Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 3 presents a zombie-infested Raccoon City at its most spine-chilling, and adds a credible multiplayer mode.
1999’s Resident Evil 3 occupies a pretty hallowed place in the beloved survival-horror series’ canon. It was the first Resident Evil game to extend beyond a series of claustrophobic interiors, presenting a then-stunning depiction of the chaos that ensued throughout Raccoon City following the T-Virus outbreak depicted in the previous game. Plus, it added welcome new action-oriented elements to the Resident Evil blueprint. As such, it set strong foundations for the franchise to endure as long as it has.
Now Capcom has followed up last year’s acclaimed remake of Resident Evil 2 by giving its successor what is essentially the same treatment. That means the Resident Evil 3 remake is far from a slavish frame-by-frame reconstruction of the original game. Technology-wise, it’s thoroughly modern, being constructed using the same engine that underpins Resident Evil 7. And while it remains true to the original as far as the overarching story and gameplay are concerned, it isn’t afraid to add new elements and veer off in different directions at times.
We played two chunks of hands-on gameplay with the Resident Evil 3 remake: about two hours of the single-player storyline, along with a number of matches in Resident Evil Resistance, a rare (and, for once, competent) multiplayer take on Resident Evil that will be bundled with the single-player game for free.
Resident Evil 3 remake single-player story
In the original game, Raccoon City was presented merely as a set of pre-rendered backgrounds. But this is the 21st century, so as in the previous remake it now uses an approach closer to Resident Evil 4, with an over-the-shoulder camera view. Even ignoring the change in perspective, the graphics are superb, with the characters and zombies looking better than any previous entry and the game making much use of visual tricks like depth of focus.
Story-wise, the hands-on began about 30 minutes into the game, with Jill Valentine emerging from Raccoon City’s train station, armed initially with just a handgun and tasked with restoring power to the city’s subway train system. Capcom has clearly had great fun using the latest technology to remake the place in a manner beyond the wildest dreams of the original development team.
Zombies shamble everywhere; as in the original, a generous smattering of red barrels (and later, sparking generators) provide opportunities to take out several enemies at once. Which is just as well, since the base handgun lacks power and ammo is scarce – again, completely in keeping with the original.
Finding an alley blocked by a fire, we noticed a conveniently placed hydrant, so set off on our first puzzle-solving mission: finding something with which to douse the flames. Hurrying as much as possible past incipient zombies – Jill’s run, in classic Resident Evil style, is still pretty slow – we explored nearby shops and buildings, uncovering familiarly useful objects including green and red herbs, blue and red jewels, first aid spray, gunpowder which can be combined into bullets, and grenades.
In typical fashion, the game sends you on a tortuous, largely prescribed path, although once you acquire sufficient ammo to take on the zombies in the street, you’re also able to explore various abandoned shops. We found a fire hose, along with the Raccoon City subway offices, which contained a shotgun in a cabinet locked with a chain. Returning to the fire hydrant, we attached the hose, which put out the fire and yielded a set of bolt-cutters in the next room, allowing us to backtrack and acquire the shotgun.
The bolt-cutters opened up a new area of the city, triggering a cut scene in which Jill encountered Umbrella soldier Carlos, and we learned that we would have to restore power to the subway before setting up a subway train to move between two stations. The first objective involved a puzzle sequence in a labyrinthine, cobwebbed level containing four power-breakers which needed to be switched, and was populated by giant spiders, which poisoned Jill when they attacked (cutely, each time we healed her, she vomited).
Encountering the Nemesis
Returning to the subway office, we performed another train-routing puzzle, before returning to the subway station – a task made considerably harder by the presence of Resident Evil 3’s notorious Nemesis, who had begun to dog our movements. Nemesis is a giant, black leather-clad Tyrant who is basically indestructible, and pursues players throughout a large part of the game. In the remake’s incarnation, he has acquired a set of tentacles with which he drags you towards him, just when you think you have eluded him. You can temporarily immobilise him by shooting him in the face, or shooting nearby barrels or generators, but you quickly learn that running away from him is the best policy.
Moving forward from the subway station (where coloured jewels can be redeemed for useful items by putting them in a clock-like contraption), we descended into the sewers, where we encountered a new enemy, the Hunter Gamma – a giant, mutant chicken-like creature best disposed of using grenades (we also uncovered the grenade launcher, which was handy), along with a recurring puzzle involving opening doors with a power source.
It’s pretty clear that the Resident Evil 3 remake picks up very much where the Resident Evil 2 one left off. While it stays true to the original’s gameplay and general vibe, it adds plenty of new elements and makes great use of modern technology to ramp up the creepiness and horror element. In other words, it conspicuously sets standards for modern remakes of 1990s games – if anything, it looks even better than the Resident Evil 2 remake.
Resident Evil Resistance hands-on
The one question mark hanging over the Resident Evil 3 remake – which two hours with the game wasn’t sufficient to answer – regards the length of its single-player campaign. That was the one aspect of the original that came in for criticism. Perhaps tacitly admitting that as an issue, Capcom has chosen to bundle the remake with a standalone game entitled Resident Evil Resistance.
Resident Evil Resistance is an asymmetric, four-versus-one multiplayer game which Capcom is at pains to point out is ‘non-canon’ but is set at roughly the same time as the events depicted in Resident Evil 3. Resistance’s story set-up chronicles a set of sinister experiments carried out by the Umbrella Corporation not long after the development of the T-Virus, in which groups of four survivors must escape from levels (each game is a three-stage, timed process), while a ‘mastermind’, observing through cameras in each room, sets traps and spawns zombies in an effort to thwart them.
In Resistance – or at least, the version we played – there are six survivors, each with a distinct class type (tank, hacker, damage, support and so on) and four masterminds to choose from. Those masterminds are mostly familiar baddies from Resident Evil games of yore: Annette Birkin, Alex Wesker, Ozwell E. Spencer, and Daniel Fabron.
Resistance can only be played by one mastermind and four survivors – there’s no way to drop in computer-controlled players, so it has a lobby/matchmaking system, although you can also set up custom games with your mates. Playing on a closed system of PlayStation 4s networked together, we couldn’t fully explore that system, but it looked pretty standard.
Initially, playing as a mastermind, we experienced a certain amount of confusion, although that didn’t last long: Resistance seems pretty straightforward. Hitting the PlayStation 4’s touchpad brings up a map of the level, and you can pick out specific rooms by clicking on the surveillance camera icons. At the bottom of the screen, a set of cards provide survivor-slowing objects like leg-traps and zombies of various descriptions (including sets of zombie dogs). Plus, you can turn lights off, lock doors, and so on.
You can reshuffle if you don’t like the hand you’re dealt but there’s a cooldown period after using each card, before a new one is dealt out. There’s plenty of scope for taking a tactical approach, since you can see where the objects that survivors have to collect are… and booby-trap them accordingly.
There are also certain zombies you can control directly (giving them red eyes to show the survivors you are in control) and each mastermind at some point (usually a few stages into a game) gets a signature card. In the case of Annette Birkin that was her mutated husband, William, who is particularly satisfying to control, with unique, powerful flailing attacks.
Playing as a survivor requires co-operation with your three team-mates. Here you’re constantly up against time pressures, with extra time collectively gained for positive actions, such as killing zombies, shooting out cameras and finding keys, and time deducted for faux pas like being killed and having to respawn. The map we played on was the interior of a casino, and to complete the first stage, we had to find four keys and bring them back to a specific point, opening a door so we could move onto the next area.
In that area, the keys required to move on were embedded in pillars that had to be destroyed by shooting and melee attacks. Each survivor has two skills, called personal and fever skills – the latter taking longer to generate and cool down. They range from super-melees (a couple of the survivors were melee specialists) to EMPs for the hacker, effectively rendering the mastermind blind. At the beginning of each stage, a vending machine lets you resupply objects like ammo and even buy a machinegun; Resistance has its own currency, and there are plenty of objects scattered around each level to collect and use.
Considering that Resident Evil has hitherto been a strikingly single-player-centric franchise, Resistance shows great promise. Resident Evil Outbreak and Resident Evil 5 offered tolerable co-operative experiences within the Resident Evil universe, but Capcom’s other attempts to add multiplayer elements to the franchise have always fallen horribly flat.
Our hands-on with Resistance, however, proved very enjoyable: it didn’t take long to start getting the hang of what was required when playing as both a survivor and a mastermind, although it will take a while to discover all the game’s nuances and potential tactics.
But from the off, it proved thoroughly enjoyable to play, which bodes well. Resistance felt nicely pitched: it manages to avoid overcomplication yet offers a gameplay experience which Resident Evil fans should find refreshingly original. We’ll know whether Capcom has finally managed to crack Resident Evil’s multiplayer conundrum when we get the chance to play it more extensively but at the moment Resident Evil 3 seems to be another dream come true for Resi and horror fans everywhere.
Formats: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC
Release Date: 3rd April 2020
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