Over the last few years Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise has had a triumphant return. Fans were excited to see the new direction of the series after Resident Evil 7 went back to the games survival horror roots.
Both Resident Evil 2 & 3 have shown that under the lens of modern game design, the classic games could be reinvigorated. This meant 3rd person over the shoulder control, better voice acting, and a much higher production value.
With that said both are categorically different games, which has led many to question “which remake was the best?”. Today I’m going break each game down, compare them, and see if I can answer that question. Let’s go.
Similar Name, Different Game
Whilst Resident Evil 7 was the first game to use the RE Engine, both Resident Evil 2 & 3 use the engine to the same effect. So there’s little point comparing the minutia of differences on that front.
However both games are still very different. Resident Evil 2 opts for a more classic approach. Having the player constantly backtracking, being aware of enemy locations, thinking hard about item management, and so on. It’s original counterpart did the same, leaning heavily on the foundation set by 1996’s Resident Evil.
Resident Evil 3 takes a very different approach, deciding to focus more on linearity and action. The remake does the same thing. It relies on placing the player again in Raccoon City, except this time the outbreak is just beginning. The chaos is matched by a fast-paced plot and driving force… the Nemesis.
One game is classic survival horror, and the other is more action orientated. Does this make one better than the other? No, of course not. Both these Resident Evil Remakes aim to be different experiences and use game mechanics and level design to reflect that. It thus wouldn’t be fair to rate this games purely on their points of difference.
Really it comes down to personal preference more than anything.
Raccoon City Narratives
Narrative is a place where these Resident Evil Remakes can be easily compared though. Despite taking place over the same few days, in the same city, with the same notion of ‘escape at all costs’, they are very different.
Resident Evil 3
For starters the Resident Evil 3 Remake has Jill Valentine, an already established character who’s haunted by her previous encounter with the T-Virus. She’s a total badass, but with an underlying layer of turmoil that makes her somewhat relatable and sympathetic. Her story is also given a literal driving force instead of just a narrative one… in Nemesis.
Nemesis isn’t just a terrifying villain, but he also acts as Jill’s antagonist. He allows the story to keep its breakneck pace and gives a reason for Jill to keep moving from environment to environment. He acts as the core for the entire game – a constantly reappearing boss, the narrative force, and the counterpart to all the players improvements, constantly testing them.
Resident Evil 2
What does Resident Evil 2 Remake have? Well, Leon and Claire. These two keep interacting, and their narratives of ‘escape at all costs’ keep the story moving. Sound familiar? What Resident Evil 2 has over 3 is that it actually has two stories. Both of which are about the same length as Resident Evil 3’s. They each have different characters, interesting stories, and Mr. X.
Whilst Mr. X isn’t quite the same narrative force as Nemesis he’s still a primary antagonist for both Leon and Claire. Those two really rely on other more intersting characters to keep everything feeling fresh. Which is why, to me, Resident Evil 3 edges out Resident Evil 2 in terms of its narrative.
Jill isn’t a blank canvas like the others, and she has much more chemistry with her counterpart Carlos. Then there’s Nemesis, his role as the stories nucleus is brilliant. Everything revolves around him, and it works to great effect.
Handling the Mechanics
Both Resident Evil Remakes adopt the same core mechanics and gameplay loop of “survival-horror”. The interface isn’t just for show. Both these games encourage item management, weaving in and around enemies, and not always killing every zombie you see.
Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 adopts the same ideas as the original. The zombie placement, item and ammo availability, backtracking, and puzzles. Playing smart means you shouldn’t feel like you have no chance of surviving due to low health and ammo, but you need to consider it. There aren’t many zombies, but tight hallways mean you always need to be prepared and remember the rooms you left them in.
The ‘survival’ aspect comes with forward thinking – you need to keep an account of amount of ammo and health items you have, the locations of safe rooms and item boxes, where the zombies are, and what you have in your inventory. The way the game works feeds into what it asks you to do as a player – the design is unified.
Resident Evil 3
Sadly the same cannot be said for Resident Evil 3. It uses the same systems and UI, but to not as effective a goal as Resident Evil 2. Because RE 3 relies on action instead of survival horror the pre-established systems it uses from its predecessor don’t fit the bill. The action isn’t bad, but you never have to worry about ammo, there are lots of zombies and open spaces, and save rooms fit into the linear level design.
The core of Resident Evil 3 is antithetical to the design systems it borrows. It’s asking you to manage your items, but gives you loads of health and ammo. It gives you safe rooms but is linear, so they become nowhere nearly as impactful. Then having massive open areas with more zombies means, if you play right, you can just slip past a lot of them. Towards the end of the game this changes, with more tight environmental design, but you’ll have saved the ammo to make up for it.
What Jill’s Resident Evil Remake asks of you isn’t bad. But it’s placed in a context that makes it seem almost useless.
“Even if I have to come back tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day..”
For the longest time the RE games have pride themselves on how they keep the player coming back, and the Resident Evil Remakes are no exception. Both games offer ways for the player to excuse playing through multiple times, but one does it much better than the other.
Resident Evil 3
Let’s start with Resident Evil 3. Once you’ve finished your first run, been given a time and rank, you’ll unlock the shop. This shop allows the player to earn points through in game challenges, which can be spent on outfits, weapons, and cheats. That’s its, that’s all you get…
This does mix up the gameplay on some level, giving the player direct rewards for completing certain challenges in the game. But sadly you’ll just be tackling the same 5 hour campaign over-and-over, and when the rewards don’t meet the task, why would you do the task? This comes completely detached from the quality of the content by the way. I’m not saying it makes the first time through bad, it just gives you little reason to go back.
Resident Evil 3, whilst still only having one campaign, offered up more. The player was presented with choice. Depending on when/where you were different cutscenes, encounters, and items would come your way. The original was also the first time we saw ‘Mercenaries mode’ – the time based mode that incentivised replays.
Resident Evil 2
What about Resident Evil 2 remake? Well it offers up a lot more. For starters you have 4th survivor and 3 other short campaigns. All extra that are downloaded/unlocked at no extra cost. Providing extra challenge and unique perspective to the campaign. On top of that you can play through the main game as Leon and Claire. Minus two parts of the game, you’ll be traversing the same environments. But there’s a different story that unfolds for each character.
You then unlocked the second run mode. There are many changes to this mode, different puzzles, a changed starting location, higher difficulty and different ammo counts. Essentially the game is completely remixed for both characters.
Resident Evil 3 has RE Resistance. An asymmetrical multiplayer game separate from the main experience. Although its presence makes it apparent that resources could’ve gone to main games longevity. RE Resistance isn’t bad, but presents itself as a cash grab with loot boxes tagged on.
So Resident Evil 2 four different playthroughs, whilst Resident Evil 3 only offers one. Thats on top of the fact that you’re given very little reason to replay the same campaign from RE3. Meaning RE2 wins out on this one.
One experience doesn’t win out over the other. It’s true that Resident Evil 3 changes itself to such a degree that it makes its core mechanics… questionable. However the game itself makes up for it.
Both games have merit in their differing experience. I’ve come to realise that each Resident Evil remake offers something different. Do you want a pure survival horror experience? Then go for 2. How about a more action-packed 80’s style game? The go for 3.
Personally Resident Evil 2 offers a better overall game than it’s sequel, but that doesn’t mean 3 isn’t a great!
Thanks for reading this vs. article! If you want more editorial content click here, or you can find my review here instead. You can follow me on twitter @WillNelson1998 or the site @thecognetwork. If you’re into game development you can also find my podcast, on that topic, here!