Resident Evil 3 (2020) Review: Not Quite Five S.T.A.R.S

Throughout my first run of Resident Evil 3 (2020), I was conflicted as to my feelings about the game. Having recently played Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, it was impossible for me not to compare every inch of this “remake” to its largely beloved predecessor. Doing so is going to result in a lot of disappointment. The best way I can put it is that Resident Evil 3 (2020) is more of a sequel to Resident Evil 2 (2019) than a modern play-by-play of the PlayStation classic.

The parts are still there: Racoon City, Jill Valentine, Nemesis – you get the picture. It was when I came to this realization that I allowed myself to enjoy the game a lot more. After all, it’s still pretty great in its own right, and if you thoroughly enjoyed Resident Evil 2 (2019) as I did, there’s plenty to love about this one as well.


Let’s Talk About The Nemesis in the Room

Regardless of your relationship with the series, you’ve probably got some expectations for Nemesis. He’s arguably the most recognizable face of the Resident Evil series, even if it’s a face that a mother couldn’t love – not that Nemesis has a mother. His presence starts out pretty strong as he busts through the wall of Jill’s apartment to give her the what for. The initial chase (which is pretty much an auto-scroller) concludes with him and Jill tumbling off of a parking garage after a nasty fender bender, the crash and preceding explosion causing Nemmy to lose his fashionable trash-bag attire. I thought it was a pretty excellent idea to start off with the titular antagonist gnawing at the player’s heels only a few minutes after you get your hands on the controller. Sadly, his presence dwindles pretty quickly, and most of your dealings with him are in the form of four non-optional boss battles and some very linear running sequences.

Screenshot taken from RE3. Depicts Jill inside a store as Nemesis waits outside menacingly

Shop sign reads: “No dogs aside from assistance dogs, no eight-foot-tall bioweapons.”

The game’s area structure simply doesn’t allow for the elaborate, heart-wrenching game of cat and mouse from the original. You’ll seldom have to backtrack in areas or go out of your way to search for items. The original game was much more action-focused than its two previous titles, but it still had a decent amount of puzzles, backtracking, and narrow spaces. Of course, Resident Evil 3 (2020) being a modern title does mean that it has to widen the spaces a bit. The narrow back alleys of Racoon City were a massive factor in making Nemesis such a threat before, not to mention the tank controls and less-than-perfect dodge mechanic. Not that I’m making up excuses for the game, there’s plenty they could have done to make Nemesis more interesting. For one, it would have been nice to have spent more time with him in RC. The opening section where you’re roaming the city feels way too short, and as such, Nemesis’ presence feels minimal despite his best efforts to grab you, blow you up, and set you on fire. He goes into his second phase way too quickly as well. It wasn’t until you defeated him in the factory that he stopped being bipedal in the PlayStation title, but now he’s on all fours quicker than he can say “S.T.A.R.S.”


Wasn’t I Here Before?

Much like Resident Evil VII and Resident Evil 2 (2019), this latest title uses the lovingly crafted RE Engine to its full advantage. It’s particularly strong in its use of lighting, especially in the streets of RC where the dingy sidewalks are lit up by hastily abandoned flashlights, remains of police car sirens, and fires started in the sudden chaos of the outbreak. Resident Evil 3 (2020) is still a narrative treat like the others with its most compelling moments being told through the small details scattered throughout the game world. You’ll be avoiding cars like landmines, as it’s quite common for zombies to pop out of them, and there’re plenty of RPD officers looking to munch down on a Jill Sandwich (you knew it was coming at some point), these undead officers, of course, being a constant reminder of Jill’s colleagues who fought, to no avail, against the imposing horde of rotting flesh.

Screenshot taken from RE3. Depicts Jill in an alleway covered in neon light from a shop sign.

Where Resident Evil 3 (2020) falls short is its over-reliance on assets from Resident Evil 2 (2019). There’s a new sewer section that, while short, kind of feels shoehorned in so that assets from the previous game can be used. This is even more noticeable when you consider the absence of the clocktower area and the complete overhaul of the factory. Now it takes the form of a sister lab to the one from Resident Evil 2 (2019), and while the optimist might argue it’s to tie them together more, I fear it’s because they needed to use resources made for last year’s release. Plenty of games in the same engine do this, and it’s not always a problem, but Resident Evil 3 (2020) is slightly robbed of its own identity as a result. This one could have done with some time in the oven.


Bang, Bang, Splat

Combat this time is mostly the same as last year’s installment, and that’s no bad thing. Weapons have their different uses depending on the situation you’re in: the handgun is good for picking off enemies from a safe distance, the shotgun’s useful for dealing with large groups and monsters, and the grenade launcher is best used on the game’s persistent antagonist. You’ll also spend a good chunk of time with Carlos’ assault rifle, which lets you shred through groups of the undead with ammo left to spare. . Enemies are much less bullet- spongy than they were in Resident Evil 2 (2019) as well. This is a very welcome change, even on the harder difficulty levels, they don’t have the ridiculous amount of endurance that they did in last year’s game.

Getting out of RC alive takes more than just blasting your way through everything, however, which is where the new dodge mechanic comes in. It comes in incredibly handy for slipping by packs of zombies and ducking under Nemmy’s meaty fists. If you time it perfectly, you even get a few seconds in slow motion where you’re able to aim a few shots at the enemy’s weak point. Carlos takes a more direct approach than Jill; his dodge command sees him barging into opponents no-holds-barred. If you time it right, he’ll even deliver a hefty punch to his foe ala Chris Redfield. 

It’s Finally… Over.

 Resident Evil 3 (2020) is a good game but not a good adaptation. I do worry that it doesn’t have enough replay value for the casual player. With the absence of live selection, random enemy placements, and mercenaries mode, some players may come away feeling it’s a little bare bones. The game does offer two post-game difficulty modes to unlock: nightmare and inferno. These change up enemy and item placements to add an extra challenge, which is nice for people who like the punishing difficulty, but it fails to add much for players who don’t enjoy the challenge. Luckily, most of these problems can hopefully be rectified in the future with new content via free updates or larger, paid DLC.

Screenshot taken from RE3. Depicts Jill aiming her handgun at a bobblehead doll.

Bobblehead collectibles return! There are 20 to find in total.

I’m currently enjoying my third playthrough of Resident Evil 3 (2020), and I intend to enjoy a fourth, too. It’s a game that feels extremely rewarding to play quickly and well. Coming up with different ways to deal with enemy groups and item management becomes pretty methodical. If you enjoyed multiple playthroughs of last year’s hit, then I’m sure you’ll have fun with this one too.