Posted by John on November 6, 2011

House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut Review [PS3]

Rating: ???½?

For many gamers, House of the Dead was their first really engaging experience of the light-gun gaming experience: yes there had been others before it – and Duck Hunt will forever be the most beloved elder statesmen of the genre – but the House of the Dead arcade game was one of the finest ever additions to the coin slot arena, and one which had a huge personal influence on this writer.

But then, thanks in part to the evolution of modern TVs to LCD and Plasma, light-guns dropped out of the Most Wanted chart for games, and gameplay moved predominantly within the screen allowing far greater environmental interaction, but taking away some of the immediacy of the game’s threat in the process as well. For a while the gaming accessory became something of a joke – next gen consoles like the PS3 and XBox 360 shunned the market (apart, perhaps from driving add-ons), and the light-gun era threatened to come to an unspectacular end.

Thanks to Nintendo, though, there was a glimmer of hope. The Wii positively encouraged gamer participation in a way that also inherently encouraged the use of accessories – the Wii remote itself rechampioned the cause of nearly forgotten ancestors like the NES Zapper, or the wonderful SNES Super Scope, and crucially gave the light-gun game another way in, with House of the Dead Overkill arriving in 2009, injecting the genre with a wonderfully refreshing pulpy feel. If any game could claim to be the gaming embodiment of the ‘sploitation film, it’s Overkill, with its laboured aesthetic, tight, caustic language and a irreverant, over the top narrator presiding over things.

And now, PS3 fans can get in on the action, with a PS3 port that boasts additional game time – taking the game to nine levels of zombie blasting fun, all in glorious HD, and crucially all on a console that can easily handle the requirements of the game, adding greater fluidity to the experience of playing. And even though it was released to generally good reception on the Wii back in 09, House of the Dead Overkill has always felt like it belongs here in the land of “conventional consoles” like the PS3

Overkill is a triumph of design: broken down, the game is extremely simple – a point and shoot experience in which the player is navigated on complex rails through environments full to bursting with mutant foes. In its simplicity also lies its potential for limitation – it takes an awful lot to make an environment that you can only minimally engage with, beyond blasting the enemies, interesting and gripping for a relatively long game-time of four hours (for a shooter of this nature anyway).

The key question for PS3 Move owners is how well the technology holds up to the game’s intentions, and I am happy to report positively, that the Move feels ultra-responsive in-game, with a slick aiming system that is shockingly well tuned (to check the quality, I suggest flicking back to the traditional dual shock controller, and suffering the consequent downturn in response and accuracy).

The trouble initially with Overkill was that it plainly wasn’t hard enough, and I had hoped the Extended Cut would add a difficulty factor, with its promise of more enemies, but it still works better as a demonstration of how well light gun style games can still work, rather than an expressive, challenging experience in its own right. It’s hard to feel completely under threat, no matter how many mutants are on-screen, but it is still hugely fun to dispatch them – with rewards based on accuracy and cumulative hit rates – and the overall experience is of a game that encourages replaying and besting your previous effort. And if the whole thing was too difficult in the first place, you wouldn’t want to repeat it now would you?

Did it really need the port? Well, PS3 users without the benefit of a Wii console as well would probably say yes – and I would heartily encourage them to jump into what is one of the best non-light-gun light gun games ever made. But for those who have already played, the new additions to the game, including the HD graphics are difficult to accept as strong enough reason to shell out for the title again. Especially since the HD upgrade only really drags the game up to being a poorer quality PS3 title thanks to the comparative limitations of its original console home.

House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Edition PS3 ScoringGameplaywww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comUnassuming, if a little lightweight shooter on-rails fun, given an uplift by the accuracy of the Move. Yes it’s short, and you won’t die much, but sometimes it’s nice to feel invincible.Graphicswww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comThe HD regloss is a marked uplift from the Wii version of 2009, but it carries the obvious limitations of that console under the surface, an while it looks reasonable, the visuals rarely excel.Soundwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comTruly great soundtrack that fits the ’sploitation bill like a big sweary glove, and while the voicework is obviously set-up to sound forced, it is wholly authentic. Sound effects are a highlight.Replay Valuewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comFour hours of game time sounds like the blink of an eye, but the game is set up to encourage the player to want to replay and achieve better scores on each level (which is why the kill threat is so low compared to other shooters), and there are enough collectibles to ensure a few replays at least.Presentationwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comGreat authentic grindhouse touches, and the pulpy design is a joy for the most part.Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comAs a demo for what we’re missing now that light-gun gaming is something of a relic Overkill works very well, but it is a little too meager an offering to really captivate those modern audiences who yearn for a bit of meat to their FPS.


House of the Dead: Overkill is available to buy now on PS3.


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