Review: The House of the Dead: Overkill

HouseOfTheDeadOverkill.jpg For all the publishers that continue to pollute the Wii with shovelware garbage, Sega is among the scant few producing quality games for a more hardcore, mature audience. Just look at what Sega has coming up early this year with titles like The Conduit and MadWorld. And then of course there is The House of the Dead: Overkill, which just came out last week. Talk about a hardcore game. Its zombie-blasting, buddy-cop tag team of Agent G and Detective Isaac Washington drop more f-bombs than Samuel L. Jackson in, well…just about every movie he’s ever been in. Seriously, folks. This game is not for the faint of heart or easily offended…and that’s why I love it!

Now, the House of the Dead games have always been great fun, but after last year’s Wii compilation of the second and third installments the series was primed for a reboot. Sega obviously had this in mind as well, deciding to hand the series off to the team at Headstrong Games in hopes of livening it up with more modern mechanics and an even cheesier, more over-the-top style than ever before.

With House of the Dead: Overkill, the Headstrong crew accomplished both goals with amazing success by amping up the style with a delightfully campy b-movie grindhouse pulp funk horror presentation and modernizing the light gun shooter genre with new features like upgradeable weapons, slow-mo power-ups, a five-tiered combo meter, and a Danger Cam camera option that ditches the fixed, straight-ahead perspective of past light gun shooters in favor of a more dynamic camera system that enables you to look up, down, left and right to get a better view of dangers ahead and hidden power-ups and other collectible goodies.

Even with these new touches, though, Overkill doesn’t forget where it came from. At its heart, Overkill is still very much a House of the Dead game. It’s an on-rails shooter pulling you (and a friend in co-op if you so choose) through seven short-but-sweet missions of gun-blazing, zombie-dismembering light gun action. Zombies pop up on the screen and rush forward eager to gobble up your brains while you take aim with your Wii Remote (with or without the Wii Zapper) and blast away.

Thankfully, Overkill actually taps into the Wii’s frequently untapped hardware potential to heighten the shooting experience with more satisfying gore and dismemberment effects, a greater variety of death animations, and chunky, fleshy sound effects that make capping zombies even more gratifying. The level of detail in the environments is also outstanding. Overall this is easily one of the best looking games on the Wii to date, though unfortunately the high graphical fidelity is marred some by an unstable frame rate that frequently stutters during scene changes (fortunately the gameplay is smooth when you’re aiming and shooting).

Another light gun shooter bugaboo this game addresses is the whole longevity issue. Light gun games are often criticized for being too short, but the same can’t be said of Overkill. While the seven story missions fly by within a couple hours, this brevity is offset by side modes and a healthy selection of unlockable content. Upon completing the story missions, you get a Director’s Cut mode that takes you back through the same seven missions augmented by deleted scenes, limited continues and more challenging zombie encounters. Also available are three fun mini-games you can compete in with up to four players, including a carnival shooting gallery, a timed surive-as-long-as-you can challenge, and a civilian protection game. There are some other cool bonuses as well, but I’ll leave you to discover those on your own.

House of the Dead: Overkill is a game that knows what it is, plays to its strengths and revels in its obscene campiness and vulgarity, and because of all this is a true joy to play. Consider the House of the Dead franchise successfully rebooted!

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Pros:
+ Awesome new grindhouse pulp horror style
+ Thrilling light gun gameplay brought up to modern standards
+ Some of the best graphics produced on the Wii yet
+ Horribly cheesy story, music and voice acting do the series proud
+ Fun mini-games and unlockable content

Cons:
– Unstable frame rate
– Most of the bosses are too predictable and easy to defeat

Game Info:
Platform: Wii
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Headstrong Games
Release Date: 2/10/09
Genre: Light Gun Shooter
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1-4
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!