Perhaps it was somewhat foolish to expect that a Resident Evil 3 remake, no matter how radical, could manage to reach the heady heights of last year's sublime Resident Evil 2. With much weaker source material to work from – there ain't no Raccoon City Police Department here – this one was always likely to be an uphill struggle for Capcom – however, we definitely didn't expect it to disappoint us to this extent.
What's here at times feels like a quick cash-in, a straight to TV follow-up to Resi 2's beautifully-crafted main feature – a rework that strips out entire locations from the original game, removes puzzling pretty much entirely and hurls its players headlong through a short, tightly-confined and heavily-scripted campaign that comes crashing to an unreasonably abrupt ending. Gone is the slow-burn creeping tension of tip-toeing your way through hugely atmospheric locations, replaced here by an obnoxiously bright and noisy blast of the sort of action-centric Resi hijinks that saw the series lose its way for so long.
After an opening sequence that very briefly introduces us to a troubled Jill Valentine before caving the walls of her apartment in and flinging us through a heavily scripted chase sequence against the Nemesis, Resident Evil 3 settles down into what turns out to be its strongest act. Given relative freedom to explore the beautifully-realised and expanded streets of Raccoon City you get a chance to investigate and wander through your iconic surroundings. There are locked doors here, fire-filled alleyways and a subway system to get back up and running- a handful of satisfyingly traditional Resident Evil problems to be solved as you slip in and around streets that are heavily populated by the shambling undead. Then, just as you're settling into your rhythm, you're sucked right back out of it and into a cavalcade of scripted action sequences, tired boss battles and – besides a late sojourn through a hospital that manages to inject a little bit of tension – a bunch of locations and situations that feel pretty uninspired.
The Nemesis, this game's answer to the Tyrant from Resi 2, is a disappointingly scripted beast. You'd be forgiven for having expected something more freeform as an adversary, something in the same vein as what you got from last year's relentless pursuer. However the big bad here is consigned to a handful of scenes that feel sloppy and tired. Make no mistake, they look amazing, this is easily the best-looking entry in the series to date, but they're a messy and unsatisfying experience to play. Scripted chases constantly wrestle control away from the player and the proper 1v1 face-offs, the smattering of fights which see you finally go toe-to-toe with your enormous foe are the worst kind of boss battles – running around in circles pumping as many rounds of ammo as possible at the enemy until he switches to the next phase – at which point the game will explain to you exactly what you need to do now, lest you accidentally engage your own brain momentarily.
In terms of gameplay, everything here exudes a slapdash, haphazard attitude. Ammo is overabundant, strewn all about the place and we never once felt like we were anywhere near running low, going into every major encounter fully loaded and ready to destroy whatever awaited us. This slapdash approach extends itself to how you discover upgrades and solve the handful of painfully trivial puzzles the game lays before you. Hip pouch expansions, once locked cleverly away in safes or requiring some pass code to get your hands on, are simply left lying around for you to pick up, one even sat right beside a typewriter with zero effort required on your part to earn it.
Speaking of typewriters, there are far too many dotted along your route here and as a result, there's never any extended period where you'll feel challenged to survive in this survival horror game; safety – and a ton more ammunition – is always just around the corner. It all feels so disappointingly scrappy in ways you would never expect of such a huge remaster, we even found ourselves with upgrades in our inventory for guns we hadn't even found yet. It speaks to a lack of care in how levels have been laid out and adds to that overwhelming feeling of being pumped through the entire experience as quickly as possible. And you will be done with this one quickly. Our first run lasted us a total of five-and-a-half hours, and, beyond a handful of in-game achievements to unlock, a few bobbleheads to smash and a checklist of records to tick off in the game's menu, there's really no reason to jump back in here – no second, third or fourth run with a different character.
In terms of the combat too, for an entry that has always been more action-oriented, it's a disappointing state of affairs. The impressively engaging and hugely detailed zombies of Resident Evil 2, capable of darting in and around your bullets, lurching at you quickly and bursting through doors to keep you under pressure are a distant memory here, replaced by shambling idiots who spend far too much time rubbing awkwardly against scenery and struggling to make their way through wide-open doors. They also seem to soak up far more targeted damage without the range of reactions they exhibited in last year's effort, making your guns feel for the most part like they're not connecting properly. The shotgun still manages to blow legs off and make heads disappear in a fine red mist but your pistols and assault rifles just don't feel satisfying to fire off. If you're going to plump for all-out action, it's probably best to ensure your combat's as polished as it can get, rather than seeming like a downgrade from what directly preceded it.
And yet, it's not all entirely bad news. That extended opening sequence in Raccoon City definitely scratches an itch, there's a mid-game return to the RPD that ties beautifully into events you'll have experienced in Resi 2 and the hospital level we mentioned earlier manages to settle things down somewhat, giving you a chance to sneak around its blood-soaked corridors before introducing you to one the game's scariest enemy types. In terms of characters too, both central protagonists are pretty well-realised here. Jill has a seriously satisfying attitude problem and Carlos – although he begins the game acting like a reprehensible dick – settles down during the periods where you play as him and ends up being pretty likeable. There's also one sequence that charges Carlos with defending a stricken Jill that leans 100% into the action setup and ends up being the game's one truly breathless sequence as a result.
This handful of highlights aside, however, there's no doubt this is a disappointing back-step for these newly revitalised editions of Resi classics. Over the course of the five to six hours you get here most of your time will likely be spent wondering what on earth is going on. The story takes a backseat, we could rarely remember what exactly we were doing at any given moment, and the whole thing just rockets along far too quickly, a haphazard mess of scripted sequences and corridors that funnel you from beginning to end without giving you very much to feed off or experiment with.
In an attempt, we're assuming, to smooth over the fact the main event is so short-lived, Resident Evil 3 comes packaged with a 4v1 multiplayer Resistance mode which sees you and four other players assume the roles of either teen survivors or a Mastermind villain who needs to lay down troublesome traps and spawn enemies. Survivors each have different skill sets to utilise in order to escape the various obstacles set by the Mastermind character, working together to earn their freedom. It's not a bad mode, but it also suffers from the same main problem as a lot of these asynchronous multiplayer offerings – namely that playing as the bad guy is by far the most entertaining aspect of proceedings and finding yourself thrown into the role of a survivor is tinged with disappointment every time. It also relies massively on how well the players you get bunched together with work as a team.
From what we played it's certainly got some potential, especially if you can wrangle a bunch of pals into playing rather than relying on randoms. It's a decent freebie packaged alongside a pretty disappointing main game, however, and one that we wouldn't really say is worth the price of admission to experience.
Resident Evil 3 is a short, heavily scripted and somewhat scrappy follow up to last year's sublime Resi 2 remake. The series' trademark slow-burn tension and gentle puzzling are replaced here by all-out action that feels far too safe and linear – for the most part, a series of tightly confined corridors bookended by sloppy boss battles and chase sequences which tend to wrestle control away from the player in an effort to add unnecessary cinematic flair. There are a handful of highlights; graphically, it's the best the series has ever looked and both Jill and Carlos are decent re-imaginings of the original characters but, overall, this one struggles to reach anywhere near the heights of its predecessor. Combat feels disappointing for the most part, the Nemesis is underutilised and the whole thing is over far too quickly, with very little in the way of replay value.