When I caught wind that Capcom working on a Resident Evil 3 remake, I was beyond juiced. The original game has a fair share of shortcomings, but I have such a deep fondness for it–a love rooted in a youth spent organically discovering its charms shortly after the release of Resident Evil 4. With my rose-tinted passion for the game, I expected that I’d be partial to what Capcom is doing with its reimagining of RE3, especially after last year’s incredible Resident Evil 2 Remake, but I still had some concerns. Chief among them: how could Capcom hope to reinvigorate another classic Resident Evil game so soon? Not only that, but one that’s mostly a point-five-sequel that branched off in a more action-focused direction? After playing a few hours of RE3 at a preview event, I found that the answer is once again by creatively reinterpreting the original’s legacy.

Set before and after the second game, RE3 has you playing as fan-favorite protagonist S.T.A.R.S. officer Jill Valentine, as she struggles to find a way out of Raccoon City at the onset of the T-Virus outbreak. With zombies lurking, that’s a big ask, and it gets worse when Jill realizes she’s being hunted by a Tyrant-like Umbrella bioweapon known as the Nemesis.

There’s a welcome familiarity to RE3, not only because it’s a reimagining of something that came before, but because of how it was only a year ago that we experienced Resident Evil in this form. You can tell that RE3 is built on the foundation of RE2, but even with identical assets and mechanics, RE3’s exciting potential is in how steadfast it is in re-envisioning the spirit and design of the original, while also making it feel like a fresh, yet iterative sequel to its predecessor. Iconic events and locations are revamped, the action has been elevated, and the infamous Nemesis has been reborn with a menacing unpredictability. At times, RE3 feels like a second go-around at RE2–as it should, to a degree–but the more I played, the clearer it became that it’s shaping up to be more than that.

This preview will focus primarily on my time spent with the RE3 campaign. We also got to play Resident Evil Resistance, a standalone asymmetrical multiplayer game packaged alongside it. But aside from a couple of new characters, much of it remains the same as what we previously played and discussed in our initial impressions a few months back, which you can watch in our Resident Evil Resistance preview.

A Deeply Reimagined Raccoon City

At the start of my demo, I was immediately thrown into the pandemonium of Raccoon City’s streets. A wave of death had recently washed across most of the city, and in its wake, I found nothing but abandoned storefronts and the shambling undead. Like its predecessor, RE3 focuses on reimagining the events of its source material rather than creating a 1:1 remake. Circumstances and objectives are similar to their original counterparts, but everything in-between is drastically different. As Jill, I once again had to reactivate a substation to power a train car to get out of Racoon City. However, the journey to doing so involved a new series of areas to explore and puzzles to solve.

RE3’s Racoon City is larger in scale than RE2’s labyrinthian environments, but the few pathways remaining in between the barricades still felt like cramped, dangerous corridors capable of trapping me as punishment for overconfidence and curiosity. It’s unclear if more spacious areas await later on, but in the span of a few minutes, I made my way through several alleyways and shops, like a drugstore and a ’50s era-inspired donut shop. Diverse areas like this already make Raccoon City stand out from the bleak damaged urban backdrop it was in the original.

Drain Deimos are back and they're filthy animals.
Drain Deimos are back and they’re filthy animals.

Dread and panic hung over me in my efforts to navigate each area, which made exploring Racoon City feel urgent and unpredictable. Dead bodies littered the streets, but I wondered, would one rise to meet me? And what about the other threats I couldn’t readily perceive just outside my view in the open night air? Those uncertainties gripped me just like they had when this premise first appeared in the PS1 original. As someone familiar with that game, RE3’s reimagined moments also kept me on my toes. The trip to the substation, for instance, yielded no power regulator puzzle as it did in 1999, but an area infested with what I assume to be this game’s interpretation of the Drain Deimos, which can now reach inside your mouth and shove its insect babies down your throat. Gross.

There were also plenty of classic Resident Evil resource-gathering moments where I had to consider whether to grab supplies, imagine how I could go back to get them if I didn’t take them, and then weigh the odds of my ability to nab them without getting hurt. While RE3 hurries you through numerous terrifying locales, there’s time to backtrack and get what you need along the way. You’re still incentivized to explore, though the game encourages you to do so more hastily.

The open night air of Raccoon City presents a terrifying proposition.
The open night air of Raccoon City presents a terrifying proposition.
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It’s hard to go into much more specifics about the changes without ruining the surprise of it all, but know that this version of RE3 takes far more liberties in twisting and retooling events, making the descent into a mid-outbreak Raccoon City feel fresh, believable, and exciting. Where the early goings of RE2 instilled a sense of warmth with the familiar yet subtly remixed hallways of the Raccoon City Police Department, RE3 seems to displace further your sense of safety and nostalgia with a world that barely resembles the one you might remember.

More Action-Packed, But Still Survival-Horror

Admittedly, all this talk about how RE3 compares to the original probably matters little to newcomers to the series, and that’s fine. The additions and refinements made to RE3 from RE2 are proving substantial enough for a return visit to Racoon City, regardless of whether you’re familiar with the series’ extensive history.

There’s a greater emphasis on action compared to RE2 with more zombies populating areas. It never approaches horde-level numbers, but the increase in the undead coming at you on all sides is enough to feel overwhelming. The ones you’ve killed (and not decapitated) are also more prone to getting back up over time. Fortunately, you seem to get just enough ammo and gunpowder to accommodate this shift in pace, as well as a diverse arsenal of weapons that become available far sooner than in RE2 to help deal with the substantial threats lurking in the city streets. There’s also a multi-directional dodge maneuver that can help you slip past enemies, which, when timed right, allows you to perform a brief slow-motion headshot on the creature you evaded, should you choose to do so.

RE3 handles its slivers of heightened action with an elegance that seems to properly humble your overconfidence and satisfy the broader range of playstyles the series has cultivated over the years.

In RE3, you’re more frequently confronted with the choice of fight or flight than the slower, more measured encounter-rate of RE2. The increased action on display doesn’t do away with its predecessor’s renewed focus on crippling tension and haunting atmosphere. Instead, the game adapts and accelerates it to a new pace, forcing you to scramble for solutions against its seemingly unrelenting horrors with little ammo to spare.

In most Resident Evil games, I prefer to take things slower and be more frugal with my resources, and RE3 was still willing to oblige those tendencies. Of course, this meant I had to be more clever, which was a rewarding challenge all its own. Often I used environmental hazards, like explosive barrels, to my advantage to dispatch multiple zombies with minimal bullets, while other times, I lured them to a corner so I could create an opening to dodge past them.

This willingness to accommodate and challenge different playstyles was the team’s intention: “So with [RE3], there’s more openness in deciding how you want to play,” Fabiano said. “You can play it more like an action game if you want, and master mechanics like the perfect dodge, which speaks to the empowerment provided by the original RE3. But at its core, the game is still survival-horror. So you certainly can play it more in a pensive way.”

This sentiment is reassuring, and so far in practice, RE3 handles its slivers of heightened action with an elegance that seems to properly humble your overconfidence and satisfy the broader range of playstyles the series has cultivated over the years.

A New Kind Of Nemesis

Speaking of being humbled, RE3’s version of the infamous Nemesis is a relentless beast. Tasked with hunting and killing Jill and her fellow S.T.A.R.S. unit police officers to cover up Umbrella’s crimes, this beefy bioweapon is meant to be an active nuisance that chases you through the game. Nemesis didn’t appear until halfway through my demo, but when he did, I was thrown into an instant, audible panic–much to the dismay of those around me at the Capcom office.

Compared to RE2’s Mr. X, Nemesis is faster and more aggressive. He can and will catch up to you if you try to run for it. Any beelines you attempt can be instantly halted by this behemoth swiftly jumping ahead of you, carelessly trouncing any unfortunate zombies that happen to be in the way. He frequently grabs you with his tentacles to drag you back towards him, and when he does corner you, it only takes a handful of punches from him before you’re down for the count. Nemesis is intimidating and unpredictable, often quickly popping out and assaulting you from directions you least expect.

A wise person once told me that if someone wants S.T.A.R.S., then you give them S.T.A.R.S.
A wise person once told me that if someone wants S.T.A.R.S., then you give them S.T.A.R.S.

After being pummeled to death a few times, I found that there was no use in running away from Nemesis. He isn’t like Mr. X, who could easily be outrun if you faked him out around some tables, or baited one of his lunges. I needed to actively find ways to slow Nemesis down to slip past him. Whether that was a precisely-thrown grenade or a shotgun blast to face, RE3 challenged me to use every wit and resource I had to confront and evade my pursuer, and I genuinely loved that. It forced me to be even faster at thinking on my feet and brainstorming solutions with that same risk-reward decision making that I adore from the Resident Evil series. While I’m sure it’s going to involve me incessantly yelping in terror several times more, I’m already eagerly awaiting the next time I can revisit the section I played, so I can learn and better understand Nemesis’ behaviors and the strategies needed to overcome him.

Nemesis is intimidating and unpredictable, often quickly popping out and assaulting you from directions you least expect.

My demo ended with a big set-piece boss fight with the Nemesis, who seemed to have gotten his hands on a flamethrower after the last time I’d seen him. This fight, in particular, is the only part that concerned me about Nemesis in RE3. It’s the most directed encounter I had with the beast. It began with a chase through a building, which proved riveting, but I started to get taken out of the ordeal when I noticed the path I followed had a couple save rooms in close proximity to one another, where Nemesis couldn’t pursue. It was hard not to feel like their presence dampened the impact of it all, as if the foundational mechanics of RE2 that RE3 is built on couldn’t quite keep up with the adrenaline-fueled pace the moment demanded, and needed to ensure you had multiple opportunities to get enough supplies for the incoming fight. Admittedly, this pacing concern is minor, but I’m hoping RE3 can consistently leverage Nemesis for some genuinely harrowing moments so that I can feel no hesitation being consumed by the high-stress and anxiety it wants me to feel. He’s already done a magnificent job at doing that to me already, after all.

The Terror That Awaits

I’m delighted that RE3 seems to be drastically reinventing itself to be something more than the original. The promise of both a new Racoon City and Nemesis is enough to entice me. And in other parts, where the game seems an iterative point-five sequel to RE2, the tweaks and reworkings it offers to the formula manage to invoke a unique vision that’s captivating all its own.

Okay, the last caption was a terrible joke. I'm sorry, but hey, look at Nemesis! He's covered in Umbrella trash bags!
Okay, the last caption was a terrible joke. I’m sorry, but hey, look at Nemesis! He’s covered in Umbrella trash bags!
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It’s intriguing to see how much Capcom is redefining what it means to revisit classic games, so much so that it makes me wonder how much these reimagined remakes will impact the series’ legacy and identity moving forward. To re-experience a game I love in a new, but familiar way is truly special–it’s not an everyday thing. April 3 can’t come soon enough. It’s clear now more than ever that this is another Resident Evil that demands your attention.

Now Playing: We Played 2 Hours of Resident Evil 3 Remake | Here’s What We Saw

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