In 2019 Capcom successfully managed to bring the general public back to 1998 Raccoon City with the remake of Resident Evil 2.
The terrible night of Leon Scott Kennedy and Claire Redfield inside the Raccoon City Police Department, re-proposed in a modern key, has given new lifeblood to the authorial vision and atmospheres that marked, 22 years ago, a turning point for the company and the survival horror genre.
Parallel developed by a secondary development team, one year later, Resident Evil 3 it undergoes the same revision operation, going to close the modern vision of that narrative sequence of the franchise which includes the fall into ruin and consequent destruction of Raccoon City, allowing us to find out if the design solutions adopted by Capcom with the RE Engine could recapture the original experience that in 1999 was proposed by the team led by Kazuhiro Aoyama.
The last escape
The opening scene of this title is an unusually live action sequence of a report that shows us the context in which our protagonist, ex-member of the STARS special body of the Raccoon City police, will have to venture: the city has been for several days plagued by a terrible epidemic that has caused several cases of cannibalism and that is spreading at a frightening speed causing unprecedented disorder and panic in the once peaceful and now practically unmanageable town due to the unknown origin (but that we, together with Jill , we know to be the T-Virus created by the pharmaceutical company Umbrella Corporation, a dangerous biological weapon that leads the infected to become, practically, ravenous zombies).
After this news report, closed by an ironic advertising spot of the Umbrella Corporation, we immediately find ourselves in the shoes of a Jill Valentine who is still affected, psychologically, by the terrible events experienced at Villa Spencer in the first chapter of the series and that now more than ever, torn from her work as a policewoman by a corrupt public administration and managed by Umbrella and constantly under observation by the company's agents, she is crushed by stress and fear towards her own safety while looking for a way out of the boundaries of a city that has become his prison.
This introductory moment will be just one of the numerous references to the events of the first Resident Evil, fundamental to immerse ourselves in Jill's point of view and in his way of relating with the characters he will meet along his difficult escape from Raccoon City.
However, the young woman will not be the only protagonist of this story: in fact, young Carlos Oliveira, a soldier in the service of the military rescue and private anti-contamination company of Umbrella, the UBCS who will try to help Jill flee the city as he gradually discovers his employers' involvement and intentions about what's going on.
Resident Evil 3 therefore tries to deepen the character of Carlos, whose role in the original was more secondary, and his dynamics initially very conflicting with Jill, who rightly mistrusts anyone who has to do with the pharmaceutical company that triggered the events in progress, trying to distribute different sections of the game between the two characters, balancing them so that Jill remains the centerpiece of the experience but allowing Carlos to play a role as co-protagonist rather than accessory compared to the Resident Evil 3 of '99.
So if the key events of the original story remain unchanged, new narrative sequences are proposed and, sometimes, modified of the old ones in order to propose a more cohesive and structured narrative than what was done on PSX.
The result is a story with a fast pace, without a moment of suspension, which manages to give a structure to a story that, for gameplay needs, at the time had the need to remain very vague and on the surface, also managing to reconnect homogeneously to the history of the predecessor.
Given how much the Resident Evil 3 skeleton shares with Resident Evil 2, it is natural that these two titles are, at a glance, very similar in terms of the game: if on the one hand it is true that the two remakes have a common ground , it is also true that there are numerous differences between how their shared elements have been used.
Let's start with what emerges immediately once the game starts: Resident Evil 3 is a real joy for the eyes, improving the work done with Resident Evil 2 in the visual field both in human models and in the settings, work that stands out further if we consider the development of history mainly within an urban and open environment, far more varied than an elaborate but limited building.
Also in terms of optimization, the development team did an excellent job, offering a stable and fluid experience from start to finish despite the visual performance of the now tested RE Engine.
The title manages to communicate effectively the feeling of being hunted down inside a completely invaded city, also thanks to the number of infected that Jill and Carlos will face in the course of history: the amount of zombies will be, in fact, much higher compared to the resuscitated infected of Resident Evil 2.
Fortunately, Jill has more proven fighting skills than the young Leon and the inexperienced Claire: the young woman will in fact have her training and experience as a STARS agent and as a survivor of the threat of the T-Virus to escape the dangers that have invaded the streets of Raccoon City.
This translates, pad in hand, into a fluid and manageable gunplay, which returns the feeling of competence and experience of the protagonist, in combination with an addition of iconic gameplay for Resident Evil 3 since 1999: the ability to dodge.
With the push of a button, in fact, Jill will be able to move in a leap that will allow her to put distance between her and the hungry undead who will find herself coming from every direction.
Using the dodge with the right timing, at the last moment, Jill will have the opportunity to perform a special rapid vault, which will also allow her to enter a short slow-motion in which it will deal greater damage and shoot at a higher rate of fire. than normal.
The use of grenades and knives as support objects to escape zombie attacks should they be able to grab us have also been removed, replaced by a screen prompt that will allow Jill to suffer minor damage so that these tools can be used. directly in battle.
To cope with Jill's abilities we will have a real city to survive: the enemies will be numerous and ready to bite her from any angle, requiring readiness and adaptability in front of the ranks of infected swarming in the streets of Raccoon City.
It will therefore be essential to properly use Jill's dodge and make wise use of environmental elements such as explosive barrels and electric generators in order to slow down or quickly eliminate a large amount of zombies while saving the ammunition which, depending on the level of difficulty chosen, will be available in more or less limited quantity.
The expedient of using situations in which Jill is hunted and in clear numerical inferiority will be the main source of tension within Resident Evil 3: the streets of the city are in fact unable to reproduce the crumbling and distressing atmospheres of the police station , directing the title, as well as the original, to a horror more of action than real survival.
Furthermore, the high amount of enemies present (which will be drastically increased at higher difficulty levels), on the one hand, involves a very different approach to dangerous situations than that of Resident Evil 2 while on the other, unfortunately, it forced the development team to resort to some limitations to avoid excessive engine load and, consequently, less clean performance: this means that gore, mutilations and animations of corpses have been reduced in favor of a slightly more arcade presentation of those game mechanics, which in part appears to be in line with the proposed game structure but which at times seems to be a step backwards compared to the work done with the previous remake.
A one way trip
From a structural point of view, Resident Evil 2 had proposed a limited series of macro-areas contained (specifically the police station, the sewers and the NEST laboratory) structured as interconnected labyrinths and scattered with key objects to be used to solve different puzzles.
Resident Evil 3, also by virtue of a more action dynamic, instead proposes a sequence of smaller hubs with specific and clearly identifiable objectives.
This structure contributes to a very fast pace in which Jill will not even have a moment to catch her breath, constantly under pressure from the need to escape from the city and the Nemesis that will hunt her down.
At the same time there will be no mysteries to solve and secrets to uncover: Jill has only one goal and one priority, namely escape from the city, overshadowing her personal war against Umbrella and any ethically superior purpose in favor of survival, postponing justice and the discovery of truth until his life is safe rather than wasting time on superfluously dangerous matters during the impending destruction of Raccoon City.
This inevitably entails frequent linearity in the sequence of game sessions which, on the one hand, has allowed the team to propose a higher variety of enemies than the previous title (each area will, in fact, have its own and specific threats in addition to generic zombies) while on the other hand will often deny the possibility of looking back and exploring past areas, with numerous points of no return and very small exploratory sequences.
The framed structure of the title, the relatively frenetic pace and the reduction of puzzles in both quantity and complexity, elements that are difficult to contextualize within the proposed narrative and the actual setting, are all aspects that contribute to making the Resident campaign Evil 3 a contained and limited experience, which compensates for a more substantial characterization and a more substantial narrative with a dense but reduced longevity in its offer.
All this ends up also involving the main antagonist of the title, Nemesis: made with excellent photogrammetry, the dangerous enhanced Tyrant has never been so intimidating, taking Jill by storm since the introduction sequences of the story and demonstrating his tenacity , often greeted with frustration by the protagonist, on several occasions during the game sequences.
As in the original, this colossal monstrosity will appear at predetermined moments in Jill's progression forcing the player to circumvent the persecutor until the next game sequence.
Unlike the Resident Evil 103 T-2, which forced the player to a sort of hide and seek functionally as an obstacle that slowed Leon and Claire's run, therefore, the encounters with Nemesis are closer to a Boss fight in which not always to escape it's the best of options.
The humanoid biological weapon is in fact able to quickly run, jump and cut every escape route available to the player, sometimes making the choice to face him head-to-head the most comfortable (albeit expensive with precious resources).
This choice, several times, rewards the player with special chests that, as in the original, can contain particular objects and power-ups that are impossible to obtain in any other way.
The encounters of this type, however potentially more intense than the 1999 Nemesis, are however quantitatively limited and restricted to the less linear portion of the game, after which Nemesis will have only a few sporadic appearances in more guided sections (beyond the real and own Boss fight with the final stages of its mutation), making this creature so better contextualized within the game structure and its narrative (Nemesis will contribute a lot, in fact, to present the picturesque personality of the new Jill Valentine), but physically a less constant presence than Shinji Mikami's original motifs regarding his inclusion in Resident Evil 3.
History repeats itself
Net of a more linear experience and contained longevity, Resident Evil 3 tries to propose also in its remake a dense and replayable campaign, which it does through a series of expedients that do not include the live selection of the original (which would have affected the structure of the narrative), but through a series of challenges and extra difficulty levels that present the player with a different distribution of objects and enemies whose quantity is also raised considerably.
Once the campaign is completed, the shop will be available for the first time (reserved for the Mercenaries mode in the original) where, through the points obtained when overcoming challenges and completing the game on various difficulties, it will be possible to buy weapons and objects from the properties details that will be maintained at each game by offering variety and different options in the campaign experience.
With its dynamic rhythm, a Nemesis capable of acting as a narrative tool in conjunction with the world and the creatures inserted in the story and an atmosphere of danger and tension different from the more strictly horror and disturbing ones of Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3 ends to be a solid title but which, on the whole, struggles to really surprise the player.
Sharing many of the game's original design choices, this remake brings back to the modern era the same divisive reception that the players found themselves having in front of the original release, split in two towards Resident Evil 2 and 3 demonstrating, once again, how these two titles are linked together.
Bringing a definitely solid title to the field, but without the clean cut, the ambition and the leap of progress brought into play by the remake of Resident Evil 2, this new makeover seems to be limited more by the less successful elements of the original (the story more marginal, the action structure, the experience contained) than from the work done with new technologies.
The game skeleton programmed with the RE Engine leads Resident Evil 3 to look more like a post-Raccoon City Resident Evil than the first two chapters, bringing out some perplexities that end up being put above the actual production quality of the title.
Accompanied by Resistance, an asymmetric multiplayer mode in which a team of survivors will face a sort of Dungeon Master with the sole purpose of hindering their escape and survival Resident Evil 3 manages to have, in its complete package, the level of universal appeal that his predecessor had managed to communicate and, however successful in the experience he proposes, he is unlikely to be able to fully satisfy the public.
For the moment, Capcom's intention regarding its remake projects is still unknown: whether they serve to lay the foundations for the future direction of Resident Evil or are simply part of a restoration project for that older part of the franchise, with Code Veronica in the pipeline for the near future, it will be a reality that we will only discover with patience.