[Review] Resident Evil 3 Remake Highlights Action Instead of Horror

Horror game releases have been few and far between as the industry has largely seen a rise in action-based shooters and a resurgence of JRPGs. Resident Evil used to be a standard of the genre, so remastering the games in 2020 is an ambitious task. Resident Evil 3 takes the mantle of the latest Resident Evil game remastered, potentially showing a vision of what Capcom wants to do with the series moving forward.

Resident Evil 3 Remastered is the contemporary take on the game originally released in 1999. The story follows Jill Valentine, a member of an elite police corps investigating Umbrella Corps and its potential role in releasing a zombie virus onto the residents of Racoon City. As the virus gets out of control, Jill has to escape the city and find a vaccine with Carlos, a military man sent out to rescue as many survivors as possible.

Fundamentally, Resident Evil games are about horror. Yet, it’s tough to see the horror in Resident Evil 3. To be fair, the initial moments are terrifying; the player sees Jill in her house, worrying about whether or not she’s infected. After waking up from that nightmare, she wanders her house, littered with pizza boxes and clues of the Umbrella Corps participation in the creation of the virus. Nothing seems out of the ordinary until, the phone rings. Then, suddenly, you’re thrown into a vicious escape scene with the indestructible monster Nemesis who appears out of nowhere several times in your escape of Racoon City.

For the first third or so of the game (basically until you take control of Carlos), this atmosphere of suspense and horror dominates. The city is in shambles and Nemesis’s chase scenes where it seems you can do nothing to stop it are frightening.

However, the powerful horror atmosphere dissipates after you transition from the streets of Racoon City and go to the police station and Umbrella Corps secret lab. There are three major reasons for this ambiance change: 1) the different locations, 2) the turn to action and 3) zombie’s lacking the psychological horror typical to successful zombie games.

When it comes to location, the streets of Racoon City are the perfect scenes to bring out the horror of a zombie apocalypse. With the ruins of the city and zombies around every corner, gamers can see just how dangerous this zombie infestation is. However, in confined and relatively sterile places like a police station and the Umbrella Corps labs, it’s harder to see the larger effects of the zombies. Both are zombie infested, but they are more contained and less chaotic.

In these locations, action become the name of the game. Certainly, it makes sense – fill the narrow hallways with zombies and one cannot reasonably expect to get out of there without heavy weaponry. However, this sharply contrasts the first part of the game where all Jill had was a pistol and a knife (later a shotgun) to navigate the zombie-infested streets of Racoon City. The game turned from resource management and skillfully placed shots and rolls to a shooter.

Finally, the zombies lack the ability to create a sense of psychological horror. The zombie virus is said to transfer through bites, but they bite you if you are not able to shoot them down or avoid them in time. It doesn’t make sense that NPCs worry about getting bit once, but Jill and Carlos can get bit multiple times. In addition, if you can just mow them down with the heavy weapons, they pose less of a threat.

That being said, even if it doesn’t quite fit into the horror genre, the action elements of the game were well developed. Playing as Carlos, for example, felt natural. The gun-heavy spectacle that is his game style made it easy to take down hoards of zombies quickly. Switching between weapons felt natural as well and didn’t inhibit game play. As an action game, Resident Evil 3 definitely had its merits.

Following the success of last year’s remake of Resident Evil 2, this year’s Resident Evil 3 had a lot to live up to. Did it live up to the expectation? Probably not, given the high bar set by Resident Evil 2 and the amount of content cut from this remake. However, it does keep the original’s rather unique action-horror style genre, one that fans of the game are sure to love see return. 

So what will Capcom do next with the Resident Evil series and the remakes? Will they cut content? Will they focus on making remakes more popular for contemporary gamers (i.e., focusing more on action and gun fights)? Will they return to horror? Based on RE3’s remake, we might be looking at more action focused games in the future.

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