Imagine that you narrowly survived a living nightmare that was orchestrated to kill not only you but your entire specialised military unit. Then imagine that almost all of your friends that escaped that ordeal have already skipped town to take the fight to the bastards responsible. But, you elected to stay because the city has a particular donut shop you’re a fan or, or whatever equally stupid reason. Oh, and you’re a dumbass.
If you imagined that all correctly, you should now find yourself squarely in a pair of fashionable boots, with a skirt, vest and cute little jumper tied at the waist. Lucky you. This far less functionally-dressed Jill Valentine is the heroine of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis for Playstation, released in 1999, and a game that has seen a recent remake in the style of last year’s popular “The undead chomp on Claire and Leon” simulator – Resident Evil 2.
Before I start here, just a quick warning of potential spoilers for a game that is more than 20 years old. Some of the plot threads might not have been altered with the remake so go and play that nonsense then come back. Okay? Okay.
Starting off the game being thrown by an explosion into the street, Jill quickly meets possibly the only sensible person left in the city; a man who elects to starve to death instead of being eaten. I mean, he still gets eaten anyway because he lacks the courage for his convictions, but he tried. More than can be said for the perpetually terrified Brad Vickers, who you find nobly running around the city getting bitten and screaming.
What is causing him to scream this time, however, is a legitimate threat – Nemesis.
This beautiful hulking creature only has eyes for Jill, after impaling Brad anyway, and will be your companion for most of the rest of the game regardless of whether you want him to be or not. This one of the best aspects of the game. Alike Mr. X from Resident Evil 2 (1998), Nemesis will appear at certain scripted moments, but unlike his trench-coat loving cousin, he will also appear in places at random and follow you through doors.
He is heralded by his theme, a thumping slice dark industrial electronica that would make Gary Numan proud, but even the points he isn’t actively chasing you have a pervading feeling of being oppressively stalked. A feat that is achieved, I believe, largely through the sound design and music. Both of these are incredible throughout Nemesis, with the save room theme “Free From Fear” sounding more unsafe and unsettling than ever.
During our whistle-stop tour of a frankly fucked Raccoon City, we also meet the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service (UBCS) who were sent by Umbrella to contain the mess. Needless to say they completely failed to do so, but they’re an entertaining enough group, consisting of the handsome Carlos, a bunch of zombie/attempted narrative poignancy fodder and a leader that most definitely won’t betray everyone no sir.
The more I think about it, the more Nikolai reminds me of previous Resident Evil betrayal expert Wesker, only without the charisma, super powers, phenomenal voice-acting, impeccable sense of style and arguably hot son. But I digress.
So after solving some puzzles and crashing a train (S.T.A.R.S. 2 – Public Transport 0*), the second part of the game starts involving (not necessarily in this order): Rocket Launcher assholes, conspiracy, helicopters, viral infections, more obscure puzzles, screaming, mutations, late-night pharmacy runs, unnecessarily palatial public buildings, and copious amounts of squishy zombie hugs. So look forward to all that, I’ll say no more about it.
*I’m counting Rebecca brazenly crashing the Ecliptic Express as the first, FYI.
Returning to play as Jill after her medical emergency, the shift once again shifts to escaping the city and the entire experience becomes a frantic race to the end. This is the weakest part of the game in my opinion, but not without its joys (I’ll give you stars). This doesn’t mean the game suffers overall, more that the horror – arguably the best parts of the series – takes a bit of a backseat to the more conspiratorial and action elements.
Yes, I said it, here is the earliest creeping examples of a more action-based Resident Evil. There were a couple of changes in here that altered the way that the ultimate zombie party location, Raccoon City, was explored this time around. Firstly, Jill could (somewhat awkwardly) dodge incoming attacks, resulting in the player being significantly more active in encounters than before, when it actually worked consistently.
Secondly, there was a new crafting system that allowed the creation of ammo for your weapons, reducing the fear usually caused by the restricted resources of previous titles. Thirdly, was Nemesis himself who, rather than slow and menacing in his pursuit like Mr. X, was a terrifying long-distance sprinter with a devastating firearm to boot. There was just a little touch of action horror here, just enough to predict the direction of the series.
Not saying any of this was bad, of course, just a slight change in feel that would only grow with latter titles.
Overall, the game wasn’t quite the revolution that would come later with Resident Evil 4; but with an intimidating villain in Nemesis, a beautifully rendered (and expanded) Raccoon City, a few mechanical evolutions like ammo crafting and a dodge move, the return of the fantastic Jill Valentine, it’s definitely a decent addition to the series. If you don’t fancy all those polygons, you can also play the recent remake, but you would be missing out.