Gonna take me a little longer with Dino Crisis 3, but for now I want to focus on another Capcom game that feels much like where Dino Crisis 3 falls for me right now. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is, for me, where the Survival Horror of the series ended, in spite of all the good it really does…
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, more than anything, felt like the end.
And yet, it sowed new beginnings too. But mostly it was an ending, the end of Resident Evil as Survival Horror. Because, if we’re looking at it from a modern point of view, it really was not survival horror. Was it a hard game? Absolutely, and if you wanted there were many optional challenges to make the game even harder still. But scary? Well, I suppose it depends on your definition of scary, and how deeply you are willing to examine the game in order to draw your conclusions.
Mechanically, Resident Evil 3 began by sewing into the fabric of its self a few tricks that Capcom had been seeding into Dino Crisis, like the 180-degree spin and flashpoints, which were effectively decisions you could make that would affect where and how you would be playing the rest of the game in most cases. It was perhaps not odd that it decided not to follow suit with the fully-3D environments and that was perhaps a wise decision in the long run; the amount of detailing that the pre-rendered landscapes offered was simply exquisite, and definitely breathed more life into Raccoon City than ever before. Which was just as well, because the gameplay was mostly unchanged from previous entrants to the series, albeit Resident Evil 3 was prettier, likely because they didn’t end up trying to rewrite the whole game again as they did with Resident Evil 2.
Whilst the gameplay and puzzling felt distinctly old-school however, Resident Evil 3 felt nothing like Resident Evil 2.
Part of this is down to the story. And there is a train of thought that when they sat down to brainstorm this that alcohol or other substances may have been doing the rounds whilst they chucked these points out. You have the return of series stalwart Jill Valentine, who is caught in Raccoon City at the height of the T-Virus Outbreak (and it IS the T-Virus guys, the G-Virus came later when William Birkin injected it into himself! Know your timelines…), and she has to escape. Okay, so she slips into a bright blue boob-tube and a black miniskirt and walks out with a pistol in her hands. Okay. This is Jill Valentine we’re talking about and she does sort of have experience with zombies and the last thing I’d be wearing is so little clothing that I’m walking around as an a’la carte menu!
Then comes the revelation that Umbrella also don’t like Jill, or the STARS unit, and have dropped in an eight-foot mentally-challenged mutant called Nemesis, that is clad head to toe in PVC and Leather, has a finger that turns into a ten-foot tentacle and essentially then spends the rest of the game chasing Jill Valentine and trying to get her with his bendy flexible tentacle-finger and a rocket launcher. This is usually the point someone stops me and questions my interpretation, but there’s no real arguing with it. On paper, when you put it down into actual words, there’s something disturbingly odd about it, like it had come from the shadier, more inappropriate side of Japanese culture. There is of course the UBCF, The Umbrella BioHazard Countermeasure Force – readas; “We’re so gonna cover this up!”, Brad Vickers who ran off in the first game finally gets his just desserts (and you see how he becomes a zombie in Resident Evil 2) and the traditionally hammy, ridiculously porn-acting style of the voice actors. But the heart of the game is mostly Nemesis chasing Jill through the city, and then Carlos – the self-proclaimed ladies man. Sometimes sadly with a sort of Benny Hill-style edge to it.
Which makes it hard to see Resident Evil 3: Nemesis as a horror game, more of a parody of a genre that Capcom had pretty much crafted for itself. When it came to the game design, and the ebb and flow, the lack of backtracking and the progression from area to area was a nice change. It felt like you were being pushed onwards, in the two parts – before the Clock Tower section is before Resident Evil 2 happens, and afterwards is more or less concurrent with Resident Evil 2. This allows them the chance to very much give us a distinctive, quite interesting slant on the way the tale unfurls, initially more relaxed and inquisitive and hopeful, leading into the final stretch when it feels like the hope had been abandoned. Everything flows beautifully to the end, and the end does come with its own little surprises.
So when it came to survival, it’s perhaps interesting that there was ammo aplenty in Raccoon City – which you’d expect at the height of the zombie outbreak and in an American city which has a few gun-shops – with the optional bonus for Jill to make her own ammunition. The more ammunition you make, the better you get at it and the more potent your ammo starts to become. It’s a system that never got repeated and that is a little bit of a shame, because it was quite a nice addition and allowed us to effectively make and stash our higher-quality goods for boss fights, or when we wanted to take down Nemesis for some bonus goodies. It allowed a nice, technical and tactical edge to the proceedings, for what was a fairly long game by its own standards.
Resident Evil 3 was technically a much better game – everything from walking up steps without loading screens at times to the general pace of proceedings is evidence that when it came to the production values of the game, and its incredible boss battles and video clips, no expense was spared in making this one of the highlights of the PlayStation era. And yet, for all of this and for as good as it was, there is still an inherent undercurrent in the game that Capcom never could shift; that somehow, somewhere in there, they were desperately trying to kill this game series off as well.
Removing it from its genre, adding in more ammunition to take the sting from the horror, the comical deconstruction of the plot, the chaos, destroying Raccoon City and the epilogues at the end, there is a noticeable angle in this game that perhaps the developers simply had tired of it. They didn’t want to make a bad game, but they wanted us to sort of go off it. I suppose there’s a subtle irony in that at the time, the Internet was still fresh-faced and people were being exposed to the crazy culture-shock of Japan as we took to in the late 90’s, and by trying to make it impenetrably Japanese it became MORE popular as a result. In this conflicting sensation of loving and loathing, they created something that was truly something unique and I do feel something the Resident Evil series has been desperately trying to recreate ever since; but it’s often quite difficult to recreate an accident. Accidents tend to be unplanned and… well… accidental. When you try to repeat an accident, it begins to look somewhat fake, which subsequent games have always sort of stumbled on getting right. The closest was Resident Evil 4, admittedly, but only because the game was similarly one long stream of jokes and parody. Resident Evil 4 was often slapstick, intentionally making fun of itself on the surface but very serious underneath. Resident Evil 3 felt more like the parody ran deep, very deep, into its being. That everyone was in on the joke, everyone was pushing for the game ridiculous outcome and it just bleeds through from every pore and orifice. Every part, from the pornographic-style humour and dialogue to Carlos, whose fake accent and clichéd Latino swagger frankly border insulting but never quite go so far that it feels unnecessarily a black mark on its face. Because if it’s making fun of everything else, it may as well go the whole hog, right?
All of this makes it not a survival horror game, because it just isn’t that scary. But it makes it very hard to dislike, there’s so little to dislike and a lot more to love as well. It’s a shame that the really creative means of trying to self-destruct a series have ceased because you just don’t get that same inherent wit or insanity from the more recent entrants of Resident Evil 5, 6 and Revelations. Everything is very concise and restrained and intelligent but there’s nothing deep down inside it any longer. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis had a heart of gold, and a knack for comedy in a straight fashion that was beguiling, bewitching and believable. Everyone seemed okay with everything, even when the base concepts are so crazy, enough to go through with it.
And perhaps there is an argument that perhaps it could and should have ended with Resident Evil 3. Or perhaps utilised Resident Evil 4 and its leap away from the series to start anew. Because if Resident Evil 3 was an attempt to sort of self-implode the series, if it had it would have gone out with fireworks and a ticker-tape parade through the streets of Awesome. It would have been a fitting end, a gloriously beautiful series-immolation that you can’t help but admire, even when you know that the intention is completely to burn this monolith to the ground. The more recent Resident Evil games want to carry on, want to be indefinite, but they actually seem to end up killing the series more and more. There is a sad sensation now that the old girl needs a break, she’s been trying for a while to get out of her contract and recuperate in the south of France for a few years before returning to the limelight. She doesn’t have the energy for it, her heart isn’t in it any more and all she did recently was regurgitate options and concepts from many other games hoping people would think it was creative. And it wasn’t. If anything, most of us felt sorry for her. It’s never nice to see someone you used to love trying so desperately to carry on when she’s so utterly drunk and incapable of remembering her lines. The industry has forced her on, ever on, and now it’s clear that they do not have her best interests at heart.
We look at the sad, drawn, ravaged face of Resident Evil 6 and we mourn it, because some of us remember the youthful visage of Resident Evil 3. When she seemed to want to go out in a blaze of glory… but ended up trotted out ever since to recapture that same sense of fun, hilarity and wit.
She can’t, she can’t, she can’t. And at this rate, she’s going to be worked into the grave before they get another golden egg from this goose.
- Official Artwork from the Wiki Network. Screenshots used from various sources via Google Images (GameFAQs, GamePressure and OldGameNews).