A decrepit mansion filled with terrible creatures, a city set ablaze also plagued with the stuff of nightmares, and a conspiracy that ties them together. So far we’ve taken a look at the first two entries in the Resident Evil franchise, seen the roots of survival horror and watched as the series settled into its niche. Far from just settling, however, Capcom continued expanding upon the Resident Evil series into the third game. Adding new mechanics, new monsters, and fleshing out the story of the shadowy corporation Umbrella versus the elite S.T.A.R.S. team, the third game might be responsible for adding the most to the classic formula. With that, our retrospective on the series continues into the third game, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.
Like the second game, Resident Evil 3 sets itself in the still burning streets of Raccoon City. Taking place concurrently or shortly after Leon and Claire’s journey through the hellish city, the game manages to keep the retreading of old ground to a minimum. Callbacks can be found in the ruined police station and other areas from the second game, environmental clues that show that you’re just a few hours or so behind the protagonists of the Resident Evil 2. At first, it almost seems like the game is going to go through the same beats of its predecessor. And yet, after the throwbacks of the aforementioned police station, Resident Evil 3 ditches the old locales and opens up to Raccoon City proper. The journey through the streets of the city lead you through the shopping district, the city park and clock tower, the hospital, and plenty of other places, a rather large departure from the rather small area that the preceding game led you through. The game also manages to get back some of the tension that I feel was lost with the second game, though that’s due to both the environment and the added gameplay elements that I’ll touch on later. All in all, Raccoon City proper is a very compelling location for Resident Evil’s brand of horror.
Interestingly, Resident Evil 3 is the first game in the series to go with a singular protagonist. Jill Valentine from the first game is the protagonist, this time without Chris Redfield. While some may feel that the lack of two playable characters is a detriment to the replayability of the game, I personally feel that it allows the puzzle and encounter design to be far more focused. Without having to split attention between two separate characters, the narrative and gameplay flow is paced much better. However, there’s no need to worry about replayability even without two characters. New to the series is a branching path system for the story, key moments where you’re given a choice between two distinct options that usually completely change how you get to your ultimate destination. It’s a mechanic that seems to be fairly well realized, considering that this game is the first to have branching paths.
In addition to the branching paths, Resident Evil 3 adds a few more gameplay mechanics that shake up the core gameplay quite a bit. For example, a dodge mechanic when cornered in melee combat that lets the player slip out if they hit the dodge at the right time. A fairly tame addition, sure, but one that drastically changes up the core combat gameplay. With the addition of the dodge, you can risk fighting in tighter spaces and try to time dodges to stay alive, as well as generally taking riskier shots. Another rather game changing addition is a system that allows you to make your own ammunition. Scattered around the world as standard item pickups are various types of gunpowder. With the help of a new tool called the reloading tool, you can mix and match the different gunpowder to make bullets, shells, and grenade rounds for your various guns. As you can imagine, this adds another layer of player choice to the equation, as well as limiting the number of regular ammo drops found around the world. Deciding whether to use some gunpowder on pistol or shotgun rounds or save them for stronger, special grenade rounds is a choice you’ll find yourself making more often than not. And, remarkably, it manages to mesh nearly perfectly with the usual gameplay loop of Resident Evil’s survival horror.
Definitely the most important, and terrifying, gameplay addition is the Nemesis. A Tyrant-class bio-organic weapon tasked with hunting down and eliminating the members of S.T.A.R.S. left in Raccoon City. Since Jill is the last member left in the city, that means that she’ll be tracked down until either she or Nemesis is dead. Nemesis most certainly lives up to its name, making it a point to show up at the worst, most dangerous times to make your life hell. Armed with a rocket launcher attached to one arm and devastating strength that allows it to smash through barriers and walls to chase you down, you can never feel 100% safe spending too much time in one place. Worse still, if you manage to successfully down Nemesis in one of these encounters, its never really dead. Leaving the area and coming back will no longer have its body lying on the ground, instead leaving various ‘prizes’ for the effort until it shows up again. Of course, you finally must fight Nemesis as the final boss encounter in the game, but the build up of encountering it multiple times through the game really helps the atmosphere of actually feeling hunted by something large and incredibly dangerous.
Resident Evil 1 is a wonderful game, and Resident Evil 2 is as well, though not really adding terribly much to the formula. The third entry, however, is probably my favorite in the franchise. The blend of classic survival horror with the more action focused dodging in combat, the player choice in branching pathways and ammo management, and the terror of being chased by something that is absolutely set on killing you make this game such a treat to play and replay. Raccoon City is a wonderfully realized backdrop for everything that happens to you, and I personally am so glad that it was revisited from the second game and fleshed out far more. Nemesis is an excellent stalking monster that pushes you forward into new parts of the city and genuinely keeps you on your toes when you aren’t sure when exactly you’ll be ambushed again. All of these ingredients come together to make an excellent atmosphere, and an excellent game experience. I highly recommend playing this one if given the chance.