Resident Evil 3 isn't always fun to play. I find it odd to label any game that sees you continually running for your life from dermatologically-challenged zombies as fun. Panic-inducing? Yes. Infuriating at times? Certainly? Bloody brilliant? You bet ya.
I got some time with Resident Evil 3, and its online multiplayer mode Resident Evil: Resistance, and immediately went home and played Resident Evil 2 Remake again. I caught the virus, and let me tell you why.
Rockin' around Raccoon City
Finally, a breath of infected air as we get out of Raccoon Police Department properly. Resident Evil 3 is set in Raccoon City itself, right in the heart of the T-virus outbreak that sees everyone turning into (mostly) mindless zombies.
Resident Evil 3 sees the return of former S.T.A.R.S. officer Jill Valentine, who is attempting to escape from the city alongside U.B.C.S. corporal Carlos Oliveira.
The demo I played sees you playing as Jill, who's tasked with getting the subway system running again so that she and the Umbrella soldiers can get out of Dodge. In typical Resident Evil fashion, this means traversing the streets and buildings of Raccoon City, solving puzzles and collecting items in order to progress – as well as retreading the same ground again and again.
What's nice about Resident Evil 3 is the fact that it feels more open. You're not trapped in the RPD (and its surrounding areas), instead you can, within reason, explore many a nook and cranny of Raccoon City. The urban atmosphere is a much-needed change, while remaining in the same vein as its predecessor; instead of exploring rooms, you're exploring donut shops and pharmacies.
There's no denying that this is a Resident Evil game; things have just progressed – and actually improved.
Within a few minutes of starting the demo, it becomes apparent that Resident Evil 3 is a bit tougher then Resident Evil 2. The number of zombies has increased and the chances of avoiding them becomes less, and resource management becomes a bit more of a struggle as a result. However, there are more items at your disposal than in Resident Evil 2, and these appear much more frequently.
Where in Resident Evil 2 you could get away with avoiding most of the zombies (if you wanted) in an effort to stockpile ammo and items, Resident Evil 3 makes this much more difficult. And it's a brilliant, though sometimes frustrating, challenge.
While this may seem annoying, one saving grace is the new dodge feature that, if you time it right, lets you make a quick getaway or get the upper hand over an enemy. You better get used to getting this right, because it becomes very important later.
It's almost like the game is trying to encourage you to take on the zombies instead of run away and, in some ways, it's actually easier than ever. You can take out groups of the infected by shooting barrels or generators, clearing the way with a single bullet. It's something of a baptism of fire for people like me who aren't exactly horror game fans – if they keep coming in droves then eventually you become used to them. Just your (not so) friendly neighbors.
Now, I want to take some time to fawn over Resident Evil 3's puzzles. The main thing I love about Resident Evil games is the puzzle element, the requirement to actually put a bit of thought into the game and work things out. But it mostly comes down to common sense. "Oh, I need to put out this fire. This fire hydrant is nearby, I must need to attach a hose to it or something."
Anytime you get stuck, you kind of know that the answer either lies in your inventory, or that you've missed something. But instead of backtracking everywhere, you can see via the map where you've fully explored and where you haven't. If a room is red then your missing item probably lies in there.
It harks back to the days when we did actually have to put some thought into solving games, because guides weren't as easily available. But the puzzles are never too hard. Yes, they're challenging – and even more so when you're low on health and trying to find items while not getting killed – but they're never so difficult that you feel like you're in over your head.
Every item in Resident Evil has its place – you just have to find where that is.
It's pretty much impossible to talk about Resident Evil 3 without talking about the Tyrant-of-an-elephant lurking in the room.
Looking like some deli ham stretched over a set of teeth, the Nemesis is smarter than your average Tyrant. While Resident Evil 2's Mr. X was like an aggressive stalker in a trench coat and fedora, who you could avoid if you were careful, Nemesis doesn't let you just deal with him when you please. After a certain point, he drops in – literally – at his own convenience, and he won't let up
At one point I hid in the aforementioned donut shop while he stood outside watching me, like the school bully waiting to beat you up after class. This is when that dodge ability becomes pretty handy, giving you a few extra seconds to get away, but you can't actually deal with the big boy until your boss battle with him, which took place at the end of our demo.
I won't spoil it for you, but the Nemesis battle is quite challenging, although definitely not impossible. It took me a few tries to develop the right strategy to beat him, but the feeling of elation when he falls is pretty great.
While Nemesis is a pain, his interruptions are at least less panic-inducing than Mr. X's constant pursuit. You're not listening out for footsteps… just bang, there he is. But it does mean you can't avoid him – with Resident Evil 3 once again forcing you to tackle your fear head-on.
Leading the resistance
If you want a break from Resident Evil 3's campaign then you can jump into Resident Evil: Resistance, the online multiplayer mode that comes for free with the game.
In the same vein as the likes of Friday the 13th: The Game and Dead by Daylight, Resident Evil: Resistance is a survival horror game that sees a group of survivors trying to escape while a Mastermind tries everything in their power to stop them.
If you're playing as a survivor, you team up with three other players, and you must work together to complete the objectives of three map sections in order to escape. Another player will act as the Mastermind, playing with the environment and unleashing hell upon the survivors in order to stop them.
As a fan of games like Dead by Daylight, my gripe with games in this genre has always been that they become repetitive very quickly. Methods of escape are usually restricted to 'fix the generators', 'escape out the hatch', and a handful of other options.
However, Resistance mixes things up. There are a variety of maps, each with their own layout that takes some time to get to grips with, then from game to game the objectives themselves change, and the placement of objects you need to find also changes. It shakes up the formula, and makes things a bit more complicated.
I know everyone says it, but communication is key here. As a survivor, once an objective is complete you then need to converge on the door to progress. That would be fine, but time is of the essence, as each room has a time limit on it. When the time runs out you get poisoned, but you can increase the time limit by killing enemies and clearing the objectives quickly – something which proves difficult when you have another player (I'm looking at you, journalist sitting across from me) who takes their sweet time to gather at the objective.
There's a lot of yelling involved, as you can imagine.
In terms of survivors, you have a who's who of stereotypical horror movie tropes to play as: the jock, the goth, the nerd, and so on. But each has their own class, and special abilities to fend off the Mastermind. For example January, the goth girl, can knock out the Mastermind's cameras so they can't see what you're up to.
Meanwhile, the Mastermind choices are typically Umbrella baddies who have one main Tyrant at their disposal. The Mastermind can lock doors, summon zombies, place turrets, and all sorts to try to hinder the survivors. And, if they're anything like TechRadar's video producer Matt Phillips, they'll utilize psychological warfare on you too.
I played many games of Resistance, and we only ever made it to the last room, but never completed it – and I kind of like that.
Another likely success
After playing Resident Evil 3 for several hours, I left the hands-on event I'd attended and went home to play Resident Evil 2 Remake again – but it wasn't quite scratching the same itch.
Resident Evil 3 may not have the same hype around it that Resident Evil 2 Remake did, but absolutely do not sleep on it – it's probably better than its predecessor. Resident Evil 3 is faster-paced, more action-packed, and forces you to face your fears head-on, whether you want to or not.
Having Resident Evil: Resistance included as a free mode essentially means you're getting two Resi games for the price of one, and that's not to be sniffed at.
As someone who was never really a big Resident Evil fan, the Resident Evil 3 remake has converted me to the franchise, and I'm not sure I can back to life without zombies chomping at my heels.
Resident Evil 3 releases for PS4, Xbox One and PC on April 3, 2020.
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