Jill Valentine is back and she's still running for her life from the nasty, evil, flesh-munching zombies of Raccoon City. This episode finds Jill just after she has resigned from S.T.A.R.S. Now she must try to escape from the small town, but she finds more mutants and zombies threatening at every turn. To make matters worse, much worse, there is a special zombie mutant on the loose who is bigger, stronger, faster, and smarter than any of the foul creatures that Jill has ever had to face in the past. He is called Nemesis and he wants nothing more than to hunt Jill down and eat her for lunch.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis features many of the same controls and character abilities as were used in the first two Resident Evil titles. There is a new spin move available to Jill that allows an improved defense and counter attack. Improvements have also been made to the graphics and background environments. Jill even has a new outfit to wear as she fights for her survival. A new role-playing factor has been introduced in this release as well. At certain points in the game, players are required to make storyline decisions that will effect how the plot develops as the game progresses.
There is a time for porting a game to the PC and there is a time for simply leaving it to the console where it was originally released. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is a stellar example of the latter. It's not that it's a bad game on the PC, it's just that it's better on the PlayStation.
Nemesis is the third game in the Resident Evil series, but it doesn't really fit into the storyline. If anything, it is a side-story that occurs while the events of Resident Evil 2 are happening elsewhere. Anyway, here's the story: due to the deadly T-Virus, the once peaceful burgh known as Raccoon City has turned into a seething orgy of horror. Flesh-eating zombies have taken over the streets and constantly threaten any humans unlucky enough to be trapped in the town. You are Jill Valentine, an elite police officer (with the STARS unit) who resigned just days after the grisly events that took place in the original Resident Evil.
Your goal is to blast your way out of the city, the whole time avoiding a new super-zombie called "Nemesis" who appears periodically throughout the game to mess up your life. As survival horror goes, Resident Evil 3 is at the top of the game. In fact, outside of Code: Veronica, Nemesis is probably the best survival horror game ever made. The story is intriguing and creepy, the villains are appropriately gross and the action is intense and sometimes genuinely scary. Everything in the game conspires to produce a wonderfully cinematic experience. By the time you're done taking down the Nemesis for the final time, you feel as if you've been through a war...and that's when you know you've been seriously engaged by a game.
As always, there is the excellent Resident Evil menu system, which allows you full reign over all the items and weapons you pick up on your quest. This version also has the option to mix special ammo, which gives extra pop to weapons like the Grenade Launcher and Magnum -- weapons that were already powerful in their own right. Another innovation here is a dodging system which is absolutely necessary against the bruising Nemesis, a stitched-up walking cadaver with serious gingivitis.
And of course, there are the random puzzles that Resident Evil has made famous. I could do without a lot of these, primarily because they are so damn contrived. I mean, what kind of city hides a battery in the bottom of a statue? None that I ever heard of. This game also features branching quests. At times during the game, the screen will freeze and you will have a "Choose Your Own Adventure" moment. From here, your quest will follow a slightly different path. Choose correctly and you can avert danger. Choose incorrectly, and you'll have to wade through twice as much muck to do the same job. I liked this little innovation. It keeps the story fresh on a replay and adds to the tension.
Everything I've said above applies to all of the versions of this game in existence. This PC game is a little late to the party, and it basically arrives empty-handed. The few bonuses that the PC version boasts are not really bonuses at all. For instance, in other versions (PSX and DC), you have to play through the game a couple of times to earn a good enough ranking to unlock special costumes and the mini-game. Here, these features are unlocked right off the bat, which is kind of cheap. Part of the fun of winning is unlocking the goodies at the end. When they are given to you up front, it is unlikely you'll pick the game up ever again.
And why pick the game up for the PC in the first place? If you have a PSX or Dreamcast, definitely get one of those versions. This game does not lend itself to keyboard and mouse control, so you'll likely be hooking up a gamepad to play anyway. If you can map the buttons to follow the PlayStation version exactly, it isn't bad. This still doesn't solve the issue of the oft-hated "Resident Evil" control scheme, in which pressing up will always move your character forward, regardless of orientation on the screen.
The graphics suffer a lot on the port as well. While the pre-rendered backgrounds look all right, and the cutscenes look gorgeous as ever, the character models are pretty horrendous. Not only does Jill look ultra-polygonal, but her body proportions are all wrong. This isn't super-obvious in her normal costumes, but when you get her into something new (all leather, for example), she looks like she could be in Sir Mix-a-Lot's Baby Got Back video. Unless you are able to run this in super-hi-res mode, don't bother.
Sound is one of the things that doesn't get hurt in transit. The accompanying music is excellent, creepy and subdued most of the time and adrenalized whenever Jill is in danger. The differentiated gun sounds are great as well. The shotgun reverberates perfectly through the empty city and the pop of the handgun is unmistakable.
Ultimately, Resident Evil 3 is a console game, and should be kept as such. If there isn't another platform in your house, it's definitely a fun game and worth a few hours of your time. But Capcom would do well to bring out a PC-only Resident Evil title that caters to what the PC does best -- first person blastin'!
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