Resident Evil 2 Remake was one of 2019’s best video games. The overhaul of the 1998 PlayStation classic did more than update the graphics — it reworked the control scheme, made zombies scary again, and reintroduced the world to the terrifying and unstoppable Mr. X. A year later, Capcom has released its remake of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, hoping fans find it just as engaging as its predecessor.
The original Nemesis was an odd game. Its two predecessors codified a new genre, what Capcom calls “Survival Horror.” In such a game, players have limited resources to fight the zombies and monsters that pursue them. Often, it’s better to run. Resident Evil 3 tried something different — it’s more of a proper action game. The horror is toned down and the violence amped up. The player has more control, more ammunition, and more options for dealing with their foes. But the monsters are also far tougher to take down.
“The original took Survival Horror and added more action elements,” says Resident Evil 3: Nemesis producer Peter Fabiano. In Resident Evil, police officer Jill Valentine navigates a zombie-filled mansion solving puzzles and killing shambling zombies. In Resident Evil 3, the plague has almost destroyed Racoon City, and Valentine has to escape while fighting for her life. It’s like the difference between Ridley Scott’s Alien and James Cameron’s sequel Aliens.
“[Nemesis] was always meant to expand on Jill’s story and show off more of Raccoon City in an attempt to conclude the first Resident Evil trilogy,” Fabiano says. “The director on Resident Evil 3’s reimagining was also lead programmer on the 1999 version, so he knew what the team was originally trying to accomplish, and was able to focus on his vision for how we should reimagine the new version while staying true to its roots.”
While Resident Evil 2’s big bad was the terrifying but slow-moving Mr. X — a haunting presence who constantly pursued players in the later half of the game — the antagonist here is the titular Nemesis, an uglier, faster, and meaner Mr. X that pursues Valentine from the moment the game starts until the credits roll. He’s a slasher movie villain, a Mike Meyers or Jason Voorhees. He can’t be stopped, and he’s relentless in his pursuit.
“Nemesis is way more agile than [Mr. X], and he can use his tentacles to grab Jill or jump long distances and quickly close in on her,” Fabiano says. “He can also use a variety of weapons, which adds another level of unpredictability to his character. You never know what to expect with Nemesis, so don’t be afraid to run away if you can.”
Still, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was the weakest of the classic gaming trilogy. In moving from horror to action, Resident Evil lost something in the process. But Fabiano says this remake is a chance to make the action horror game Capcom always envisioned.
“The team had a great time rebuilding and re-envisioning Raccoon City, the world, and its characters,” he says. “For example, we’re using photogrammetry to make characters and objects ultra-realistic. We also made Nemesis feel even more formidable and imposing through his movements, visuals, and interactions. With some of the original team members on board, it was both exciting and challenging to think of what the original game was trying to achieve, and improve upon it.”
A Resident Evil game isn’t complete without zombies, and the excellent living dead of Resident Evil 2 return to harass players again in Resident Evil 3. “Zombies have been part of the zeitgeist and popular culture for some time now,” Fabiano says. “I think their longevity comes from the fact that they are empty shells of humanity that are vicious and seemingly have no purpose but to feed. This creates a peculiar familiarity and fear.”
Resident Evil has, somehow, kept zombies fresh for more than two decades. In Resident Evil 2 Remake, a headshot wasn’t a guaranteed kill and a zombie the player thought they’d taken down might rise and attack again hours later. Resident Evil 3 is larger than Resident Evil 2, and its zombies are hidden in strange corners of the map. “For Resident Evil 3, it’s right in the early days of the outbreak, so you see zombies strewn about here and there, and they add to the level of overall fear.”
And Nemesis is always there, lurking somewhere in the background, ready to chase the player to the next level — the unstoppable killer no one can avoid.