The House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut
Developer: Headstrong Games
Genre: On Rails Shooter
The original The House of the Dead game by Sega saw many releases and re-imaginings. There was the original arcade shooter. Then the subsequent Saturn port. Then the PC release. Then they got funky and released a version of the game that taught people how to type called Typing of the Dead for the PC and PS2. There was also a Pinball of the Dead released on the Gameboy Advance. This doesn’t even include the sequels to HOTD. Anyway, it’s safe to say that Sega has been willing to experiment with the franchise and that there have been a few games. Now comes the Playstation 3 port of the latest game in the series, Overkill. Originally released on the Wii, the game has been ported to the PS3 in order to take advantage of all those people who purchased the Move and are desperate for content. Shall we see what they get for their dollar?
Overkill is a prequel to the original House of the Dead, and is actually Agent G’s first assignment, Agent G being the sometimes star of the series. He and Police Detective Issac Washington are thrown together in the pursuit of Papa Caesar, a man who has managed to turn the population of a small county in Louisiana into Mutants, Mutants that resemble Zombies. Also hunting down Caesar in this PS3 version of the game are two strippers, Varla Guns and Candy Stryper. As the story goes on we jump between the two sets of heroes, which provides a nice way to move the story forward without having to explain every little detail.
The biggest thing about the story is just how vulgar it is. Whoever wrote the script went out of their way to include as much swearing as possible. It would make a drunken sailor blush. I remember being amazed at how much swearing there was in Mafia 2, and Overkill just laughs at that game. Every other word is a curse in some way or another. The game is modeled after the old Exploitation/Grindhouse movies of the 70s, the ones that Quentin Tarantino loved and emulated in many of his films. Think of the movie “Planet Terror”Â as an example of people paying homage to this genre.
To sum up, it’s a game about shooting a lot of targets. The story isn’t going to be paramount in most people’s minds, and most of the cutscenes are going to be skipped. By the way, the cutscenes can’t be skipped until you’ve watched them at least once. Not cool. The developers do try to do something unique and interesting with their story. They just chose to do it in a way I wouldn’t have myself.
I didn’t play the original game on the Wii, but there is no way the game looked as good as this on that system. Don’t get me wrong, the PS3 version isn’t the best thing I’ve ever seen or anything. It’s just miles better than what I’m used to seeing from games that are ported from the Wii to the PS3.
Anyway, there is gore and blood by the bucket-load here, and the character models are more than acceptable. The boss mutants are usually big and revolting, while the standard ones are merely cannon fodder. The stages are varied and interesting to look at. They range from a house, a carnival, a hospital, a swamp, and a prison with an underground bunker. The mutants are varied too. So when fighting your way through the hospital you’ll be fending off patients and nurses and orderlies, and while in the carnival you’ll be firing into hordes of clowns and mutated carnies.
One last thing about the graphics: 3DTV isn’t my thing, but you’ll be happy to know if it’s yours that Overkill proudly supports it.
The dialogue, what there is of it that isn’t four letters long, is pretty bad. But it’s bad on purpose. As the game is spoofing schlocky movies of the 70s, it’s not a surprise that they are also using many of the same techniques, or at least imitating them. So dialogue that has been recorded later with no attempt to sound like it’s a part of the action fits right in. For the same reason I can’t complain about the work of the voice actors, though I really wish I could as some of it is cringe inducing.
The music is top notch, oddly. And oddly really is the best word to describe it. In the menus, the game plays various songs that have either been written specifically for the game or songs which remix the game dialogue into lyrics. Some of the songs are actually quite funny, in a disgusting kind of way.
Like just about every other House of the Dead game, Overkill is played on rails. The scenery changes and enemies appear, moving towards your screen to attack you. Once the enemies on screen are dealt with, the camera moves to the next action point. The game can be played using the Move or the Dualshock controller, and its just as enjoyable with the DS3 as playing with the Move, though not quite as visceral. When playing with the Move, you can hook it up to the Sharpshooter attachment and it feels very much like you are in an arcade.
To get the true effect of Overkill, you have to be willing to play through the game more than once. From the beginning you have access to a number of guns, but only if you can afford to buy them. There are stashes of money all over the various levels, but you have to be quick on the draw in order to snap it up. You can also upgrade the weapons you own. For example, when fully upgraded the pistol goes from being a decent weapon to a gun you can kill targets with as fast as it can be reloaded. The shotgun goes from being powerful but with limited capacity and slow reload time to being powerful with a much more manageable reload time. As there are nine weapons, you will have to play through the game a few times before you have them all, especially since you only unlock some of them by finishing the game a few times in Original and Director’s Cut.
The game makes good use of a bullet time feature as well. It’s not something you can activate anytime you like. Instead, it’s a power up you can shoot if you happen to see it on the board. It slows down time, turns the screen slightly red, and then lets you turn it completely red thanks to all the blood you’re about to splash all over the screen.
After you finish the base set of missions, you unlock Director’s Cut mode, which takes you to different places on your route, and gives you more to shoot at. Furthermore, there are a few minigames included as well, but these are more of a tease than anything. For example, the survival minigame, which has you fighting to survive against waves of enemies, lasts only 10 rounds. The target shooting minigame plays like a tutorial for a much larger minigame, except once the tutorial ends so does the minigame. Up to four players can play through the minigames at one time, while the story mode only involves two players at a time. If you have two Move controllers you can play through the game dual wielding them John Woo style once you unlock the feature.
There is a huge difference in the difficulty level when playing alone compared to playing with a friend. On your own the boss fights tend to be a bit of a chore, but when playing with a friend they breeze right on by.
The Director’s Cut feels more like Arcade mode, as you only get lives per round, making it that much harder to finish the game. Other than that the mode doesn’t really seem to add a whole lot to the game, aside from various challenges for each stage. The route you take through the board changes, but nothing else seemed dramatically different. One thing it does do, however, is show the missing reel.
Is it original to set out to be the filthiest game in history? If so, then you’re looking at a very original game. Otherwise, the best I can give you is that the game is pretty original in trying to imitate the Grindhouse feel of those exploitive movies from the 70s. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of another game taking that approach in its presentation.
It’s not exactly long enough to be addictive, really. The game is actually pretty long compared to other light gun type games I’ve played on the Move, but even so it’s pretty short. I’d say it can be completed in three hours in single player, less than that in multiplayer. Going back and finding all the collectibles and then playing through and meeting all the challenges is certainly a way to extend the experience, but I wouldn’t call it especially addictive, especially with how the game assaults you with imagery.
Let me start off this section by pointing out that one of the enemies you’ll have to shoot in an exclusive to the Playstation 3 variant of the game is a mutant baby. Not just once either. And there’s no way to avoid shooting them unless you’re willing to take the damage and keep moving. I don’t understand the need for that particular gameplay choice and wish I didn’t have to be bothered with making it.
So if you own a Move and a Sharpshooter, or one of its plastic gun derivatives, and you have a super high tolerance for gore and foul language, then Overkill will be right up your alley. If, on the other hand, you are used to more sedate language and a lack of morally reprehensible gameplay in your entertainment, then this is probably one to avoid.
I really liked the presentation, such as the loading screens, which made the game feel very much like an old B-Movie. The same thing goes for the missing reel later in the original mode of the game. I thought it was a clever way to remind us of what people had to put up with back in the golden age of drive-in movie theaters.
In addition to the new enemy I mentioned earlier, the PS3 gets some exclusive content in this remake. The two stages where you play as the strippers Candy Stryper and Varla Guns are unique to the PS3, as is the Crossbow you unlock by defeating Directors Cut mode.
Control and Gameplay: Great
Originality: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Bad
FINAL SCORE: Decent Game
Short Attention Span Summary:
This is one time where our grading system fails me, as this game is anything but decent, but the score is right. Like Manhunt before it, there’s really no reason for this game to exist outside of someone’s dark imagination. A competently executed game, but one that Sega should have second thoughts about revisiting anytime in the near future.