Love/Hate: Resident Evil 3 – Nemesis

Welcome back to the Resident Evil love/hate series! In this entry we’ll be going over the original Resident Evil 3: Nemesis! I’ve got quite a history with this game in particular – I can remember seeing Nemesis on the box art for the game and hearing that he would actively stalk you around the game, and I thought that sounded like the coolest shit ever. It was the first Resident Evil title that I can remember being interested in and I would eventually purchase it, RE1 and RE2 for the PS1 Classics store on my good ol’ PSP. However, it’s also the only one of those games that I actually put any time into (again, I really dug the premise, so I really wanted to try it out). I ended up getting about 1/3 of the way in during that attempt, despite not getting on well with the tank controls and general gameplay at the time (that said, I had vivid memories of reaching the train car and a couple of the puzzles and locales, so I know I managed to make it a couple hours in).

Well, in the years since I have played through a lot of Resident Evil games, including this game’s remake and all the other “classic” entries in the franchise, and I’ve been very excited to finally dive back in and complete the game that first piqued my interest in this series in full. Would it manage to live up to the lofty expectations I had placed on it? Read on to find out…


  • Raccoon City – I had already praised Resident Evil 2 for expanding the game’s scope compared to RE1, but RE3 cranks things up to the point of making RE2 look tiny in comparison. Most of this game takes place within the streets of Raccoon City itself as Jill Valentine has to scrounge up the supplies needed to make her escape. For a PS1 game, it is impressive just how sprawling the city is, as you traverse throughout the streets and into various locales (including the RPD itself). The environmental design has also improved once again, really bringing Raccoon City to life, showing the scale of the devastation it has been subjected to, and showing glimpses of the lives that once were lived here.
  • The Outbreak – On a somewhat-related note, RE3 really hammers home the reality of Raccoon City’s zombie apocalypse in a way that RE2 conspicuously ignores (all versions of RE2, for that matter). The game’s opening cinematic really hammers home how brutal and terrifying this situation is for those caught up in it. The streets are absolutely overrun with undead and we find that there really isn’t anywhere left in the city that’s safe for survivors. Moreso than any other Resident Evil game (other than Outbreak, fittingly), RE3 nails the idea of being caught up in a zombie apocalypse and allows you to live out that scenario.
  • The Story – RE3‘s story is, by and large, the same as REmake 3‘s (which I have praised as probably the strongest story in the franchise). While it is less flashy and refined, it is still solid and enjoyable. Like its remake, RE3‘s story largely stands out in the ways that it differs from your typical Resident Evil game. The overall plot is incredibly simple: escape the city. However, there is a strong focus on character, particularly in the development of Jill and Carlos. Jill does not trust Carlos due to his affiliation with Umbrella, and Carlos believes that Umbrella has the city’s best interests in mind when he’s deployed to try to rescue civilians. However, over the course of the game, Jill learns that there are well-meaning people working within Umbrella, and finds herself coming to trust Carlos. Carlos, on the other hand, gains a deep appreciation for Jill’s strength, comes to realize his complicity in Umbrella’s crimes, and questions his loyalty to the company’s orders. Furthermore, the game greatly benefits from its nigh-unkillable and persistent antagonist, who keeps the pressure on throughout the entire game in a way that no other Resident Evil antagonist can really compare. Furthermore, the game also keeps its focus on the bigger picture – the fate of Raccoon City as a whole is kept in focus as we see the city destroyed at the end. It would have been easy for the game to end like RE2, content that our heroes have escaped, but they made sure to show the ultimate devastation wrought by Umbrella.
  • Nemesis – The titular big-bad is, without a doubt, the most intimidating and imposing enemy in the franchise. The story sets him up this way, and the gameplay does not disappoint. He’s incredibly difficult to fight, running at you in a terrifying sprint, firing a rocket launcher, or making you shit your pants when you try to run to another area and then he follows you and donkey punches you in the back of the head. He can put you into a real panic, but he rarely outstays his welcome, and there are only three mandatory confrontations in the whole game, so if you need to run you have the freedom to do so. However, if you want to stand and fight, that’s also an option, and the game will reward you for it with some fantastic weapons and items.
    • For my part, I elected to stand and fight in most cases, including the incredibly difficult first and second fights where you simply do not have the weapons and ammo required to make this fight short. I died to Nemesis more in these two fights than I did in my entire playthroughs of RE1, 2, and Code: Veronica. I had to put on my Dark Souls pants and git gud, which helped make the rest of my encounters a little bit more manageable. Simply put, try to get him close, then run past his right arm so he’ll be baited for a grab. Then get a few meters away from him and unload a shotgun blast or two pistol shots. Rinse and repeat a dozen times and he’ll go down. Sounds simple enough, but he will sometimes charge at you and leave you with little time to react/dodge. Still, using a couple heals is preferable to dying over and over again.
  • Live Selection – RE3 improves on RE2‘s zapping system with (in my opinion) its far more impactful “live selection” mechanic. At certain points in the game, you’ll be given the option to take one of two different courses of action. While these choices won’t drastically alter the story or let you explore entirely new areas (often you’ll just start in one of two rooms, which you will be able to find pretty quickly), the choices they often the player can often be pretty huge. There are several Nemesis encounters that you can avoid entirely, or cheese to get free item drops from using this system. In addition, I found that the game really encourages taking the “bold” course of action, so it’s nice that it’s not punishing you with a cheap death because you didn’t know enough to make the “right” choice. Ultimately, I love how this lets the player tailor the experience to their wants and needs in any given situation, and it encourages replays to see how much you can affect the game.
  • Improved Map – Once again, the map in RE3 has been improved substantially from its predecessor. In addition to all the previous improvements, viewing the map now has its own dedicated button (L2), you can zoom in and out, all save rooms are marked on the map, and areas of interest are highlighted in blue. It’s not quite at the level of REmake 2‘s user-friendly map, but considering that this is only three years after RE1‘s bare-bones effort, this is a quantum-leap forward.
  • Gun Powders – RE3 introduces the concept of gun powders that you can use and mix in order to make ammunition for your various weapons. Like the live selection mechanic, I love how this allows player choice and expression to take center stage. If you want, you can produce ammo for your mainstay handgun and shotgun, eventually learning how to make stronger ammo if you keep doing so. However, you can also choose to mix ammo types together to produce various types of grenade launcher shells or even magnum rounds in order to fight Nemesis more efficiently. It all depends on your ammo situation at the time and your preferences and priorities, which is fantastic as far as I’m concerned.
  • Graphics – Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering that it was the last PS1 Resident Evil game, but RE3 is easily the best-looking entry on the system. In addition to everything I said about how Raccoon City is brought to life, the character models are all a noticeable step up from the previous games.
  • Stairs! – This is a pretty small change in the grand scheme of things, but OH MY GOD, you can just walk up and down stairs now without having to press a button first! Not only does this make for much smoother gameplay, but it also means that you can stop and turn around if you wish (say, if you’re heading down some stairs and then see that Nemesis is waiting for you at the bottom).


  • Dodge – RE3‘s dodge is somewhat notorious for how unreliable it is. In my experience, it’s not that it is bad or unresponsive (unlike, say, Resident Evil: Revelations). When I wanted to dodge, I found the timing was pretty reasonable and, against certain enemies, I was dodging like a champ. However, the main issue is that the dodge is mapped to R1 (aka, the aim button), or if you’re already aiming, then it’s R1+X (aka, the button you’d press to shoot). The biggest issue this creates is that, unless you’re actively, intentionally practicing your dodges, most of the dodges you are going to do are going to be completely by accident. Furthermore, you have no invincibility during a dodge. As a result, you can successfully pull one off, and then still get caught in a grab attack, or attacked by a different enemy altogether. It’s kind of bullshit, but luckily the game doesn’t require you to be able to dodge in order to be successful (looking at you again, Revelations…). As a result, it feels more like a bonus when it happens that can get you out of trouble on occasion, or a high-skill mechanic to master, but it would have been really nice if the game let you map dodge to its own dedicated button.
    • This is where I should note that there are apparently custom patches for this game where you can map dodge to the R2 button. I didn’t find out about this until I was just about the finish the game, but if I had known sooner, I probably would have given it a try.
  • Randomized Puzzles – I think that RE3 was the one classic Resident Evil game where I didn’t need to look up the solutions to any of its puzzles. They tend to be pretty intuitive, or straight-up tell you what you need to do, or can be brute-forced without too much trouble… which is good, because you can’t really look up the answers the way you could in the other games, because the puzzles and their solutions have been randomized. I get that this is done to make subsequent playthroughs feel more “fresh” and for the puzzles to not feel like a boring obstacle when you have already completed them once, but if you were to get stuck on one, it could be a uniquely frustrating experience in RE3.


  • The Controls – While I don’t really like tank controls, I’ve gotten used to them over the course of the last few games because they were necessary to make the games function within their technical limitations, and the games were designed with them in mind. However, RE3 reaches a tipping point where its controls are actively starting to feel inadequate for the situations the game is putting you in. First of all, a lot of the difficulty with Nemesis comes down to his incredible speed, coupled with your inability to maneuver with any speed in response. If you had more “modern” and “free” movement controls, Nemesis would be significantly easier to deal with as you could bait his grabs more consistently, and you could actually respond to his charges. It’s not just Nemesis either, as even the basic zombies are now significantly faster and will close the distance with you in a fraction of the time required of other Resident Evil games. It feels like these changes were made because of the addition of the dodge and quick turn. However, the dodge is unreliable as we have said, and the quick turn is still too slow to actually be useful when fighting Nemesis, so the game just ends up feeling like it has gotten faster than your movement can really keep up with. Oh, also, when Nemesis throws you to the ground and you have to button mash like mad to stand up? Fuck that shit, it sucks.
  • Reload Tool – As much as I love the gun powder system in this game, it all revolves around the reload tool, which some genius at Capcom decided should take up an inventory slot instead of being Jill’s default item… y’know, the sort of thing every other character in a Resident Evil game had had up until this point. Hell, Jill never even has a default item in this game, so would it have killed them to give her this? As a result, I’m putting my reload tool in the box most of the time, because most of the gun powder you find will be near a save room anyway.
  • Difficulty Modes – RE3 has two difficulty modes: easy and hard. No “normal” mode…? The differences between these modes is pretty substantial too. Easy is laughably easy, playing more like an action movie power fantasy, as Jill starts with a veritable arsenal of overpowered guns that she can use to just blast her way through the entire game. Meanwhile, hard mode is straight-up the hardest Resident Evil survival horror experience I’ve ever had. I breezed through the first two games, Code: Veronica, REmake, even 0… this was significantly harder than all of those games*. To be entirely fair, this is at least partially on me for deciding to try to fight Nemesis when I was not well-equipped to do so. It’s not just Nemesis though, the streets are absolutely swarming with zombies, you will barely have enough ammo to deal with them, and if you do shoot everything you see then you will be hard-up when Nemesis shows up. Around the mid-point when you get more ammunition and can actually deal with Nemesis in a (somewhat) fair fight, the game becomes easier, but it would have been nice if there was a bit more granularity between “ridiculously easy” and “tough as nails”.
  • The Mine Thrower – Man, fuck this gun. It fires mine projectiles, which stick to surfaces and enemies and then detonate after a couple seconds (or, if you miss, when an enemy is in proximity). However, there are so many drawbacks to using it. First of all, if you’re in close proximity to the mine when it detonates, you’ll get hit. Guess which blazing-fast enemy you’re going to be using this against the most, who will close the distance to you after being stuck twice, therefore damaging you twice with your own weapon? Oh, and lest you think you can manually reload the mine thrower to avoid getting caught with no shots in the barrel, for some god-forsaken reason you straight-up cannot manually reload it until its empty. That’s not even the end of it though – if you’ve emptied the gun and try to manually reload it before all the shots have detonated, it will cause all unexploded mines to fizzle. What. The. Fuck. Seriously, this gun fucking sucks, just stick with the grenade launcher.
  • The Discourse – This isn’t something I hold against RE3 itself, but I do feel like it needs to be said. As a self-processed lover of REmake 3, I’m absolutely sick of the discourse surrounding RE3 vs REmake 3 within the Resident Evil fandom. If you went into REmake 3 expecting a faithful remake of the original, then I can understand your disappointment. However, then saying that REmake 3 sucks and is one of the worst Resident Evil games of all-time is absolutely insane to me. REmake 3 is a great game and has different strengths compared to the original – the story and characters are better, the controls make the challenge a lot fairer, the presentation is much slicker and modern, the hospital section is a big improvement on the original, and it’s more of an action-spectacle thrill-ride. Meanwhile, the original has that PS1 charm, classic gameplay style, it’s got a lot more exploration, more freedom in its gameplay and story, and has areas which don’t make it into the remake. Both games can stand out in their own ways. Honestly, as we’ve seen with RE1 vs REmake, that’s probably a better fate for a game than getting completely upstaged. Also, I’m old enough to remember when RE3 was considered the black sheep of the franchise – a disappointment compared to the blockbuster RE2, lacking the groundbreaking history of RE1, less-exciting than Code: Veronica, and then forgotten after the release of RE4. It wasn’t until years later that people started looking at this game the way I do, and I feel like history has kind of repeated itself with REmake 3. All I can hope is that it someday gets the reappraisal I think it deserves.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is another true classic in the franchise’s early entries, but what really makes it stand out for me is just how unique it is. No other game in this franchise plays quite the way this one does, with its large-scale scope, full-on apocalypse setting, focus on character development, a persistent and incredibly difficult antagonist, and all the gameplay additions like the dodge, live selection, reload tool, etc. Given that no other game in this franchise has improved or iterated on these concepts, it means that Resident Evil 3: Nemesis still stands out all these years later as an entry worth experiencing.

*Note: Code: Veronica and 0 are notoriously difficult games, but their difficulty is largely down to bullshittery. Code: Veronica will fuck you over if you don’t already know about all its progression-halting roadblocks and respawning enemies who simply waste your resources. 0 is somewhat similar, screwing you over when an out of nowhere boss fight takes away one of your characters, or becoming damn near impossible if you just so happen to not have any flame-based ammunition on you when you come across a leechman. However, the moment-to-moment gameplay of these games is not that bad (although I would say that 0 is easily the second-hardest classic Resident Evil). Contrast this with RE3, whose difficulty comes down to it’s mechanics being more demanding than other Resident Evil games, where even the basic enemies are more dangerous and numerous than in any other classic entry and your movement isn’t really sufficient to keep up with it.

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2 thoughts on “Love/Hate: Resident Evil 3 – Nemesis

  1. Ah the original Nemesis! A classic foe.

    Honestly, the only disappointments I’ve had with the remakes post REmake are that, unlike the REmake, most didn’t expand on the lore in the same way. There’s a damn cool scene in the OG Nemesis where the cannon that kills him was left over between a battle between Delta Force and Tyrants that we don’t see here. Just a little detail which would have been fun to keep!

    1. Yeah, the post-hospital section in REmake 3 was definitely the weakest part, but retrospectively it’s worse considering that they replaced the dead factory for yet another Umbrella lab. The Delta Force showdown is shown in the Operation Raccoon City DLC, if you’re curious.

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