What Went Wrong With Resident Evil 3 Remake?

NOTE: There are minor location-specific spoilers ahead for Resident Evil 3’s remake.

As soon as the incredible Resident Evil 2 came out in January 2019, it became clear to almost everyone that a similar remake of  Resident Evil 3 would follow in its footsteps not long afterward. The original Resident Evil 3: Nemesis had launched quite close to its own predecessor, and the two have always been viewed as games that are very closely linked to each other, so it made too much sense that Capcom would want to take the solid foundation they had established with the RE2 remake and use that to modernize Resident Evil 3 in similar fashion.

Using the RE Engine, they could bring Raccoon City to life better than ever before. Using the over-the-shoulder perspective brought back by Resident Evil 2, they could put a new spin on the original RE3’s experience. And with a remake, they could breathe new life into the connections – narrative and otherwise – the these two games did back when they first came out on the PS1. 

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Resident Evil 3 is out now, and it’s… it’s fine. It’s an excellent-looking, polished game that can be a lot of fun to play. It’s far from the worst this series has ever produced, and as I mentioned in my review, it’s isolation it’s not bad game at all. The problem comes, as it often does, from expectations. And let’s face it- when you’re making a game in a series as illustrious as Resident Evil, and when that game is following hot on the heels of two excellent back-to-back releases, and when the game that you’re making is a remake of what is considered to be one of the series’ finest entries, you have to deal with expectations, and ensure that you live up to them. On this front, Resident Evil 3 fails in multiple ways.

For starters, even though Resident Evil 3 is far better in isolation than it is when it is compared to other games in the series, it does have issues in isolation as well. The biggest of those issues it that it’s too short. Yes, the original Resident Evil 3 was also a short game, and yes, last year’s RE2 was also fairly short, but those games had other things going for them. 

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis had things such as Live Selections and randomization of various items and pickups that encouraged replays. Finishing the game multiple times rewarded players with multiple unique cutscenes on each playthrough (up until a certain number, of course). And it had the Mercenaries mode. The remake cuts out Live Selections, and though it does replace Mercenaries with Resistance, it is a pretty rough experience, at least in its current state.

Resident Evil 2’s remake, on the other hand, made up for being a short game by having two campaigns (though, to be fair, those two campaigns did overlap with each other quite a bit). It also had Mr. X, who’s unpredictable and unscripted behaviour meant that every playthrough would bring new threats. Nemesis doesn’t really have that going for him (and I’ll discuss this in more detail in a bit). Meanwhile, modes like 4th Survivor and Tofu Survivor weren’t cut out either. The Ghost Survivors was also added as DLC, and I’m hoping that Capcom will do something similar with RE3 as well- though it’s much likelier that they’ll want to focus their post-launch support on Resistance instead.

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The next (and for many the most obvious) way that RE3’s remake disappoints is that it doesn’t live up to the legacy of the game that it is based on. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is often overlooked in discussions about the series, but make no mistake- it is one of the best and one of the most unique entries in the series. From the way it expanded the series’ scope by letting players lose in Raccoon City to how it introduced one of the most iconic villains in the series’ history, from how it encouraged replay value with things such as Live Selections and the Mercenaries mode to its incredible level design, the original Resident Evil 3 was an absolute gem. The remake, sadly enough, throws most of that out the window.

Stepping out into the burning streets of Raccoon city was an exciting moment back in 1999. After hearing so much about it in Resident Evil 1 and glimpsing some parts of it in Resident Evil 2, RE3 did what a sequel should do and expanded the scope even further. It was the perfect progression, and what we got to see of it more than lived up to expectations. With the remake, Capcom had promised that using the better hardware available to them now and using the impressive RE Engine, they would bring Raccoon City to life like never before. They also promised that it would be a fairly large environment, and though they made it clear on multiple occasions that it would by no means be open world, they did say that it would encourage plenty of exploration. 

Those promises turned out to be… not very true. Surprisingly enough, Raccoon City in the remake somehow feels even smaller than its original counterpart. In the original, the uptown and downtown areas felt quite sizeable, and you spent quite a bit of time in these locations owing to their winding, inter-connected design and the backtracking that they required (more on this in a bit).

In the remake, much of that is gone. Based on pre-release hands-on impressions and the demo, RE3 remake’s Raccoon City was promising to be a much larger version of its old self, but as we now know, most what of Capcom showed of the environment at that time was the whole thing. Other than one single streets in front of the RPD’s garage – a street that we already saw in RE2 remake, by the way – everything we saw of Raccoon City in the game, many of us had already seen before. Once the city section of the game was over, I couldn’t help but think with some disappointment- “wait, that’s it?”

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I’m sure that if you were to talk about pure size, the new Raccoon City would seem like a respectable recreation- but it’s about more than that. Much more important is how that location is used, which is where the backtracking and inter-connected design I mentioned earlier come in. These are two things that the original RE3, and much of the series as a whole, have always been known for, but those aspects have been heavily pared back in the remake.

Yes, Raccoon City does have some locked alleys and stores that you can backtrack to and access with your lockpick and bolt cutter, but backtracking as a whole still feels far too limited. You don’t spend nearly enough time in the environment to really get familiar with it and its design, which is a shame, because from the Spencer Mansion in RE1 to the RPD building in RE2 right down to the Baker residence in RE7, becoming extremely familiar with a location’s design owing to how much time you spend in it has always been one of this series’ hallmarks.

And it’s not just Raccoon City that suffers from this in the remake. Nearly every other location in the game – maybe with the exception of the hospital – feels disappointingly linear and small-scope. Hell, there aren’t even a great many puzzles to introduce some variety and add to the length, and the few puzzles that do exist are pretty disappointing- which is especially weird, not only because puzzles are a staple of this franchise, but also because the original Resident Evil 3 had quite a few puzzles.

That’s not the only disservice Resident Evil 3’s remake does to the original in terms of locations though. It also entirely cuts out entire sections from the original game. On its own, cuts in remakes don’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Resident Evil 2 made some cuts itself last year, and most of them – with the exception of zapping and the changes they made to the A and B campaigns – worked out very well. But when you combine cuts with a short length, which we discussed earlier, that does become an issue. Because if Capcom had not cut out the Clock Tower or the Park or the Factory – and if they’ve made the small locations of RE3 a little larger and more fleshed out – they no doubt would have ended up with a respectable length for a campaign. It also doesn’t help that some of the things they cut out – such as the Grave Digger boss fight or the aforementioned Clock Tower – were crucial segments in the original Resident Evil 3, and fans were really looking forward to seeing that stuff in the remake. 

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But the thing fans were looking forward to more than anything else was Nemesis. Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat- Nemesis is not a complete disappointment. In terms of his visual design, his transformation throughout the game, the narrative surrounding him, and the boss fights, he is perfect. His portrayal is top-notch, and does justice to the overbearing presence he had in the original game. 

He does disappoint from a gameplay perspective though, because he’s mostly relegated to scripted encounters, and has a very limited presence as a stalker-type enemy. Nemesis in the original wasn’t much of a stalker either, and his appearances were largely scripted, even though the game did mask that scripted nature as something more dynamic pretty well. But guess what- Mr. X in the original, Resident Evil 2 was also largely scripted and not much of a stalker enemy, and yet the remake turned him into a constant, dynamic, unpredictable threat. There was no reason Capcom could not have transformed Nemesis in similar fashion.

They should have transformed him in similar fashion. They should have taken the Mr. X template and replaced him with a much more versatile, much more intelligent, and much more threatening enemy. In fact, on multiple occasions, that is exactly what Capcom promised– that he would be a much more relentless and intelligent pursuer than Mr. X. And yet, much like their promises with how they would expand Raccoon City, that turned out to be a bit of an exaggeration. Other than a part of the game where Nemesis follows Jill like a stalker-type enemy, he only ever appears in scripted scenarios what’s worse is that that part is over very quickly. It’s barely twenty minutes long, if that, depending on how you play.

Finally, Resident Evil 3’s remake also disappoints coming hot on the heels of last year’s RE2. And that’s not just because expectations after that excellent game were sky-high, but also because there were things that it did that RE3 should logically have done as well, but doesn’t do. For instance, gore has been toned down quite a lot, while dismemberment physics are gone, which takes away from the impact and punchiness of the combat quite a bit. The difficulty also feels much more forgiving, which puts a hit in the tension and fear factor. 

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Viewed purely on its own merits and outside of the context of all the expectation, Resident Evil 3 is a far less disappointing game. It still has issues – such as its short length – but it has plenty going for it as well. It’s an absolutely gorgeous game, it’s perhaps the best-written game in the entire series, the cutscenes are superbly directed, Jill and Carlos are excellent characters and their slowly growing bond has been portrayed very well, and the boss fights are spectacular. But as much as we might want to, we cannot ignore those expectations. That comes with the territory of remaking a beloved game, and making a game in such a fabled franchise.

What’s surprising is that Resident Evil 3 has been in development for three years, and by all accounts, it’s development has gone pretty smoothly. This is clearly the game Capcom wanted to make, and they had enough time to make it. Resistance was outsourced and developed by Neobards Entertainment, and the team that developed the actual remake part of the package had little to do with that, so that obviously wasn’t a distraction for them. It’s hard, then, to figure out why this was the game they wanted to make, because clearly, it has a lot of issues that hold it back from realizing its potential.

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