Resident Evil 3’s demo is a sublime slice of survival horror

After a rough couple years that saw Deep Down enter development hell and the half-baked Street Fighter V get released, Capcom has once again hit its stride. Last year, the Japanese publisher released two game of the year contenders in Devil May Cry 5 and an excellent remake of Resident Evil 2. Now, the company opens its 2020 release schedule with a much-anticipated new version of Resident Evil 3.

The newly released demo opens with Jill Valentine agreeing to work with members of the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service as they’re attempting to escape Raccoon City. After a brief yet entertaining back-and-forth between her and Carlos Oliveira that continues over walkie-talkie, players are free to explore the zombie-infested city with the goal of getting the subway infrastructure back online. That’s it for story. This is a brief demo, and it launches players right into the thick of it.

It didn’t take long before I found myself face-to-face with the undead. Aiming is a mixture of patience and precision, as the crosshairs close in when Valentine stands still. That makes fending off zombies a tactical affair, as I had to regularly stand still to get a headshot, then move out of the way to avoid getting bitten. These combat exchanges are as tense as they were in the PlayStation original, although they have more depth and flexibility to them.

Impressive scale

After spraying zombie guts all over, I noticed the remake’s impressive scale. Instead of the hallway-like streets of the original, players have a lot more room to maneuver, and the surrounding shops are brimming with detail. Similar to Resident Evil 2, the city feels like it once lived, and isn’t just a tailor-made disaster zone for zombies to roam.

Similar to Capcom’s other Resident Evil remakes, the controls are revamped to improve responsiveness. This is a welcome change, as the new control scheme feels great. Anyone who played the RE2 remake will feel right at home. The biggest difference is that Valentine has an advanced evade move, executed by pressing R1. Mastering this ability takes a few tries, and I ended up a zombie snack while I practiced. However, it’s an essential skill to learn, as there’s no better way to evade encounters.

The new control scheme feels great

Like previous Resident Evil games, thoroughly searching areas will result in rewards for the player. Aside from useful consumable items, the demo is loaded with 20 hidden Mr. Charlie bobbleheads. Despite playing quite carefully and checking every corner I saw, I only found a handful of the collectibles.

Raccoon City is dense with puzzles. I encountered a few objects, such as locked boxes and safes, that I couldn’t immediately open. One highlight was a shotgun locked in an office. While I couldn’t get it at first, I eventually found some bolt cutters in a nearby store. Grabbing the weapon was immensely satisfying. The puzzles aren’t complex, but the constant threat of zombies makes them tense.

Encountering Nemesis

The most intense moment in the demo was encountering Nemesis, the hulking bioweapon that chases Valentine throughout the game. I blasted him with my shotgun, which I had saved specifically for this encounter. It stunned him temporarily, but he still managed to use his long arms to grab me. After struggling out of his grasp, I ran away until he leaped in front of me. A well-timed dodge let me slip into a fenced alleyway and make my getaway.

It looks like Capcom has continued its streak of fantastic games.

Resident Evil 3‘s demo ends on a high note. I used the fire hose I found on the other side of town to extinguish a fire that blocked my path earlier. The camera then followed Valentine as she travels along the newly opened path until Nemesis breaks down a wall and stares her down. It’s a cheap jump scare, but an effective one. Then, the game rewards you with a new trailer that teases a returning character from RE2 who wasn’t in the original.

The demo takes about 30 minutes to complete, although your time will vary depending on how thorough you are and how many side objectives you try to solve (such as if you want to open a locked safe, or not). Just like RE2, there’s a lot of potential for speedrunners, as some talented players have finished it in just under 3 minutes. No matter how you play it, the demo does an excellent job of demonstrating this remake is living up to fan expectations.

Resident Evil 3 will offer plenty of scares once it releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on April 3. This small slice is extremely promising, and it looks like Capcom has continued its streak of fantastic games.

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