Resident Evil 3 demo is now available and it’s a crowd pleaser

Resident Evil 3’s demo just dropped on Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 and it is killer. Capcom’s latest remake maintains the original Resident Evil: Nemesis feel while improving on everything last year’s Resident Evil 2 remake did right.

An evolution, not a revolution

Resident Evil 3 adds a few more features from fan favorite Resident Evil 4. Normally, I don’t like it when a newer game chases their predecessor’s legacy like this, but these remakes have been so good and quality survival horror titles have been so thin on the ground that I’m okay with it.

This demo adds a lot of little touches. RE2’s knife was a breakable and disposable weapon; its primary use was jamming it into zombies’ chests when they grabbed you in order to escape. These knives had a durability rating; once you used it enough times, it snapped and you lost it.

RE3’s knife is unbreakable, but it can no longer be used as an escape weapon. If you’re grabbed, you’re getting bitten - knife or no knife (The game instructed me to mash left click when I got grabbed, but that didn’t seem to help.) However, the knife is great for breakable power-up containers - another RE4 standby. It’s also wonderful for death-checking zombies, which you can bet I did a lot of.

Jill is also more agile than either Leon or Claire. You can tap space and any WASD key to quick dodge, which comes in handy when the Nemesis shows up. I really like this. It gives combat more interesting choices while constrained environments full of debris still make it impossible to just bumble around zombies. It’s also reminiscent of Leon’s evasive moves in RE4.

They also added some nice quality of life improvements. If you’re already carrying a stack of handgun ammo, and you grab some more, it automatically stacks the bullets up in your inventory, rather than pausing the game to make you combine the new bullets with your existing bullet stack manually. I’m not against inventory management; it’s a core part of the Resident Evil experience. But this improvement helps keep the action flowing nicely. The high risk / high reward of nabbing ammo nearby opponents is part of the thrill of this series, and this little change makes a good thing even better.

RE3 is missing RE2’s extremely convenient backup weapon system. You used to be able to hold your right mouse button and space, and pull up your grenades, flashbangs, and knives, to fire them off on the fly with a left click. Now, these weapons take up one of your four main weapon slots. I’m afraid you’ll end up in the inconvenient situation of having one grenade, one knife, and one flashbang, and no easy way to access any of them. I’m not a fan of this change; it makes backup weapons more inconvenient to use, and thus I’ll probably end up using them far less. That being said, this minor inconvenience won’t stop me from enjoying this game.

Wide open and exposed

Resident Evil 2’s police station and lab made you feel like a rat in a cage. Almost every door starts locked. You’re alone. The only thing you aren’t running out of is zombies. You eventually unfold the mystery, unlock the doors, and gather weapons, but it has a distinct horror movie slow burn.

Resident Evil 3, on the other hand, captures the feeling of trying to cope with a world on fire. A surprising number of doors were unlocked and taking alternate paths can loop you back to a previous area in surprising ways. Strategically placed explosive barrels helped take care of zombies, but sometimes a stray bullet would set them off unintentionally.

RE3 delivers apocalypse feels with scary and violent unintended consequences. It’s closer to Mad Max than Night of the Living Dead which is in line with the mood of the original.

Mr. X and the Nemesis also differ significantly. Mr. X was slow and implacable; you could run from him, but you never truly get away. He’s always on your trail, and if you linger in an area for too long, you’re going to get a fist in the face. Nemesis appears only briefly, but he’s significantly faster. He leaps in front of you, trips you with his tentacles, and beats the ever-loving hell out of you. Using the new quick dodge ability is essential to surviving encounters with him.

Also, if you hadn’t bothered to clean the zombies out of the areas near him, he infests them with a parasite, making them tougher to kill and giving them a strong RE4 ganados resemblance.

Resident Easier?

The RE3 demo provided plenty of ammo as well as a shotgun, two grenades, a bunch of gunpowder crafting items, and a pile of healing items if you’re thorough in your search. While the RE2 demo was a blast for the old school, hardcore fans of the RE series, I wonder if its difficulty level turned off new players. The RE3 demo takes it easier on you. I maxed out an entire stack of handgun bullets (60!) at one point.

I understand that new games need to attract new players, and that nostalgia alone won’t keep these remakes profitable. But I hope there’s a way to turn up the difficulty to make ammo and healing items rarer, while not relying on ink ribbons and manual saves. Medium hard, maybe?

For those of you who dig on breezing through games, there’s also an assisted mode with automatic health regeneration, assisted aim, and an assault rifle! If the RE series well-deserved reputation for being “old school hard” scares you a little, give RE3 a try.

Fit and finish

RE3 graphics are gorgeous. In 4K, the graphics look even better than the what we saw in the trailers. I was impressed with how well Jill and Carlos’ skin and hair were rendered. Whereas Leon and Claire’s skin looked a bit plastic and doll-like, Jill’s skin looks rough, weathered, and real. Check out the screenshot above. Her wounds have depth. She’s filthy. It’s been a hell of a long day. Capcom has definitely amped up the realism.

Facial animation has improved as well - Jill grimaces convincingly and mouth movements match the spoken dialogue much better.

But these visual refinements come at a price. RE2 played at a steady 60FPS at 4K on my PC, but RE3 drops to 40FPS in open areas. Closed in, smaller areas without excessive lighting effects fared better, and played at 60FPS. My PC is packing an i7-8700K and 1080 Ti with 32GB of RAM, so it’s no slouch. I’m hoping Capcom gets a chance to optimize the code and improve performance a bit more before the game hits stores. However, it’s still totally playable at 40FPS.

The voice acting is better this time around. RE2’s weak voice acting felt like an unintentional tribute to the original’s hilariously bad voice acting. I’m enjoying Jill’s grizzled survivor vibe. While Leon is a rookie and Claire is a wide-eyed kid, Jill has already been through the wringer once. She gruff and obviously displeased to be working with Umbrella operatives.

I’m glad that Jill is wearing a tank top, pants, and combat boots instead of the original Nemesis’ miniskirt, go-go boots, and tube top. I know survivors show up to the apocalypse in the outfit they have, not the outfit they wish they had, but Jill is a cop, and a part of Raccoon City’s STARS Team. She barely escaped the mansion in Resident Evil 1. She knows that the feces are about the hit the fan. There’s no reason for her to be dressed for a Tinder date. The original outfit was prima facie absurd and an artifact of a time when female characters in games had to double as eye candy for teenage boys; the new one is much better.

Overall, this demo is extremely promising, and I’m hoping we’ll get a full-on Resident Evil 4 remake in 2021. Expect our impressions of the 4v1 asymmetrical Resident Evil Resistance demo, dropping next week!