didn't really talk much about the combat in my last few classic RE reviews because so much of it boils down to pressing aim and shooting until the zombie goes down; the main appeal is the resource consumption, where every shot counts and evading enemies is often preferable. on its face re3's combat focus seems to violate this core appeal, as the increase in enemy counts across the board comes with a corresponding increase in heavy weaponry. shotgun shells weren't even sparse in re2, and in re3 you might as well just use your shotgun as your daily driver given how lush the ammo haul is. between this, chokepoints with explosive barrels, the contextual dodge, the wealth of gunpowders, and the grace pushdowns you get if you've previously been bitten in a room, it really feels like jill is nigh invincible in most regular encounters. with the more claustrophobic corridor design and increased enemy limit in rooms, there are certainly more times that the game pushes you into one of these options instead of going for straight evasion, but at the same time the core conceit is still the same: click aim, click shoot. a lot of mechanics to defray what is still relatively rudimentary gameplay.

however, the devs went out of their way to keep the routing intact. the addition of nemesis as a mr. X replacement so thoroughly trumps its predecessor that it feels a bit shocking they didn't get it this right the first time. mr. X was a effectively an ammo conversion spot; this lumbering beast you could pump full of cheaper ammo to get drops of the nicer stuff. nemesis completely flips this on its head by offering a real challenge between all of his different mutations, with attacks such as full-screen lunges, tentacle whips, and a rocket launcher. tackling him requires a much stronger focus on positioning and dodge acumen than mr. X (or even many other early RE bosses), and fittingly in return for choosing to fight you get parts for specialized weapons. granted, actually mastering the dodge in these fights plays up the issues with its seemingly random outcomes and directions, but at the same time tanking hits or controlling his speed with the freeze grenades gives much-needed leeway in what is probably the hardest boss up to this point in the series. unfortunately, killing him in optional encounters doesn't seem to influence rank at all, and I never got a sense that these optional kills help make his later obligatory fights easier, but his presence still gives the benefit of influencing your ammo route. killing nemesis isn't cheap, so if you're interested in his weapons, the regular fights that are so easily trivialized by the bounty of grenades you receive becomes moments for you to tighten your belt and conserve ammo.

small variations to the campaign are also more prevalent in this entry, from randomized enemy layouts and different item locations to subtle route-dependent event trigger alterations. the least interesting of these are timed binary choices that are occasionally given to you during cutscenes, which generally are nothing more than knowledge checks, especially when you can get a free nemesis kill out of it like in the restaurant or on the bell tower. occasionally these actually affect routing, as on the bridge prior to the dead factory, but more often than not the difference seemed either negligible or not a real tradeoff. the rest of these do affect routing in meaningful ways, from things as minor as changing a room from hunters to brain suckers to major changes such as the magnum and the grenade launcher getting swapped in the stars office. this plus the plentiful ammo fosters a nice "go with the flow" atmosphere where reloading a save and getting thrown into different circumstances is often a worse choice than just limping along through mistakes. on the flip-side, the actual effects of this feels like it would be most relevant between many separate runs, so I really haven't played around with really planning a route for this one as much as I would have liked. it already took me a year to play through this short game lol, hopefully next year once I'm done teaching I'll come back to this one.

with that in mind, the real thing that elevated this for me over re2 was the area design. re3 sticks with general design thrust of the first two -- bigger early areas, smaller later areas -- but it moves away from interconnected inner loops and major-key gating of the mansion or the police station in favor of something more akin to spokes coming out from a wheel, where each spoke has its own little setpiece and order of exploration feels more loose. the best example of this is easily downtown, which implements an item collection challenge similar to chess plugs or medals puzzles from previous games (get supplies to fix a cable car). each primary location in this section is a building, whether a sub station or a press office, all connected via alleys and streets with interactables strewn along the way. does a good job both corralling the player into fighting enemies in narrow spaces as well as providing many separated nodes with their own little sparks of action and intrigue. not really as genius as the mansion's taut, intertwined room layout, but it's cool to see them try something a little different. the later game devolves into mini-puzzle areas on par with the guardhouse (or even smaller in the case of the park or the hospital), but these are a significantly improvement over the undercooked sewer from re2. the puzzles themselves are pretty fun too; I like spatial puzzles more than riddles, and they lean into that more here with stuff like the water purification check near the end of the game.

Reviewed on Oct 19, 2023


2 months ago

Unfortunately, whether the weapon closet in the S.T.A.R.S. office has the Magnum or the Grenade Launcher is unrelated to any choices you make :(
It's surprisingly easy to test this yourself by saving in the Dark Room in the RPD and opening the closet a few times. A missed opportunity!

2 months ago

@Chokes my wording there was less than stellar: I meant that the least interesting part of the route changes was the binary choices, while the route changes that actually make a more substantial difference are the truly randomized parts like the magnum/grenade launcher and the changing enemy locations. it could have definitely been cool if some of those were influenced by previous choices, but if so I would definitely prefer it more organic than "select one of two fixed options"

2 months ago

That makes sense! The Live Selection system does have a hair more depth than just literally what's on the tin (e.g. at the entrance to RPD, you could choose to fight Nemesis, then just get Brad's card and head inside, or you could backtrack to previous areas of Downtown to fight Nemesis elsewhere) but it is very much largely inconsequential.

I find it bizarre, and awesome, that the choice to jump out of the train or hit the emergency brakes is the most impactful one, because nothing about it makes this evident at all - but even then, hitting the brakes and having Carlos show up to fight Nemesis with you at the Clock Tower is significantly more interesting than the alternative.

There are few variations that happen more organically. Jill and Carlos' conversations differ depending on whether they first met at the newspaper office or at the restaurant (as well as the Live Selection choices made in each), and Tyrell either gets shot or blown up by Nikolai depending on whether you first went to the hospital's fourth floor or basement. I'd have liked to be able to save the one or two civilians we see running away from zombies in the city, if only for similar scenes to the one with Dario at the beginning of the game.

2 months ago

@Chokes oh wow, I didn't realize that you could get carlos to fight with you at the clock tower... that fight absolutely whipped me solo; hardest section of the whole psx trilogy by far. and I agree on the civilians; I would've loved to seen some kind of reward or route switch from rescuing them a la house of the dead