This review is presented in HORRORAMA!
The House of the Dead: Overkill is the killer app for the Playstation Move. It’s vulgar, it’s crude, and it’s balls out crazy, but it’s a hell of a good time. Any game that opens with a dictionary definition of the word “overkill” and 70’s porno music before showing a member of the development team pole dancing is A-OK in my book.
I’m sure you’re familiar with The House of the Dead franchise, Sega’s series of zombie themed lightgun shooters. Overkill acts as a prequel to the rest of the series, serving to show the origin of the zombie (sorry, “mutant”) outbreak that serves as the basis of the franchise. Only this time, instead of the serious, horror themed shenanigans of the other games, Sega and developer Headstrong Games have chosen to go with a grindhouse, exploitation film style. Imagine if House of the Dead was directed by Robert Rodriguez and you’ll get the picture. This game never, ever takes itself seriously, not even for a second. It’s essentially grindhouse in game form.
Right from the get go you’ll see how far the developers have gone in adapting the film style to the game, and the effort is very much appreciated. Each level plays out like a movie trailer, complete with a deep voiced over the top narrator and cheesy title (such as “Papa’s Palace of Pain” or “Ballistic Trauma”). There are no loading screens, instead you have Intermission, and unlockables have become memorabilia. The menus are all styled like an old drive-in theatre with every stage being a “Feature” and represented by a movie poster complete with cheesy tagline. Even when you’re playing the game everything has a slight sepia tint to it, and film grain slides along with every frame. This game has style.
Gameplay is about what you’d expect from a lightgun shooter. Enemies swarm you and you shoot them. The most exciting part is that the enemies react based on where you hit them. In addition to blowing up enemies’ heads in an explosion of gore, you can blow off individual limbs and watch as the clown zombies (oops, mutant, why do I have to keep saying the Z word?) crawl towards you with no legs. There are also some moments where you can shoot the environment and watch as pieces crush the bad guys, or play a small QTE that ends with you smashing someone’s head in with a hammer. Unlockables get a lot of love, too, with every level littered with a pile of objects (such as records, comic book pages, and figurines) that you can shoot to unlock a piece of memorabilia in the gallery. Oh, and there’s money scattered throughout the levels as well, which you can use to upgrade and buy weapons (as if you’re not already badass enough).
With only 9 levels (each taking anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes) the game certainly isn’t very long, but that’s par for the course with the genre. The real meat of the gameplay comes from racking up your combo and trying to beat your score (ranked globally on leaderboards) or playing through the horde of extra content. Every level has 7 challenges, ranging from trying an accuracy challenge to saving civilians, minigames, and a variety of gameplay changing and laughter inducing modes. My personal favorite is called “Shoot the S**t” mode, where cut-scenes become subtitled and you have to shoot the swears before the characters can say them. You can even increase the number of enemies and crank up the profanity, because why the hell not? Considering most lightgun shooters are content to leave you with only one mode and maybe a few unlockable costumes the amount of content present in Overkill, is really something else.
The developers even went the extra mile and let you play with a DualShock. Now obviously this isn’t the ideal way to play the game (lightgun games demand a pointer) but it’s still appreciated since chances are you don’t own a Playstation Move. But on the off chance you do, they even let you wield two of the suckers for double the zombie shooting action. And if that’s not enough for you, there’s 3D support for the few of you lucky enough to own a 3D TV. And of course there’s a two player mode, since killing with a friend is better than killing by yourself.
This game is definitely not for the squeamish. You will see bad guys without skin, heads explode, and animal parts thrown around the room with wild abandon. Overkill makes absolutely no apologies and in fact even revels in its sadistic glory with characters cracking jokes about the horrific violence and even poking fun at some of the genre conventions. Then just when you think the game can’t possibly get more violent and over the top it will go out of its way to prove you wrong
House of the Dead: Overkill is bar none the funniest game I’ve ever played, but its humour is not quite for everyone. Overkill doesn’t just meet the M rating you see on the box, it blows right past it in a whirlwind of glorious excess. The characters drop the F bomb with the same frequency that normal people breath. Every sentence is utterly profane and the interplay between the obnoxious and vulgar Washington and the reserved Agent G is absolutely hysterical. Imagine a game penned by Tarantino and starring Samuel L. Jackson having a bad day. Are you imagining “Pulp Fiction: The Game”? Damn right you are. That’s not even saying anything about the music which is a nice mix of of what sounds like porn music overlaid with lyrics about hookers and crack whores and zombies. Yes, it’s just as awesome as it sounds.
There are two main problems, both of them technical. Overkill is a port of a Wii game and you can definitely tell. Other than the HD resolution, it looks like a Wii game. The models are low poly, many effects very low res, and some textures become a blurry mess when viewed up close. Luckily, this means that the framerate never once drops below 60 FPS, but while the graphics are improved from the Wii version it’s really jarring when coming from almost any other PS3 game. The second problem is the load times. While cleverly disguised in most cases, loading still seems to take twice as long as you’d expect and you’ll be left waiting before every level and between every menu.
There’s never been anything quite like House of the Dead: Overkill. If you know what you’re getting into, and you’re a fan of arcade style lightgun shooters then it’s non-negotiable: you have to buy this game. To quote the game’s narrator:
“House of the Dead:Overkill – F**ked up genius!”
*SEGA provided SlimGamer.com with a review copy.