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Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (PlayStation) artwork

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (PlayStation) review

"The problem with “Resident Evil 3: Nemesis” starts with what follows the “3.” The star of the game is not a credit to it. Nemesis is certainly intimidating and intense and fu~gly!, but his presence is also constant from the start to the end. I understand the intention: instead of launching the player into a relative safe zone, throw a big invincible monster at them right from the beginning. It’s a novel experiment, but it’s also one that hasn’t been repeated in a “Resident Evil” since and for a ..."

The problem with “Resident Evil 3: Nemesis” starts with what follows the “3.” The star of the game is not a credit to it. Nemesis is certainly intimidating and intense and fu~gly!, but his presence is also constant from the start to the end. I understand the intention: instead of launching the player into a relative safe zone, throw a big invincible monster at them right from the beginning. It’s a novel experiment, but it’s also one that hasn’t been repeated in a “Resident Evil” since and for a good reason too.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the top:

In this game we are Jill Valentine from the original “Resident Evil,” caught up in the middle of the Raccoon City apocalypse that started in “Resident Evil 2.” Once again she is beset by zombies and dogs and cryptic puzzles. She must procure ammunition and supplies to survive, and she must find other survivors so they can pool their efforts. There are many barren alleys to cross, along with assorted establishments abandoned in the face of dread and crisis. The ghost town of Raccoon City remains one of the most haunting settings in video gaming. Its streets are quiet, its bulletins and signs speak with no one to register their message.

Then there’s Nemesis. He follows the Tyrant (“Resident Evil”) and William Birkin (“Resident Evil 2”) as the franchise’s next big baddie. He’s built like a football player, he wears a black trench coat, each step he makes sounds like a cement block hitting a floor, and he has a face like that giant beast from “Return of the Jedi.” We meet him in front of the Raccoon City Police Department, and from the start he’s quite imposing. Too imposing, perhaps. He has immense speed and power to go with his intimidating figure. There’s no way that Jill can pose a credible threat to him, even with her new 180-degree turn and swift parrying maneuvers, so we are expected to run. In this way, he ends up being like Scissor Man from “Clock Tower,” a lethal presence stalking the player.

The thing is this isn’t “Clock Tower.” It’s “Resident Evil.” This is a series that has prided itself on making us believe things couldn’t get worse, only to make to the situation much worse. A “Resident Evil” game starts us off with the gateway drug of zombies before graduating us to undead canines and clawed lizard men and, finally, steely towering mutants. But how can you top yourself when your first pitch is a hard ball like Nemesis? In the face of such an agile and powerful menace, everything else becomes pretty mundane. Take the giant worm, something straight out of the “Dune” books. The introduction of such a creature would normally be dramatic and terrifying. Here it’s a welcome break from having Nemesis breathing down your neck. When the Hunters from the original “Resident Evil” make their dramatic entrance, we think Eh, at least I don’t have to worry about Nemesis.

There are other missteps. Elements of the game are randomized, in an attempt to make the experience “terrifying every time.” Not really. The true effect is that “Resident Evil” players, whose repeat plays depend on familiarity and precision, become irritated by the inconsistency of items. One time you might find a shotgun here, and another time it could be further down the road. You could acquire a potent weapon, die, load your game back up, and find that the weapon isn’t in the spot where you found it. Enemies are randomized at times too. In light of how previous “Resident Evil” games would define hallways by the very creatures that lurked in them, this comes across as lazy. Hunters and Rottweilers are not interchangeable, but RE3 interchanges them anyways. They become run of the mill video game drones.

What else?

There are multiple endings, the conditions of which aren’t very obvious. Carlos, the second playable character, is more of a novelty than a real contribution. We walk in his shoes for a half hour segment, and that’s it. No interesting parallel story or alternate play style, just a minor interlude in Jill’s larger adventure. The final battle is also not as dramatic or thrilling as the same from “Resident Evil 2,” which pit us against an unstable mutant that became more grotesque as we irritated it with bullets and grenades. Actually, there isn’t much drama in general to the proceedings. The entire game is Jill struggling to survive, punctuated by the anonymous threat of Nemesis. The one human adversary isn’t a disquieting psycho like the police chief from RE2, but a generic militant type. No “Heart of Darkness” here.

I guess there are some bright spots, such as the “make a choice” moments, which do result in interesting repeat plays. There are secret weapons to be picked up if you have the guts to knock out Nemesis, and there’s an interesting mechanic in which you mix gun powder--like medical herbs--to create different kinds of ammunition. I also have to concede that the basic “Resident Evil” stuff, beyond the unnecessary randomization, is passable. What’s lacking is the sense of discovery. Everything to be discovered in “Resident Evil 3” is revealed at the beginning, or in some cases before the game even begins. What follows is obligatory.

Rating: 5/10

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Community review by joseph_valencia (July 24, 2009)

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zippdementia posted July 24, 2009:

Killer review, Spaced. I think this review captures the technical side of your earlier reviews mixed with a flowing casualness that is prevalent in your newer reviews, and the mixture is a good one.

I actually count Nemesis as my favourite Resident Evil game, and one I was sad to give up along with my Wii/Gamecube. That said, you make an excellent point about the nature of the game, and my reaction is not to shake my head in disagreement but rather to nod slowly and say "ah, I see where he's coming from!"

Great stuff. I applaud you.
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zigfried posted July 25, 2009:

Interesting take on Nemesis. Not sure I agree that the concept was flawed, but it's an interesting argument to make. I would definitely agree that the execution could have been better. It would have been cool if something worse than Nemesis (perhaps even multiple Nemesii) had been introduced later on. Or if Nemesis had been shockingly offed about halfway through, leaving the player wondering what the hell just happened, and what horrible thing must be coming next.

Also, I had totally forgotten about Carlos.

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psychopenguin posted August 12, 2009:

I really enjoyed this review. I will say that it is a gimmick I did not mind, and maybe the reason they haven't done it in a RE game since was that this was pretty much the last RE game anyways (unless you count Code Veronica, which was different from 1 and 2 on its own right). Its not like there's been 10 games of the style since then, so the opening paragraph stating "The gimmick hasn't been done since and for good reason" is misleading and unfair.

And I liked the idea of Nemesis the character who always chases you around, but it was a well written argument against the idea, and I got a clear view of why you didnt like it, so this review is a good one in my book.
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draculasrevenge posted August 12, 2009:

This was good stuff, because I just replayed 3 recently and felt exactly the same way.

It's also pretty linear. I'd rather have one big mansion to run around in and explore than constantly running from place to place. 3 also had the dumbest instances of backtracking (ie, going back to the beginning of the game after getting the firehose -- who would have thought of that?).

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