House of the Dead: Overkill (Video Game)
Reviewed by Mr. Dark
Available for the Nintendo Wii
Developed by Headstrong Games
Published by Sega of America
(70’s movie guy voiceover): One man ... pushed too far in a world gone mad! They took a classic arcade series and turned it into a grindhouse spectacular .... now he wants revenge…blood on his hands, gunpowder on his sleeves, and venom in his heart! Mr. Dark ... a Nyko ‘Perfect Shot’ controller, and introducing Uncle Creepy as the slutty cheerleader .... in .... OVERKILL!
That’s right, folks, get ready for some grainy, bloody, grindhouse-y goodness. House Of The Dead: Overkill is a completely fresh take not only on the venerable HOTD series, but of light gun games in general.
Overkill is technically a prequel to the HOTD games, featuring Agent G as a younger man. While that would logically put him back in the 70’s, the game references many modern concepts and technology, so it becomes clear pretty quickly that including Agent G is a move intended to link Overkill with the other games. It works, but don’t expect some amazing insight into the character; he’s just part of the two-man team behind the guns this go-round.
The original games had very little story, where Overkill has a ton of cutscenes and a wacky horror plot involving mad scientists, criminal masterminds, fast cars, strippers with hearts of gold, and brains in jars. The only thing more over the top than the plot is the presentation. From the scratchy, live-action opening credits, you can see the influence here: this is a grindhouse game. The load screen is an old ratings poster for "Rated XXX". While the content never quite lives up to that infamous rating, it’s damn close.
This is not your daddy’s light gun game. The f-bomb is dropped more times than Samuel Jackson with a stubbed toe. Some of the plot twists are just entirely messed-up and wrong. And the closing scene ... I guarantee you will say "wait, did that just happen?!?" It’s that twisted.
The game itself is a big step up from previous HOTD titles. It’s still an on-rails light gun game, and features similar play to the HOTD of the past. Stages are dramatically larger and there is a gun shop that allows you to purchase new weapons and upgrade existing ones. That alone gives you much more variety and replay value than any other light gun game I’ve played. Different levels work better with different weapons, and it’s a matter of trial and error to see what works for you.
Another big innovation is how the levels are presented. Each level is a "trailer" for a different "film", complete with voice-over guy and movie poster. Once you play through a level, it’s available as a longer and more difficult "director’s cut" version. You can also add more "mutants" (AKA zombies) to the standard version if you want more of a challenge. All of this adds a pretty high amount of replay value.
Although this is a Wii exclusive, the graphics are pretty sharp (at least as good as the recent HOTD 2& 3 Return release) and they have an internal achievement system similar to the Xbox Live system. Different tasks will unlock extra content such as videos, 3D renders, and concept art.
As for downsides, the sharp graphics come at a cost: occasionally, you’ll run into pauses as the Wii chugs as hard as it can to paint a scene. It rarely effects game play, but it’s noticeable and annoying. Also, enemy variety seems to have taken a hit from the old arcade titles. It doesn’t seem like there are as many different types of things to shoot, especially in the early levels. You’ll be capping standard zombies running at you for much of the game, although this never stops being amusing as they do have a variety of skins for said zombies. The Carny level sticks out, if you’ve ever had the desire to pop a round through the face of a clown. And really, who hasn’t?
There are also some mini-games that are more fun than they should be. From a shooting gallery that could be Duck Hunt for grown-ups, to "protect your color of civilians" designed for multiplayer, these brief game modes provide a change of pace from the story-driven main game. Also, their ability to support four players simultaneously should make for insane party gaming.
Throughout the game, the sense of humor is what sticks with you the most. This is a funny game. While being a bad-ass horror shooter, it also successfully mocks horror games, horror movies, and the whole modern grindhouse nostalgia phenomenon as a whole. It also features the most clever use of the "Scene Missing" placard you’ll ever run into.
All in all, Overkill is a fantastic addition to the House Of The Dead franchise. There are a few small shortcomings, primarily due to the inherent limitations of the Wii, but they’re overshadowed by the hilarious dialog and incredibly fun gun gaming. Horror fans, with Madworld coming next month, there’s no need to hesitate. Go out and grab a Wii and a Nyko Perfect Shot and put down some stumblers.
4 out of 5
Discuss House of the Dead: Overkill in the Dread Central forums!