Despite its release, Resident Evil 3 is much more of a direct sequel to the first game than Resident Evil 2. While this may seem confusing to some, it is this reviewer's opinion that Resident Evil 2 is more of a standalone game in the franchise due to it introducing new protagonists and antagonists, whereas Resident Evil 3 revisits characters met in Resident Evil and decides to pit them against the undead in the streets of Raccoon City than the hallways of the Spencer Mansion in the Arklay Mountains. Despite this, it is not necessary to have played Resident Evil in order to understand the story presented and played. Any information that may be considered vital in order to understand the circumstances the player finds themselves in is supplemented with Documents, which can be collected as the game progresses. Even then, the events of Resident Evil are brought up only on occasion, and only for a brief time. Resident Evil 3 does a good job at not punishing players who have not played the first game and do not understand the setting and lore behind the happenstance they find themselves in.
Resident Evil 3 takes place approximately 24 hours before the events of Resident Evil 2, and continues past the ending of the latter. This causes the games to exist beside one another in terms of canon timeline. As expected, however, the settings are entirely different. While some environments are revisited, such as the Raccoon City Police Department and Kendo's Gun Shop, they are entirely different from those visited by Leon S. Kennedy or Claire Redfield during their respective scenarios and game. As such, certain actions performed by the protagonists of Resident Evil 3 do help to explain the more baffling events in Resident Evil 2.
Yes, I did say protagonists.
Unlike in Resident Evil or Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3 has the player take control of two protagonists: Jill Valentine and Carlos Oliveira. While the player does not have control of both characters during a single instance, like in Resident Evil Zero, they are instead given their own sections of the game to play as either character. Sporting a new character design, the player will be playing as Jill Valentine for most of the game's runtime. With a little practice and a good memory, the game can be completed in under an hour and a half, even at the most difficult of difficulties: Inferno Mode. While this may seem short, the game encourages the player to replay again and again in order to complete "Records", which reward the player with Concept Art, Models, and an in-game currency that is to be spent at the Shop. The Shop itself is only available to players after they have completed the game their first go-around, and provides a long list of assorted gear meant to make subsequent runs at harder difficulties, such as Hardcore or Nightmare, easier. To make things better, this "in-game currency" I spoke about briefly before isn't purchasable through outside means, meaning that it is only earned by playing the game and completing Records. There's no micro-transactions to worry about in Resident Evil 3.
While Resident Evil 3 begins slow and difficult at first, it progressively becomes easier as the player has access to new gear, weapon upgrades, and areas to explore for necessary items like Gunpowder and Red and Green Herbs. Remember Blue Herbs and subweapons (Knives, Flashbangs, and Hand Grenades) from Resident Evil 2? Those are not available in Resident Evil 3. Instead, the player has two new mechanics: Dodge (Jill) and Tackle (Carlos). Both are supposed to teach the player to instead not become grabbed by zombies and risk their health dropping from Fine to Danger. In this game, a single zombie is capable of killing the player if they don't hold down A on their controller. This is similar to the first game's design where the player would need to viciously shake their joystick in order to throw off a zombie who was chomping at their neck.
Of course, no review on Resident Evil 3 would be possible without mentioning the biological weapon stalking Jill Valentine through the streets (and further) of Raccoon City: Nemesis. This monster comes back just as - if not more so - terrifying and intimidating than its original counterpart in the 1999 game. While not constantly harassing Jill Valentine, when he does appear, the only viable option is to run. When the player does eventually fight him, he soaks up bullets and ammunition, forcing the player to re-evaluate and try to outsmart this beast. Finally, just like Tyrant, he always comes back to receive and deal out more punishment.
Unfortunately, the game is not as polished and perfect as I have made it out to be. The segments where the player plays as Carlos could have been longer and more fulfilling, the final fight with Nemesis on Nightmare and Inferno difficulties is almost impossible to beat without purchasing the most expensive item from the Shop - the Infinite Rocket Launcher, and the game is overall too short, even with additional difficulties that may be unlocked.
- A different approach to Raccoon City and the return of Jill Valentine, who hasn't been seen since Resident Evil: Revelations (2012)
- An alternate combat system that forces players to adapt to new approaches when facing zombies
- A familiar Heads-Up Display (HUD) and Inventory for those who have come straight from Resident Evil 2 or Resident Evil 7
- Nightmare and Inferno difficulties, which completely change the way the game is played in Assisted, Standard, or Hardcore difficulties (the original three)
- New character designs across the board
- A story that ties in well with Resident Evil 2
- The game is far too short for comfort, especially after playing Resident Evil 2
- A very distinct lack of puzzles that cause the player to slow down for a second and think
- The final fight with Nemesis in either Nightmare or Inferno difficulties is near impossible without the Infinite Rocket Launcher - an item bought in the Shop
- Capcom has announced there are no plans on releasing further content for the game