"For the first time on the Nintendo GameCube comes Resident Evil 2/3 in all [their] original glory," so the back of the box blurb goes. But whereas Capcom and Shinji Mikami lavished a huge amount of care and attention to remaking the 1996 original a year or so back, what the company has delivered this time around is two functionally identical ports of the ancient PSone originals, yours for a mere £25-30 each depending on where you look.
And rather like the rotting zombies that shamble haplessly through the game, time has not been kind to these ageing survival horror stalwarts. In their day, both these titles were benchmark titles that pushed the PSone with lavish pre-rendered backdrops and slick cut scenes, but now the true horror is to witness just how badly they have aged. The previously stunning environments now look so low resolution and blocky (especially on RE2) it's a wonder why we ever thought they looked the part in the first place, while the character models are even more resoundingly awful; badly animated with low resolution textures and joints clipping all over the place. Even the text is as blocky as hell, and the overall production values are a world away from what we expect and demand from our games these days.
Play it on as small a screen as you can find
It doesn't help their cause that we're using a much bigger, much sharper (and widescreen) TV these days, as clearly these games were not designed to be exposed to such harsh scrutiny, but even so, things have moved on massively in the preceding five years. Thank the lord.
If you can somehow divorce yourself from the terrifyingly bad visuals, the games themselves, however, still stack up reasonably well if you're well into this whole survival horror lark (which we realise is an acquired taste), and missed them the first time around. They also give the real hardcore fetishist the chance to own the whole series on one format, with Code Veronica also coming down the pipe later in the year (no doubt also at the same price), but you'd have to be some sort of mentalist to consider buying them all over again for the sake of it.
Anyway, yes, the games. Resident Evil 2 is set just after the end of the original, with the sequel, once again, playable as two different characters; rookie S.T.A.R.S cop Leon S. Kennedy (on his first assignment, the poor chap), and Claire Redfield, who's looking for her brother, S.T.A.R.S member Chris Redfield. Each quest is broadly similar trawl around Racoon City (albeit with a few minor story differences), and anyone familiar with other games in the series will know what to expect.
In Resident Evil 3 you take charge of the scantily clad Jill Valentine (a S.T.A.R.S member from the original game) in another traipse around the flaming Racoon City. Set a month and a half after the incident of the first game, the infamous T-virus has spread around the city and it's up to you to guide Jill around the hazardous environment, find survivors, avoid the flesh eating zombies and the relentless, stalking Nemesis. More of the same, really, albeit with fractionally improved environments and character models.
Locked doors, scattered objects, shambling zombies...
As is traditional, each game world consists of a series of locations, a few locked doors, and scattered notes and objects lying around that inevitably result in said doors becoming unlocked. Standing in your way, at regular intervals, are the usual menacing zombies and their friends, which you have to dispatch with the minimum of fuss with whatever weapons you can lay your hands on.
The main problem any player of Resident Evil games will come across is working out ways of killing the numerous baddies without either dying or running out of ammo. The problem is, these games are notoriously tight in the ammo and health provision, making the game far more of a challenge than most action-adventure title. It's a long held complaint, and ruefully just as relevant here, but the cumbersome control system and inability to see what you're aiming at also makes for an oft-frustrating experience.
The heinous typewriter save system also makes things harder than they could be, and all in all, what could be an entertaining adventure is often marred by some old school mechanics that most developers binned long ago. If you're adept or willing to work around these foibles then you're in for a treat, but the less patient gamer will curse it within the first 20 minutes and probably never return. But this divide in opinion has always been apparent, so no-one should be surprised about this.
Problems, irritations, frustrations
RE3 does, in fairness, change things a smidgen, giving the player the ability to create their own specific type of ammo, with the use of different types of gunpowder. In addition, Jill now has a dodge manoeuvre, which in theory enables you stand a better chance of surviving when it counts. In practice, however, this move causes its own problems, especially if you encounter the many crowded areas, as does the ammo creation system, unless you know what you need and when.
However, with both games, you'll find yourself cursing the lack of inventory spaces, and the inability to drop objects (which was only introduced in Resident Evil Zero), and all told the trip down memory lane merely serves to illustrate how far games have come generally, and how forgiving we must have been back then to put up with such wholly irritating fundamentals. They're not even scary, for God's sake.
How Capcom can seriously think that anyone in their right minds will willingly part with £25-30 for each of these is a query we just can't get our heads around. Even at half the price you'd be hard pressed to justify shelling out for them, and given that the excellent (and GameCube exclusive) Resident Evil Zero has shifted all of 35,000 copies in the UK to date, despite being discounted for weeks, it's abundantly clear that even new versions of the game aren't of major interest to you, never mind outdated ports. In all seriousness, games should come clearly stickered with a 'Best Before' date to ward off unsuspecting punters. These are two zombie shooters that should never have been exhumed, and if you see them shuffling towards you muttering 'thiirrrrrrty quiiiiiiiiiid', run. Run for your lives!