As with last year’s game, RE3 inherits the darkly beautiful visual and audio style originally built for Resident Evil 7, meaning everything from the zombie’s off-screen howling to the way bullets rip chunks out of their shambling bodies is at once disturbing and glorious.
This is a decidedly more action-focused game than its predecessor, as you leave behind the confines of RE2‘s mansion-like police headquarters and enter the city at large. Filled with hastily abandoned stores, overturned cars and crowds of zombies, the setting allows for a broader look at the fictional (but occasionally still confronting) viral crisis, while also injecting more chases and explosions into the mix. Yet the streets also function as a kind of overworld connecting multiple smaller labyrinths of creepy hallways and unsettling creatures.
From a power station that’s been converted into a grotesque nest for parasite-spewing spiders to an abandoned hospital where things have visibly taken a turn for the worse, these areas lack the depth of the police station but make up for that with variety, and there’s still plenty of the series’ trademark holding-your-breath-while-turning-the-corner moments.
The blend of familiar horror elements and more action-inspired additions continues through to the actual gameplay, where the over-the-shoulder exploration and combat is a little less tense and a little more empowering this time around. Ammo is more plentiful for example, and Jill has a handy dodge move that can let you sprint through a crowd of zombies if you’re fast (and lucky).
But there’s enough survival horror secret sauce to prevent the game going too far away from its roots. You still need to scour environments and solve puzzles to access tools, powerful weapons and the more exotic ammo types (which are still scarce enough that you need to be careful), and I love the old-school feeling of knowing you can miss powerful upgrades if you’re not paying attention.
As with RE2 there are also some old school elements that are less welcome, such as the lack of temporary space in your inventory that means you’ll end up throwing away useful items if you don’t want to trudge back to a save point.
With a similar look and feel to last year’s game and a comparatively short running time (my first run took me seven hours, but my second only four), a cynic might say the only reason RE3 is a full game and not downloadable content for RE2 is that Capcom wanted to charge full price.
But the focus on action over puzzles and exploration — as well as certain elements unlocked once you finish the game — does encourage experimentation and repeat playthroughs.
There’s also a fun but flawed multiplayer mode which sees teams work together to take on villains controlled by a solo “mastermind” player.
Overall this game could be seen as a missed opportunity to flesh out what was — in 1999 — a quick but quirky followup to the more substantial RE3. But from the insane locations and intriguing characters to the stunning looks and satisfying action, this is a stellar game in its own right, and that can’t be ignored.
Resident Evil 3 is out now for Xbox One (reviewed), PlayStation 4 and PC.
Tim is the editor of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald technology sections.