The House of the Dead: OVERKILL

Remember wasting whole days at the arcade playing Time Crisis and The House of the Dead? Of course you do. Remember shelling out £70 for Time Crisis 3 and a GunCon? Of course you don’t; light gun games on consoles never really took off like they did in the arcades – not everyone was willing to shell out for the expensive peripherals which would be used for all of the 3 hours it took to complete the game they were bundled with. However, with IR Tech already built in to Nintendo’s Wii Remote, the Wii seems like the perfect console to revive the lightgun genre.

We’ve seen evidence of this not only from SEGA, but from Capcom too. Both Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles and The House of the Dead 2&3 Return have seen unexpected success on the Wii, with both titles selling over a million copies at retail. If this wasn’t proof enough of the genre’s comeback, one could only look to releases such as Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles and Dead Space: Extraction. Or, for the sake of this review, they could even look a little closer to home – the first ever console-exclusive House of the Dead is here, and it’s all kinds of mother-fucking awesome.

Developed by Headstrong Games (Battalion Wars 2), OVERKILL stays as close to the classic HOTD formula as possible, even paying homage to previous iterations in the ‘Carny’ level, while simultaneously applying a sheen of ‘Grind House’, B-Movie goodness that Tarantino himself would be proud of. The whole game is a parody in and of itself and the franchise as a whole; it shouldn’t work, but it does. Why? Because it never takes itself seriously.

Not only is the cheesy dialog of previous HOTD titles still here, it’s been amped up tenfold, and it becomes more and more apparent throughout the game. Some might argue that Detective Washington’s foul mouth grows tiresome after the first two levels, but violence, cursing, offensive and un-PC content are the order of the day in OVERKILL. While the humour in the game is often light-hearted, it freely walks the line between tongue-in-cheek and tasteless. If you’re easily offended, you’re not going to enjoy this game. Especially the ending. Seriously.

OVERKILL plays exactly as you’d imagine; the game takes place from a first-person perspective as the camera pans and flicks around the game world, with zombies popping in (at times literally) all around you. It’s your job to make sure they don’t eat your brains out. The game does nothing to convolute the action with any unnecessary innovation, and that’s what’s great about it. It’s a lightgun game, pure and simple, and a fantastic one at that. A lack of innovation aside, OVERKILL still manages to feel fresh.

The game features a combo system that rewards accurate shooting – the more consecutive hits and headshots you string together, the higher your multiplier, and thus score, will become. Miss your target, however, and your multiplier will be lost. Think of it like Guitar Hero, only with exploding brains and all that loveliness. It sounds simple, but it’s reason enough to keep your shooting accurate.

Talking of shooting, the gunplay in OVERKILL is hugely satisfying, and at times, worryingly goregasmic. Fire a gun, and you’ll hear the meaty roar of your weapon. The game will then provide a suitable ‘kickback’camera effect, followed by the sanguinary implosion of your target’s brains. It all feels very satisfying, and almost gives you the feeling that you’re holding Washington’s Desert Eagle, even more so when you’re using Nyko’s Perfect Shot peripheral. The effect is made all the more satisfying when you enter the perfectly-titled ‘Slow Mo-Fo Time’, giving you time to appreciate the beautifully rendered fountains of life juice and entrails.

While dedicated players will be able to blast through the single player mode in little over five hours, replay value is extended in a number of ways – there’s a 2 player mode, a standard co-op affair which can be accessed at any time during the single player campaign. Here, a second player can jump straight in and contribute to the massacre. However, it must be noted that when playing in this manner, it becomes extremely difficult to keep track of your cursor, as both players’ reticules are almost identical, to the point where they’re indistinguishable from one another through the red mist.The game also features a Director’s Cut, where the difficulty is ramped up and more zombies are tossed into the fray, a self explanatory Dual Wield mode in which you can use 2 Wii Remotes, a weapon store for purchasing new instruments of torture, and upgrading the ones you already own, galleries of exquisitely realised concept art, and much more besides.All-in-all, it’s a fantastically violent, brutal piece of work, but it’s all in good nature. It’s clear to see here that Headstrong set about making a unique reimagining of the House of the Dead series, and it’s fair to say that they’ve done just that. With some of the Wii’s best visuals, a soundtrack as funky as Napoleon Dynamite’s and mannerisms that you wouldn’t take home to your parents, OVERKILL excels in providing a short-lived, yet unique and – above all – fun romp through the fetid waters of Bayou City. It’s an out-and-out successful work of celebratory parody, and it’s one that we highly recommend.While it may suffer from the occasional framerate stutter, an overpowered arsenal of weaponry, and the perceived lack of challenge, The House of the Dead: OVERKILL is some of the most fun you’ll find on the Wii. – Rory

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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)