House of the Dead: OVERKILL Extended Cut Review
When it comes to arcade light-gun shooters, there were few that delivered the nonstop thrills like House of the Dead. The long-running series has since come into the home; this includes House of the Dead: Overkill, which released for the Wii back in 2009. I didn’t play it, but I heard the game had all sorts of frame rate issues, and it didn’t look very good, either. But for the Extended Cut on the PS3, we get much-needed high-definition and smooth action.
Those graphics won’t bring down the house in terms of detail or jaw-dropping refinement, but they’re certainly decent for an on-rails shooter. The animations aren’t bad (despite a few very strange mutant reactions to death) and the continually changing environments are a plus. The bosses are downright nasty and even offensive – which is the point, of course – and the bloody mess that accompanies your slaughter is sickeningly satisfying. It’s a little blurrier than I would’ve liked but hey, it works.
The sound is going to be hit or miss depending on your personal tastes. As developer Headstrong Games has embraced the ‘70s B-horror movie atmosphere (think “Grindhouse”), you’re going to get comically bad acting, over-the-top characters, and a somewhat repetitive albeit fitting soundtrack. Now, if you really gravitate to this style, you’re gonna love it. If you’re looking for some slick modern-day presentation, you might be disappointed. But this is all about goofy gory fun.
You know what an on-rails shooter is; it's specifically designed for a gun accessory of some kind. In this case, Overkill takes advantage of the very sensitive and effective PlayStation Move controller, which can be used with either the Sharpshooter or another peripheral. I have the Eagle 3 handgun accessory, which I think fits better because I remember those big ol’ plastic revolvers I used in the arcades. Just aim, fire, and flick the gun up - not down or to the side - to reload.
You’ll be gunning down wave after wave of mutants – they look a lot like zombies, but whatever – and you can use one of four playable characters. Each has their own reasons for tackling the grisly job, and they’re relatively simple and stupid. Again, that’s part of the flair. As you progress, you can locate and find collectibles (just shoot ‘em), and you’ll even have opportunities to save civilians every now and then. Lastly, you can always ask a friend to join for some two-player co-op entertainment.
Now, I’m not sure if it was the Eagle 3, the general sensitivity of the Move, or something with the game, but it took me a while to get the calibration right. Furthermore, for some bizarre reason I couldn’t quite pinpoint, the aiming reticule would start to slide off-center. Suddenly, I’d be looking down the barrel of the gun and that reticule would be two inches to the left or right. It sometimes reset itself when I flicked the gun up to reload, but I still found it exceedingly strange.
That being said, it did start to get better as time went on. Maybe it really would work better with the Sharpshooter or perhaps a different gun accessory. The bottom line is that I had plenty of fun, I didn’t really die much, and the ceaseless action really grabbed me. I’m not much into on-rails shooters but this one strikes a twisted chord, and I have to admit that. You can also imagine that it’d be fantastic fun to play with a buddy, and that ‘70s cheesed-out atmosphere is great for such a game.
I also liked the combo meter, which would build as you nailed consecutive targets without missing. The bosses are various and sometimes challenging (although the overall difficulty is low), and I actually wanted to go back through certain levels to find all the collectibles and stuff. I usually don’t do that, but the gameplay is surprisingly addictive. I dunno; I think it has something to do with the fact that I never play FPSs with motion controls, and when I do, I want it to be in a game like this. Your trigger finger might get tired and that’s half the fun.
House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut takes advantage of high-definition visuals, a couple extra levels, overall better gameplay, and 3D compatibility. This last feature won’t coerce you into buying a 3D HDTV if you don’t have one already, but it’s a nice option, nonetheless. I had some difficulty keeping the Move correctly calibrated and the adventure is all over in only four or five hours, but the game remains good clean entertainment. …okay, not clean. But you get my point.
The Good: “Grindhouse” atmosphere fits perfectly. High-definition was definitely needed. Smooth, satisfying action. Co-Op makes it feel more arcade-y. Solid presentation.
The Bad: Adventure is over too quickly. Move calibration can be tricky. Not quite enough content. Can be repetitive.
The Ugly: “Lots and lots and lots of ugliness…and that’s actually a good thing."
10/27/2011 Ben Dutka