torstai 20. lokakuuta 2011

REVIEW - Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999)

GENRE(S): Action / Survival horror
RELEASED: September 1999

A Hall of Famer in the categories of both "revolutionary action games" and "revolutionarily bad voice acting", Resident Evil popularized the term "survival horror" in 1996. Resident Evil 2, released in 1998, is still considered a masterpiece in the genre. Since then, the series has evolved - some bent on disagreeing would say degraded - from a balanced mix of puzzle solving, thick, bone chilling atmosphere and the occasional, desperate fight to survive to a much more easily explained franchise of fast paced, constant action, in which efficient combat tactics have taken over for smart item management as the most important key to survival. The first Resident Evil game of the new generation was Resident Evil 4... wait, rewind a bit! What happened to Resident Evil 3? Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was released on the PlayStation in 1999. The game was well received by critics, but its sales were nowhere near those of its predecessors, and you could say the game went almost unnoticed by casual players for years. In recent years, the game has become revered by many as perhaps the best game in the vintage Resident Evil series. I didn't buy that praise then, and I don't buy it now. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is a good game, but it lacks plenty of what I fell in love with the franchise for.

Big Trouble in Little Raccoon

Catherine Disher : Jill Valentine
Vince Corazza : Carlos Oliveira
Ben Campbell : Mikhail Victor
Roger Honeywell : Nicholai Ginovaef
Evan Sabba : Brad Vickers
Tony Rosato : Dario Rosso / Nemesis
Peter Windrem : Tyrell Patrick
Richard Clarkin : Murphy Seeker

Raccoon City has been taken over by zombies. While Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield are still both very unaware of the situation, S.T.A.R.S. operative Jill Valentine is stranded in the heart of the city, fighting for survival. As she makes her way through the zombie-infested streets to find the way out, she discovers she is the primary target of a new bio-organic weapon designed by Umbrella to assassinate every surviving member of the group that nearly destroyed their research.

Anime hater says "wut".
I consider myself a lifelong fan of Resident Evil, and though it might therefore be hard to believe, it's only been two years since I first played Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. It just somehow slipped past me, just like it slipped past many a player back in the day - as a matter of fact, back when it was released, I didn't really play anything else besides role-playing games. Apparently I was so taken by the Final Fantasy storm that even a major game in one of my other favourite franchises managed to avoid my attention. When I finally realized I had missed a Resident Evil game, I was furious, but when I read about the game, I wasn't too taken by it. Something about it just didn't add up; I was in no rush to try the game. Years passed, and I forgot all about its existence again, right up until I stumbled on it on the PlayStation Network. I just happened to have some extra money, so I thought I'd finally enlighten myself with the game other Resident Evil fans were suddenly calling the classic franchise at its finest; I wonder how much the popularity of the second movie, loosely based on this game, had to do with the sudden popularity of this game. If I were more into guessing, I would say quite a lot, 'cause I consider Nemesis a quite good game with some good ideas and a fantastic main villain - but the worst game in the main series, bar none.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is split into two acts; the first one's events take place 24 hours before the events of Resident Evil 2, and the second one's take place two days later. The game is full of mistakes related to the timeline; for example, the police station from the previous game - yep, we go back for a brief visit - is all boarded up and the only surviving cop that Leon met in the beginning of the game is already dead. Also, in general, the city's in total chaos from the very beginning, while it seemed very peaceful in the beginning of Resident Evil 2. So, basically, the guys at Capcom wrote a good story, but executed it so that nitpickers like me could fart out blood. Resident Evil 3's meant to work as a functional prequel, sequel and an interquel, all at the same time, but it works as none.

Step a little bit to the right. No, my right. Good.
Good. Now, stand still and die. Again.
The general graphics are quite good - outdated, for certain, but that's not really the point. What really surprises me is that the game actually looks somewhat hairier than Resident Evil 2. I wasn't a big fan of the doll-ish cutscenes in the previous game, but here they took them even further by removing everything human about the characters' looks. I really don't dig the cheap-looking cartoons that the cutscenes are, even less the overtly Japanese intro - you'll know exactly what I mean. It simply does not mesh with my idea of Resident Evil. Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't miss the first game's intro, the one with real actors - I just thought they would take at least half a step forward and not two steps back with the cutscenes.

The music is good, pretty much the same as Resident Evil 2's jive; some are ripped straight off from that game, such as Masami Ueda's classic, haunting piece that still plays in the main hall of the R.P.D. station. The voice acting is still nearly as bad as always, but this time, it's more of the fault of bad lines than bad actors - Jill and Brad have totally different actors they had before. The dialogue is ridiculously bad, and I think the actors survive the atrocious script with moderate honour. There was pretty much only one true "IS THAT YOU, REBECCA!!!???" or "You were almost a Jill sandwich" moment here, one which made me take a break and calm my nerves stressed by sheer amusement before continuing on with the game. That is quite an accomplishment, we're speaking of old school Resident Evil here.

The first thing that clearly separates the game from the previous installments is that you can't choose your character - the game is a surprisingly story-driven game, and that story revolves around Jill Valentine and her desperate escape from Raccoon City, which is literally falling apart to not much more than goose shit around her. Apart from the zombies and the utter destruction of the city, Jill's got one personal, eight-feet tall problem; a new Tyrant prototype is on her tail, and not only is this son of a bitch highly intelligent, he is incredibly fast, strong, and he knows how to use a rocket launcher. Ouch. Unlike others of his kind, he doesn't kill for a primitive urge, instead he's been "programmed" by Umbrella to eliminate every surviving member of S.T.A.R.S.. His name: Nemesis.

Hey, I know this place.
On paper, Nemesis is an awesome villain. The production team didn't even try to create a human antagonist this time, they focused all their energy on a true monster that possesses every nasty quality of the original Tyrant, Mr. X and the little less nerdy Dr. Birkin, all in one neat package, and a few more of those qualities. However, they made the mistake of overplaying the character. The "JESUS JUMPING CHRIST!" I yelled out each time Mr. X burst through a brick wall or whatever at the most unpredictable moment in Resident Evil 2 very quickly turned into "oh, for fuck's sake, not again" in Resident Evil 3. Sure, Nemesis can, and will, scare you on the first couple of times he shows his ugly face, but when he starts appearing around every damn corner, the fear turns into pure frustration. Most of the time, you get good power-ups by putting him down, but it ain't easy, and you really don't have any bullets to spare in this game.

Let's take it from the top, from the title screen, in fact. When it comes to difficulty level, there are two options: Easy or Hard. What happened to Normal? This is just like in Ghouls 'n Ghosts for the Sega Genesis; the developers are practically laughing at your face by forcing you to play on "Easy", just like they forced you to play on "Practice" in Ghouls 'n Ghosts - which, of course, was FAR from practice. Well, Easy in Resident Evil 3 is exactly that - easy. You get all basic weapons in the beginning of the game, and plenty of ammo for all of them. Ink Ribbons are infinite - I wonder why they still hadn't figured out they should've left them out altogether - and considering you have three First Aid Sprays to start out with, you could say you have much easier access to health power-ups. Also, Hard is definitely hard. There is nothing normal about this difficulty level at all; going at the game on Hard is the only way for a self-respecting Resident Evil player to go, but it will get very frustrating, much sooner than you would want or expect. The Nemesis, respawning zombies (ouch), a pathetic abundance of everything practical, from ammo to health items to Ink Ribbons, a LOT of painful backtracking... hell no, I would never even imagine recommending this game to one new to the franchise.

Burning buildings are a standard in this game.
Get used to 'em.
At first glance, the game looks exactly the same as the ones that came before, but then the truths about the game start slapping you across the face. First up is a new feature that a lot of fans like, but I personally think there's no point to it: you find very little ammo in this game, you are responsible for the creation of ammunition with a reloading tool which takes just as much annoying space in your equally annoying inventory as the Ink Ribbons. You can create ammunition from gunpowder of different colours, which are scattered all around just like ammo in the previous games. By combining two different types of gunpowder, you can create more powerful ammo for more powerful weapons. ...Great. I think I could've breathed just fine if they would've just given us the ammo straight up like before. I am very rarely in the mood to go back to the nearest chest to dig up the reloading tool every single one of the million times I run out of bullets within an hour. Of course the supposed greatness of this feature lies in the fact that you can create ammo that you truly need, but finding the proper type of gunpowder takes time, and again, there is absolutely no sense in hauling that reloading tool around all the time!

The second "huge" addition to the gameplay experience is the optional use of advanced combat tactics. Interaction with the environment is cool, and a good thing for the later games to exploit further. For example, you can blow up a barrel of fuel with a single shot whenever there's a horde of zombies passing by and shred them all to pieces in the process, without having to waste a lot of good firepower by pumping each one's brain full of lead. Dodging attacks does not work very well against anyone or anything else than Nemesis himself, since his attacks are so much more physical than the age-old, sudden and unpredictable grappling attacks fancied by the zombies.

I saved the best for last, and this time it truly is the best new feature in the game: Live Selection. The game's progress is very dependent of the decisions that you make. In tight spots such as an ambush by Nemesis or the ground breaking from under you, you have only a few seconds to decide between two options. Some of the worse options simply don't work, most of them do, but usually force you to move on to a plan B, which tends to be way less practical than your original one. I truly dug this system and got the chance to try both options in many different situations, all due to dying so often.

God damn it, Predator! Leave me alone already!
The inventory system is seriously worse than ever before, or even after. There's no secondary, permanent item slot, which means that even a lockpick or a lighter takes up one main slot in your inventory. You're most likely going to die so many times in one single spot, that Ink Ribbons or the reloading tool can easily be forgotten to take up valuable space in the inventory after loading the game.

Last thing I'll mention - or criticize - about the game is the setting. Resident Evil might have moved on to wide open, exterior areas as of late, but the genre and style of the games have also changed a lot - it has turned out awesome. I think that in old school Resident Evil, one of the main attractions was the constant fear of the walls of a narrow corridor crumbling down on you, with someone other than your own footsteps on the wooden floor and heavy breathing mixed with unearthly moaning creating an uneasy feeling you couldn't rightly describe. In Resident Evil 3, you mostly wander around streets - literally, since the game is full of some of the most dastardly backtracking I've ever seen - and it just doesn't feel the same. The whole theme of the vintage franchise, as it was known based on the first two games, kind of loses its point in my opinion when 90% of the action is taken to the outside. What also hurts the game is that Nemesis is the only truly frightening enemy in the whole game. There are a couple of new Hunter models, but no Lickers or anything new, persistent and out of the ordinary when it comes to being a real asshole. Just some venomous Spider-Men who think too much of themselves. Oh, and fat zombies that are just hilarious.

The big cheese, and he ain't a nice guy at all.
As I said, the game is highly difficult in comparison to its predecessors, and the constant backtracking from one side of Raccoon City to another, mostly between puzzle solutions, makes the challenge a little too tedious to bear. Running out of everything you need at the exact same time isn't impossible at all - it's hard to enjoy the game when you have no ammo, no Ink Ribbons, no health items, you've last saved two or three hours ago and indeed, you don't even have a rock to throw at the most pathetic enemy. You just need to RUN, and hope that whatever lies behind that mysterious door from the beginning of the game, which you can finally open, is the solution to your problems. For a serious fan, the hefty amount of unlockables is good news. There's a Mercenaries minigame, plenty of alternate attires for Jill and eight Epilogue Files, which detail the ultimate fates of many of the central characters. Unfortunately, to see each of the files, you need to play through the game eight times. Kind of an aggressive solution by Capcom.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was a fun experience, but simply not a fun Resident Evil experience. I get why people praise the character of Nemesis, but not their praises towards the game in general. I'll truly, now and forever, stand by Resident Evil 2 when it comes to the ultimate experience in old school survival horror of the zombie-killing type. 

SOUND : 7.9


a.k.a. Biohazard 3: Last Escape (JAP), Biohazard 1.9 (working title), Resident Evil: Nemesis

GameRankings: 81.11% (DC), 63.71% (GCN), 74.15% (PC), 88.48% (PS1)

Producer Shinji Mikami was against the game being called Resident Evil 3 (or Biohazard 3), as he thought Code: Veronica - which was under development - advanced the story enough to be a "real" sequel. He came up with the working title Biohazard 1.9..

Since the release of the game, Nemesis has become one of the most popular characters in the franchise. He has since made appearances in Capcom's obscure action game Under the Skin, in the popular Marvel vs. Capcom series of fighting games, and of course, the Resident Evil 3 scenario in the Wii game Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles.

Nemesis was originally designed to appear in Resident Evil 2, but his appearance was deemed too "distinct", so he was replaced with Mr. X - hence their similar taste in clothing.

The second film in the Resident Evil movie franchise, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, is loosely based on Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. It features characters Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), Carlos Oliveira (Oded Fehr), Nicholai Ginovaef (Zack Ward), and Nemesis (Matthew G. Taylor). In the movie, the character of Matt Addison (Eric Mabius), captured by Umbrella in the end of the first film, became Nemesis.

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