Title :Resident Evil 3
Platforms :Sony PlayStation, Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo GameCube, PC
Publisher :Capcom
ESRB Rating :Mature
Game Rating :9.4
Review by :Ken Gagne

Fear: you wander down an alley, the sounds of a dying city all around you: a lonely wind, a far-off scream. You open a door, seeking refuge – and find yourself face-to-face with a towering, patchwork monstrosity. You blink in surprise; he doesn't waste the time, instead mounting his bazooka and taking aim at your face. You dodge the missile and run away, thinking to outrun this monster as you have all the other slow-moving zombies. Instead, the creature charges after you like a running back, a sharp protrusion growing out of his arm. Stopping now would mean death by impalement. 

Such an experience is one of many in Capcom's Resident Evil 3, the latest in a proud series of "survival horror" games. [PSX version reviewed here] 

The first Resident Evil, launched in 1996, created the survival horror genre and helped Sony's game console gain a firm hold on the video game market. The game series tells the tale of Umbrella, a corporation with a penchant for unethical experiments that often get out of control, turning the local citizenry into unspeakable monstrosities. 

RE3's storyline follows STARS (Special Tactics And Rescue Squad) team member Jill Valentine, the "master of unlocking" from the first Resident Evil, as she tries to escape the zombie-infested Raccoon City. Hordes of terrifying new monsters and a variety of puzzling problems need to be conquered before her final escape. The game takes place twenty-four hours before and after Resident Evil 2. Players will visit some familiar locations from RE2, but this comprises a small portion of the overall game. 

Though players are forced to play as Jill, several other new features extend gameplay and replay value. For example, minor item placement and puzzle solutions can change from play to play. But more exciting is Live Selection: a tense scene in which players must quickly choose from a menu of actions to perform. Though both choices seem logical, one will almost always produce better results than the other — but either way, you must live with the consequences. 

As if being accosted by the undead wasn't bad enough, Capcom has included an additional cause for concern: Nemesis, the nigh-indestructible monstrosity mentioned earlier with a vendetta for members of STARS. While Jill explores Raccoon City, she's being hunted, never knowing when their paths might cross, or how — or even if — she'll get out alive. 

Besides this challenge, there are two difficulty settings, making RE3 perfect for the first time survivalist or the Resident Evil veteran. Players must still contend with a limited inventory, causing them to pass up items they find or unnecessarily use items to make room. Dying happens, but the emotion invoked by such incidents makes it all worthwhile. Resident Evil is known for scaring the bejeesus out of people, with hell hounds bursting through windows, giant spiders falling on your head, and tyrants crashing through walls. There's nothing like a good fright, and RE3 comes well-stocked. 

The controls, considered awkward by many, have not been edited, only added to. Firing is still a two-button operation, though the R2 button now aims at aspects of the environment, such as inflammable gas pipes and drums. Jill can now dodge zombies moments before they attack, but this move is difficult to execute and happens more often by chance than intent. RE3 supports both analog and digital control, though the former is a bit too touchy to navigate the narrow corridors of Raccoon City. 

Resident Evil's graphics continue to improve. The zombies have a variety of appearances, while other monsters are frightening combinations of the familiar and nightmarish. Some of the backgrounds Jill passes through are nearly photo-quality. The full-motion video sequences are equally gorgeous, though all too brief. 

The soundtrack helps with the overall experience. Distant sound effects, like the screams of the dying, drive home the fact that Jill's alone in this terrifying hellhole. Unexpected enemies arrive with the soundtrack, jarring players out of their quiet search for clues. 

RE3 also comes with a demo disc of Dino Crisis — which is odd, since Dino Crisis came with a demo of RE3. Dino Crisis, for those who don't know, is another Capcom game that has the gameplay of Resident Evil and storyline of Jurassic Park. 

Like its predecessors, Resident Evil 3 absorbs players into the experience of survival horror. Its excellent presentation is accompanied by a plot that plays on fear. Whether you love it or love to hate it, Resident Evil 3 is a game that must be experienced.

This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 15-Nov-99