Resident Evil 3 Remake Review

The 2020 remake of Resident Evil 3 is one of the most disappointing games I’ve encountered in years. It is the very definition of a cash grab, and now that it’s out, it’s doubtful we’ll ever get a version of this game that reaches its full potential.

But before we get into the game proper, we should start with a little history lesson.

A History of Stalkers

The original Resident Evil 2 not only featured two playable characters, but also two different story scenarios. In one of the scenarios, the player character is stalked by a Tyrant popularly known as “Mr. X.” He’ll show up to attack you in certain rooms, and is both stronger and faster than regular zombies. However, just like any other enemy, he can’t follow you through doors.

All in all, Mr. X wasn’t that much of an additional threat, but he planted the seed for the idea of a semi-persistent threat that stalks the player throughout the story.

It’s an idea that they immediately ran with again in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. In that game, the titular Nemesis serves as a slightly more aggressive version of Mr. X. He’s faster, stronger, and he can follow you through doors. However, he can only do this in pre-designated zones. Once you leave a zone, he goes away (at least until you reach the next one).

Nemesis is an effective foe on your first playthrough, when you don’t know how he works or when he’ll show up. But most players will figure out his schtick before the end credits roll. After that, it’s hard to see him as anything more than a (slightly fancier) party trick.

Mr. X is homicidally angry because everyone refuses to acknowledge he is actually Dr. X.

Capcom would table this “stalker” gimmick for Resident Evil: Code Veronica, but would go right back to it in the 2002 remake of the original Resident Evil, which introduced a new stalker enemy named Lisa Trevor. Lisa differed from both Nemesis and Mr. X in one key way – while those previous villains could be temporarily “killed” in each zone they appeared in, Lisa is truly invulnerable. You can try to slow her down, but you can’t take out of the picture.

Neither Resident Evil 4 or Resident Evil 5 featured any sort of significant stalker character, though Resident Evil 6 did. I honestly don’t remember much about that one though, other than it existed.

Resident Evil 7 featured what was quite easily the greatest ever advancement of this “persistent enemy” concept, in the form of Jack Baker. Like all of his predecessors, Jack doesn’t follow you throughout the entire game, but he does follow you through a much larger area than ever before (basically the entirety of a house). Like Lisa, he can’t be taken out prematurely, and he has some amount of rudimentary artificial intelligence that dictates how he searches for you, and how he reacts when you’re spotted.

What makes Jack relatively effective is that he doesn’t simply try to kill you – sometimes he’ll toy with and torture you before letting you try to scurry away only to then resume the chase. It’s a concept that Capcom would copy over into Resident Evil Village for Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters.

All he wants is some firewood and here you are shooting him.

But then there’s the matter of the 2019 remake of Resident Evil 2. Not only does Mr. X now show up in both story scenarios, but he’s also essentially Jack Baker with even better AI and a larger range of motion. At certain points in the game, Mr. X can roam almost the entirety of the Racoon City Police Department, with only a handful of rooms being truly safe.

Based on some (admittedly rough) research into his AI, it appears that he really, truly does search for you, and can at times be at the opposite end of the building. Get his attention, however (which you can do by firing a single bullet), and he’ll zero in on you, methodically searching for your presence, and keeping both his eyes and ears peeled.

This version of Mr. X is by far the best implementation of this “stalker character” concept, and is arguably the first one that feels like more than a really fancy gimmick. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who immediately thought of the possibilities of applying this AI to Nemesis in a remake of RE3.

To be sure, we got a remake of RE3, only a short year after the remake of RE2. That was an immediate sign that I wasn’t going to get what I wanted. To give Nemesis a Mr. X-like AI would require some time to come up with interesting level designs that could take advantage of his behavior. It was doubtful that such a game could be cranked out in such short order.

They seem nice.

Sure enough, the Nemesis of the RE3 remake is far dumber than Mr. X. He’s dumber than Jack Baker. Hell, he’s dumber than the original Nemesis.

If I recall correctly (I started the game over a year ago, and only recently came back to finish it), Nemesis only stalks you through one small area at the start of the game. After that, every single encounter with him is either a scripted chase sequence or a boss battle.

That’s it. He’s almost 100% window dressing. And I’m not sure I can overemphasize just how much of a failure that is.

Mr. X is cool in the sense that he is a great implementation of a concept, but beyond that no one really gives a shit about him.

You can’t say the same about Nemesis. Despite only having shown up in one game – and despite being little more than a parlor trick within that game – Nemesis became one of the most popular characters in the entire Resident Evil series.

And here was Capcom, with the tech, the experience, and the lessons learned  from making Mr. X. They had everything they needed to make Nemesis into the antagonist he should be.

Nemesis thoughtfully gives Jill a hand reaching a hard-to-reach shelf.

Instead they dropped the ball.

And it’s not just Nemesis that falls short. A lot of content from the original game – both locations and story beats – are now gone. Video game remakes tend to add more on top of the original experience, but this is a case where you get far, far less. I was genuinely shocked at how quickly the whole thing wrapped up.

Some Observations

I suppose I should talk a little bit more about the game I’m ostensibly reviewing:

  • Like the RE2 remake, it’s very pretty. It’s nice to see some of these locations from the original game brought to life in this game engine, though it would have been even nicer to see the rest of it
  • Like in the original, you can use gunpowder to craft ammo, though Capcom removed all of the special ammo types for the handgun
  • Again as in the original, you have a dodge maneuver you can use to avoid enemies. I found the timing to be off; I only occasionally succeeded in using it against zombies, and almost never against Nemesis
  • There is no Mercenaries mode. Instead, there is an asymmetrical multiplayer game, Resident Evil Resistance, that no one seems to like and which cannot be played alone
    • Resistance was actually announced prior to RE3, and there is a fan theory that it was originally meant to be a standalone multiplayer title. But when fans turned against it, Capcom decided to crank out the RE3 remake to serve as the “single player mode” for Resistance in hopes that it would garner goodwill.
  • There isn’t a whole lot in the way of unlockable weapons or costumes, and there are no special modes at all. I can’t imagine playing through this more than once.

It is blindingly obvious that Capcom hoped to cash in on the powerful goodwill they won with the RE2 remake. Even though that game came out in January of 2019, it managed to remain in the collective cultural consciousness for the rest of the year. But that wouldn’t last forever, and so the development team was clearly forced to work under an artificial time constraint in order to get R3make out as quickly as possible.

This guy is constantly on fire.

I assume it worked out for them financially, but it certainly didn’t from an artistic standpoint. There’s no chance they’ll be going back any time soon to make another version of the game in which Nemesis can reach his true potential, and so we’re stuck with this instead.

What makes this sting even more is that Capcom is basically repeating its own history. Resident Evil 2 (and its remake) blew everyone out of the water. Then RE3 (and its remake) came out only a year later to cash in on the popularity of its predecessor. Then they waited a few years before putting out Resident Evil 4, which shook up the series and changed gaming forever. Lo and behold, Capcom is now working on an RE4 remake, which is slated to come out a few years later, in 2023.

Basically, no incarnation of RE3 can catch a break. Despite starring a fan favorite character and a fan favorite villain, it continues to be the sloppy seconds of the franchise. 

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