Is The House of the Dead Overkill Just That?

Geek Culture

After spending my waking hours in the office working through the latest pony or cooking games on the DS, it’s sometime a relief to get home and unwind with some mindless zombie killing (once the kids are in bed of course).

This month I’m spoilt for choice. While I was waiting for my copy of Resident Evil 5 to arrive, I happened upon this on-rails shooter from Sega – House of the Dead Overkill. The surprise here is that it’s a Wii game.

A little early skepticism was soon done away with as I worked my way gleefully through the undead hoards.
Whilst this may not top your family gaming list, I thought you might want the low down so here’s my parent’s guide:

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Following the success of Sega’s arcade conversion House of the Dead 2 and 3 Wii, they return with the next edition of their zombie shooting series – exclusive to the Wii no less. Although not one for the younger audience, this is great for those looking for some frights and gore from their video games – something lacking in the Wii’s game catalog.

What Sort of Game is This?

Shooting games recreate a wide variety of real life competitive activities. Depending on the sport, these will either have an action or strategy focus. Popular sports games are often released on an annual basis, each year the game receives new player rosters and game improvements.

What Does This Game Add to the Genre?

House of the Dead is a series build around the ‘on-rails’ shooting game concept – the game controls the camera and movement leaving the player to focus on the shooting. These were made famous in the 90′s for their large coin operated arcade cabinets that provided each player with a light gun and lightened their pockets of any spare change.

The House of the Dead Overkill is unique because it is an original game aimed at a grown-up audience on the Wii. Although this is not going to be suitable for the whole family to play, it is much needed to flesh out the Wii catalogue for more mature members.

Its 18 certificate reflects the large amounts of gore and horror-esque content. Players work their way through a series of run down houses and decaying urban environments, shooting zombie as they go. The challenge (and scariness) here is not from the skill and ability of the foes. Rather, the steady plodding advance of an army of disposable zombies focuses instead on relentlessness and oppression by numbers.

Players soon discover that targeting particular parts of the body is far more effective – head shots stop them dead and limbs slow movement nicely. Before long they also realize that managing their weapons and bullets is essential, as is collecting the various power ups along the way – such as the matrix-like time slowing collectible.

While this may be a bit much for some to stomach, B-movie lovers will enjoy the presentation and tongue-in-cheek approach to the gore-fest. The focus here is more on the disgusting than the genuinely disturbing or shocking.

The game offers enhancements over the previous versions. Firstly the player can control the camera view to some extent. The general movement is still on rails, but within this they can look left and right. Players can build combos by killing zombies without missing. If (when) they die, they can use points from their overall score to continue playing. At the end of each level, the player is awarded a grade that depends on their final score among other factors such as not dying, and accuracy of shots.

New guns and gun upgrades can be bought with cash collected from the end of level score at the Gun Shop between levels. Once the story mode has been completed a Director’s cut is unlocked providing the same game with tougher enemies and a limited continues. There are also a variety of mini games on offer; Stayin’ Alive, where players try to survive a continuous wave of zombies; or the equally addictive Victim Support, where players try to help a group of civilians escape. Finally, the campaign two player mode is complemented with a four players competitive mode where players gun for the highest kill score.

What do People Play this Game To Experience?

House of the Dead Overkill will attract players through its slash em up packaging. Get a couple of like minded mates together for a night, add a few beers and snack, and you have the makings of a great evening in. The sheer exuberance of the game can’t help but bring a smile to most players. Add to this the tension that mounts as the munitions start running down and the Zombie keep coming and you have a knife edge experience that calls for the best from each player.

Getting through a level intact is always an achievement. The detailed breakdown and accuracy statistics provide a real reward that raises the competitive nature to fever pitch levels. More than any novelties, the focus here has been on producing a proper high quality shooting experience. The presentation – both visual and audio – capture the retro horror flick look and feel. Cut scenes are provided to advance the story and are convincingly voice, packed with slang and expletives.

How Much Free Time is Required to Play It?

The game is split into levels that last around twenty minutes each. Although sessions can be kept to this length, to really get into the zombie killing groove players will want to string a few together. The detailed stats at the end of each stage not only make for increased competition for two players, but also give them a reason to replay levels to improve their score.

What Factors Impact on Suitability for Novice/Expert Young/Old Players?

The 18 certificate and grizzly nature of the game means this isn’t one for younger players. This is not only reflected in the gore factor, but in the fact that this is one of the most expletive laden games on the Wii.

Intermediate players, with a penchant for gore, will find this a great introduction to both the series and shooting games in general.

Experts, who ‘get’ the tongue in cheek B-movie aesthetic, will relish something more grown up to play on the family Wii console. Also, the chance to take up arms against the old House of the Dead adversaries should be enough to get their zombie juices going.

WIRED Brain-free shooter.

TIRED No light guns.

Price/maker: $49.99 / Sega

Rating: 9/10

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