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The House of the Dead: Overkill

by Neal Ronaghan - February 17, 2009, 5:46 pm PST
Total comments: 19

9

Have you ever wondered how a dumb buddy cop B-movie would translate to a video game? Very well, as it turns out.

House of the Dead: Overkill is the first game in the long-running arcade series to be built from the ground up for a home console. Developed by Headstrong Games (formerly Kuju London), Overkill is a prequel to the other House of the Dead games that takes place in the Louisiana bayou. Agent G, a member of the secret government agency AMS, is sent there for his inaugural assignment to investigate some strange disappearances. When he arrives, he meets up with Detective Isaac Washington, who is seeking revenge for the death of his father by the villainous crime lord, Papa Caesar.

Detective Washington and the rest of the humorous voice cast have a strong propensity for cursing. To put it nicely, this game is not for the easily offended. While it is often times laugh-out-loud funny and has one of the most ridiculous endings I've ever seen in a video game, there is little to no tact in House of the Dead: Overkill. Everything from disabled person ridicule to incestuous relationships is tackled in this Grindhouse-inspired affair. The presentation is spectacular, with farcical level names (Papa's Palace of Pain, Ballistic Trauma) and awesome '70s-style funk music.

The controls are straightforward and work wonderfully. Using the pointer of the Wii Remote to aim and the B button to fire is very natural. Reloading is made extremely easy by a visceral shake of the Wii Remote. Occasionally, shaking the Wii Remote to reload can be bothersome; you can always just press the A button instead. Players change weapons with the 1 button and throw grenades with the minus button. To make the game compatible with Nintendo's Wii Zapper there is an option that uses the Nunchuk, which reassigns weapon-changing to the Z button and grenade-throwing to the C button.

The way Overkill plays out is relatively simple: you follow a cinematic, pre-determined path while mowing down zombies (or mutants, as Agent G prefers them to be called). You can use the pointer to move the camera slightly, but besides that, you follow a fixed course. Along the way you can pick up various power-ups, such as health packs for healing, grenades, collectable brains, and green molecules that enact Slow Mo-Fo Time, which slows down all of the action except the crosshair.

The core of the gameplay focuses on combos and hi-scores. The more enemies you kill in a row without missing, the higher your combo goes up and the more points you earn per kill. Every five kills, you go up a level. You reach Extreme Violence after five kills, and after 25 more kills in a row you reach the penultimate Goregasm, which is represented by a giant American flag in the upper-left-hand corner of the screen.

By getting hi-scores and achieving other goals, such as getting a certain number of headshots or killing several enemies gangster-style (the Wii Remote on its side), you earn money for new guns and gun upgrades. There are several guns, but only a handful are very effective. Sub-machine guns are nearly useless, as their quick rate of fire make it nigh impossible to keep up a good combo. Shotguns are overpowered because they have a large blast radius and can deal a lot of damage. Also, there are quite a few of unlockables, such as concept art, musical tracks, and 3D models, that are made available after you complete various objectives, like complete a level, collect brains, or kill a specific number of enemies.

There is a decent amount of variety in the enemies and they progressively get harder and more plentiful as the game wears on. The boss battles are fun, bombastic, pattern-based encounters, though they skew toward the easy side. One of the few sour spots is the Wii Remote waggling necessary to shake off certain enemies when you let them get too close; it really disrupts the flow of the game.

The game also stumbles when it's too dark, laggy, or both. At least once in each level there is a spot with very poor lighting, which makes it difficult to spot enemies. This might not happen with every TV, but I tried it on a couple and had to dramatically up the contrast (thereby washing out the picture) on all of them. Also, when the action is too frantic, Overkill's frame rate slows to a crawl. It never lasts too long, but it can easily screw up a combo.

Despite the darkness, Overkill's graphics look relatively nice where you're in the heat of a level. The zombies look delightfully gross as they lose limbs and explode. During the comedic cut-scenes the character models look a little rough, and anyone with long hair looks unnatural.

In addition to the drop-in-drop-out cooperative main mode, there is a director's cut and three different four-player mini-games. The director's cut, unlocked after completing the story mode, is a harder version of the story mode with added gameplay segments. The only bad part about it is that you must re-earn all the weapons and upgrades that you already got in the first mode. The three mini-games—Stayin' Alive (fight off an unrelenting horde), Victim Support (help civilians escape), and Money Shot II (a target test)—are all competitive events where the highest scores wins. There isn't too much depth to these, but they're all fun.

Overall, House of the Dead: Overkill is an absurd, playful, arcade-like experience. Every facet of the presentation is hysterical, from the music to the over-the-top plot. Despite some visual quirks, Overkill is a blast from start to finish and holds up well to repeat playthroughs.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8 10 9 8 7 9
Graphics
8

The character models look a little weird in places, but regardless, it looks very nice. It's too dark to make out enemies in some levels, and there are a few issues with slowdown.

Sound
10

The music is quite fantastic and slams home the campy B-movie feel. The voice acting is humorously vulgar and adds even more to the feel. The sound effects tread the thin line between disgusting and unrealistic, and they mix perfectly with the spectacular music.

Control
9

Requiring only the Wii Remote, the controls are simple and easy to pick up. It also works very well with the Nyko Perfect Shot, and even supports the Wii Zapper via the optional Nunchuk.

Gameplay
8

The only real depth to the gameplay is in keeping a high combo, but when you're playing a light-gun game about shooting zombies, anything else would be a bit frivolous. Overkill's fun is in part due to its simplicity: it's easy to play but difficult to master.

Lastability
7

With the main story mode, a director's cut, and four mini-games, House of the Dead: Overkill has a more to it than meets the eye. While there are only seven levels, each level is about 15 to 20 minutes long and is fun to replay. The considerable selection of guns and unlockables extend its longevity.

Final
9

The degree of polish in House of the Dead: Overkill is evident in its hilarious presentation. While it is a short zombie-killing romp, and there are some minor blemishes, everything from its lively music to its dark humor makes the action extraordinarily fun.

Summary

Pros
  • Fun, intuitive arcade gameplay
  • Hysterically over-the-top presentation
Cons
  • A bit too dark in some places
  • Some lag when there's a lot of action
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

GoldenPhoenixFebruary 18, 2009

What I've wondered is if it is really slow down or a buffering problem. Regardless the game deserves a lot of praise. I hope it sells well because it deserves it!

StratosFebruary 18, 2009

An enjoyable read.
I am interested in getting this but not right now as I still need to get all of the other major February releases as well. I can't justify throwing $150-250 around for all of them. So I'm prioritizing. Especially since there are a number of great titles I need to pickup still from last year.
I need a new job.

MorariFebruary 18, 2009

The slowdown does seem to become less and less of an issue as you progress into the game. Perhaps those earlier levels just aren't as optimized? The darkness is a problem throughout however and is really annoying. Why can't console games have more performance options? If this were a PC game we could all just uncheck a few graphics effects to fix the lag and then kick up the contrast and brightness... not to mention better calibrate the gun.

The cut scenes seem to come up abruptly and without much context. Two or three of them are also ridiculously long and downright painful to sit through due to just how lame the overall humor in this game is. I think that the series did a much better job at being a funny, campy b-movie when it wasn't trying. It's too bad really, because the actual presentation of the menus and such is nicely done. I do wonder about the slow motion. It seems to me that it would have been much better as a activated power that you could build up through combos. Oh, and no duel wield in multilayer? Fail.

The game leaves a lot to be desired, both as a House of the Dead title and as a Wii-only lightgun game. It doesn't seem to be as gory as the first House of the Dead (none of them have), lacks the abundance of diverging pathways, and can't even manage to throw more than two or three interesting boss creatures at you. It fails to duplicate the fun in upgrading and selecting weapons like in Umbrella Chronicles, and doesn't even have the slightest hint of any destructible environments. It's fun enough but ultimately wasn't really worth $50. It probably won't be put into the Wii nearly as often as House of the Dead 2, Umbrella Chronicles, or even Ghost Squad. A sequel that fixes these issues could easily be a great game worthy of that "9.0" rating however.

Why can't Sega just port over House of the Dead 4 or do a remake of the original House of the Dead? Hell, I'd probably even buy the old Saturn port of House of the Dead!

Sounds like a definite rental to me, considering it takes a few steps back from 2007's Umbrella Chronicles.  The big appeal of that game was a nearly 360 degrees of look freedom combined with an amount of content more appropriate for a console-exclusive gun game.  It sounds like Overkill underperforms in both of those areas, and the awesome aesthetic isn't enough to make up for it, as far as I'm concerned.

NinGurl69 *hugglesFebruary 18, 2009

"The big appeal of that game was a nearly 360 degrees of look freedom"

360 is a massive exaggeration (more like 90?), and wasn't very useful after taking a mission or two to realize it.  Overkill matches UC's camera range, at the least.

Another UC aspect people tend to hide is how incredibly slow it is, with maybe a third of your mission time spent with forced camera-waiting.  Overkill still maintains bursty arcade pacing.

And I have to go back and verify, but from my trial that game had ZERO "ZAPPER SUPPORT."  By that, I mean plugging in the Nunchuk did nothing, no additional control options.  Sure you could toss the Remote into that useless Nintendo Plastic(TM), but that doesn't mean a whole lot.  I'll thoroughly cavity search it after work.

And is the game really too dark?  Do people bother adjusting their TVs to meet the brightness checks in Umbrella Chronicles, Twilight Princess, REmake, RE Zero, Zack & Wiki, and Tenchu4?  If their settings satisfy all of these games, then Overkill should be richly dark yet still neatly visible as intended.  Of course if you're a non-gamer or a Former Nintendo Fan(R), you probably wouldn't have this variety of gaming experiences at your convenience.

MorariFebruary 18, 2009

Quote from: NinGurl69

And is the game really too dark?  Do people bother adjusting their TVs to meet the brightness checks in Umbrella Chronicles, Twilight Princess, REmake, RE Zero, Zack & Wiki, and Tenchu4?  If their settings satisfy all of these games, then Overkill should be richly dark yet still neatly visible as intended.  Of course if you're a non-gamer or a Former Nintendo Fan(R), you probably wouldn't have this variety of gaming experiences at your convenience.

Yes, the game is really too dark. There are literally dozens of areas where the only way to even know you're shooting at an enemy is to wait for your reticle to turn red. Playing in a pitch black room with any one of my televisions' brightness turned up higher than usual does very little to remedy the problem. Combine that with the all-too-frequent bouts of lag and it becomes painfully clear that the game simply was not tested very well before shipping. There are plenty of things about the game I dislike, but those all come down to personal preference more than anything. It's these glaring technical fuck ups that kill the product more than anything, and certainly make a scoere of 9.0 pretty laughable. I mean, it's not as if Sega has a different Wii than I have and was unable to properly optimize their game.

Quote from: NinGurl69

And I have to go back and verify, but from my trial that game had ZERO "ZAPPER SUPPORT."  By that, I mean plugging in the Nunchuk did nothing, no additional control options.  Sure you could toss the Remote into that useless Nintendo Plastic(TM), but that doesn't mean a whole lot.  I'll thoroughly cavity search it after work.

I assume you're referring to HotD:O and not UC, but I didn't think the Nunchuk did anything until I checked in the instruction manual and it mentioned it. I tested it and it works. I prefer just the Wii Remote, but the option's there.

And I really stand by my 9.0 score of this game. I'm not a light-gun game expert, but I had a buttload of fun with Overkill and its technical problems were outweighed by the aesthetic, which I loved.

Morari - I think you're right with the assertion that the earlier levels weren't optimized as well as the later levels. The frame rate issue/slow down sucks, but it never happened often enough to be a real bother.

NinGurl69 *hugglesFebruary 18, 2009

That is good to hear.  Was it simply an active Z-button for shooting during gameplay?  All the menus are only labeled for "A" and "B" and that threw me way off.

This game might be playable after all.

Quote:

To make the game compatible with Nintendo's Wii Zapper there is an option that uses the Nunchuk, which reassigns weapon-changing to the Z button and grenade-throwing to the C button.

NinGurl69 *hugglesFebruary 18, 2009

Quote from: nron10

Quote:

To make the game compatible with Nintendo's Wii Zapper there is an option that uses the Nunchuk, which reassigns weapon-changing to the Z button and grenade-throwing to the C button.

=\

My dreams are shattered.

I'll be giving this a second opinion review in a few days (gotta beat the main game first). Overall, I love it. Yeah, it's too dark and there's some slowdown, and the graphical quality could be better. But the pure CAMP makes up for it. I know that's wierd to say, but it's true. What Overkill lacks in technical prowess, it makes up for in soul.

In light of The Conduit and its customizable controls and HUD, I think every game should have customizable everything.

And Zach, I'm excited to read your take on it.

MorariFebruary 18, 2009

Quote from: Halbred

I'll be giving this a second opinion review in a few days (gotta beat the main game first). Overall, I love it. Yeah, it's too dark and there's some slowdown, and the graphical quality could be better. But the pure CAMP makes up for it. I know that's wierd to say, but it's true. What Overkill lacks in technical prowess, it makes up for in soul.

Nothing in the entire game beats the camp found on House of the Dead 2.

"G's bloodstains?"

"Suffer like G did!"

Or my favorite...

"Thanks, Harry!"

PeachylalaFebruary 19, 2009

Quote:

Yeah, it's too dark and there's some slowdown, and the graphical quality could be better. But the pure CAMP makes up for it.

It sounds like something Takashi Iizuka would make, which ithis game isn't.  :)

This is the only game in the HOTD series that has made me laugh out loud. HOTD finally embraced the cheese.

NinGurl69 *hugglesFebruary 19, 2009

Yeah the old House of the Dead games only earned a few eyebrows and frowns out of me.  The real comedy came from reading exaggerated, singled-out quotes on the internet.

Now Ghost Squad, that was roflcopters in full force.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusFebruary 28, 2009

Rented this last night, and I must say this game is hilarious. It's a bit on the easy side, but it seems more focused on the high score aspect of the game, rather than the stay-alive-and-win aspect that I always felt the older one were more about.

I also haven't experienced the game being too dark, but the slowdown when it occurs is a bit obnoxious. I also would say this game is a much different experience from Umbrella Chronicles which I just rented at the end of January. Overall, I'm enjoying the more arcadey, fast-paced action of HotD: O.

For what it is, I'm not sure it could be much better, and on that alone I think Neal's score of 9 is pretty justified. As with any on-rails shooter there are definite lastability issues, but that's too be expected.

vuduMarch 02, 2009

Quote from: nron10

The core of the gameplay focuses on combos and hi-scores. The more enemies you kill in a row without missing, the higher your combo goes up and the more points you earn per kill.

How well does this work?  In the previous games I'm shooting so fast that I almost always shot a zombie a couple times even after it "dies".  Do you have to adjust your rate of fire below ludicrously fast in order to maintain combos?  Will the game even allow this?  (In HotD 2 & 3 if you don't pump out bullets as fast as you can you're not going to kill the zombies before they get to you.  As a result I almost never crack a 70% accuracy rating.)

NinGurl69 *hugglesMarch 02, 2009

On top of that, all reviews commenting about how "easy" the game seems are relative to the presence of the on-screen crosshairs (and the natural stability of the Remote sitting on your lap) providing a crutch training wheels amirite.

Getting a steady stream of headshots using gun shells and no on-screen helpers is insanely challenging given all the little twitches and things that can go wrong to mess up your aim, like trying to stay steady when frantically pulling the trigger (as opposed to the tiny B-trigger).

I've only played the first two levels, but this game is very easy to pick up, play, and have fun in instantly without much getting in the way. I'm hoping to play more tonight!

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Wii

Game Profile

The House of the Dead: Overkill Box Art

Genre Shooter
Developer Headstrong Games
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: The House of the Dead: Overkill
Release Feb 10, 2009
PublisherSega
RatingMature
eu: The House of the Dead: Overkill
Release Feb 10, 2009
PublisherSega
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