SECRET HISTORIES: Resident Evil (Part 3)

Part One       Part Two

We continue our look at the Biohazard series with the trilogy closer. Let’s get the party started with the revelation that Resident Evil 3 wasn’t even supposed to be the third game. It was intended as a spin-off to keep the fans happy until the true sequel arrived on the Dreamcast. Delays caused Capcom to change their plans, making the PlayStation spin-off a main title. Sega fanboys eventually got their fix with Code Veronica and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, or Biohazard 3: Last Escape, was released for the PS1 in 1999.

Unlike most Resident Evil games very little was changed during the development process, apart from a little more exportability with the RPD stage due to the “Spade Key” being available (fans will understand). But aside from that, there isn’t really much to report in comparison to RE2. Therefore, this will be a review of the retail version of Nemesis, which has dated rather well over the years.

Resident Evil 3 follows our heroine from the first game, Jill Valentine, in a fight to escape the now T-Virus infected Raccoon City. In a cunning twist, the events play out  24 hours before Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield began their adventure in the previous instalment. What else is there left to say? Naturally, Jill chooses the most appropriate clothing to survive… you know, really sensible gear that will keep you warm, has plenty of pockets to carry stuff and enough padding for any encounter with the infected. But, of course, she doesn’t. Jill fights the undead in a tight blue boob tube, a mini-skirt and knee-high boots. Well, I guess her clothes hug her body so much that she’s not going to get caught on any branches…. Not that I’m complaining or anything.

Jill must navigate her way out of the city and defeat the “Nemesis,” a Tyrant that is intelligent enough to use a rocket launcher and plan ambush attacks. He hunts her relentlessly until you pump enough led into him to sink a battleship.

The pre-rendered graphics were a large improvement, thanks to a greater integration of 3D objects and the best water spray effects you could get on a 32-bit console. Everything seemed sharp and clear; there were more individual enemies on-screen than Resident Evil 2, with the inclusion of a female breed of zombie for the first time in RE’s short history. However, graphically I wasn’t too impressed with the actual character model of Jill. It may be my nostalgic memories of 1999, but she didn’t have too much detail and it wasn’t rectified until the Dreamcast version, which smoothed out the design and even added a nose. The backgrounds also seem a lot more vibrant here:

I think the main thing that really bugged me as far as visuals were concerned, is the flicking between the ultra-high detail FMV sequences and the in-game cut-scenes. It had a real inconsistency and for some strange reason it really got on my nerves. Still that aside, RE3 really was one of the best looking titles of its time.

The gameplay was a large and innovative change over Resident Evil 2. They really concentrated on making the ‘tank-like’ controls a little easier to deal with. First of all, auto aim was now a default option, and they also threw  in a 180-degree turn, a dodge button and air conditioning as standard.

These essential lifesavers were a welcome set of moves that allowed for quick retreats and improved combat.

The bare bones weren’t the only thing to be improved upon. Some really great gimmicks were added, such as a kind of “choose your own fate” element to the game which acted like those story books you read when you were a child. This added a lot of replay value and also gave you two slightly different endings; one of which gave us back my favourite character in the series – the one and only Barry Burton.

The other gimmick was the addition of gun powder mixing. This consisted of mixing three types of gunpowder (with the aid of a mixing tool), which could be used individually or combined in a certain way to improve your ammo. This added some well-needed strategy, while allowing players to continue using the traditional ammo they picked up along the way. Therefore, the gimmick enhanced the game rather than taking it over. But perhaps the greatest embellishment was to allow someone to go up and down stairs without having to press a button to perform such a seemingly simple action.

This was the one thing I was expecting Resident Evil 2 to have implemented, since they had changed the prototype because it was “playing too much like the original game.” Finally, after three years of waiting, I got my wish to go up and down stairs freely.

Unfortunately, that’s where the fun stops, because the storyline for Resident Evil 3 is inexcusable. There are plot holes larger than the Guatemala sink-hole. For example: you start off on September 27th, with an introduction to Jill that doesn’t bother to explain who she is, where she is, or why the building she just erupted from is on fire. Not even 30 seconds later, she is being chased by zombies and it cuts to September 28th, where we find Jill talking to a random fat man in a warehouse. During this incoherent ramble, you’ve missed a whole area in which you could be exploring Raccoon City and actually getting to know this twit and his recently deceased daughter. I have no idea why they didn’t just start the game on the 28th, because the current prologue makes so sense.

This brings me to my next point: You can barely explore Raccoon City. The place seems to consist mainly of thin alleyways with barricades blocking the way. Also, the RPD has transformed with most of its doors now blocked, with no explanation. They also lazily lump Marvin in as a distraction for the game’s lack of scale. I could go on, but I won’t, for your sake.

You could put some of these complaints down to the hardware’s limitations and disk size, but what would be great to see is what we had in Resident Evil 2 – two discs with the option to play the game from a different perspective, or a different time period. This would allow improved exploration in other parts of the city, presumably with Carlos, the supposed playable character in Nemesis who ends up being useless.

You just know that if this was originally meant to be the official sequel to Resident Evil 2, they would have paid more attention to it and had a double-disc release with two characters and interweaving plotlines. Unfortunately, we’re just stuck with one story that barely changes through a second or third playthrough, leaving a bitter taste of disappointment in one’s mouth. They should have remade Nemesis for the Gamecube to provide two scenarios instead of porting it.

All in all:

Graphics are a large improvement, but if I were to recommend one version of the game it would have to be the Gamecube edition, although it’s rare to find and expensive to buy. If you want a quick, cheap download get it off the PSN store, but I’m not sure how it holds up on a HD console.

Gameplay is vastly improved, and in all honesty, I feel it beats Resident Evil 4 in value. Simply the best entry in the series to date for bringing new ideas to the table, as well as being the first Resident Evil game to add functions like the dodge and 180-degree turn.

Storyline really brings this game down a mark – it’s certainly the laziest in terms of writing and plot devices, but there are a few scenes that shine through enough for it to be enjoyable, good-natured schlock. If story isn’t your thing with games then you won’t care.

I’d have to say that Resident Evil 3, despite its horrific flaws, still stands up as a great game. It misses a few notes that could have made it as atmospheric as 2, but is still good enough to make you feel that you’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.

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About Andrew Cooper

Andrew is a screenwriter an freelance journalist. His favourite films range from 'Citizen Kane' all the way to 'Jaws: The Revenge' depending on mood and alcohol consumption. He is a great fan of the video game industry with a wide range of favourites. He also moonlights a s a ninja for hire.
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