Dear friends, the boy you once knew as Ocelot has now officially become a man: I just finished Resident Evil 3 on Hard Mode. I don't mean to brag, but I'm pretty sure I'm officially the biggest, toughest, handsomest guy around now. I think I can hear Samuel L. Jackson knocking at my door with an offer to join the Avengers.
OK, so Resident Evil 3 actually only has an Easy Mode and a Hard Mode, no Normal, and Easy Mode is the easiest, baby-est of Easy Baby Modes that starts you off with every weapon in the game and essentially infinite ammo waiting for you in the first Item Box. I originally started on Easy, but when I realised it basically ruined the game I went back and restarted on Hard, and it was... well, pretty hard. I'm still not very good at these games, and there was a point where I was almost convinced I was going to have to start over because I'd played too sloppily and ended up starved for resources at the game's biggest difficulty spike, but I persevered and managed to make it through like a cool guy. I would have liked a nice Goldilocks' pudding of a Normal difficulty, but I suppose Hard isn't too bad if you don't mind putting a bit of extra work in.
I think this game was pretty cool. It's a lot more action-oriented than RE1 and 2 were, with a couple of very simple additions like a quick-turn input and an evasive dodge manoeuvre that make Miniskirt Jill feel a whole lot more capable than RE protagonists of old. There's more ammo lying around, bigger guns available earlier on, but with that comes a jump in the number of horrible beasts you're going to be turning into wet beast chunks. We're out on the streets of Raccoon City this time, a much larger area than anything in the two previous games, and the place is just lousy with big red explosive things that you can press a special button to auto-aim at and take out a big group of enemies like an action hero. The story is nothing more than "Jill tries to escape Raccoon City and meets some soldiers along the way", but that's a compelling enough reason to do some more survival horroring, and your flight from zombiedom is made more tense by the knowledge that this handsome fellow is chasing you all the while:
Buuuuut, I feel like a lot of those things I just mentioned sound better as bullet points than they actually are in the game. Take Jill's evasive dodge, for example: it's activated by pressing the Aim button just before a monster attacks you, or pressing the Shoot button if you were already aiming. Unfortunately, either the timing is really weird, or I'm just a big dumb idiot, or maybe the dodge is only programmed to work a certain percentage of the time, because even by the end of the game I felt I had no control over when Jill was going to dodge. If anything it actually made combat feel worse, because I could only get it to activate when I didn't want it to, and I'd end up in these ridiculous situations where a monster would be right on top of my and I'd be desperately trying to shoot it, but mashing the shoot button would just make me dodge over and over and I'd invariably dodge into the next attack and I still wouldn't be able to just shoot. At multiple points I basically got stunlocked all the way from full health to death, because none of the five accidental dodges I'd mash out would clear enough distance to allow me to actually do anything, and eventually I felt forced to just back into a corner and shoot guys until Jill had nothing left to auto-aim at.
Our big purple friend Nemesis feels like another missed opportunity. He leaps out to clobber you at pre-determined points and, unlike every Resident Evil enemy to date, can chase you through loading doors, rumbling his catchphrase "STAAAAARS" and throwing wild haymakers that could rival even Chris Redfield's. You have the option of fighting him at every one of these moments, and if you beat him he'll drop some really cool items. But like I said before, I couldn't work out combat in this game for the life of me, so whenever Nemesis showed up it basically became a game of "find a safe place until he goes away and I can do what I was trying to do in the first place". Like, buddy, I get that you want to kill me, but I need to put this gem in that weird machine over there and I really need a minute to myself. He runs faster than you do but has to stop to attack, so if you just keep running you can get away every time, and it just sort of spoils what should be a big menacing dude. It seems paradoxical, but if he was a little easier to fight I think he'd be scarier, because I would be more likely to actually engage with him and take the risk, but fighting him is so clumsy and difficult that I just ran away every time.
It's a shame, because I really enjoy all the subsequent action-oriented Resident Evil games, and this is obviously where it all started, but it just doesn't work very well. And I know it's unfair to expect top-tier action game mechanics from a game that predates even the original Devil May Cry by a couple of years, but... well, it would have been nice
Anyway, it was still a good time and I'm happy I played it. For those keeping score at home, I've now played Resident Evils 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. I'm going to do Code Veronica next, which I already happen to own on Xbox 360 thanks to, weirdly enough, some guy who hacked my account like six years ago and for some reason bought Resident Evil Code Veronica. I was able to get it all sorted out and have my money refunded by customer support, but I got to keep Code Veronica; I never actually thought I'd play it until now, though.