A House of the Dead Retrospective: Part 4 – House of the Dead Overkill

Welcome to the fourth part of my little House of the Dead retrospective. This will be the last part that focuses on one of the games, after this, there will be two other parts discussing the movies! You can still check out earlier parts here. Those focus on the first three classic Arcade titles in the series. This time, however, I will be writing about ‘House of the Dead: Overkill’, which will be having a HD-upgrade quite soon! So, hit the jump once again to read about my experience with this console-exclusive entry of the series!

Back in the days, when the Nintendo Wii was still called the ‘Revolution’ and thus was still cool, one idea that I had formed in my mind really kept me interested in the console: Lightgun shooters are back and back for good! After Sega ported over some of it’s older titles in the genre, it was finally time to develop a new entry to the ‘House of the Dead’-franchise, especially for consoles.

Storywise, and yes, this time I’m going to talk about the actual story of the game, this title is kind of a ‘House of the Dead 0’, since it takes place even before the first game. And it’s all the better for it, since the only character that will reoccur in later games, G, hasn’t been the most detailed character of the series so far. The development team had all the liberties they wanted with the story and they did the right thing: They chose a grindhouse setting that is heavily inspired by the Rodriguez flick ‘Planet Terror’ and gave the game it’s very own feel. Most of the lines are brilliant and really funny if you’re in the mood for a corny B-Movie. For the most part, this is due to the great script, but also the delivery of the voice cast is spot on, giving the characters loads of personality, no matter how short their appearance in the game is. Cut-scenes are well done but not too long and always manage to entertain, even after several playthroughs. This is mostly due to the presentation, with trailer like narration over some parts of the cut-scenes. The two main characters have great chemistry going on and the game doesn’t take itself serious. Overall, it is one of the most memorable stories and deliveries in recent years and by far the best in the whole genre with Dead Space Extraction being a close second.

The music is just spot on and fits the mood perfectly. It’s an awesome mixture of Rock and Country, really heavy on the guitars and is immensely fun to listen to. Even the game’s menues know how to use this wisely, since they play longer versions of the songs while you upgrade your weapons and the like. During the gameplay, it always manages to underline the theme of the specific level it is played in. The Soundtrack feels ‘dirty’, which fits the overall Grindhouse aesthetic. The overall sound-design is solid, most of the effects are nice and crisp and even the speaker of the Wiimote is used well. Only the machine gun can get so loud, that it can overpower everything else.

The levels are long, especially in the later unlocked directors cut version. Some of them are longer than a run through the first ‘House of the Dead’, which is amazing in many ways. The themes are varied too, you visit a hospital, a prison, a swamp and various other areas. The good thing about this is the optical variation of the Zombies, however, there aren’t too many enemy types. This makes the overall action become quite repetitive over time, but the variation in the levels themselves is enough to make up for it.

One thing that always got me with a lot of Lightgun shooters was the fact that they always focused on just one weapon. Not this time though, oh no! House of the Dead Overkill features several weapons, but you can always just use two of them at a time. The great thing is that both weapons have no limitations in terms of ammo, which keeps things fast paced! However, this makes the game even more easy than it already is. I think I never died in my entire first playthrough. It was only later in the Directors Cut versions of the levels, where things got harder. This is partly due to the fact that the game tries to focus on scores, but in order to do that well, it would need some online leader boards. Which it doesn’t have!

There are also some areas in the Wii version that have terrible slow-downs. The train level is particularly guilty of this and is really unplayable for me and overall the game suffers from that, even though the graphics are decent overalls.

Since those two main points of criticism could easily be fixed by the upcoming PS3 version, I’d go ahead and say that this is by far my favorite game of the series, with House of the Dead 2 being a close second! Next time, I’ll have a deeper look at the first movie, directed by THE Uwe Boll.

  • Stooball

    Holy cow that movie was….words fail me. I guess you just have to see it to know what I mean. This looks pretty neat though, I haven’t had a chance to play it. I actually don’t own a Wii.

  • grolt

    Nice write up, Sven. I like the game too, and while I think the grindhouse setting fits the series personally, there’s something weird about the franchise actually knowing it’s low-rent roots. Like Terminator or something, the machine has become self-aware, and making a game that knows it is a bad movie isn’t quite the same as a game that is unknowingly a bad movie. While I’m certainly no prude, the over the top use of the F-bomb did also kind of distract from the game, it was just too much.

    In terms of gameplay and all that, it’s as fun as ever, but I have to wonder if the Wii and it’s style of motion gaming is better than the traditional light gun approach. The mechanics are now that you have to aim a cursor rather than aim at your targets in the older games, so there is a layer of artificiality to the whole thing. You’re not quite in the moment, you’re looking at some abstract aimer before you shoot rather than scaling around for zombies. I thought I’d like the Wiimote a lot better for light gun games then I do because of this. The controller never seems as accurate, either, as the Stunner was on the Saturn or the guns were at the arcade. Am I alone in this?

  • Manic Maverick

    Ohh, I didn’t know the game was so Grindhousey (which is a word that is in a dictionary somewhere). Man, I really want to play this now. Grungy games are good. Er…the ones that aren’t filled with walking sacks of muscle searching for their wives.

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