By: Kyle Grubb
So yeah, it’s official: I’m on a Resident Evil binge. Over the last weekend, almost the entire franchise was on sale on the PlayStation Store in honor of the HD Remaster’s release. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass by. Now, with a multitude of Resident Evil games filling up space on my PS3’s hard drive, the only logical course of action going forward was to start reviewing these games with reckless abandon. So, while I’m skipping the Chronicles games and Operation Raccoon City (for now…) and still waiting to find out if that rumor about Zero getting the HD Remaster treatment is true or not before picking up a copy for my Wii, the main series is about to become my bitch. Considering Revelations 2 begins its episodic releases later this month, this really is just about the perfect time. And since I still had never played RE3, Code Veronica, or the original Revelations, there were plenty of new experiences to get mixed into the pot while treading over the familiar ground of 4, 5, and (ugh) 6.
Well, this little intro thing has gone on long enough. It’s time to look back at the redheaded step-child of the Resident Evil PlayStation trilogy, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.
I never played this one. Honestly, I feel like I’ve told all the possible life stories I can tell about these older games by now. My only experience with Resident Evil 3 was watching my friend Jose run through a corridor and fight the boss of the game fight. That was it. He mentioned that he was right at the end, and thus wanted to finish it off before we moved on to doing whatever the hell we were supposed to do. Watching him then was the extent of my RE3 knowledge, outside of some cursory stuff. I knew who Nemesis was through some form of pop-culture osmosis and also his complete bastardization in the second Resident Evil movie. I was aware that you were playing as Jill again, and that she was in a skimpier outfit this time for absolutely no reason. Lastly, I also knew that it was the first game in the series to go with a single campaign and one central protagonist, as opposed to the previous two games. The fact was, I was still burned out after the Licker incident in RE2 and wanted nothing to do with this franchise, and so I didn’t bite.
In terms of the overall Resident Evil series, this game just kinda seems like the outlier. Looking from 1 to 2 to Code: Veronica, you can see the slow evolution of the series. Then there’s Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Released in 1999 on the original PlayStation, Nemesis follows Jill Valentine as she attempts to escape from Raccoon City during the events of the outbreak. Occurring both before and after the events of RE2, Resident Evil 3 uses the same engine as its predecessor. As such, it’s easy to look at Nemesis as more like an expansion to the second game than a full-fledged sequel.
With that being said, Resident Evil 3 very much is its own beast. I mentioned in my Resident Evil 2 review that the series had moved a bit away from horror and was much more action packed, but little did I know that Resident Evil 3: Nemesis does everything in its power to make itself into an all-out action extravaganza. This was the game in the series that created the 180-degree turn, and also has built in a dodge mechanic. Though a bit finicky, with careful timing Jill can dodge enemy attacks. It’s a technique that is all but necessary to learn as quickly as possible, as the sheer amount of enemies Jill will be disposing of along her journey is nothing short of staggering. Zombies will come at you, regularly, in groups of four or five, and the small alleyways of Raccoon City provide little opportunity to skirt past your opponents without conflict.
Yes, you read that right: Raccoon City itself is the setting for Resident Evil 3. Moving away from large, individual buildings and the underground labs below them, Nemesis has Jill traversing across the streets and alleys of the city for much of the game. This was apparently done so as to provide a wide variety of locations for players to explore, and it works. I complained in my Resident Evil 2 review about how ridiculous the puzzles were considering the setting in the Raccoon City Police Station, and while there are still a couple of odd puzzles scattered throughout, this game found a way to remedy the problem: disposing of most of the puzzles at all. That wasn’t exactly the solution I had in mind. The key to making progress in Nemesis very much is revolved around finding the right item that opens the right door. Puzzles usually just involve taking a certain item to a very obvious location or, very occasionally, pushing something. While there are still one or two interesting puzzles in the game, its focus is very clearly on the action.
To complement the action-orientation is the ammunition creation system. Throughout town, players will come across different types of gunpowder. By combining these gunpowders with an item in your inventory, players can create ammunition for their guns. The strategy comes into play when a player decides to combine the gunpowders together to create other types of ammunition. Whereas in the previous games players were very much controlled by the game with exactly what kind of ammunition they’d be receiving, there is now more player agency which allows a greater amount of choice in determining what guns you will be using. Also, the more the player creates any kind of ammunition, the more effective you are in making that ammunition. After enough times, certain types of stronger ammunition can be created. It’s a fairly deep system that keeps most of the weaponry viable throughout the whole campaign.
Now, if you don’t already know, you’re probably curious about the game’s subtitle: Nemesis. A hulking monstrosity that’s usually toting a rocket launcher, Nemesis’s personal mission is the eradication of all S.T.A.R.S. members in Raccoon City. That, unfortunately, includes you. The creature is relentless, constantly pursuing you at every turn. Stopping him is a difficult feat, as his speed and durability are much higher than yours. Any time you’re forced to take a stand against him is a truly dangerous and epic encounter that you’re sure to remember, and many of the battles against him are highlights of the game.
That being said, while the moment-to-moment gameplay in Resident Evil 3 is fun, its in other categories where it falls apart. First and foremost, one of its biggest problems is in its story. While it gives more effort to telling a full story than the previous games did, it is pretty hard to overlook how utterly inconsequential the game is to the overall narrative. Really more dedicated to wrapping up a dangling plot thread, the game attempts to provide a bit of intrigue in terms of the motivations of a group of mercenaries sent in by Umbrella, but the entire cast, Jill included, are still almost cardboard cutouts of people. Jill is given a bit more personality this time around, but none of it stands out. She’s such a cookie cutter protagonist here that she’s practically a non-issue. Slightly more interesting is Carlos, your partner through much of the game. While he’s pretty shallow, he is at least entertaining. His voice actor does do a fairly decent job, also, even if his accent does seem to come and go at certain points.
Another big problem is the length of the game. With there only being a single campaign, I was really hoping that it would at least be a longer journey that spent time developing a more interesting story. No dice. While the campaign is longer than either the A or B campaigns of RE2, it pales in comparison to the first game. In the end, both previous games have more to do than is available here. In addition, the difficulty of RE3 is a bit off. Easy mode is far too easy, with every weapon and a large amount of ammunition being provided right from the start of the game. Hard mode is a huge step up in difficulty over Easy, and I found myself dying in this game than in the previous two games combined. Not that difficulty is inherently a bad thing in games, but it does feel as if a Medium difficulty was cut out at the last moment.
Aesthetically, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is pretty pleasing for its time. The graphics are improved over 2, and the sound design is still pretty great. The voice acting is still a bit hit or miss, but it hits much more commonly this time around. I will say that Nemesis’s bellowing of “S.T.A.R.S.” before every encounter with him always got me in the mood for a battle. The soundtrack was solid, though, maybe because of the more action-packed pace, I don’t recall it as well as in previous titles.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is very much its own beast in the older-style Resident Evil games. With a heavy focus on action and ass-kicking, it abandons much of what made the original so great. While the game is still engaging, and the new additions to the gameplay add more options when it comes time to fight, the moments between those fights are all but dull. The puzzles are almost entirely gone, and while some exploration elements are still in play, there is very little sense of discovery left. You know that almost every new area is likely to be filled with zombies, dogs, or hideous mutants that you’ll likely need to kill to progress, and thus, despite the varied environments, a sense of sameness settles into the whole affair.
That being said, the game is still fun. Nemesis is an interesting antagonist, and the tension really does set in as you are constantly on edge, knowing that he could strike at any moment. The gunpowder system also works well, and allows players a bit more freedom in using the weapons they enjoy most. Players who enjoy the more action-focused gameplay will have a lot to like, and the special mode unlocked after beating the campaign, The Mercenaries, is a challenging and interesting way to spend time.
The problem truly lies in how different this game feels than both the two games that came before it and Code: Veronica, the game that immediately follows it. The story is almost completely forgettable, and one would lose almost nothing of the overall narrative if they decided to skip this entry entirely. Jill is still a shallow character, and the rest of the small cast fares little better. For the series faithful, this is obviously going to be a stop along your journey. For those more interested in the overarching plot, though, you’re probably better off just skipping this and heading right on to Code Veronica. Resident Evil 3 is fun, sure, but it sacrifices both its heritage and much of its atmosphere for the bombastic journey that it is. It has little in common with the soul of the original Resident Evil, and we’ll see these problems crop up later on in the series when it officially loses its way.
I’m really not looking forward to replaying that game.