The Gamecube got a reputation as a "kiddie" system due to the amount of cutesy, cuddly games starring various types of plumbers, plant-like alien things, or other child friendly mascots that proliferate on the machine. Thankfully Capcom took up the challenge to break away from the mold and give us some old fashioned blood, guts, and profanity, which Resident Evil does in spades. Although I've never finished the original completely, from what I gather and what people have told me about 70% of this version is new material.
The game starts with a failed S.T.A.R.S. rescue mission whereupon the three surviving cops get stuck in a spooky mansion with zombies and crap running all over the place. You can choose either Jill Valentine (easy) or Chris Renfield (not so easy.) Jill has the advantage of a lock pick that only seems to be used two or three times, and eventually she gets a grenade launcher that makes her game slightly easier. Chris gets no grenades and has to run around finding blue keys in order to get through certain doors. The game involves you exploring the mansion and connecting grounds and piecing together the mystery of the Umbrella Corporation's failed experiments, occasionally blowing away the stray zombie and undead hellhound along the way.
The game is hard. Even on the Easy setting it's still pretty tough. The only difference actually with the difficulty settings seem to be the boss battles, the rest of the game remains the same. Problem is you character is pretty useless when faced with a zombie that's too close to you, your default pistol sucks donkey nuts. It takes five shots to put down one of them and there are areas where you face three or four zombies at a time. Thus you do a lot of running away until you can get a more powerful weapon like the shotguns or grenade launcher. Thankfully you get "defense items," either a dagger you can jam into their head or a tazer gun to zap the shit out of them (Jill only) when they get too close to you. Due to the relative pussiness of your gun and the tendency of zombies to leap out of places like behind shower curtains and stuff you will be using these defense items a lot.
Unlike in the first game the zombies here actually come back to life after you kill them and thus either have to be decapitated with a shotgun shell to the face or burned with kerosene and lighter. Whereupon we find the same problem that was in the original game: limited inventory. You only get eight inventory slots (Chris gets a measly six.) Thing is there are some things you'll want to carry with you at all times, ammo, healing spray, etc. Thus very often you get very little space left open to grab stuff that's in a room, leading to some situations where you miss handy items and cannot go back into the room to get them (the area with the collapsing trap ceiling comes to mind.) Having to carry around kerosene and a lighter just cuts this down even more. Thus as a result you spend a lot of time running back and forth grabbing stuff and depositing it into the item boxes. I suppose this is the "game," but they could have made it less off a pain in the ass.
The characters are highly detailed and rendered excellently. In fact the whole game just looks damn good. The pre-rendered backgrounds look excellent, with massive amounts of the tiniest details to give the whole a very convincing illusion of a dark and evil world where head exploding zombies and giant cobras really could exist. Very very few graphical flaws are present here. What do I mean by "graphical flaws?" In most games a certain degree of flaws are deemed "acceptable," such as a characters' feet hovering slightly over or plunging slightly into the ground at certain areas, or a character's arm or leg clipping through a wall, slight "seams" in the scenery, sections of texture on the walls or ground that jump, don't render correctly, etc. These types of graphical flaws are annoying but if kept to a minimum don't really detract from gameplay. Most games hit a limit where it would take too much time to fix them all and thus deem the remaining acceptable. In this game however it appears that extra care has been taken to eliminate all instances of such graphical flaws, I couldn't find an example of the type anywhere. You hear the word "flawless" thrown around a lot in reviews for games, but this time I really mean it. The graphics here are truly flawless.
Too bad the controls aren't as good as the graphics. In it's heart the game is still a PS1 game, and thus has a control scheme designed for the PS1 controller (i.e. a controller without an analog stick.) There are three different control schemes for you to choose but none of them work any better than the rest so you're just as well off with the default controls, which suck. The problem is you have to press "up" to move forward, which I suppose makes sense as the game is not of the free flowing 3D adventure type. It does help as to keep you going in the right direction when the camera changes angles (which is why I suppose they did it this way.) This isn't a problem for the majority of the game as most of the time you're moving rather slowly, exploring stuff and looking over your shoulder for hidden monsters. The problem comes in the two or three areas where speed is essential to your survival - one part where you have to run away from sharks, another two areas where you have to dodge these rolling boulders ala Raider's of the Lost Ark, and a few others where you're running for your life away from hunters or killer dogs or whatnot. You will screw up, and you will screw up often. Get used to dying at these parts as there's no way around them, you just have to keep doing it over and over until you get it.
Despite the funky control, limited saves and inventory, and extreme difficulty, the game does a good job of drawing you into the story with excellent cinemas, flawless graphics, and fantastic presentation. You can feel the tension in the camera angles as you walk through a room for the first time, all frightened that something is gonna jump out and bite your head off. When you get crushed by a giant rock or mauled to death by a skinless-green-gorilla zombie you keep coming back for more. You want to know what happened in this creepy-ass mansion, same way you want to see who the killer is in a slasher movie. The game is worth the occasional frustration for the story and presentation alone.
Graphics: Absolutely fantastic, see above.
Sound: Creepy, ambient horror music used to good effect heightens the mood. Sound plays a big part in the game as you will most often hear a zombie in the room before you see it. Very good voice acting in the cinemas, above average for a video game (it's not laughable as in most games.)
Gameplay: Slow and plodding, but you'll want to be going that slow, looking over your shoulder, jumping at every noise. The game does a great job of creating a claustrophobic aura of paranoia, where you start seeing monsters in the shadows that aren't there and you shoot first and ask questions later. A few areas actually made me literally "jump" (like the first time that goddamned rock crushed me to death.) A few areas are more frustrating than they need to be as per the weird controls, but for the most part the game compensates for this.