To put it simply, Resident Evil 3 remake is 1999’s Resident Evil 3: Nemesis reimagined and recreated in the same engine used for the Resident Evil 2 remake. It’s an oversimplification but it best sums up what you’re getting, at least based on two runs through the Resident Evil 3 “Raccoon City Demo”. Just as RE3: Nemesis released less than a year after fantastic Resident Evil 2, building on the same foundations but with a fresh story and minor gameplay tweaks, so too does the RE3 remake.
The Raccoon City Demo happens early in the game (assuming it’s following similar story beats to the original), with Jill having met Carlos, who introduces her to his UBCS commander Mikhail in the Redstone St. subway station. They’re desperate to get the metro online again so that they can escape to the city limits. It’s a modernised take on the tramcar escape plan from the original, with higher stakes (not that the civilians with them have a chance based on the pre-existing lore), which sees Jill heading back onto the streets, alone, to find the local substation and restore power. It’s a more grounded endeavour than hunting for obscure parts, in unlikely locations, to fix a tram engine. Based on the demo, Raccoon City has been reimagined as a larger and modern urban environment, rather than a small pharmaceutical town full of bizarre tourist attractions that double as puzzles and improbably narrow roads. I’m personally hoping they’ve not ditched all the quirky aspects.
On the presentation front, first impressions are strong. The environment remains incredibly detailed despite being more expansive; character models, for both the protagonists and zombies, are intricately detailed and gruesome; the music is subtle with unsettling ambient audio creating a brooding atmosphere; while the lighting remains the standout feature, with fires and neon lights casting terrifying shadows across the environment, highlighting shambling zombies in hellish shades of red and blue (or effectively hiding them in the shadows).
I played through the demo on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One S, with performance stable on both platforms and the image looking slightly sharper than the RE2 remake overall (this despite the larger environments and a greater number of roaming zombies on screen). Jill’s redesign looks good, albeit little like her original or Resident Evil 5 appearance, and, as with the RE2 remake, an attempt to make dialogue and writing grittier (think more casual swearing) is hit-and-miss at best.
From a gameplay perspective, the core move-set, inventory management, puzzle design, and gunplay remains unchanged from the RE2 remake; however, they have added in one new element from the original Nemesis release, the quick-dodge (to be fair, RE3: Nemesis also introduced gunpowder but that was already incorporated in the RE2 Remake). Rather than mash buttons as you’re being attacked and hoping for the best, quick-dodge now uses the movement stick and a bumper for a reliable, controllable dash in any direction. In the more open city streets and alleys, this is rarely necessary when dealing with zombies, but becomes essential when Nemesis makes an appearance.
Zombies are still deadly if you’re caught off guard, with their shambling animations making them hard to hit, the annoying ability to lunge at you unexpectedly, and a tendency to rise again after you’re sure you’ve emptied their skull of any residual brain matter. However, Nemesis is the greater threat in open spaces, and I panicked the first time he sprinted directly at me – requiring the aforementioned quick-dodge to avoid – and when he launched himself into the air from behind me, only to land directly in my escape path.
It remains to be seen how persistent and/or annoying his presence is (the introduction of Mr. X early in both the first and second runs of the RE2 remake campaign is not my favourite design decision) but even this short demo provided two potential routes back to my goal that I could use to loop around him. In my second run, I shot an electrical hazard to stun him and tossed two grenades in his face to force him into a dormant state (a much easier feat than dealing with Mr. X, at least in this early form). Interestingly, the demo hints at Nemesis having some more interesting uses for zombies, rather than simply ignoring or tearing through them to get to the player.
As for negatives, the only issue I have on the gameplay front is the return of the weird aiming system that goes from wildly imprecise to pinpoint accuracy if you hold still for a second, leading to the player constantly over- or under-correcting their aim. Thankfully, the knife returns in all its unbreakable glory, allowing you to drop a zombie with 3-4 headshots and finish them off with a quick stabbing or five (so long as they’re isolated). Then there’s the fact the developers have already stated the fight-or-flee choices and several RNG encounters from the original have been removed in favour of a consistent narrative experience, which is going to hurt the replay value even more than the RE2 remake’s streamlined first and second runs.
My personal gripes aside, the demo is still an impressive showcase of what we can expect with the RE3 remake. It looks set to please both fans of the original and RE2 remake by slightly tweaking the already excellent survival-horror formula, giving them a chance to traverse the city streets rather than confined interiors, all the while also introducing a new terrifying antagonist that’ll stalk you along the way. Just avoid the trailer after the demo ends as it follows the Hollywood approach of trying spoil all the highlights in advance.