Survival of Horror: Resident Evil 3 (1999)
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had one of those nightmares about being chased. They’re always so scary because no matter how hard, how fast you run, it always gets you. You can’t outrun it, you can’t hide from it, and it will always catch you until you wake up. Thankfully, those kinds of nightmares are just while you’re sleeping. What if that happened to you in the real world, though? How would you react to the threat?
Hot off the release of Resident Evil 2, Capcom decided to expand the series hard. They started greenlight projects left and right, for multiple systems; PS1 would see a spinoff called Resident Evil: Last Escape set in Raccoon City, PS2 would be home to Resident Evil 3 as well as 4, Dreamcast would receive Resident Evil CODE: Veronica. In fact, around this time there were tons of projects that Capcom started based on (and spun off from) the series including Dino Crisis (RE but dinosaurs) and Onimusha (RE but samurai). You may be wondering what became of each of these titles, and rest assured that it’s all a beautiful mess, and learning about where these projects ended up is a rabbit hole all its own. Diving down into it is craziness!
So, obviously we’re talking about Resident Evil 3 in this article. You know, the amazing PS2 game starring HUNK from The 4th Survivor on a cruise ship, directed by Hideki Kamiya. Never heard of it? Oh, sorry, that one got canceled. Resident Evil 3 on the PS2 got canned and Kamiya was instead tasked with directing Resident Evil 4. Suffice to say, that’s a whole other story we can talk about another time. That leaves us with the other two games. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding these two, 1.9 (aka Last Escape) and CODE: Veronica. We’ll talk more about those today and next month!
What we have today started life as a spinoff set during the destruction of Raccoon City. The game was set to release just a year after Resident Evil 2 and would be a more arcadey, experimental game with lots of interesting mechanics. It would follow some unknown series newcomer as they attempted to escape the city. Helming the game this time was Kazuhiro Aoyama (told you he’d be important soon!), director of the 4th Survivor minigame from Resident Evil 2. Everything was rolling smoothly in development on Last Escape, and it looked like there would be no delays.
Then his game got promoted to full size mainline sequel status. With the sudden gravitas of this shift, Aoyama and his team realized they needed to expand and add more to the game to elevate it about a simple spinoff, but they didn’t want to delay the game the same way its predecessor had done. Thus, they worked extremely hard to program in new locations, mechanics and other such things, all of which we’ll be discussing later. One of these major changes was shifting the lead from a new character to series veteran Jill Valentine, and changing the story enough to fit her into the game!
So instead of Resident Evil: Last Escape, the world got Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. In Japan, it kept the Last Escape moniker, but it nevertheless got that big, shiny 3 slapped on there to show that Capcom had the hot new main series title for people. With such a strange development history, there’s no doubt that this game has some interesting ups and down to work through. Let’s work through them together, but be careful… He could find us at any moment!
This is part of an on-going series. Be sure to check out the other entries in Survival of Horror!
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis — September 22, 1999 (PS1, Dreamcast, PC, GC)
Version used for review: PS1 original, 1999
Warning: This review will spoil the entire game!
“September 28th, daylight. The monsters have overtaken the city. Somehow, I’m still alive…”
Resident Evil 3 starts off with a monologue from the protagonist, Jill. She waxes poetic about how they tried so hard to get the word out about Umbrella and their horrific experiments following the events of the first game. As you might expect, with no evidence to back their claims, the whole S.T.A.R.S. unit was ridiculed and nobody believed them. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but to be perfectly honest, Jill sounds pissed off way more than I expected. She even goes so far as to imply Raccoon City and its citizens deserve what eventually happens to them, which is a level of callousness that I never expected from her. Understandable, though, when you’re made a fool to an entire city while knowing you’re right about something.
Anyway, the story kicks off by showing Raccoon City just as the outbreak detailed in Resident Evil 2 is reaching the tipping point. We see the city in total chaos, with helicopters and police forces spreading throughout the city. Citizens are overrun by the zombie threat while mercenaries drop from choppers to help contain what they can. Unfortunately, even with all their advanced weaponry, they too are taken out. The police fare no better, quickly overwhelmed by a giant wave of undead swarming them. After a bombastic opening, the intro ends with a shot of a police helmet with zombies in the reflection, the streets silent and bloody, police lights shining in the darkness.
And then Jill leaps out of an exploding apartment building. Just like that, boom! She runs through an alley and narrowly escapes the horde, hiding in an abandoned warehouse with another survivor, Dario Rosso. The story then kicks off in full, with Jill telling Dario that they need to leave and escape the area. Dario refuses, instead hiding in a shipping container. Jill cuts her losses and heads out into the unknown, bearing witness to how the city has crumbled in a matter of days. It’s time for her last escape.
First thing on the list: get to the R.P.D. to nab her lockpick back! She needs it to get through some doors in the city, so she heads that way. Along the way, she meets up with her teammate Brad Vickers, the cowardly helicopter pilot that stranded them in the first game. He explains that “it” is chasing after S.T.A.R.S. members and “it” will kill them all. In true Chickenheart Vickers fashion, Brad runs off in fear, leaving Jill to continue on to the RPD. She shows up to the police station after some more trekking through the ruined streets, and as she enters the courtyard, a beaten and bruised Brad enters behind her. He starts walking toward her, and…
It appears. Dropping down between them, a gigantic mess of flesh and teeth stomps toward the defenseless Brad Vickers, picks him up, and finishes off the chickenheart with a pulsing tentacle through the neck. A stunned Jill stares and cries out in horror as her teammate is casually tossed aside, and it turns its sights on her.
This is why the game is called Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. This Umbrella-crafted monstrosity is the peak of the evil corporation’s misdeeds. An enhanced T-103 (Mr. X) model with strongly increased abilities has been programmed with one mission: eliminate all S.T.A.R.S. to cover up Umbrella’s misgivings once and for all. This nightmare is going to become Jill’s nightmare as it impedes her escape at nearly every turn. The titular Nemesis bears down on her but she escapes into the relative safety of the RPD, now aware of a terrifying new threat to her survival. After narrowly avoiding the monster in the station, she escapes back into the streets, eventually running into a man named Carlos Oliveira.
Before they can speak, Nemesis crashes their party again and they have to work together to take it out and escape. The constant presence of this monster keeps a strong sense of urgency throughout the story as Jill attempts to find a way out of the city. Once they’re safe, Carlos tells her that he’s with the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service, a group of mercenaries sent by Umbrella to rescue civilians. As one might expect, this puts Jill on extreme edge; the thought of working for anyone related to Umbrella makes her sick to her stomach. However, Carlos genuinely seems to not know anything about the horrible things the company has done, and convinces Jill to meet up with him at a cable car in the city.
Once she arrives, she meets Nicholai Ginovaef, one of his fellow mercs. Nicholai is much colder than Carlos, and goes off to try and get the cable car working. Also with them is Captain Mikhail Victor, a wounded merc whose injuries have made him delusional. Jill opts to help them restart the cable car, searching the city for the necessary parts to repair it. After at least two more run-ins with Nemesis and Nicholai’s supposed demise, Jill gets the components she needs and they start to get the cable car running.
Like a cloud just itching to rain on her parade, Nemesis shows up again. This time, Mikhail is coherent enough to tell everyone to get in the next car. The wounded Mikhail makes a heroic sacrifice, staring down the monster with a few grenades on his belt. With a pull of the pin, the entire cable car erupts, sending Nemesis flying out onto the streets and keeping the other two safe… until they realize the brakes are out and they can’t stop.
One crashed vehicle later, they find themselves where they need to be. The clock tower in the city is the exfiltration zone for Umbrella’s operatives. It’s their best chance of escape, so they go about ringing the bell at the top of the tower. After engaging Nemesis yet again, things finally look up as Jill runs out to the courtyard to see their rescue helicopter flying in. They’re saved! In fact, when the game was still a spinoff, this actually was where the game ended. However… this is no mere spinoff. This is a full-size Resident Evil 3, which means…
Yet again, the monster shows up, blowing the helicopter out of the sky with a rocket launcher and stranding Jill. This is a showdown that changes Jill’s story forever. After a few dodges, Jill’s arm is struck by Nemesis’ tentacle, and the S.T.A.R.S. member is infected with the T-Virus. Despite this, she stands her ground and fends him off until he has to run off to recover. Afterwards, she collapses and Carlos runs to her aid, taking her to a chapel in the clock tower.
The stakes have never been higher, and at this point I was on the edge of my seat. Being infected with the T-Virus means it’s not a matter of if, but when someone dies and reanimates. Jill ruminates on this several days later after being asleep for three days, terrified of what’s coming to her. Carlos is determined to help her however he can, so he runs off to the nearby Umbrella-owned hospital to find any possible medical supplies. Here, he runs into… Nicholai again! He’s alive! However, he’s busy finishing off another member of the UBCS, explaining that he had to kill him since he was infected with the virus. Tyrell, still barely alive, pulls a grenade pin and slumps over dead. Nicholai escapes by jumping out the window, leaving Carlos to process what just happened as he searches for anything to help Jill.
After hunting throughout the hospital, Carlos finds what he’s looking for: a T-Vaccine! After putting it through some tests to make sure it’s effective, he returns to Jill and injects her, curing her of the horrible disease. It’s not over yet, though, as Nemesis has been trying to find her this whole time. Carlos runs off to find another way out of the city while Jill finally gets her bearings and sets off as well. She has to keep away from Nemesis again before making her way through a nearby park. There, she encounters Nicholai and he reveals why he’s there: While the UBCS was sent to help civilians, Nicholai and other watchdogs were there to observe and collect combat data while destroying any evidence of Umbrella’s crimes.
This is one thing that I suspend my disbelief for. Umbrella sends in all of these countermeasures and cover-up schemes; Mr. X to kill any witnesses, Nemesis to specifically kill S.T.A.R.S., the Watchdogs to destroy evidence. Spoiler alert: literally none of it works, and it’s hilarious to me. I get that they need excuses to have villains and monsters in the series sometimes, but every single measure they took to cover things up failed either regularly or spectacularly. For such an omnipotent corporation, they manage to fumble everything with a nearly perfect record for failure. It makes them seem unfathomably incompetent, even by multi-billion dollar company standards! I know, weird tangent, but I just had to get that off my chest. It’s super amusing.
Anyway, Nicholai escapes after explaining his reason for killing people off and Jill finds her way to an old water treatment facility after, you guessed it, another run-in with Nemesis. After exploring the Umbrella facility and a fight with Nemesis in the acid bath waste disposal area, she discovers news that would cause anyone’s stomach to jump into their throat. Nicholai has stolen the last helicopter in the facility and escaped the city. If that weren’t bad enough, the government has ordered a ballistic missile strike to level the city entirely at dawn and wipe out the zombie threat. They have maybe an hour or two in order to find a way out.
Things become frantic at this point, as Carlos and Jill split up to find an alternate route out of the city. While searching, Jill finds a giant rail cannon, a secret weapon being developed by Umbrella. In this area, You-Know-Who shows up one last time, now a giant, disgusting mess of flesh and eyeballs after his acid bath. One rail cannon shot later, and the threat is truly, finally defeated. Jill goes to exit the room when — oh goddammit, it’s still alive! Weakened, on the verge of death, the creature slops its way slowly toward her. I think we all have to believe it’s canon when the player makes the choice to finish off Nemesis, simply because of what happens next.
Jill belts out one of the most iconic lines in Resident Evil history as she one-hands a .357 revolver and fires right into The Amalgamation Formerly Known as Nemesis six times like a complete badass. I don’t care if her wrist should’ve snapped like a twig in a tornado, it’s one of the most awesome scenes in gaming. This is such a euphoric and empowering moment after an entire game of being hounded, haunted, chased, infected, attacked and otherwise impeded at every step of the adventure. For the first and final time, Jill is the huntress on the attack and Nemesis becomes the powerless prey right before it dies. For real this time. For really real. I promise!
After this amazing climax, Jill runs out to a helipad to tell Carlos that she didn’t find any mode of escape and that it’s over for them. However, it seems Carlos has managed to find help, and right on cue, another chopper shows up to pick them up as dawn starts to break. The chopper flies away as a missile whizzes by Jill, Carlos and pilot Barry Burton (!!) in the air. From one iconic scene to another, Resident Evil 3 ends the Raccoon City saga of the franchise with a bang. A big one.
The missile detonates in the heart of the city and immediately, everything is engulfed in flames. A strong shockwave precedes the wall of destruction that expands out, obliterating buildings, cars, and zombies alike. The explosion is nothing short of catastrophic, the entire city disappearing into a tower of fire. An apocalypse to halt an apocalypse. It’s a shocking and downright horrifying sight to see as the protagonists fly away, leaving nothing but a mushroom cloud and 100,000 lost souls behind. It’s a stunningly bleak end to the game, but an effective one.
When I first played this, I could hardly believe what I had just witnessed. I’ll be honest, I didn’t play Resident Evil 3 for the first time until around 2006 or 2007, but I had never heard about what happens in the end. Even that many years later, I was still in shocked silence as the credits rolled. In one scene, Aoyama and his crew displayed the entire cost of Umbrella’s actions and misdeeds. If you ever wanted to try to explain how evil Umbrella is, you would only have to show them this cutscene and anyone would understand.
Now, as a whole, the story is fairly fast-paced. Jill runs around the city a lot, gets infected and cured of the T-Virus (which does become important to her character later on), then manages to escape. Nemesis throws a wrinkle in these plans, to say the least, and Resident Evil 3 uses the escalation between it and Jill to great effect. Each time they clash together, Nemesis is always the one in power while Jill has to defend herself or use her wits to either incapacitate her pursuer or escape. However, in the climactic moment of their adventure against one another, Jill finally becomes the one in power and overcomes the monster. With the whole game built around this conflict, the rather thin plot has this one defining setup with a fantastic payoff.
This isn’t really a story about the overarching series plot, though it has one of the most important setpieces in series history. Instead, it’s by and large a personal story of desperate survival and fighting back with all you’ve got, which I find quite nice. Jill is one of my favorite protagonists in the series, and it’s nice to see her limits tested. It’s thrilling to see what she can bounce back from, even after a T-Virus infection. It’s ultimately a story of her escape, and it’s a wild ride. It’s a basic plot, but in my opinion, that allows them to focus on one or two key elements of the story and thus works strongly in the game’s favor.
“His expression shows agony and pain.”
Despite being a spinoff title originally, Resident Evil 3 had no intention of looking like one. Aoyama wanted to squeeze every ounce of usable power from the Playstation and it shows. There are a few strategic cutbacks from Resident Evil 2, but they are few and far between, not to mention minor at most. Instead, they’re used to enhance the visuals in other ways that help to sell the illusion that Capcom is trying to sell you.
For starters, the character and enemy models. You may not have noticed it much during your time with the game, but zombies actually have decreased polygon counts and detail levels from the previous game. The reason for this is quite simple: Aoyama and his team wanted the city to be swarmed with undead. The cutback in polygon counts and such allowed his team to have many more enemies on-screen than before, pushing the Playstation hard as Jill is forced to contend with upwards of 10 zombies in a given area at one time! It’s a powerful change in terms of hammering in the widespread destruction of the city.
Speaking of city destruction, the backgrounds are incredible in this game. Full-stop, downright incredible. The moment you leave the grimy alleyways of the city and step onto the streets, the scale of the destruction starts to make itself apparent. Every street is a mangled mess of cars blocking off various paths, while the bodies that aren’t trying to gnaw on your neck are strewn about the sidewalks and roads. It’s grisly and grotesque, but a zombie outbreak isn’t going to be a skip through a flower field.
Debris and roadblocks line the streets of the city, instilling an immense feeling of dread just by looking at it. Things that aren’t destroyed are generally on fire and about to be destroyed. Raccoon City has been totally run down in a matter of days, and it shows. This extends to nearly every part of the city, too.
The clock tower seems alright… until you crash into it, at least. It’s ornate and lavish in some areas, but there are still bloody corpses spilled all about the place. While some areas seem untouched, others are filled with web-coated victims of the spiders that infested certain hallways. After the rescue helicopter crashes, the tower partially collapses and causes the building to fall into further disrepair. This is a running theme of Resident Evil 3; places looking bad and only getting worse as you progress.
The park, for the most part, seems fairly untouched. Granted, it’s also just got a rickety wooden pier to get from one side to the other, but that’s par for the course with Umbrella. The Dead Factory though… what a nightmare. It’s clear that this place was a sty long before the outbreak. This treatment facility is grimy, filled with disgusting water, some areas are rusty, and it’s a giant mess. Go further in and you see the result of a terrible fight gone wrong. In addition to the usual eviscerated corpses, one room is also splattered with the bodies of Tyrants, indicating a violent struggle that ended poorly for all involved. Of the three games up to this point, Resident Evil 3 easily has the best environments. They’re richly detailed, and tell a tragic story across an entire city. It’s fantastic!
Another big improvement are the FMV cutscenes. Despite the game coming out only a year and change later than Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3’s FMVs are much better-looking in my opinion. Originally, the game had no budget for FMV cutscenes and was going to go without them. When it was promoted to a main series title, they suddenly realized that no big FMV moments was simply unacceptable! I mentioned it with the environments after the clock tower, but in the final two months of development they also added FMVs to enhance the game and give it some solid polish. Everyone knows big games from the era had to use that Playstation power.
Not only are these cutscenes the best of the Playstation era from a story standpoint, they’re also much cleaner technically. I don’t think it’d have the same impact as we watch the city crumble under the weight of the undead if the FMVs were poorly made or low quality, so I’m glad they were able to pump out these cutscenes in such a short time. Without FMVs, we wouldn’t have the epic intro or the jaw-dropping finale of the city being erased in hellfire. Huge, iconic moments for the series almost never happened at all. Resident Evil 3 benefited a great deal from its promotion to a numbered entry, and this is only one of many reasons why.
That’s where it stands overall with graphics, though. Good character models, slightly decreased zombie model geometry in order to push way more zombies on screen, gorgeous environments and nail-biting FMVs that look great even today. Despite starting life as a spinoff, Resident Evil 3 punches up hard, using the limited time it had after promotion to push its impressive visuals even further. It gives off the impression of a widespread apocalyptic outbreak and it’s a joy to run through the destroyed city to see how bad things get.
“Nothing especially strange here.”
It’s come to be expected by this point, but Resident Evil 3 has some… voice acting. Actually, in this regard it’s similar to Resident Evil 2; for the most part, it’s perfectly fine and doesn’t sound too stilted. Unlike its predecessor, though, its shortcomings show up in different ways. Occasionally, Leon or Claire would have strange line delivery. That does happen sometimes in this game (Jill’s closing line about Umbrella going too far had me in stitches, for example), but there are weirder things.
The main issue is Carlos, to be honest. His line deliveries are mostly fine, but it’s the accent he has. For the first part of the game, he tries this poorly-faked accent to sound more exotic. It doesn’t exactly work, but at least he’s trying, right? Well… at some point during the game he decides to not even try anymore. Instead, he drops the accent entirely and wow is it jarring! It’s immediately noticeable and just feels wrong, like the actor just decided “screw it” after realizing it wasn’t working. It would’ve been better if he didn’t try to fake an accent in the first place, honestly. Be that as it may, it’s the only real main gripe with the VA.
As for sound design itself, the standout here is Nemesis. Capcom wanted to make sure that everything about him was terrifying, and their efforts shine through. His low, guttural “S.T.A.R.S.” growl is one of the most iconic sound clips in gaming, but it’s more than that. His growl is unsettling and his roar is pants-wetting. His tentacles sound gross and squelchy as they drag you in, making every part of his sound design wildly intimidating. I know this part isn’t long, but that’s simply because there’s nothing bad to discuss. He’s simply, straightforwardly horrifying.
In terms of the music, Masami Ueda turned right around and whipped up another soundtrack for the ruined Raccoon City. The man was on fire with his music! He hits three in a row for soundtracks, as you can see here:
“The City of Ruin” is one of the first tracks you hear, and it’s placed at a perfect time; you hear this the first time you reach one of the main roads of Raccoon City, the first time you’re able to take in the incredible scale of the destruction in the city. The mournful beginning gives way to a desolate, haunting synthesizer. This synthesizer imitates human voices in a way that almost sounds like ghosts, the souls of the bodies now shambling across the streets and alleys. It’s ghastly and sad.
To contrast the sorrowful theme above this one, of course I have to mention “Nemesis’ Theme”. The track sounds just as imposing as the monster itself, catching you off-guard when you hear it as Nemesis comes through a door off-screen. Once again using the synthesizer well in addition to some brass, you can even hear a very Terminator-like bassline that helps you identify how serious a threat this creature is.
“The Clock Tower” plays as you explore the park area of the game. Okay, obviously that’s a lie, three guesses where it plays. Either way, it’s an exceptionally atmospheric track, making great use of the piano to set the general tone while Ueda also mixes in the very faint sounds of clockwork and gears to enhance the creepy environment with similarly uneasy music. It’s supposed to be a safe place, but something about it is just off-putting and this track helps draw that same trepidation from the player.
“Warning! Missile attack: Confirmed.” echoes out the cold, uncaring robotic voice over the loudspeaker. “Emergency Level: D.” Then, a radar shows up on-screen showing the missile approaching the city. How would you react if you were told you have maybe an hour to live? Can you imagine the panic that would set in? The flood of fear and denial mixing with the will to live and defy the odds comes out full-force in “Emergency Level D”. A constant bassline and rapid percussion mixed with high-pitch strings to keep you on your seat. Survival is far from guaranteed, and Masami Ueda manages to keep the tension sky-high in the game’s final moments with this track.
Lastly, I had to add this one. “Nemesis’ Final Metamorphosis” is the culmination of your encounters with the unkillable beast. This terrifying monstrosity only becomes more and more grotesque until this final moment where the climactic theme incorporates choirs and strings while keeping the heartbeat-style synthesizer noise that permeates all of Nemesis’ themes. It’s pumping faster than ever as you stare down a slab of flesh, brain and eyes that used to walk on two legs. It’s intense, high-octane and about as built up as you could get!
Between the soundtrack, most of the acting and the incredible sound design of Nemesis, Resident Evil 3 knocks it out of the park for the third time. Carlos drags things down a bit with his forced accent that apparently wasn’t attracting too many foxy ladies, so he decided to drop it altogether. It’s certainly not enough to outweigh the good done in the sound department, as Masami Ueda once again hammers out a moody, creepy, stress-inducing soundtrack. Evil never sounded so unsettling.
“What?! I thought we killed that thing!!”
As I mentioned several times before, Resident Evil 3 started as an experimental spinoff title. Originally, the game ended at the clock tower and the focus was going to be on replayability through that earlier section of Raccoon City. The core focus was to add in ideas that would make the game feel more arcade-like. Still a survival horror game, but things that would make you want to play again and again. Because of this, lots of stuff carried over to the final product that sets it apart from a lot of other games in the series!
The first thing you might notice is the movement speed. Yes, even after Resident Evil 2 upped the run speed from the original, it feels like Jill can go at a full-on sprint by comparison in Resident Evil 3. It makes sense, given how much more ground she has to cover than Leon or Claire, and it feels good. It makes getting around the city feel quick and snappy, and it helps a great deal with drawing the player in. Jill is as responsive as ever, and even has a few new movement tricks up her sleeve.
Turning around is hard, right? When you have a bunch of the undead bearing down on you and you need to make a quick escape, the smart thing is to turn and run. It would seem Jill agrees, because she learned a new trick since the first game: the quick turn! By pressing down and the run button, Jill will spin on a dime 180º. This is useful for when you need to quickly back away from something, and will save you often! Another random thing that Jill learned how to do… is walk up stairs. Resident Evil 3 is the first game in the series that gives you full range of motion on stairs! No need for button presses or anything, just keep walking. This helps the flow of the game remain smooth as you retain player control for longer!
Another little thing Jill learned how to do is the emergency dodge. This new mechanic sometimes allows you to avoid taking damage from enemies, though understanding it is… difficult. The idea is that you want to press the aim button just as you’re about to be attacked and Jill will do one of several dodge animations and continue aiming at the enemy. In theory, it’s a good change and I like its inclusion. However, activating it and having it work the way you want is mystifying, so don’t rely heavily on it. For one thing, you have no invincibility frames during the dodge so there’s no guarantee that you are safe even if you dodge. Secondly, if you’re trying to dodge and run from something, you have to wait for Jill to dodge and then aim, then stop aiming at the thing and orient yourself to run in the direction of safety. Locking the aim to the enemy after a dodge sucks, and it caused me to take damage way more than I would have without it.
In keeping with new mechanics that I find good but flawed — oh, hello Reloading Tool! It’s like you heard me coming. So, the Reloading Tool is a device in Resident Evil 3 that allows you to mix various gunpowders together to make different ammo types. It has tons of customization associated with it; while you only find A and B gunpowders in the wild, you can mix them up in various ways to make all kinds of stuff. You can stack up to three gunpowders in one bottle, allowing for combinations that lead to results ranging from handgun ammo up to magnum bullets and different grenade rounds. So far so good, right?
The issue here is the addition of Enhanced Ammo. If you craft A and B powders by themselves enough times, you can start making enhanced bullets for your handgun and shotgun. These are fantastically powerful bullets, but making them requires you to craft powder of either type seven times each. This creates two problems: Firstly and most importantly, it means you won’t have lots of powder to craft other, more powerful ammo. Secondly, it leaves you with an enormous glut of regular ammo to use. This means you either burn through that and never use your enhanced ammo anyway, or you just stuff it all in a box, cut your losses, and start using your enhanced ammo right away. It’s not a fun trade-off, and I think it could’ve been balanced a lot better. However, like the emergency dodge, I still appreciate its inclusion!
However, the biggest addition is the titular Nemesis. A constant presence trying to impede you, this monstrosity will show up in any number of places. He’s so much more troublesome than Mr. X from the previous game. He shows up more often, he’s way more aggressive, he can outrun Jill (!!) and he comes equipped with a rocket launcher. Remember that tool of empowerment that you get gifted so often in Resident Evil games? Now in an excellent subversion, it’s being used on you. It’s an excellent way to keep tension high as you try to outdo this incredible threat, and boy… what a threat he is. Let’s just say this guy has some great jumpscares.
It’s not impossible to stop Nemesis, though. If you’ve got the stones (and a hell of a lot of ammo), you can temporarily take him down. Doing so will net you various rewards, creating a much better incentive to fight than the reward from Mr. X (which was just more ammo). If you’re not feeling confident, however, the best option is just to run for your life and live to fight another day!
Making your way through the streets of the city can feel extremely dangerous with Nemesis on the prowl. The city is designed in such a way that feels a lot more like the original game’s open map. It still only has one critical path, but there are a couple points where you can do mission objectives in any order you want. I welcome this change, as it feels good to be opening locked doors and slowly interconnecting the city to do things how I want to do them! Level design was clearly an important focus, and that makes sense, considering how this map was the majority of the game’s development and was crafted to enhance multiple playthroughs.
The hospital, park and Dead Factory, on the other hand, have some issues. For starters, these locations are much more linear than the city. That by itself isn’t a bad thing; a change of pace can help the game feel fresh and push it along. These areas were crafted in a mere two months so it’s expected that Aoyama and his crew wouldn’t have tons of time to make another big interlocking area. No, the issue is that the type of backtracking in the first 2/3rds of the game and the backtracking in the last third are wildly different. This is where Resident Evil 3 starts to crack, but only a little bit!
Unlike the city, where you complete tasks however you want through streets that keep looping back on themselves and creating shortcuts to make backtracking easier and more interesting, the second part of the game becomes much more straight-line, A-to-B backtracking. To get access to the factory, you must go through the park. Easy enough. You have to go to the factory gate, pick up a key, run back the straight line to the other end of the park, continue to a cabin at the end of the line, grab the key you need for the factory gate, then run all the way back to where you got the first key. It’s obnoxious and honestly a little insane, but hey. At least that trek contains one of the worst boss battles in series history!
Enter the Gravedigger. You meet this horrific giant worm monster earlier in the game, and he’s mostly inoffensive. More of an obstacle to your escape than a proper boss. Gravedigger was another one of the late-game additions in those final hours of development, and as such it’s clear they needed to put him somewhere. They decide to have you fight it in the park, and the level design of his arena mixed with his design and the winning strategy whirl together into a putrid mess of a fight. It’s a narrow U-shaped arena, the boss is gigantic and can easily fill up the entire space and trap you, the camera angles make it almost impossible to get eyes on the beast for any safe length of time, and the way to kill this monster is annoying as hell. You do damage until he knocks a street lamp loose over a large puddle. Your goal is clear: get the Gravedigger over the water, shoot down the lamp and electrocute it. The problem is, the aforementioned camera angles don’t really give you enough space to be at a distance where you can both see the monster and not get hurt by it and interrupt your deathblow. I died six times on this boss through no real fault of my own for five of them. I had to stop playing for the day after I finished this thing off and found a save point.
Anyway, the factory fares a little better in this regard. It’s extremely small compared to other labs, but it still feels cool to run through. It’s still a linear area though, and it comes complete with another shit boss fight. Jill finds herself locked in a waste disposal room with Nemesis as a timer counts down to an acid bath. There are valves on either side of the room that you can hit to spew acid on Nemesis, but he’s not an idiot. You have to lure him right into the path and make sure you hit it in a small timeframe; hit it too early and Nemesis will simply back away from the acid. Hit it too late and he’ll walk right past it before it can begin spilling acid. This fight was another moment of frustration and I found myself redoing it four times before I finally managed to take Nemesis out. Two boss fights in a row that drove me nuts, and the final boss is better… but only because it’s braindead easy.
The battle against the Nemesis blob is extremely simple: you have to push three batteries into slots to charge a rail cannon that can decimate the monster. After this, you want to do enough damage that the rail cannon finishes it off. It’s super easy to dodge Nemesis’ attacks and maintain enough range to kill it, so it’s a breath of fresh air after the obnoxious fights before it.
There’s actually an optional boss between the last two Nemesis fights, and depending on your choice during a Live Selection, you can fight Nicholai in a helicopter. It’s nice that Resident Evil 3 has some additional content in the game, feeding back into the original idea of the game to enhance replayability.
Oh, right, did I forget to mention Live Selection? This is one of the features that sets the game apart from nearly all others in the series. During certain cutscenes, the screen will flash white and present the player with two options. They have to choose quickly, and depending on what they choose, a scene may play out differently. You may even change the ending! However, I’ll be the first to admit that the two endings are extremely similar, so much so that it’s almost the difference between two lines of dialogue. That said, Live Selection is very cool and an interesting way to keep the player trying again and again for different scenario combinations.
To be honest, the lesser parts of Resident Evil 3 almost all stem from it being a rushed final stretch of development. That’s to be expected when you have to stuff so much content into a game in a short period, so it’s understandable. Regardless, the last third is still a bit of a drag compared to the first parts. Not enough to totally bring down the game, but enough to sour it just a bit. The game plays great and Nemesis is a fabulous addition that keeps the tension high. Raccoon City itself has a nice layout that allows for fun backtracking, and movement additions keep the game flowing well despite the issues cropping up later in the game. Overall, Resident Evil 3 retains the high bar of quality that you’ve come to expect from the series by this point. Despite some things not working out as intended, I still welcome the experimentation and hope to see things expanded upon later in the franchise!
“I told you, I’m not leaving! NEVER!”
Resident Evil 3 is interesting compared to other games in the franchise. Unlike Resident Evil 2’s A/B scenarios, it only has one campaign and one minigame. However, due to its roots in being an arcadey spinoff, it does some interesting things to make each playthrough feel just a bit different from the last. In fact, three things jump to mind immediately.
The first is the aforementioned Live Selection system. It’s used various times throughout the game, from the first encounter with Nemesis up until the very last one. Oftentimes it changes things just enough to keep it fresh. For instance, in one scenario Jill finds herself trapped in a power station as zombies attempt to break down a fence. She can either choose to overload the power and electrify the fence or run through an emergency exit away from them. The power overload kills the zombies but it leaves many more of them outside the area to contend with. Running through the emergency exit means the zombies outside the station are gone… but are replaced by an encounter with Nemesis instead! It’s this balancing act throughout the game that forces you to consider each option and what it might entail. It’s an interesting way to extend playtime!
Another way in which Resident Evil 3 keeps things new is minor item randomization. Each time you play the game, non-critical items are shuffled around in certain areas. The most obvious example of this is in the RPD. When you make it to the S.T.A.R.S. office, Jill can open a weapons locker. In it, you’ll find one of two weapons: the magnum or the grenade launcher. Whichever you find here, the other will be found later on in the power station. It’s nothing major, but it still helps keep players guessing what’s going to change next to keep them on their toes.
The final method that encourages player engagement is less obvious. The same events will happen throughout the story, but they can happen in different places and lead to different Live Selections. For instance, I bet most players will go into the restaurant first, where they’ll meet Carlos for the first time. Then, they’ll head to the press building and find the green gem. However, why not go to the press building first? If you do, you’ll encounter Carlos there with a different set of Live Selection options and the green gem will be located in the restaurant basement.
This is what I was referring to when I mentioned that Resident Evil 3 allows you to tackle lots of stuff in the first half of the game in any order you want. Aside from moments like that, you can get the cable car repair items in any order as well, letting you chart your own path through the city. It’s fantastic how open-ended it is and gives me strong vibes of the Spencer Estate.
Now, as for unlockables, Resident Evil 3 has a ton. You may be wondering what time requirements get you the Infinite Rocket Launcher, and I’m here to say “Time requirements…? What?” You see, unlike nearly every other game in the series, you unlock special weapons through this game’s side mode, The Mercenaries: Operation Mad Jackal. This mode has you running from one area to another on a time limit. As Carlos, Mikhail or Nicholai (each with their own loadouts), you attempt to kill monsters for money and extra time on the clock. You can also save hostages and find checkpoints in order to gain more time. Saving hostages will have them drop items for you to use, such as ammo or health. All sorts of creatures impede your path, including Nemesis… and Nemesis! At certain parts, multiple Nemesis (Nemesi?) will assault you. Killing them nets you a big time bonus and a lot of money, but it’s tough as nails.
The money you accumulate in your runs of Mad Jackal stacks with each playthrough. As you reach certain milestones, you can unlock various rewards for the main game. These include infinite ammo versions of an assault rifle, a gatling gun and a rocket launcher! However, the biggest reward, costing a whopping $9999, is infinite ammo for all weapons in the main game. How cool is that? Mad Jackal is a fun little side game, but I really only played it for the rewards. It didn’t ever really hook me, but I’m glad it was there as a little diversion.
Speaking of rewards, though, let’s talk about Nemesis. This trash heap monster can really ruin your day, but as I said before, he drops various goodies if you can take him down. You can stop him up to seven times in a playthrough, and doing so will cause him to drop health, weapons and a one-time-use infinite ammo item for one gun of your choice. It’s worth noting that this is only on hard mode! You can get a fast-shooting pistol, an incredibly strong shotgun, an assault rifle, and first aid boxes. These hold three first aid sprays in one slot! Clearly, Nemesis is worth fighting if you can handle him. The rewards you get are powerful, but certainly not necessary to beat the game. Handle with care!
A minor thing you can unlock is Jill’s Diary. Finding this is a little difficult, even if you know what you’re doing. You have to find all files in the game, which isn’t too hard. You just have to be observant, right? Wrong. Not only do you have to find all the files, but you have to find them in the order they appear on the file screen. This sounds like some real “how to find Mew” bullshit, but it’s true. By doing this, the first file will become Jill’s Diary and you can read her thoughts on current events. I can get behind all files, but in a very specific order that you wouldn’t know without looking it up? Screw that noise.
There are two other major unlockables. The first are the extra costumes, as we’ve come to expect from these games. However, unlike the previous two, Resident Evil 3 has eight additional costumes depending on which version you play. The two most notable ones are her S.T.A.R.S. uniform from the original Resident Evil, and a costume that resembles Regina from Dino Crisis. On original versions, you unlock these costumes by beating the game with a better-than-F rank or by beating it with an A rank. It’s surprising how many costumes she gets, but at least you can get all of them at once if you get an A rank.
For this last unlockable, you can only get one at a time. At the end of your game, you may recall seeing the epilogue talking about Jill looking for Chris. Well, there are actually seven more of these epilogues! They detail what Chris, Leon, Claire, Sherry, Ada, Barry and HUNK did after escaping Raccoon City. Yes, you heard me right. In order to unlock every single thing in the game, you have to beat it eight times. I like the game, but that’s a tough ask! Grabbing all of these epilogues will net you a message from the director that you can only see a single time. No, I didn’t get it because I just don’t have the time to beat the game back-to-back eight times in a month. I’m no speedrunner.
Okay, did you get all that? It’s going to be on the test next week. Resident Evil 3 is crammed with extras and divergent choices to keep players coming back. Some of it is welcome, like optional rewards for fighting Nemesis, the Live Selection system and Operation Mad Jackal. Other stuff is truly, downright ridiculous to ask of a casual player, such as the eight epilogues or Jill’s Diary. You’re not missing much if you don’t get them, though, so don’t feel pressured to see everything. It’s just a video game!
“It’s been rough… but now we can rest.”
Resident Evil 3 is in a weird place. I like so much about the game, but parts of it drag down just enough that it keeps it from being at the top of my list. First and foremost, I love Nemesis. He’s one of the most memorable monsters in all of video games for a reason. He’s truly intimidating and very hard to kill. However, the game rewards you handsomely for being brave (or stupid) enough to stop him. That said, the game also has terrible boss fights. The Gravedigger and the Nemesis acid bath fight back-to-back almost made me snap my controller in half.
Raccoon City is a joy to run through. All the streets and narrow alleys connecting to spider-web the city together is awesome. Add to this the ability to tackle objectives in whatever order I wish, with certain things changing depending on how I traverse the city? That’s amazing! However, the latter half of the game is linear and not in a good way. The areas are very simplistic in terms of progression and they’re home to the aforementioned terrible boss fights. I understand that they were cobbled together in a matter of months, but it still doesn’t change that the later areas bring the game down a fair bit.
The unlockable costumes and weapons you can get are fantastic too. Mad Jackal is a fun way to get extras for the main game, even if it’s short-lived. Even being able to fight Nemesis and get extra weapons is an awesome addition. That being said, some of the unlockables ask way too much of the average player. Jill’s Diary and the eight epilogues are borderline obnoxious, and definitely unnecessary. The game has such good examples of design to encourage replayability that it’s sad to see these blatant time-eaters as well.
Despite all this, the graphics and music in Resident Evil 3 are as good as ever. More zombies, more detailed background, more grotesque monsters, great music to fit the game’s tone, it all comes together to bring Raccoon City to life.
Truth be told, with a few tweaks, I could easily see Resident Evil 3 as my favorite game so far in this retrospective. I respect so many of its choices. It was highly experimental and I can see people coming off it feeling weird about it. Even to this day, it does unique things that haven’t been replicated in the series. Unfortunately, development had to be rushed once this side game became a numbered title. I understand that and can’t imagine the stress that put on the developers, but the truth is a lot of those last-minute additions are to the game’s detriment. Had they been more fleshed out and given more time to breathe, they’d definitely have been implemented better. As it stands, though, Resident Evil 3 is still very good! It’s an easy recommendation, but just bear in mind that there are some sour spots. You’ll enjoy it nonetheless!