The House Of The Dead: Overkill (Wii) Review

By Mike Mason 15.02.2009

Review for The House Of The Dead: Overkill on Wii

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

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

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

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

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

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.






First Person Shooter



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

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

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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