes a smart balance between agility, accuracy, and the artificial speed restrictions that survival horror demands. As a remake, it again plays fast and loose with the past, remixing, expanding, or redesigning the original, but always with a trail of callbacks – a chalk drawing on the floor, a zombie bursting from a cop car – to trigger déjà vu.

This is remaking as respectful betrayal, which knows that surprise is as crucial to the source material as any specific event. It’s also simply an expression of modern design. Downtown Raccoon City can be made to feel bigger and busier now, while cheesy B-movie monsters are benched to maintain the gritty, post-Walking Dead fiction.

What carries over from the old game is its momentum. Since you’re not stuck in a single location for any long stretch, there’s less focus on items and puzzles, and more on running, dodging, and shooting barrels. Nemesis especially forces you to act fast, as he sprints behind you, reels you in with a tentacle, or leaps over your head to block your escape, then rocks up with a flamethrower just as you think you’ve got him sussed. His frequent appearances work to evoke a constant, Terminator-like presence.

An explosion can stop Nemesis briefly, buying time to avoid a pursuit through zombie-packed streets.

But this change of pace relies on a rapid fire of setpieces and locations, and after its first act, Resident Evil 3 runs low on ammo. Just when the city feels like it should open up, it contracts and forces you indoors. Within the police station, hospital, and obligatory secret research lab, you’re funnelled through rooms and corridors that better suited last year’s cautious, exploratory mode. Meanwhile, Nemesis has mutated into something too big to fit into these narrow spaces, restricting him to a handful of scripted encounters – a terrifying figure imprisoned in chunks of contrived game logic.

Resident Evil games rarely end as well as they start, but here especially, despite a bombastic finale, the second half lacks substance and lets the excitement flag. The inclusion of Resistance, a separate asynchronous multiplayer game, may be some compensation, and it’s a decent distraction. But it’s no substitute for a fuller core experience, with more of the tight design and choreographed scares that the series so often delivers.

Jill Valentine is a great protagonist here, with a no-nonsense attitude that fits the action perfectly.

Highlight

A tense early sequence smartly redeploys the giant insect-like enemies from the original, as you run around a darkened power station looking for switches to reboot the grid. Seeing these creatures charge at you along the walls and ceilings, and knowing what they’ll do if they catch you, really keeps you on your toes.

Verdict

A faster-paced survival horror that starts explosively but runs out of ideas.

69%

Genre: Survival horror | Format: PS4 (tested) / PC / XBO | Developer: Capcom | Publisher: Capcom | Price: £49.99 | Release: Out now

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