Review by xanxus
Reviewed: 07/31/03 | Updated: 07/31/03
An ordinary day in Raccoon City
No, this isn’t a mention of Resident Evil’s elite troop and protagonists, nor is it my way of paying tribute to the importance of the Special Tactics And Rescue Squad in the whole series. This is Nemesis’s, a powerful monster created by none other than the obnoxious Umbrella Corporation, own way of repeating this simplistic monosyllable over and over again as he pursues you throughout the whole game, keen to tear through your limbs and feed on your flesh. Prepare yourself, because Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is where you’ll experience a true traumatic experience with a seemingly invincible and horrific juggernaut chasing you around Raccoon City and other locales, wielding a huge rocket launcher and making his presence known by spewing this emblematic acronym before crashing into a wall or running across a room within seconds.
Of course, it’s quite presumptuous to state that the game’s whole weight rests on Nemesis’s shoulders although it is nevertheless true your nightmare is very capable of accomplishing such a feat. However, the way this frantic hide-and-seek is pulled is stunning and manages to create a gripping mood where, in addition to all the regular dangers of Raccoon City, you need to be weary of Nemesis appearing again just when you think the coast is clear. There’s no denying Capcom tried to create something fresh and mind-numbing, which would eclipse even Tyrant’s appearance in the precedent opus, and they succeeded. If anything, play Resident Evil 3 for this striking one-on-one battle, with Jill Valentine under your control and the constantly-mutating Nemesis on the other. This David and Goliath clash is a wicked one, and will haunt whoever plays this game for nights.
This is my last escape...
It should be noted that the events portrayed Resident Evil: Nemesis do not actually take place after the second opus. Its real purpose is to explain how Raccoon City came to be infested by zombies and other mutants, Umbrella’s reaction to this sudden outburst of violence and gore, and Jill Valentine’s crusade to solve those mysteries. Given how the series fans kept complaining about all the loose ends that reduced the credibility of the whole plot, Capcom thus went forward and released Nemesis to appease them. Don’t let this fool you into believing this is a rushed attempt though because this release is technically the best in the series on the PlayStation, and while it unfortunately does not manage to attain the atmosphere present throughout RE2, its upgraded and polished game engine make it generally more fun to play. In addition, it benefits from an insane difficulty that should appeal to those who like undertaking hard missions and love battling against zany foes.
There’s also the fact that this time, we actually get to plough across various locales as opposed to the single exhaustive location precedent titles would force upon us. Sure, some have thus complained that the claustrophobic feel present in the previous titles is missing, but I never found such blank statements to be verified, as the game is still engrossing and viciously captivating. Indeed, while the adventure begins in Raccoon City, Jill’s ‘last escape’ eventually leads her to a clock tower and finally a power plant, and her crusade in the town itself enables her to visit different locations. The town itself is quite big, and displays some familiar puzzles involving tools found in previous titles while the other locales call for fresh ones, some of which can get quite esoteric.
Nemesis’s replay value is also heightened by the fact that a few puzzles have random solutions. Although these several outcomes do come from a definite list and are chosen as the game starts, it’s a nice addition and contributes to give the game more appeal, as well as make it considerably more challenging. Moreover, it encourages the gamer to play through it again simply for the purpose of seeing whether he’s capable of solving all the puzzles each time and improving his rank. Add to this the fact that even item locations can change, and Resident Evil 3 is a game that never loses its charm.
Jill will also have to deal with numerous threats while trying her best to dispose of Nemesis without losing too much time and blood. This final PlayStation release has actually enabled Capcom to implement a larger number of features, some of which are lifted from Dino Crisis. Among those is the ability to perform a 180 degree turn. This quickly becomes an important aspect in the game, especially when you’re surrounded by half a dozen zombies, which frequently happens, and should be mastered as early as possible. Alongside it is a dodge which is performed by tapping the aim button. Successfully pulling this defensive move enables Jill to avoid enemy attacks and to retaliate with her own arsenal of weapons. Such an addition may look nice on paper, but it’s improperly implemented and cannot be relied upon most of the time.
Still, you may try to get used to it since a lesser extent because you’ll need every trick you know of throughout your escape because the locales are literally infested with enemies. The zombies themselves now come in various forms and will prove surprising tenacious on various occasions. While Capcom mainly relied on having them charge towards you in groups for the fear effect in the previous titles, the zombies now seek to take you by surprise. Don’t fret though; packs of enemies still loiter around and ‘Uuuhhh’ upon you, arms fully stretched, sporting various wounds and eyes dangling from their sockets. Be shocked as a previously downed zombie suddenly gets up just as you turn your back to it, and prepare to deal with others that jump at you from cars and other vehicles, hide behind doors, crawl towards you, and show up at the least desirable moment.
Other trademark enemies such as the annoyingly quick dogs, the vicious hunters, the crows and giant spiders, which will poison you, also dutifully jump in to render the game even more thrilling. To make the task of disposing of those foes a little easier, Jill now also has the ability to aim at objects such as barrels that explode, thereby annihilating any enemies close to it. Such objects can be directly aimed at by pressing the R2 button, which makes the task even simpler although it remains relatively hard to actually get the monsters to approach the exploding stuff in some cases. The addition of this neat trick proves ultimately rewarding and beneficial, as it enables you to conserve your ammunition, which is very important in the game.
As far as weapons go, Jill starts with a custom handgun created for S.TA.R.S. members, but acquires better and deadlier artillery as she progresses, such as a sawed-off shotgun, an automatic assault rifle and the fabled rocket launcher, which will blow any regular enemy away within seconds. Among the new ones is the mine launcher, which implants itself into your aggressor to explode after a couple of seconds. It’s fun to mess with, and is always the best weapon to use for gory effects. It still doesn’t eclipse the magnum though, my favorite weapon. The mere sight of this baby will suffice to shock whoever’s around you although you may need to watch out for the recoil.
The inclusion of a gunpowder mixing ability, while interesting at first, proves to be cumbersome and stupidly exhaustive, and I personally stopped caring about it after some time. Its principle, which amounts to combining various doses of two powders to create more powerful rounds, proves cumbersome after a while. There’s also the fact that it’s not really required throughout the game, as your regular weapons are enough to deal with potential threats, and it unnecessarily uses up your inventory slots. And it definitely feels an awkward process amidst all the violence going on around you.
One of the most talked about features, the Live Selection, adds to the game seamlessly although it is not as ground-breaking as it was made out to be. At some points in the game, the action freezes for a second amidst some cool effects and you will be presented with 2 choices. Each is obviously followed by different sequences and determines the next few minutes of the game, and it is not surprising to see that most of those revolve around Nemesis himself. Take too much time to decide what to do, and the game automatically proceeds via the default selection, which most of the time proves to be the least recommendable. All these features contribute to give RE3 a polished game engine where there’s a ton to do in spite of the short length (which shouldn’t be very surprising since this is Resident Evil we’re talking about).
Unfortunately, there’s a slight disadvantage to this exciting state of affairs, as RE3 is never as atmospheric, nor as traumatic as its predecessor. While it compensates with its never-ending cast of monsters and extremely tough puzzles in some cases, it can never boast to reach the standards set by Resident Evil 2. Moreover, the relative linearity of the whole game means it never places as much emphasis on exploration, which played a preponderant place in its legendary predecessor. Granted, there are a couple of instances when puzzles will require you to trek through long distances and to explore different locations, but these are not enough. Thankfully, the sharp-edged nature of the game, with its resistant mutants, vicious plot twists, and combat approach, counterweighs these minor flaws.
Along the way, Jill meets up with three mercenaries, who have been sent by Umbrella to ensure the civilians manage to get away from the virus. Of course, given Umbrella’s role behind the chaos in Raccoon City and long-lasting record of illegal activities, these reasons should be taken with a grain of salt, and throughout the course of the game, the real motives for their hiring are revealed. Among them is Carlos, a guy with a false accent, who quickly strikes up a friendship with Jill. You even get to control him for a short time, as Jill herself is knocked out and it’s up to Carlos to save the day. Mikhail, on the other hand, has very little to do with the overall plot, but it’s surprising how Capcom nevertheless managed to bestow him with a crucial role and thus turn him into a memorable character. Or it may just be me and my fascination for mercenaries.
Every game needs a traitor who’s present for very obscure reasons, and Resident Evil, as a game where the story is very important, is no exception. In this case, the faux frère is Nikolai, the Russian leader of the team sent in by Umbrella, who will disgust you with his morally questionable actions, even going as far as impeding your own mission. There have been several great side characters during the whole Resident Evil saga, but Nikolai simply grabs the top spot with his blatantly dubious behavior and his attitude and reactions in general. I’m however ready to blame my liking for him on my long-lasting preference for bad guys in most cases.
They have forgotten what fear and survival mean.
The Resident Evil has always been known for its additional mini-games, as was the case of the excruciatingly hard The 4th Survivor in the second opus, and RE3 superbly continues the trend. As a matter of fact, this is where this title beautifully shatters RE2 with its sublime The Mercenaries mode, where you pick one of them (Carlos, Mikhail, and Nikolai) and have to run across the city to rescue six hostages while avoiding falling prey to an over-aggressive mutant. Every monster encountered throughout the game is present in this mode, including the redoubtable Nemesis himself, who stalks you in all of its forms.
In pure Resident Evil tradition, you start your seemingly impossible quest already hampered by a time limit and limited resources. Nikolai, the Mr. T of the game, single-handedly strikes out as he starts with only 15 rounds. Considering how particularly vicious the enemies get here, it’s a feat to actually be able to make it through on the hardest mode. The Mercenaries mode is simply too brilliant to put in words, as it takes very little to choke under the weight of all the monsters roaming across the town. Now, imagine that you have limited time to reach your goal, and you’ll understand why the mere act of thinking about this addition has so much effect on me.
The good dose of strategy required gives The Mercenaries even more appeal, as it’s no longer a mere case of unloading a couple of rounds on zombies and mutants now. You’re asked to know when to shoot to earn extra time, which very often proves to be enough to secure a win, and when to zig-zag between the troops of enemies that are nonchalantly waiting for you further on. It takes a true dedicated gamer to master The Mercenaries, and if like me, you love testing your skills and overcoming apparently insurmountable tasks, this mode is definitely for you.
As in RE2’s 4th Survivor, good knowledge of the environments and monsters, proper handling of your character, and precision are required, making it a truly fulfilling mode. Attaining the highest ranks for the best prizes also requires a lot of effort, something which I never tire of doing provided I’m being nicely rewarded, which is the case here, as it’s possible to unlock an infinite ammunition option for Jill in the regular mode. Plus, of course, controlling the mercenaries is always very cool!
To complete the package, the regular mode itself has a few oddities thrown in to increase replay value and to compensate for the game’s unavoidable inheritance of a short life span. Epilogues are unlocked upon completion of the game, and there are eight of those to collect with a couple dedicated to Leon and Claire. Finally, Jill can also obtain new costumes based on the rank she obtained. Getting the best ranks is harder than it seems which makes unlocking all the costumes quickly a feat.
You want S.T.A.R.S.? I’ll give you S.T.A.R.S.!
As a final Resident Evil effort on the PlayStation, this first opus was almost doomed to benefit from outstanding visuals that would make the most of the console’s capabilities. While some of the foreboding atmosphere had to be sacrificed at the same time, it is eclipsed by the surreal work accomplished on the backgrounds. Raccoon City is wonderfully depicted as a shambling city with an astounding level of realism. Subtle details such as shattered glass, battered cars, sealed doors and windows, raging fires, and puddles of water further contribute to make RE3 a visual prowess.
The feeling of walking through an abstract painting is reinforced by the generous use of light effects to give each locale its own distinct identity. The clock tower’s inexorable destruction, partly due to Nemesis running about and acting like a maniac, is divine, and the power plant itself looks abandoned and has a feeling of rust about it. Resident Evil 3 is assuredly polished, with sumptuous graphics, and the decrepit nature of the different locations plays a huge part in the psychological effect on the gamer.
However, the most breathtaking part still remains the monsters, which by their diversity and appropriately fearsome designs, actually manage to steal the spotlight from Jill, whose animation is dubious in certain instances. Be these the varied zombies, hunters or ravenous dogs, considerable time seems to have been spent on them, and the result is an onslaught of brilliant enemies to blow or evade. Obviously, big ol’ Nemesis himself sports an earth-shattering presentation, and his transformation throughout the course of the game is truly disturbing.
As useful as ink ribbons are in the game, as full of purpose is the short tune that plays as soon as you enter one of those storage rooms. This melancholic theme superbly represents the sound quality in the game, and works as a charm as the one that pops up whenever you continue from a save file. This quality is kept with foreboding themes that appropriately convey the dark atmosphere of the game, and the score is one I never get tired of. Again, Nemesis reigns as an undisputed king. You’ll feel a thrill as his trademark music slowly but inexorably takes over to suddenly explode in a fiery composition just as the S.T.A.R.S. hunter jumps onto you out of nowhere.
The scrapping of the zombies as they walk towards you, their groans as they extend their arms to choke you, the scurrying of the dogs, Nemesis’s motto; these are mere examples of the plethora of sound effects present in the game. Each is a masterpiece in itself, and the different weapons are accurately pulled off. Similarly, voice-acting is well done with convincing actors. While Jill is standard fare, the mercenaries, particularly Carlos and Nikolai, are superb and are helped by coherent and interesting dialogues, as opposed to the main protagonist’s sheer stupidity in most instances.
They can’t stop my last escape…
Considered by many as a weak entry in the Resident Evil saga due to its lackluster feel when compared to its predecessor, this third release is nevertheless one of the finest games on the PlayStation. For me, it’s one of the top 10 games ever released on the console, and one I can play over and over again –although I’m merely sticking to The Mercenaries side mode now.
It may not have the same choking grip as RE2, but take it for what it’s worth. Its game mechanics are the best in the series. With the new options thrown in while still putting emphasis on skill, it is a trauma-inducing adventure. Not only because of the atmosphere, but also because of the effort required to master it completely. No other survival horror game has placed so much emphasis on precision and knowledge prior to RE3. If the ‘Horror’ part has unfortunately decreased, the net increase in the ‘Survival’ factor will keep you hooked. It’s an insane experience, where blowing mutants and solving puzzles seamlessly combine to result in something unique.
Do you hear it? He’s coming to destroy you. Alone, he makes Resident Evil 3 thrilling. Alone, he opposes your quest for the truth. Alone, he destroys all the villains featured in survival horror games prior to his splendid apparition.
Nemesis is coming!
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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