House of the Dead Review: The Perfect Pastiche

May 16, 2009 § Leave a comment

You might want to check your Wii messages after playing through House of the Dead: Overkill. Whilst the experience was undoubtedly a satisfyingly visceral romp through zombie b-movie history you can’t help but feel that the experience was a tad brief, short even. It’s doubtful that you’ll spend any longer than three hours on your first play through, and the additional directors cut story mode will typically see you watching the credits role three and a half hours. The game may be trying to imitate film at every turn, but this is just ridiculous. These play times are inclusive of cutscenes, and unlikely to vary from player to player.

Overkill is, after all, a rail shooter where you visit a handful of different stereotypical locations in order to cleanse them of their mutant infestations. After each mission you’re rewarded with an amount of cash which varies depending on your accuracy and other similar statistics. It’s a system designed to add replay value to what little there is, but the cash is doled out so enthusiastically that by the game’s end you’re likely to have a gun capable of taking down most enemies with just one reasonably placed shot. Fun? Yes, but it can make the game a bit of a cakewalk for anyone looking for a little challenge.

Headstrong Games provides your difficulty with points and a combo system. Each kill you get adds to your combo meter, which is instantly reset when you either miss a shot, or let a zombie (sorry, mutant) get one on you. Higher combos give you higher scores, but playing with only a high score in mind is a recipe for frustration, as the camera’s unpredictable movements can bring an end to the most epic of combos. If you’re a person that thrives on the competition high scores provide then the replay value of Overkill will increase dramatically, but beware that it comes at the expense of the game’s fun.

Luckily then, the game IS fun, at least while you’re playing anything that isn’t a boss fight. Enemies are manageable in numbers, but still constantly surprise you with their presence, and you’re never safe to reload, with zombies that will ambush you mid-movement. Thankfully this solid design never fails, even during co-op play, but boss battles fail to make a mark beyond ‘shoot enemy’s projectiles and wait for attack cue’ which is a shame when in order to replay levels to attempt high scores you’re forced to fight the end’s boss.

The framerate’s shoddy when enemies bring fire on screen and the plot is enough to make you unwilling to show this game to the fairer sex (let’s just say that a certain antagonist gets his wish to return to his mother’s womb) but that’s exactly what the game chooses to be. It’s not deep, it’s not thought provoking, but when you load up the dual wielding mode and the music starts, you can’t help but feel cool for the first time whilst you’ve been holding a WiiMote.


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