The third chapter in Capcom's series of horror games isn't the best. It's more straightforward than Resident Evil 2, and it's not as frightening as Resident Evil Code: Veronica. And though it follows the formula of previous Resident Evil games (you'd be hard-pressed to find a more formulaic series), it does add some new features that help keep the game interesting.
You control Jill Valentine, one of the playable characters from the first game. Jill has returned to the zombie-infested streets of Raccoon City after resigning as a member of S.T.A.R.S., an elite police unit. She's there to investigate the headquarters of the Umbrella Corporation, the evil conglomerate that is behind the zombie plague. While in the city, she must avoid the constant threat of the nemesis, a tough monster that is hunting down S.T.A.R.S. members and obviously isn't interested in the fact that Jill has quit.
It may seem like Resident Evil 3 Nemesis is long on story, but it isn't. You'll only spend a few minutes in the Umbrella headquarters, and the game does little to advance the ongoing story of the series. Instead, it sticks to the basic formula that has made the series popular. You'll solve some door puzzles, fight some zombies, solve some more door puzzles, and then fight some monsters.
Despite its adherence to this basic formula, Resident Evil 3 is less linear than its predecessors. You get to wander the streets of Raccoon City, or at least you'll be led along the streets that aren't barricaded. The areas open to you at any given time are quite large, and you can accomplish the various tasks in different orders. The only problem with the huge playing field is that you'll spend a great deal of time backtracking, and even though new monsters will appear in old areas, it can still get somewhat tiresome having to run back and forth through the city.
The most-welcome new feature is the branching plot points. Occasionally, the screen will go white, and you'll be given two choices for your next action. For instance, the nemesis will have Jill trapped in a burning building. The game will pause, and you'll be given a choice to either hide in the building or jump out the window. Some of the choices will significantly affect the way the story progresses, and this feature will entice those who like the game to go back and play it again to see the different outcomes.
Other than this slight alteration, though, the game plays like every Resident Evil game before it. And it has the same problems as those before it. The constantly changing camera angles add suspense, but they occasionally make combat frustrating. Also, the inability to save the game anywhere becomes more frustrating as the game gets harder.
These complaints are common to most console-to-PC translations, but at least Resident Evil 3 includes some options that take advantage of the PC. You can play the game in high resolution, which makes it look much better than most games that were designed to be played on a television. That's not to say it looks great--the backgrounds are murky, the fonts look awful, and the cinematics (typically a high point in the Resident Evil games) look blotchy and bad. But the 3D models look good and the higher resolutions do make things look better as compared with Capcom's Dino Crisis or previous PC versions of Resident Evil games.
As in Resident Evil 2, the music and sound effects do a good job of keeping the atmosphere creepy. Of course, this is mostly due to the fact that the sound and music are straight out of Resident Evil 2. It's good dramatic music, to be sure, but it's the same music.
Resident Evil 3 isn't the best place to start for a newcomer to the series. It's a zombie-killing rampage that lacks the inventive game structure that made Resident Evil 2 so good. You do get some extras with the PC version that had to be unlocked in the PlayStation version: Jill has a few different costumes, and there's a minigame called Mercenaries that gives you two minutes to run through the city killing zombies. But these extras don't do much to offset the fact that Resident Evil 3 is the most generic entry in the series so far. Fans of previous Resident Evil games will like it, but those who have yet to enter the world of survival-horror would do better to start with Resident Evil 2 or Resident Evil Code: Veronica for the Dreamcast.