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The original, that is. In case we get a remake.
I played through the RE 1 remake in highschool, and original versions of RE 1 and RE 2 in college (albeit this was all with walkthroughs holding my hand). I did return and play through RE 2 proper and cleanly a week (A ranks for both routes, whoo) before the RE 2 remake hit, but I never really got through RE 3 until this past weekend. Things just felt off about the title, at least for me. The game isn't genuinely bad, at least in my eyes, but every step forward it made to make itself distinct feels just off enough for me to see something that makes me less thrilled about it than previous entries.
First, the semi-random nature of enemy placement and weapons in the game can make planning your route somewhat difficult and tedious, especially because until you enter corresponding rooms for the first time, the game's not going to decide whether the herbs/ammo are at the end of one hallway or another. It doesn't even really feel like it increases replayability, just tedium. The different enemy spawns also end up feeling super tedious because there's clearly an "easier" and a "harder" spawn in many cases. Zombies are easier than Hunters. Crows are easier than dogs. But you can also lose a whole bunch of coinflips in a row if you're unlucky.
Second, the gunpowder mechanic is cool and presumably was meant to give people more freedom in which weapons they wanted to use in the game, but it all falls apart due to the inclusion of Enhanced ammo for the handgun and shotgun. Anyone playing normally is going to want to make the most of those two ammo types and commit their early gunpowder pickups to getting their enhanced rounds, further limiting what other ammo they can get. This all makes grenade and magnum rounds, already plenty rare, become that much rarer because gunpowder is supposed to be your source for them.
Third, the game world layout feels very same-y throughout. Up until the clocktower sequence, a vast bulk of the game is spent in narrow side-alleys, many of them similar-looking. I can appreciate that the team behind it at Capcom tried to evolve the game formula past locks and keys, but functionally you're still getting crests and keys, just as reskins. The mansion in RE 1 and the police station in RE 2 felt like they had more diversified rooms, helping clue you in on whether to run or fight. Both had a better layout for exploratory circuits. Keys were more for opening rooms that would give you means of opening other rooms until you finally got what you needed to move into the next zone. In RE 3, gathering the keys and key-likes is all straightforward. You advance down the relatively linear game world until you hit a fork in the road. You go down the path that leads to the next area, and at the very end of that area you'll find whatever items are needed to open up the next area. Better hope you cleared enough enemies out on your way in!
And speaking of which, next there's the combat. Having a dedicated dodge or block system in an RE game is not an inherently bad thing. Revelation's dodge and RE 7's block both did their jobs just fine. RE 3's dodge however requires very crazy and precise timing, and there are plenty of times it won't even work either because geography won't play nice and you'll get caught on a wall and thus hit, or the attack you're dodging has enough active frames to hit you while you're coming out of your dodge. The game also loves enemy escalation, having TWO fairly similar enemy types in the form of the Brain Suckers and Drain Demos, and also TWO fairly similar Hunter types to boot. RE 1 held off on the Hunters until your return trip to the Mansion (for extra challenge in a familiar setting) while Chimera were a lategame challenge unique to zombies and RE 2's Lickers were introduced early but used discreetly and sparingly until you were a ways into the game. And then of course there's Nemesis himself, who constantly hunts for you especially in the earlygame, where his bullet sponge-ness is on full, shameless display and your lack of serious firepower means the fights will last longer and you'll burn through healing items fast. He's not too bad once you start getting more weapons, but heaven help you if you got the magnum in the police station because it's gonna be a long time until you're getting more ammo for it. The game also has a feeling like the devs never really put too much thought into what fighting him in certain areas would really feel like, but rather just put him in places where things would suck for the player.
And lastly the story just lacks a certain lightning in the bottle the first two titles had. RE 3 was when the Umbrella Corporation was elevated to being a corporate superpower, and it shows. But the narrative lacks the mystery of the original title or the human drama of RE 2. Jill is trying to escape Raccoon City at the start of the game and at the end she finally does, minor hiccups. Nothing new is learned, there's no real sense of escalation, and nobody really grows or develops, aside from Nikolai starting out ambiguously being an ass and ultimatley turning into a low-budget Wesker equivalent. When Sherry gets infected in RE 2, it becomes a driving force for Claire through the remainder of the game for her. When Jill gets infected it's just a diversion to play as Carlos for a bit. Nemesis exists to just be a recurring threat vs. William Birkin's status as a tragic and almost sympathetic monster. The Dead Factory is the final area essentially Just Because Jill and company were blindly moving towards it as opposed to any number of other directions in the city, whereas in RE 2, everything built towards getting out of the police station and seeing where that route led, and it made sense why an Umbrella lab would be underneath it all.
And I know full well that RE 3 was originally just going to be a side-story. But at some point in development they obviously decided that this would be the final installment of the PSX trilogy and for ambitious as it is in places, it falls short in others. I'm not sure if it was a budgetary reason or just not fully realizing what they were doing, but I can't rate this as high as the other classic RE titles I've played.
... Not that I'm not excited for the possible remake, mind you.
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