House of the Dead III
Sony PlayStation 3
Consoles have inevitably chipped away at arcades over the last few years. The polish and action which you could only get at one time by pumping coins into a giant machine can be now found at home. Light-gun games used to be a mainstay of the arcades and Sega’s House of the Dead series, along with Namco’s Time Crisis, were two of the most popular of them all. Along with several spin-offs, including the excellent but somewhat bizarre Typing of the Dead, Sega’s zombie blaster has made a successful jump to the home screen on a variety of consoles.
Having found a home most recently on the Xbox 360 and the Wii it is finally the turn of the PS3 to welcome House of the Dead III as a PSN downloadable title continuing the raft of releases led by HOTD - Overkill in October 2011. House of the Dead III first came out in 2002 and ten years is a long time in gaming history. Fortunately, thanks to a lick of HD polish, it holds up well on the PS3. Picking up in a post-apocalyptic 2019 House of the Dead III sees Lisa Rogan travel with former agent ‘G’ to find Thomas Rogan. Together the pair blast their way through a facility looking for Lisa’s missing father. Predictably the story makes little sense but it gives enough room to waste loads of monsters and a few bosses along the way.
For anyone not familiar with House of the Dead III it plays out slightly differently to the other games in the series thanks to a couple of key changes. First of all the pistols are dropped in favour of the crunch of shotguns and it’s a welcome change from the previous titles in the series. The shotguns pack a punch and you can cut through enemies quickly and easily (although the rate of fire is somewhat unrealistic). Elsewhere the game introduces what appears to be different paths. However multiple plays reveal that you’ll go through the same levels each time, albeit in a slightly different order. The only other real change from the tried and tested approach of the previous House of the Dead games is the automatic reload feature which means you no longer have to shoot off screen to reload your shotgun. For the most part it works reasonably well but it can be a little sluggish meaning experienced players will probably prefer to keep shooting off screen.
Despite the slight tweaks things play out exactly the same as the arcade title. At the end of each chapter there is a big boss waiting to be taken down and this being a light-gun game most of what House of the Dead III has to offer can be experienced very quickly. You can plough through the main story in around forty minutes but it is fun whilst it lasts. Completing a chapter gives you a rating and your overall rating at the end of your run leads to one of four endings. Away from the main story there is also a survival mode included which gives you thirty seconds on the clock in which to beat the game. Killing enemies and bosses adds more time. Elsewhere you can also customise the main story mode to make it more difficult and add more lives and credits to give yourself another challenge. Despite the time attack mode and the alternative endings to chase House of the Dead III can be experienced in its entirety quickly. For those who do like to chase scores however the game features an on-line leader board so you can see where you rank against other players.
Despite the lack of depth and added content House of the Dead III is fun while it lasts. The game gets a slight improvement in the graphics department thanks to the HD treatment but retains the standard 4:3 aspect ratio of the original arcade game. Despite the lack of effort in regards to new content House of the Dead III is at its best here on the PS3. The frame-rate, even with two players blasting away on screen, never slips and remains silky smooth. Without a doubt this is the best version of the game on any of the home consoles to date. The game is playable with either the PlayStation move controller (although to get the best out of it you’ll probably need some kind of gun attachment). Surprisingly the game also works reasonably well with the standard controller but using that lessens the experience somewhat.
In truth House of the Dead III hasn’t aged particularly well. It has a distinctly old-school design and lacks any real depth (something which the game makes no real bones about given the lack of new content on offer). Despite that however House of the Dead III is a fun game to blast through, especially in two player mode, and on the PS3 the game is as close to arcade perfection as you are ever likely to get. For a nostalgic arcade romp in the past you can’t do much worse than this.