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?
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.[drop2]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.
- 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.
- 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.