My introduction to the Resident Evil series was odd. First, I played Code Veronica, then Resident Evil 3 and Resident Evil 2 after that. I never got overly attached to RE2, but to this day hold RE3 in high regard. And as I’ve further delved into the world of RE, I’ve heard frequent statements that RE3 is a lot about action, much like many of its sequels.
Playing Resident Evil 3 as a teenager, I never noticed this, but looking at it now the game is indeed quite action-oriented. Action: the aspect that I so disliked about Resident Evil 5 and 6. But Resident Evil 3 is different – better – and I’m here to explain why.
First and foremost, Resident Evil 3 focuses on Jill’s escape from Raccoon City. This time, there’s no mansion to explore and no mysteries or conspiracies to uncover. It’s all entirely about getting out of the overrun city and shooting every zombie on your path. On its own, this premise already sets up a feeling of urgency. And if you’re playing on the Easy difficulty setting, the game even equips Jill with an assault rifle straight away.
But to experience the game to its fullest, you should always play on Hard. So, let’s assume that all you have is a handgun. Resident Evil 3 provides a generous amount of ammo and healing items to pick up, but there’re monsters everywhere. City streets are littered with zombies and nimble dogs, but shooting every single one isn’t feasible.
Instead, Jill is quick enough to outrun most of them and only engage in combat when absolutely necessary for progression. Quick-turn and dodge mechanics, though somewhat random, make it easy and everything goes smoothly until you encounter Nemesis. Based on the cover art alone, it’s clear what Nemesis looks like. But playing the game for the first time, you don’t know when to expect him or even what to do on your first encounter.
Roughly twice the size of a human, he jumps down from nowhere into the police station courtyard, mutilates poor Brad and proceeds to approach Jill. With only seconds to decide, what do you do? How do you take down this behemoth? Do you make a run for the police station or stand your ground and fight? At best you have a shotgun with around a dozen shells and a few clips of handgun ammo. Oh, and maybe a knife (good luck with that).
He’s unusually quick for his size, cuts distance fast if Jill gets too far away and has a number of powerful attacks. He can punch, which is the least problematic of his abilities, or employ poisonous tentacles to sometimes kill Jill in an instant. But with enough ammo, healing items and persistence, you can probably take him down and proceed safely ahead. Until next time, that is, because Nemesis is virtually invincible.
Nemesis ensures that you can’t just breeze through the game. He’s the action and the horror combined in a singular gameplay element. And even when you’ve played through the game multiple times and know how to deal with Nemesis, well… let’s be honest, neither you or I really know how to deal with Nemesis without shitting our pants. Even with a shotgun equipped, I still squeal like a pussy whenever he lunges towards me.
Of course, you can also ignore him for the most part, but that means looking over the shoulder upon entering any new room or hallway. In Resident Evil 2, Mr X couldn’t do anything about doors (loading screens) – “Well, guess I’m gonna chill here while they come back… they will come back, right?”. But this isn’t the case with Nemesis; doors don’t present an obstacle for him and you’ll have to engage in combat sooner or later.
Battles against him reward you with useful items and it’s the only way to obtain the STI Eagle 6.0 handgun and M37 shotgun. But regardless of what weapon you have equipped, hearing Nemesis growl “Staaaarrrrs” behind your back will send shivers down the spine.
Playing as a member of S.T.A.R.S. or a heavily armed Umbrella mercenary makes you appropriately powerful for the most part. However, Nemesis could jump down from the roof with a rocket launcher at any given moment. And your fancy Assault Rifle may as well be a regular BB gun. It’s not just about Jill either, as the segment with Carlos is similarly focused on action. Kind of like the five minutes with Steve in Code Veronica.
Here, numerous zombies roam an abandoned hospital as you must search for an antidote for ailing Jill. Deadly hunters with sharp claws provide a dose of horror. They can decapitate Carlos with a single attack if his health is too low. Not to mention that Nemesis doesn’t neglect Carlos either, even considering that he isn’t his primary target. These segments showcase that powerful weapons don’t really matter if the opposition is so formidable.
Finally, much like at the police station, Resident Evil 3 offers a selection of two choices at certain intervals. And not knowing how your decision will pan out is terrifying. A portion of the ground beneath you collapses and you must decide – hang on and stay on top? Or jump down into the unknown? Who knows what oversized rats (or worms) lurk below?
Sure, there’s an arsenal of immensely powerful weapons and seemingly greater freedom of movement. This focus on action is further accentuated by the greater availability of resources and the convenient ability to craft ammunition. And also by the addition of powerful automatic weapons, like the unlockable Assault Rifle and the Gatling Gun.
Some might argue that it’s much like the frequently panned Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6. But these games make you too powerful without introducing anything to properly challenge your confidence. An action game can still be terrifying if it has a threat which completely ignores your overpowered weaponry. And that just wasn’t the case with 5 and 6.
It’s Valentine’s Day – a perfect day to escape from Raccoon City. Replaying Resident Evil 3 now for who knows what time, it all falls into place for me. It’s the perfect equilibrium of action and horror which Capcom should’ve never deviated from. And if trailers of the upcoming remake are an indicator, the new game will remain true to this formula.