I must admit, I feel that zombies are the most played-out, overused enemies in not just gaming, but all forms of entertainment…your mileage may vary, obviously, but I no longer see the allure of fighting braindead humans that crawl around at the speed of smell, especially when it’s rarely, if ever, explained how the zombies came to be. Now, all that being said, this wasn’t always the case, and there was a time when I would definitely have been on board to read the Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide or go see World War Z, and one of the biggest catalysts for this was the Resident Evil series. Here was a zombie nightmare done correctly, without being entirely over the top or half-assed, but sure enough, even RE eventually became something other than what I’d grown to love, and the tipping point for me, both for Resident Evil and my zombie fandom, is today’s game, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.
RE3 is, for my money, the platonic ideal of what Resident Evil should be; Raccoon City is full-on inundated with zombies, thanks to Umbrella’s malevolence/incompetence, so much so that Jill Valentine has thrown her hands up and decided to get out while the getting’s good. Along the way, though, she’ll have to contend with a completely zombified populace, Umbrella’s super-sketchy team of mercenaries sent to help clean up the mess, and the titular Nemesis, yet another Umbrella-made Frankenstein monster created to help tie up Umbrella’s loosest ends by eliminating what’s left of S.T.A.R.S., all before the government decides to take a very drastic step to put an end to the zombie problem.
Basically, what this means is you’ll get a heaping helping of the RE gameplay you’re familiar with, with a nice side order of “Giant Tyrant That Pops Up Everywhere” and a cold glass of new wrinkles to spice things up. Among the new features are a gunpowder system that allows you to mix various types of collectible gunpowder to create different kinds of ammunition, rather than relying on the designers’ mercy to get the bullets, shells, or grenades you need. Need a big batch of pistol bullets for garden variety zombies? Whip up a couple of Gunpowder A’s. Think you might need some grenade launcher rounds? Better save up some A’s and B’s. It’s surprisingly intuitive, and you can quickly check what makes what, and even better, after you become prolific at making bullets, eventually you’ll be able to gin up enhanced ammo with twice the oomph.
Aside from that, RE3 also features a handful of Quick-Time Events of sorts where the graphics take on a film negative style and you have to select a course of action. Now, before you raise an eyebrow, these aren’t the life-or-death decisions they’re presented to be; there’s never a situation where making one choice over another will get you insta-killed, but there’s usually a choice that will force you to take an unnecessary detour or put you in a situation where you may have to burn some precious ammo.
However, the biggest new obstacle you’ll have to face is Nemesis himself, and he must’ve taken lessons from Clock Tower’s Scissorman, because he likes to show up at the least opportune time and you are DECIDEDLY not equipped to match up against him. When you see him, or more accurately, hear him bellow for S.T.A.R.S. blood, you’d better be ready to haul ass. On the upside, he does give Brad Vickers what he had coming, so you may find yourself rooting for him on some level, although that will be erased the next time, when your health is low and you just need to get to that item box and the end of this hallway and OH SHIT THERE HE IS AGAIN! Even more discouraging, not only is he damn nigh invincible (you can put him on his back, but if you dally, he’ll just get up and come right back for you), but he gets even stronger further into the game, including attacking you with a rocket launcher, because after all, what’s a tank without a cannon, right?
Thankfully, dealing with Nemesis isn’t as claustrophobic as say, fighting Hunters in the mansion from the original Resident Evil, as the third iteration makes Raccoon City itself one of the stars. Yes, instead of digging through a mansion or a police station for 90% of the game, here, you’ll be exploring a hefty chunk of the city proper, from gas stations to restaurants to the city newspaper offices, even the town hospital plays a major role in the proceedings this go-round, and although some might scoff at RE3 being less cramped than its predecessors, but it certainly seems a lot more believable to be scouring for items in different stores and buildings instead of one giant overengineered house.
Notable this time around is that this is the first iteration of the Resident Evil franchise that you cannot select your character. No, this time you’ll be making your escape as Jill Valentine, except for a short stint as Carlos Oliveira, one of Umbrella’s hired guns and a complete boogina, looking for a T-Virus vaccine for Jill, who SPOILER ALERT: catches the virus for reals this time despite probably being bitten several dozen times in the first RE. As I implied, Carlos doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table other than a plot-convenient sidekick, and mercifully, his section is rather short.
That being said, the classic puzzle solving rears its head again, along with the Resident Evil Logic you’ve come to expect by now. Not to give too much away, but RE3 might feature quite possibly the most frustrating puzzle in the entire franchise, and that’s a bold statement. Near the end of the game, you’ll find a sewage treatment plant used by Umbrella for whatever nefarious purpose, and to escape the facility, you have to analyze a sample of water by making three rows of lights come together to match the pattern of the water sample. It is, in my mind, the most convoluted, frustrating, junk-squeezing puzzle I’ve run across, and even the internet couldn’t provide a consistent solution. Aside from that, the other puzzles are solved through the same “find object, combine with other object, bring new object to place” ethos or can be figured out just by using what clues are in the vicinity, although it will make you wonder how the hell the citizenry of Raccoon City gets through their daily lives while having to live in this giant carnival funhouse.
Much like Resident Evil 2, there are some fun unlockables to be found here, including a mini-game similar to RE2’s 4th Survivor mode. Here, you take control of one of the three Umbrella Mercenaries you meet in the main game and run a gauntlet from the cable car where you meet them back to the starting point of the game, with a timer counting down. You can raise the timer by killing enemies, but you aren’t equipped to fight everyone, so you have to really pick your spots carefully. At the end, your performance is evaulated, and you’re rewarded with cash you can use to unlock freebies like an assault rifle with infinite ammo or even a rocket launcher, for use in the main game. Not only that, but some other sweet heaters can be acquired in the main game if you manage to topple Nemesis in the course of your encounters, and whîle that’s a tall order, it’s worth it if you manage to score the auto-cocking shotgun from Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Most everything about RE3 should feel familiar to veterans of the series, from the classic tank controls to the over-the-top campy voice acting. Graphics are certainly a step above the original RE, and the pre-rendered backgrounds are very well-detailed and add character to the urban setting. Play control’s pretty much the same, for better or worse, with a few new additions like the ability to target explosive elements of the environment (which will come in handy precious few times), and the ability to dodge enemy attacks (which will be mandatory if you intend to score loot off of Nemesis). Sound is high-quality, as can be expected from a late-era Playstation game, and to this day, if someone were to growl out “S.T.A.R.S.”, I’d probably tighten up a bit.
I would consider Resident Evil 3: Nemesis to be the end of the series, at least the true spirit of RE, (although depending on the day, I may either praise or crap on Resident Evil 0 and Code: Veronica X), but it’s a great way to cap off the original trilogy. It feels less like a run through a haunted house and more like an actual action/horror flick, which is good for me, at least, and it combines everything you already enjoyed and feared and unleashed it on a much grander scale, pitting you against an unstoppable villain. I highly recommend it to horror fans and anyone who just enjoys an excellent action game. Just make sure to get out before sunrise…trust me.
Enough new features to make this the best of the RE trilogy, you’re not stuck in one place for the overwhelming majority of the game this time.
Nemesis is going to be really annoying to deal with for some people, if you didn’t like RE already, this isn’t going to change your mind, and the Carlos section feels tacked-on.