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House of the Dead Overkill Review

Okay, no beating around the bush; 2009 is off to an awesome start. SEGA’s first game of the new year is absolutely sublime. There’s nothing more satisfying then blowing the crap out of a load of bloodthirsty mutants (don’t say the ‘Z’ word) and House of the Dead Overkill just made this the most stylistic way to do it.

Overkill is a prequel to the first HOTD game and the first to be developed specifically for a home console. With this in mind it really shouldn’t work as the HOTD games are pure, adrenaline-filled, arcade action so the home console market is always a strange place for HOTD games. After all, House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return was a somewhat disappointing port of the 2 games with little extra in the way of replay value. So does Overkill learn from past mistakes and make an arcade-inspired blaster with plenty of replay ability?

Yes. Yes they do. And they do it bloody well. Overkill is the story of Detective Washington who is partnered with the rookie AMS agent; Special Agent ‘G’, the protagonist of most HOTD games. The pair are assigned to investigate an outbreak of violence in Bayou City which turns out to be infested with brain-hungry mutants. The mutants are a direct result of the experiments conducted by Papa Caesar, the scientist responsible for the death of Detective Washington’s father. The game’s story is beautifully written and allows for some wacky level-specific enemies and eccentric characters like the buxom stripper Varla Guns and the slimy, prison-owner Clement.

So the scene is set and the violence begins! Overkill plays like a dream with slick light-gun action complimented with excellently responsive targeting. The game gives the player 2 weapons to assign to each player which are fully upgradeable with the money earned from scoring high. Successfully shooting nothing but mutants and special items like golden brains (10 hidden in each stage), health cases, grenade power-ups and my personal favourite; the green strands of DNA which activate ‘Slow Mo-Fo Time’. This slows the action right down to allow the scoring of huge combos.

So what’s the use of all this combo…ing? Well every time you successfully shoot a succession of zombies you earn a higher rank which in turn multiplies your score. Upon reaching the highest rank (Goregasm) an American flag replaces the multiplier gauge and the scoring goes through the roof. Big points equals big cash and new unlockables giving the game that much needed replay value.

The presentation is stunning. The graphics are some of the best the Wii has produced with some awesome spot effects like rippling water, motion blur and the film scratches which gives the game the ‘Grindhouse’ look it so effortlessly parodies. However all this visual flare is not without its’ problems, the biggest being the framerate. The game has quite a hard time trying to keep up with its’ own pace as there’s quite a lot of frame skips in the busier sections. However, the violence is brilliantly satisfying with limbs being blown off and heads being blown up. Blood splatters the walls and even the camera lens to make this the biggest gore-fest seen in a HOTD game.

Music and sound is also top notch with one of the most effective and stylised soundtracks to add to the game’s B-movie, horror look. Boss battle themes are especially impressive as they begin to show more electric and drum ‘n’ bass-based music which heightens the intensity of the action. Sound effects like the guns firing, brains being splattered across the place and the game’s superb dialogue really fill the presentation out well. Our only real complaint lays with Washington’s dialogue which degrades into a game of ‘how many F-bombs can we fit in one sentence?’ If the vulgar language was used more naturally it would have really made the humour in Washington’s character stand out more which is a shame as his funniest line doesn’t have any swearing at all (see the ice cream truck cut-scene).

Despite a few graphical hiccups and Washington’s annoying dialogue, House of the Dead Overkill is THE must-have hardcore game for Wii owners. It’s brilliant to see something with this level of violence for a Wii audience despite the console’s family-based orientation. Adults are a part of the modern-day family you know!


Written by Sonic Yoda on 14/2/09

Photo of Outer Case

Photo of Inner Case


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