Also available on: N/A
Developer: Headstrong Games
Release date: February 13, 2009
While resurrecting the House Of The Dead series, developer Headstrong Games has dug deep in the crates of B-movie history. Crackling celluloid, ridiculous dialogue, ghoulish beasts, vampish femme fatales and lashings of gore have all been expertly brought slashing and screaming into the 21st century. Despite the frequent and occasionally off-putting technical issues, The House Of The Dead: Overkill still proves a brain-busting shooter that packs a thoroughly enjoyable punch.
Inspired by the Robert Rodriquez's horror film Planet Terror (part of the Grindhouse double-header with Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof), the development team has exquisitely rejuvenated the veteran horror shooter. The House Of The Dead: Overkill is positioned as the prequel to the first ever game in the series, which hit arcades in 1996. The mysterious AMS Agent Special G once more takes the co-lead - after appearing in the first title alongside Thomas Rogan - and is joined by the foul-mouthed, pumped-up Bayou City Detective Isaac Washington.
To say THOTD: Overkill has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek is a serious understatement. The odd couple will hook up with former stripper Varla Guns during their pursuit of the downright evil Papa Caesar, who looks like the Spanish evil twin of Noel Edmonds. Along the quest, the duo will fight mutant clowns, undead football players, rampant zombie nurses and gory rednecks, alongside a range of rather ridiculous bosses. The action again goes ahead as a rail shooter, with the Wii Remote used as a light gun to battle through a variety of infested locations, including a hospital, carnival, murky swamp and a prison.
Graphically, Overkill excels and is certainly a contender for best looking game on the Wii so far. Its grainy textures, retro celluloid static and juddery old film lines are expertly crafted to frame the fountains of blood, exploding limbs and splattered brains. Equally, its adult-oriented tone is a serious tonic to the cutesy, bright coloured family titles which have dominated the platform so far. (This is also part of Sega's push for hardcore Wii gamers in 2009, with Madworld and The Conduit both on the way). Add to this an excellent soundtrack offering just the right balance of atmosphere, quirks and chugging rock guitar riffs and you've got a pretty superb package.
The story is as ridiculous as you'd expect, with a suitably over-the-top script being adeptly dealt with by the voice actors. The interplay between Agent G and Washington is particularly well done, as they bicker in expletive-ridden cut scenes which are occasionally hilarious (notably a sequence in an ice cream truck after the Carny section). While the level of swearing may be a bit much for some people, it certainly fits with the atmosphere of the game, particularly so with Isaac Washington's character, who uses the F-word as a stress relieving device.
Solo play is good fun, but it's even better killing with a friend and additional players can drop in on levels at any time. Each stage contains various power-ups, including health packs, glowing brain collectables and rather useful grenades. Little green glowing orbs also trigger 'slow mo-fo' mode, enabling you to dole out some serious pain on the undead hordes. However, none of the action is particularly challenging on standard difficulty and you'll breeze through most levels at a cantor. This means that the main campaign can be gunned through in a pretty short time, although there is still plenty of gore to have you coming back for more.
New weapons can be bought and upgraded at the Gun Shop for greater heights of bloody destruction. There are also achievements on each level, such as accuracy targets, which can unlock various new features. Three mini-games - Stayin' Alive, Victim Support and Money Shot II - prove thoroughly enjoyable when played with up to four players. Gamers are also able to re-play levels with a greater quantity of tougher zombies to offer an, in theory, more fearsome challenge. This also includes a 'director's cut' mode which restores all the deleted sections to ramp up the difficulty.
The rough nature of the cut scenes as well as the general feel of the game is intentionally made to fit in with the B-movie vibe, although this is less welcome when it comes to the technical flaws. The frame rate can often prove topsy-turvy and zombies pop in and pop out during the levels, which can prove occasionally quite grating. The game also struggles when there are two players firing heavily in frantic situations. This is especially true when both have machine guns, which can sound like a ZX Spectrum game waiting to load up while fired continuously.
Despite the assorted technical issues, Overkill still proves a blood-spattered wild ride that is definitely worth taking. A mix of retro, B-movie styling, well-drawn characters, frantic action and occasionally hilarious dialogue all adds to a thoroughly enjoyable package. Headstrong Games has truly resurrected the House Of The Dead franchise from the grave, meaning this is one battle against the undead which no hardcore Wii gamer should miss out on.
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