With all that taken into consideration, you'd imagine the supposedly technically superior HOTD 3, from 2002 would also live up to expectations. Sure, the game engine is far more capable, benefitting from the extra grunt of the SEGA Chihiro system (a memory-hungry Xbox, effectively), but the gameplay didn't quite hit the mark in the same way its predecessor did. Far more forgiving, blasting through the levels was a less taxing challenge, with a noticeably larger window of opportunity to get your shots in, not to mention less fearsome bosses, and less of an emphasis on skill-based branching paths; instead your route through the game was merely a question of pointing to which bit you'd like to head to next.
Perhaps more subjective was one relating to the game engine, monsters and level design. Personally, as much as I can appreciate the vastly more detailed environments and the improvements in character models and animation, there's something about the style I just never got on with. The almost TimeSplitters-esque look and feel of the characters and enemies just didn't fit in with the style the first two games favoured. Far from looking terrifying, they just looked like they were made of jelly and foam. Strangely, the fact that HOTD 3 also had normal voice acting just made it all feel a bit...wrong, while the actual gameplay environments were boring. So there isn't the same intrigue, and playing the two games side by side, the gulf in quality is even more apparent. Wow Entertainment tried to reinvent it, but also missed a lot of the charm of the first two in the process, and the fact that it sold very poorly on Xbox is hardly a great shock. The sooner SEGA can make amends and bundle 1 and 4 together, the better - or, better still, the whole set.
In terms of extras, there's very little to report on. You have a Time Attack mode to wade through as usual, and the super hardcore players can eventually access an Extreme mode (where your shotgun has a smaller blast radius and enemies are harder), but that's about your lot. It's not a game you'll spend a tremendous amount of time playing through, but that was always the case, no? There have been a few suggestions elsewhere about slowdown blighting this particular port, but it's not something we experienced in the PAL version. Apparently both versions were based on the PC ports, but feel functionally identical to the old console editions you may have played in the past.
The question you really have to ask yourself is: do you fancy playing them again for old time's sake? Priced between GBP 25 and GBP 30, do they justify the asking price in today's market, how well have they aged, and has SEGA done enough to cater for the old school fans?
There was nothing we could do...
You might recall with Ghost Squad that we had a little wince at the idea of SEGA charging us GBP 30 for a game that, to put it politely, is several years past its sell-by date, and is available for almost half the price overseas. But, in its defence, it was a solid, enjoyable example of a genre we love to return to now and then, and had a semblance of novelty value in being 'new' in the sense that it had previously never been released on a home system. It also had online leaderboards to add a little bit extra.
The problem The House of the Dead 2&3 Return has is that it lacks many of the things that made Ghost Squad a tempting purchase. Firstly is one of over-familiarity - HOTD 2 was obviously a massive hit on Dreamcast back in the day, and also featured as an (easily) unlockable extra in the Xbox-exclusive release of the less well-received HOTD 3, which effectively makes this nothing more than a straight re-issue. Secondly, SEGA hasn't bothered with online leaderboards - odd, but something we can live with. Less easy to understand is why SEGA neglected to take the blindingly obvious opportunity to include the original 1996 HOTD, even as an unlockable. Apparently the argument was that HOTD's visuals look pretty terrible by today's standards, but if that's the case SEGA would never have released any of its aging back catalogue. Grrr.
To return to the original point, how much you want this package rests firmly on how much you want to play old light-gun games on the Wii. There's no doubting that this is the very best way to play either game outside of an arcade - mainly by virtue of the fantastic controls, and that you don't have to fork out for expensive extra hardware to play them. Out of the two, House of the Dead 2 is by far the best, but also technically impoverished by today's standards, although the inclusion of 3 will be of interest to the many who missed out last time. If the price doesn't bother you, then go ahead, but a weekend rental would be a far better way of getting that zombie blasting nostalgia fix.
6 / 10