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Review

House Of The Dead OVERKILL Extended Cut Review

Bring popcorn (and a shotgun.)

To say hardcore games never “work” on the Wii is a lie, especially when it comes to Nintendo’s universally adored lineage of classics. It was only a few years ago that publishers were approaching the power-selling platform with a wealth of ideas for future releases.

The number of consoles in circulation at the time and continuing surge of popularity in motion gaming had companies blinded. The sheer volume of consumers they could reach was staggering, but considering what percentage of this statistic were actually families and non-gamers, they were in for a shock when their attempts at intuitive, out-of-the-norm games failed to get off the ground when it came to sales.

Despite exceeding predictions, SEGA’s House of the Dead Overkill, a re-imagining of the rail-shooter classic, stuck out among the ever-growing swarm of shovelware. With Sony having launched its own brand of motion gaming that had a hardcore crowd of gamers to back it, Overkill has been given a new lease of life in Extended Cut.

It may be blockbuster season but is this homage to Grindhouse cinema at least worth a matinee?


Every stage rounds off with a boss battle, each one having a particular theme and attack pattern. This mean lookin' beauty is referred to as "Meat Katie."
When it comes to depicting a somewhat engaging narrative, the House of the Dead series has triumphed in the past, even if obstructed by some of the poorest voice acting and dialogue in the medium’s history. Where it may have been the crux of previous games however, with Overkill Headstrong Games has put such an extreme emphasis on these elements of the game that it creates an almost endearing effect.

Meeting out of pure coincidence the game’s protagonists, Detective Isaac Washington and AMS Special Agent G, are forced to form an alliance when they both try to take down crime lord Papa Caesar. Making his escape, the insane drug baron unleashes a horde of zombie-like creatures who soon infect the nearby city and surrounding areas.

Along with their unwilling stripper sidekick, Varla Gunns, Overkill propels the two unlikely heroes through an elaborate shooting gallery frequently punctuated with the odd bit of OTT character banter. It’s a plot that offers very little substance or character attachment, although in a way that’s so deliberate that it can easily be overlooked.

There is the occasional well-placed quip to be scoffed at but, for the most part, you’ll continually smirk under a barrage of excessive cursing and nonsensical dialogue.

There have always been on-rail shooters available but given the scarcity of recent titles, it’s a genre that has been in much need of renovation. Last year’s Time Crisis: Razing Storm will have won over some of those craving that arcade shooter nostalgia but, in terms of gameplay alone, Overkill gives that particular itch a much more thorough scratching.

Each of the nine levels in Extended Cut (including two PlayStation 3-exclusive stages) are self-contained with no checkpoints whatsoever and usually clocking in at around 20-30 minutes. Like any on-rails shooter, you have no input when it comes to character navigation, Overkill continually prodding you into corridors and open rooms before leaving the player to stay in a static position and clear the space of any infected.

On paper it sounds incredibly monotonous, in practice it sometimes is although the increasing difficulty and sudden quickdraw moments keep a great pace, the horde of hidden collectibles also keeping players on their toes.


Believe it or not, Overkill also supports the Dualshock 3. It's an effective method of play but no way near as immersive as the PlayStation Move.
Setting up the PlayStation Move takes just a few seconds, House of the Dead being one of the tech’s most accurate demonstrations even if it does happen to be one of its more simplistic applications. Aside from the bog standard pistol, an SMG, assault rifle, shotgun and other weapons are available to purchase, the gun shop also peddling upgrades for aspects such as damage, recoil, reload time etc.

Even when trying to deliberately prolong the experience, one playthrough should average at four or maybe just five hours, but even as the credits roll there is plenty of content to blast your way through. Director’s Cut becomes immediately available after initial completion, tasking players with harder variants of the original nine stages, each one tagged with a variety of challenges.

There is also the option to enable extra in-game content and modes to tweak your experience, one of which allows dual-wielding with another rewarding players for shooting any subtitled profanities during cutscenes.

Visually, Overkill isn’t the prettiest of ports though it still holds up well on the PlayStation 3, mainly thanks to its low-budget cinema aesthetic. With a constant film grain and menus layered in emulative movie posters, the game certainly takes cues from the bizarre Grindhouse sub-genre which also has an influence on Overkill’s soundtrack, though in saying that it does tend to switch to Dubstep every now and then.

Pros:

  • Tight and responsive gameplay.
  • Easy set-up.
  • Humour is purposely off-target, will still get some laughs.
  • Plenty of add-on content including two exclusive levels, mini-games, gun shop etc.
  • Boss battles are characterised and enjoyable.
  • Looks good for a 2009 Wii port, rarely ever suffers from frame-rate issues.

Cons:

  • A little too easy without the Hardcore tweak.
  • Once upgraded, weapons are pretty much all the same.
  • The same character models are recycled too often.
  • Point system could do with some flare.

With very little to compete against it on the PS3, Overkill is the best on-rails shooter for the platform. The shooting itself is easy to master and rewarding, even more so when coupled with a partner, but the overall lack of original content will still put off a few potential customers.

Though the numerous add-ons and Director’s Cut mode are substantive they will only appeal to completionists or gamers who aren’t fussed about replaying the same levels. Regardless, it’s still one of the better Move-enabled games on the market, and hopefully SEGA will consider transferring some of its other under-appreciated titles from the Wii but we won’t hold our breath.

Score: 7/10

14 Comments
  1. Crazy_Del
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Great review Jim and I had this last week and only completed 1st Level (I had MW3 was focusing on that) Might continue this tonight, I am loving it old skool style but the 1st boss I took down takes a long time and even my finger on the trigger hurts like hell. (That’s why I stopped there)
    But still great fun having a wee bash at it when you feel in the mood of killing Zombies with a gun!
    R1MJAW will post some as he completed (3 times I think)
    Looking forward to tonight ^^

    Comment posted on 11/11/2011 at 09:09.
    • R1MJAW
      Member
      Since: May 2010

      4 times through story (Story mode, Directors Cut, Hardcore mode and Classic mode) plus numerous plays of most levels trying to do the challenges. Just have a few challenges left on last three levels, and S ranks left to platinum it.
      Really enjoyable move shooter, however, I now have Skyrim, so it may take me a while to get back to it.

      Comment posted on 11/11/2011 at 11:40.
      • Crazy_Del
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        But your so close to the Platinum, if you ignore it you might forget the levels that you memorised finish House of the Dead Skyrim is like a drug you will get addicted and all is lost!
        Get the Platinum mate.

        Comment posted on 11/11/2011 at 13:17.
      • R1MJAW
        Member
        Since: May 2010

        Easier said than done Del, getting S ranks is ridiculously difficult.

        Comment posted on 11/11/2011 at 14:32.
  2. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    This is what we need. Wii games (that are well received) utilising the Move controller. Sure, we’ll be seeing plenty of ports right now but the Move controller could lead the way with sequels, etc.

    More please!

    Comment posted on 11/11/2011 at 10:02.
  3. scavenga
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Woohoo, it looks like so much fun, I defo want this!

    Comment posted on 11/11/2011 at 10:20.
  4. redmik71
    Member
    Since: Dec 2008

    Sounds superb, love the lightgun games, I thought The Shoot was suprisingly good and also liked Deadstorm Pirates.

    Just one question is it on PSN and if yes how much is it?

    Ta

    Comment posted on 11/11/2011 at 10:31.
    • Forrest_01
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      As far as i know its a full retail release – I have certinly seen boxed copies, but whether there is a downloadable version on the store as well, i don’t know.

      If there is though, you can be sure that it will be for the full RRP.

      Comment posted on 11/11/2011 at 11:35.
      • R1MJAW
        Member
        Since: May 2010

        Yeah, it’s £40 on the PSN store, but can be easily found for £30 or less on disc.

        Comment posted on 11/11/2011 at 11:42.
  5. R4U Eldave0
    andUandU
    Since: Aug 2008

    Best Wii game by a long way imo. Really good fun :) If I ever pick up a Move I may have to get a copy of this.

    Comment posted on 11/11/2011 at 10:56.
  6. redmik71
    Member
    Since: Dec 2008

    Thanks guys, strange I thought it was a PSN, odd how things stick in your head. Will probably pick up later when its a bit cheaper – or get it on Lovefilm.
    To go off on a random track, have really enjoyed Lovefilm. For £5.99 a month I can get two games, found it useful for shorter games like Child of Eden and Force Unleashed II. Space Marine should be on my doormat ready to play.

    Comment posted on 11/11/2011 at 13:15.
  7. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Want wantwant.

    Comment posted on 11/11/2011 at 13:45.
  8. elpablo79
    Member
    Since: May 2009

    I really enjoyed this on the wii, will definitely be getting it on PS3, probably when price comes down. Hopefully Madworld will be the next wii port (everything crossed!!!)

    Comment posted on 11/11/2011 at 16:12.
  9. TheLig
    Causing trouble is my business and business is good
    Since: Dec 2008

    Possibly the most fun game I’ve played this year. Highly recommended. Only downside is the ropey Move calibration. It drops so quickly and is infuriating. Accidentally got the “Yakuza” trophy because holding it sideways was the only way it would aim at the screen!

    Comment posted on 12/11/2011 at 17:14.

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