Panic in the streets, shuttered shops, and a palpable fear of infection. These have been hallmarks of post-apocalyptic video games for decades. It seems almost callous to think that – in the current climate – the idea of returning to the streets of a city riddled with a virus is so enticing.
Yet, the Resident Evil 3 Remake demo – which went live last Thursday – has given us plenty to chew on ahead of the full game release. Coming a mere year and three months after the release of the lauded Resident Evil 2 Remake, RE3 has some Mr. X sized boots to fill.
We’re launched into the action with iconic protagonist Jill Valentine, who is already acquainted with Carlos Olivera and his platoon leader Mikhail on the subway system, which has replaced the old cable car. It’s one of several modernisations the game has undergone, building upon the foundations laid by the Resident Evil 2 Remake.
Another is the dialogue and voice acting, which is a welcome change to the stilted – if not somewhat charming – original version. It lends weight to the situation. Whereas RE2 Remake‘s demo was named “one shot” and featured a time limit, there are no such restrictions here.
Still, urgency remains. Much of that owes to the atmosphere. The lighting reveals – or masks – just enough of Racoon City’s horrors to build a perpetual sense of peril. The unease is insidious, infecting your actions with tension and forcing your shooting to become panicked. The environment can often turn a routine encounter into a bullet-sapping frenzy.
To be sure, this is a war that the dead are winning. However, the quick-dodge mechanic helps you wrestle back some of that control. Jill’s superior training allows her to side-step the festering corpses and get some quick shots in. It’s an intuitive trick to employ when you’re on the back foot.
The map leaves little room to manoeuvre and the undead are relentless, often spilling back into areas you’ve already cleared out. Designing a city with plenty of new buildings to explore, whilst evoking such an oppressive feeling is a commendable achievement.
The introduction of red barrels for crowd control feels like it’s going to be crucial in the final game. There’s also a junction box which can be shot to electrocute enemies. They’re probably going to be more useful, one would suspect, against the more gargantuan opponents.
When Nemesis makes his appearance, everything escalates. Despite having a competent grasp of the controls, I found myself physically sweating as I struggled to evade him. As he bounds towards Jill, my quick-dodge poise dissolved and my sense of direction crumbled as I scrambled for a safe room.
Nemesis is the embodiment of the environment that you’re fighting through: dread, hostility, and unpredictability. It’s mirrored in his new design too, which looks like it is ready to burst through the trash bags and caution tape that’s holding his body together.
The old “fight or flight” encounter options have been removed, so when you hear him rasp the word “STARS” the only choice is to survive.