The House of the Dead: Overkill - Extended Cut Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 3
First things first. This game is motherf**king amazing. From start to finish everything about The House of the Dead: Overkill - Extended Cut is fabulously entertaining. This is the fifth game in the House of the Dead series which began life in 1997, and is actually a prequel to the original arcade light gun game. The House Of The Dead: Overkill - Extended Cut is an on-rails shoot 'em up and wears its heritage very much on its sleeve. This is the definition of arcade gaming.
As it's on-rails shoot 'em up you do not control the movement of your character. You are there purely for the ride; you're on-rails, as it were. You have minimal control of the camera (you can look further left or right at times compared to your initial area of sight) and essentially are tasked with killing every mutant you can see on-screen as you're moving along, and often before the game will continue to another area. Whilst you're destroying every single mutated being in your sights in a variety of hideously exciting ways (headshots, removal of limbs, incessant hits to the gut and so on) there are various collectables and unlockables to fire at and pick up as well. Money and health to help you in the game; audio tracks, 3D models, concept art and comics to look at when back in the safety of the hub.
That's the crux of the game. Level by level you shoot, shoot and shoot some more. It's very basic gameplay but it's almost cathartic being able to play through a game shooting, killing and maiming and only having to do that. No need to worry about anything else except for the base need to survive. Of course, Headstrong Games and Sega know that this could get pretty boring very quickly if it isn't packaged up nicely and here is where The House Of The Dead: Overkill - Extended Cut really comes to life ensuring the whole thing is motherf**king awesome.
The House Of The Dead: Overkill - Extended Cut is a grindhouse movie from start to finish. If you have ever seen Tarantino's Planet Terror you will have a pretty good idea of what to expect. The main two characters are the inexperienced Agent G and homicide Detective Isaac Washington and for the bulk of the game you play as one of these two, or both if you fancy some local co-op. As this is the extended cut - originally Overkill saw the light of the day as a Wii title in 2009 - there are new levels and these focus on Varla Guns and Candi Stryper, two very lovely strippers with guns. When you absolutely, positively gotta kill every motherf**ker in the room? Accept no substitutes. In total there are nine levels, of which two are new to this version. There are also new weapons, modes and collectables all in addition to that which existed in the Wii release. Even if the gameplay was non-existent, or it was only an animated movie you would be absolutely transfixed given the outrageous brilliance of the storyline and characters. There are far too many laugh out loud lines to quote, and OTT incidents or set-ups to detail here, but frankly leaving it to you to find out on your first play through is the right thing to do anyway. You'll find yourself smiling, laughing and quite possibly retching throughout.
Each level plays out like its own drive-in grindhouse movie. You feel like you should be out in the warm summer night eating popcorn. The game really does do what it sets out to do very well. The intro and outro cut scenes to each level are letterboxed and made to look as if the film is scratched and grainy to give it the right feel. There's a narrator using creative adult alliteration as well as our heroes talking, shooting and cussing a heck of a lot. This is very much an 18 rated game - the gore and violence obviously sits dead centre but there probably isn't a single other game in recent memory which can claim to contain more swear words than this. Fantastic. The look and feel of the game all fits together very well and considerable work has been done to make the most of the PlayStation 3's oomph over and above that available from the Wii. There's a 3D mode too if you are that way inclined - either stereoscopic for 3D televisions or anaglyphic, using coloured spectacles. This version of the game is very clearly the definitive one as every aspect of the Wii game has been added to and/or improved for this update.
The main game is short. Nine levels, each of which will take around 15-20 minutes to finish, including cut scenes. That's only around three hours gameplay. It's not hard either. You'll rarely die and when you do there are unlimited continues, although you do have to spend points to carry on which in turn affects your high scores. But that's the point. This is a game borne of arcades where short, sharp bursts of intense and effervescent action was what was needed. A chance to progress was essential in order to persuade people to have just one more go and pump credits in. No need for that here, of course, but the premise is the same in that as you're able to progress and noticeably improve over time you want to keep playing. Then you want to play again to improve your high scores. Playing with a pad allows for completion of the story mode, but if you have access to the Move peripheral then high scores, combos and so on would be much more easily attainable.
Once you do finish the main game, aside from score attacks, you're able to tackle the Director's cut - extended scenes, more mutants (you can choose more mutants in the normal game too but here it's forced upon you) and limited continues. Otherwise it's still a similar challenge and still just as fun. You also have the option of some fun in the cut scenes by shooting and therefore bleeping out swear words before they're said. The biggest challenge is the Director's cut in hardcore (headshot only) mode which will ensure there's plenty of life in this title. Outside of the main game there are three mini-games on the disc and players are also provided with viewing areas for all the collectables absorbed along the way. Trophies are present and correct and whilst some are tied into the storyline or related to collecting the various items, many centre on score attacks or challenges the game sets after finishing it the first time.
An on-rails shoot 'em up will never earn plaudits for its originality or innovation. The House Of The Dead: Overkill - Extended Cut doesn't try to. Instead it realises a massively enjoyable example of the genre. Shoot 'em ups are one of the earliest and most fundamental game types there is, and shooting infiltrates a high percentage of games even if they're described as something else. One where that's all you have to do? An absolutely wonderful alternative to the hustle and bustle of other games - kind of like the long weekend break in the country versus the working week. Thanks to the wonderful cinematic shell wrapped around this gutsy game, one filled with larger than life schlocky characters, this deserves to be on your shelves and in your console.