House Of The Dead: Overkill review

April 24, 2010 at 10:42 pm | Posted in Game Review, Wii Review | Leave a comment
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House of the Dead returns! Sega’s classic light-gun series shambles onto the Wii in one of the console’s bloodiest games yet.

Title: House of the dead: Overkill

Format: Wii

Developed by: Gas-Powered Games

Published by: Sega

Genre: Light-gun shooter

When it was first revealed, House of the Dead: Overkill caused more than a ripple of excitement amongst Wii owners eager for a bit of hardcore shooting action. The trailer, a humourous pastiche of the grind-house theatre style honoured by Tarantino and Rodriguez in last year’s Planet Terror, had its tongue firmly planted in its cheek and showed a glimpse of a title happy to poke fun at its own legacy. The cheesy nature of the original arcade games had been fully acknowledged and embraced and hopes were high that developer Gas-Powered Games (formerly the Kuju team responsible for Battalion Wars) would treat the gameplay with the same level of respect. As the first of Sega’s holy trinity of hardcore-focussed titles (alongside the newly released brawler Mad World, and the promising looking FPS The Conduit) and the first console exclusive in the well-loved series, everyone questioned whether Overkill could deliver the goods.

The answer would have to be an unequivocal yes – Overkill delivers in spades, and then some. There are few titles that can boast such persistent aesthetics – the trailer’s ‘low-budget horror’ visuals extend to every inch of the game. From the gory nature of the graphics to the soundtrack and even the menus, Overkill soaks itself in the grind-house atmosphere. Tarantino would surely get a kick out of the scratch film effects, the outrageously sweary dialogue and the intentional ‘gaffes’ in the cut-scenes (characters switch clothing, smashed crockery magically reappears), little touches that all serve to raise Overkill above its peers in the genre.

In fact, it really stands head and shoulders above most of the rest of the Wii’s library – in the words of the eloquent Detective Washington: this is the balls. Visually it challenges some of Nintendo’s in-house efforts thanks to its technical ability and attention to detail; levels are atmospheric and even though they consist of well-trod environments (labs, mansions, trains etc.) they are well designed and look gorgeous. The character models are equally impressive, with the many varieties of zombie sickeningly dismembered in the face of your gun-barrel, and some great looking bosses (even if they are easy to beat). Overkill’s sound design is also worthy of a mention, not just for the zingy dialogue between Agent G and the foul-mouthed Detective Washington (swearing is neither big or clever unless it’s coming from the mouth of Mr W) but for the songs created especially for the game which will certainly live in the memory long after you’ve grown tired of dealing death out to zombies.

Thankfully just as much attention has been spent on the gameplay itself as the presentation. Overkill is not just entertaining as a pick-up-and-play arcade shooter, but stands up well to multiple play-throughs and is an absolute blast with friends (playing or watching). The combo system means battling for a high score takes a bit more of a refined approach than simply blasting all over the screen, as successive hits add to your score multiplier, eventually giving you the heady levels of ‘goregasm’ if you can hit enough enemies. There is also extra content unlocked by finding and shooting golden brains hidden in each level. Bonuses like the harder, more extreme Director’s Cut, featuring longer levels and fewer lives. And the chance to view any of the hilarious cut-scenes or listen to any of the music, catering for any gamers with a hankering to show off the necrophilia song to friends.

There are a few issues that almost taint Overkill’s shiny bodywork though. As mentioned earlier the bosses look great but are dispatched far too cheaply. A few blasts to the obvious weak-point(s) is all it can take and they’ll be down in minutes. Only one or two have genuinely interesting attack patterns and the end boss really could have been awesome had it been as challenging as it looked. There are also some gripes with the levels, with few chances to explore alternative routes and very little in the way of destructible environments.

They aren’t enough to stop Overkill being anything less than an extremely entertaining title and it stands as a bit of a landmark title in that it’s not just a great reimagining of a classic series but also a sign that developers are really starting to push Nintendo’s little white box. Given the format’s suitability for light-gun games we’re hoping it leads to new outings for the other two genre stalwarts, Virtua Cop and Time Crisis. In the mean time I’m off to watch that ending just once more before bed. Fuck yeah!

8/10

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