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The House Of The Dead: Overkill (Wii) Review

Review for The House Of The Dead: Overkill on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Ever since we realised what Wii was all about, we've wanted arcade shooters on it. Then SEGA placated us by releasing first a port of Ghost Squad, then The House of the Dead 2&3 Return. Salivating at this point, we waited desperately for a new, Wii-specific entry into one of these franchises, or a Virtua Cop compilation at least. Then our prayers were answered and we drooled some more as an all new House of the Dead was announced exclusively to Wii.

We have to admit, though, we were a little worried at first despite the euphoria. AM1, the original House of the Dead team, were to have nothing to do with the new title. Warning bell one. Instead, it was taken on by Headstrong Games - a very talented team, but their previous games were cutesy war games in the form of the Battalion Wars titles, very far away from the House of the Dead series. Finally, it was to be an unnumbered prequel, suggesting it could be brushed under the carpet if it didn't do so well. Well, children, wash away those doubts. Headstrong have done themselves (and SEGA, and the Wii for that matter) proud. And if there are any children reading this review, you're probably best getting out now so you don't get too excited. Overkill is rated 18 for a reason.

The reason for it being a prequel is very clear almost immediately; the setting is entirely different, the mood isn't like the others and, to be quite honest, it doesn't exactly feel like a House of the Dead game completely. It has just about everything you know and love about The House of the Dead in it, from zo- ahem, mutants (fact of the day: you don't call the monsters in The House of the Dead 'zombies' as it's disrespectful to the dead in Japan. They've always been known as 'mutants' or 'infected') hurling things at you, to birds swooping down on you to civilian rescues. However, gone is the B-movie story and any attempt at being serious - Overkill drops right down into being an X-movie with its Planet Terror-inspired Grindhouse style that's so unique to the others it's strange that it's a part of the same franchise. We don't mean any of this as an insult though, quite the opposite; this is precisely how a new House of the Dead game should have been made. It seems like Headstrong have made Overkill a prequel not as an indication of its quality but because it's just what they wanted to do with a new game and to, justifiably, set it aside from the rest. Plus, they got to put G in it, which makes the fans happy.

Screenshot for The House Of The Dead: Overkill on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The visuals are the most notable change. Whereas before the series has had enemies that look as though they could have come from a comic book, Overkill goes for a decidedly more realistic look. The transition is extremely successful and we would say it's Wii's best looking game to date, which is probably helped along immensely by the fact that the assets were created to 360/PS3 standard and then downgraded until Wii could run them effectively. Particle effects are bombing about everywhere, blood is constantly splattering on walls - and staying there - when you're taking out mutants, there are fully reflective water surfaces, bump mapping is in. On top of that you've got some excellent grain filters over the top of it all that make it look like an old grindhouse movie, with regular black lines and spots flickering over the screen perfectly imitating dogged old cinema screens and reels. Headstrong have really pushed the Wii hard, and, sadly, you can tell every so often that the poor little white box can only just handle it, as there are miniscule lags fairly regularly. It's not enough to disrupt gameplay - it's only for milliseconds at a time - but it is noticeable and a tad too regular. Visually, Headstrong have perhaps taken their game's subtitle literally. This is as close to fully utilised as Wii has come on that front.

Ripping on sexploitation movies and the like, Overkill doesn't take itself seriously even one iota. The story is a ridiculous adventure that makes no real sense, and towards the end they turn the depravity knob up to 11 and delve insanely into the 'what the hell?' end of the spectrum. Which is, of course, exactly what they were aiming for. Many cliches of the genre - giant breasted women, random explosions, out of place conversations about random topics, gross out monsters, splattering body parts, restricted access XXX signs for loading screens, buckets of swearing - burst out of the game in abundance, and it's all fantastic. Pairing up G, as a straight laced rookie, with Washington, a potty mouthed cop with a short fuse (think Doakes from Dexter and you're pretty much there) is a work of sheer brilliance that leads to a lot of laugh out loud moments as they bounce off each other to great comedic effect. We tip our hat to the writing; the dialogue is awful, but it could have come right from one of the films it pays tribute to, and so has fulfilled its role to a tee. Look out for the prison governor in the last third of the game; impeccable.

Screenshot for The House Of The Dead: Overkill on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

It's packed full of references, too, and we doubt anybody aside the team is ever going to work them all out. Headstrong watched as many old zombie films as they could get their hands on, as well as tons of trailers, to get their inspiration, and layered on top of that there are in-jokes that we wouldn't know about if we hadn't been told (such as a head that rolls down the stairs in the first level being that of a member of the team). More familiar are things that refer to old House of the Dead games (one music track is titled 'Suffer Like G Did' ). All of the enemies were apparently named, too (though we only know this by being told directly by Headstrong), so you get ones coming down the chimney on fire affectionately nicknamed Father Christmas. There are also several characters that are celebrity inspired. Washington is rapper Common, Papa Caesar is Burt Reynolds. On the mutant front, we were told about the blonde Uma (after Ms. Thurman, of course), and another one is clearly the blonde female lead in Planet Terror. We reckon we've spotted a couple of lookalikes ourselves, though we couldn't be certain they're the inspiration: the greying doctor that turns up throughout reminds us of Dr. Kelso of Scrubs fame, and we're sure we saw Peter Crouch ambling around at the hospital too. Plus, any game that can chuck in a near invisible reference to Resident Evil 4 is onto a winner (G's opening words to the prison governor - "excuse me, sir?...sir?" are a mirror of Leon's words to the first Ganado he sees). Unless we're missing something and they've both nicked it from somewhere else...we've seen nowhere near as many films as Headstrong.

A special mention has to go to the music, which is utterly fantastic; it mainly consists of new tracks that fit in well with the funk-horror setting, but there are also throwbacks to the other House of the Dead games. Give us some headphones and the soundtrack and we'd be happy to listen to it on its own. The music in-game has also been recorded with lyrics separately which will play on the menu screens. There are some...interesting lyrics to say the least, particularly the one with the boy who wants to become a mutant but gets told a delightful story by his 'father' instead.

Screenshot for The House Of The Dead: Overkill on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

We reach the important part, then: does it actually play like a House of the Dead game? Yes and no. Yes, it has all the elements of it as mentioned previously. On the other side of the coin, it feels a lot more frantic than the other games, much more like a game version of your typical zombie movie merged with House of the Dead than just another entry into the series. Is this a bad thing? Definitely not. It's obviously still the same basic premise - shoot things, they die (again) - but it's got a faster pace to it, and it's much more violent with explosions of limbs and splashes of blood all over the shop. Headstrong have also moved the series along with some cool new features. You don't have to use them if you don't want, but they're there. Firstly is the 'Slow Mofo' power up, which, as it suggests, slows everything down, allowing you to get in some leisurely satisfying head shots. Superbly, it also slows down the audio; it's as though the whole film reel has become temporarily degraded. Next is the danger cam, which allows you to look around you slightly in each direction if you move your aim towards the edges of the screen, allowing you to get quick shots in before the enemies have fully approached and become a danger to you. This is defaulted to on, but it can be turned off in the option menu. The danger cam in particular shows that there is still room for changes in the genre without mucking it up. You've also now got the ability to upgrade weapons and buy new ones in between stages with money that you earn. You can take up to two weapons into each level and move between them at will with a click of the 1 button. Finally, there's a combo system to get you more points; kill five enemies in a row without getting hit or missing a shot and you'll move up a level, all the way until you get the almighty Goregasm, which gives 1000 points per kill as long as you sustain it.

You've got a few options in there to keep everybody happy: if you're not a fan of it, you can switch off the cursor and play Overkill as you would a proper light gun game in arcades, which works perfectly after a brief adjustment period, or you can dual wield with a couple of Wii remotes. Overkill is also compatible with the Zapper, factoring in a nunchuk-enabled control scheme, but for our part we'd rather stick with the remote or go for a decent gun shell over that.

Though the pace is faster and more frenzied, we personally found Overkill to be a lot easier than the other House of the Dead games, clearing it in one sitting of a couple of hours. Crucially, though, it's just as replayable as the others and we can't see ourselves just dumping it because of that. It's an arcade shooter afterall, so you can't expect it to be a massive game. You have to go through at least twice to get all the content, anyhow, as what we think of as the 'real game', the Director's Cut with extra scenes and life limits, is only accessible once story mode is complete. It's a shame that there are no new cut scenes in this, but there are plenty of new parts of stages to keep things interesting. As soon as we finished we started again, and we're currently on our third play through in two days. It's just not getting old; plus, we've got to get all the unlockables and 'achievements' yet. It's the most fun we've had with the series since number two. Here's hoping that Headstrong get to have another whack at it. Or some more SEGA light gun games...

Screenshot for The House Of The Dead: Overkill on Wii- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review


If you like arcade shooters, there's no way that you couldn't love this. It's fast, constantly keeps you on your toes and keeps offering new challenges throughout.


If it weren't for the stutters, this would get full marks - definitely the best we've seen on Wii, they just needed to iron out the extremely brief but all-too-common frame rate drops. An incredible effort.


The voice work is hilarious and the music is an orgasm for the ears.


It's a really short game, and incredibly easy, but it's very replayable like a good arcade shooter should be. There're some great mini-games in there such as a survival mode that extend the life too.

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

About this score
Rated 9 out of 10

The first game in SEGA's early 2009 Wii onslaught is a resounding success. There's no doubt whatsoever that Headstrong lavished a lot of love on The House of the Dead: Overkill and that they hold a lot of affection for the series as a whole - it's completely different from the other games in many ways, but is still just as fun to play, and the new setting fits hand in glove with the series, though it is a step up in maturity levels over the other games for sure. If you want more 'proper' games on Wii this is exactly the thing you need to be supporting. Buy it.

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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (4 Votes)

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

I hope that Sega does more commercials for it or it might be a flop.

When all is bad don't look for a easy way out. Because you wont know what to do once your out
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Ghost Squad and THotD 2&3 both sold very well here in the UK and are still lingering around the Wii chart, so I would be surprised if this new THotD fails to perform well also.

Great review Mike - you could certainly tell how passionate you are about the game!! Very detailed synopsis Smilie It seems to be getting strong reviews across the it's up to the public now to show their support. Then maybe we'll finally see the long-rumoured resurrection of Virtua Cop!

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Nice review Mike!

I plan on getting this pretty soon, looks so much fun.

.:Zelda Adventures:.
u guys are DNA.

Nice review. I'm a fan of monster on-rail shooters, so I will probably pick this up after I can get and beat RE:UC

Edracon do NOT wait! Way more solo friendly then RE:UC.

I've spent a good few hours on this (have not completed it, I am taking my time) and all I can say is the review is pretty spot on. Loads of funny bits, one thing not mentioned is the balancing... With the right weapon with the right upgrades you are practically unstoppable. That and the difficulty factor is not terribly high but I have not gotten the "Director's Cut" mode unlocked yet so who knows?

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Sounds like a great Wii effort, I'm definitely considering it. Though the constant f-bomb dropping is a bit off-putting, for me.

C3 Moderator

You\'d be wise to take that into consideration Jacob, if that\'s the sort of thing that puts you off - it\'s pretty much every other word for the majority of the game. I found it funny, but I can see that it could get old for some.

Wolvesgod said:
I hope that Sega does more commercials for it or it might be a flop.

I wouldn\'t worry too much - SEGA\'s marketing guys are having a field day with this one I think.

I agree about the balancing satsubatsu, I didn\'t mention it in those exact terms but you\'re exactly right about being near unstoppable. That\'s why it\'s so easy, but it feels so right doing it. If you want a challenge you can always avoid all the gun upgrades to make it more difficult I suppose.

Let\'s hope, Adam!

Thanks for the comments guys. Smilie

( Edited 14.02.2009 10:22 by Mason )

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Mason said:
Let's hope, Adam!

Well, there have been rumours since last year that Capcom will make an Umbrella Chronicles 2 (since the first has sold like 1.2 million worldwide!), and I'm pretty sure the rumour related to SEGA early last year was that Virtua Cop was being considered.

With any luck Bandai Namco will get on-board with Time Crisis as well, especially after the PS3 version bombed.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Wouldn't be surprised, since HotD 2&3 Return sold 0.9m and Ghost Squad 0.6m worldwide - not shabby at all for ports!

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

That's interesting, because HotD 2&3 sold about half what Ghost Squad did in Japan, plus its chart performance in the UK wasn't as strong as Ghost Squad's.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

I'm glad they've upped the visuals for this game! Smilie
HoD 1+2 screens looked atrocious!

I wanted a horror game and was considering getting RE4 Wii or Umbrella Chronicles...and now this to consider Smilie

jesusraz said:
Well, there have been rumours since last year that Capcom will make an Umbrella Chronicles 2 (since the first has sold like 1.2 million worldwide!),
And aww why not a proper Resi Wii! Smilie

Avoid Games Like the Plague, productivity++
Staff Member

Nice review Mike. I'm hoping to get a job soon so I can get enough money to buy it.

I've seen adverts on channel 4 and such, so I am in no doubt it'll sell quite alot in the UK.

I just want to get this game for the pure comedic value.

Stuart Lawrence
Follow Me on twitter :: @Stulaw90 || My Youtube || Backloggery
NNID: Stulaw
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Top review Mike!

Fantastic stuff, sounds like an all-round great effort from Headstrong.

Seriously hope they really promote it heavily - needs loads of mass advertising - TV, cinema, newspapers.

I wouldn\'t worry too much - SEGA\'s marketing guys are having a field day with this one I think.

Good to hear!

( Edited 15.02.2009 19:33 by jb )

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

I got the Bang Box yesterday. Great game, I can see myself playing this for a while. It does have great playability.

Jacob4000 said:
Sounds like a great Wii effort, I'm definitely considering it. Though the constant f-bomb dropping is a bit off-putting, for me.

Mm, that bothers me a lot too. Smilie That'll probably keep it off my 'must buy' list, and probably shift it onto my 'buy when I see it dirt cheap' list. Smilie

3DS Friend Code: 4425-1453-7061

I'm loving the game myself, it's great fun in Co-op.

I think that the HOTD games are really cool games, but the only good one was 2. This new one looks promising but I will have to see more vidoes and game play before I make a soild decision to buy it. Most chances are I will buy it, if it is a decent price.

SuperYoshi6 PSN name
3DS friend code 2878-9581-8999

It's the best one since the second one! Smilie

Play it without the targeting reticules. Much more fun, especially when trying to save the civilians.

I hope this isn't the end of the House series with this style. (maybe some type of Wi-Fi addition in the next)

Rail shooters is still a marketable genre. they just gotta do it right. Umbrella chronicles was good. (but a bit too hard to kill a zombie at times??!!)

This game has sold really well in my store. (40 units received on release day, sold out in 2 days. that better then the average title not AAA on Wii now a days Smilie )

-make it count- Hey if you wanna play Wii Games with me, check out my game portion of my profile and pm me if you wanna add me so I can add you!

LOL at common, he is lovely most of the time but than you see him at game like \"Hourse of the Dead\" Smilie

I read about him in hell, he is really a nice guy, not the average rapper. Smilie

( Edited 28.08.2009 16:15 by SuperLink )

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