Since it's inception in back in the 90s SEGA's "House of the Dead" has arguably become the next biggest zombie series behind Capcom's infamous Resident Evil. SEGA's decision to bring the zombie-fest to the Wii comes as no real surprise since recent successful releases of other "light gun" arcade titles such as their own Ghost Squad.
For those that don't know the House of the Dead prologue starts back in 1998, AMS agents Thomas Rogan and "G" are sent to investigate a series of disappearances at the Curien Mansion, home laboratory of Dr. Curien, an acclaimed biochemist and geneticist. Dr. Curien, obsessed with discovering the very nature of life and death, backed by the DBR Corporation and its scientists. However the very nature of his experiments, drove Dr. Curien insane, resulting in him releasing his experimental subjects into the unsuspecting world.
Whilst the House of the Dead series has actually spanned a total of 4 games, SEGA's decision to only include the two most popular titles (2&3) is somewhat understandable. The original, released in 1996, was relatively unknown due to the "popularity" of SEGA's Saturn console and the latest, House of the Dead 4, hasn't really made it outside of Asia even though it was unleashed into arcades over 2 years ago.
House of the Dead 2 which was released 10 years ago was a huge hit on the Dreamcast mainly thanks to SEGA's unmatched ability to bring successful arcade titles into the living room. It expanded and improved on everything found in the original. More zombies, more levels, more features, better graphics, better atmosphere all came together to make an excellent benchmark for the genre.
House of the Dead III which originally came to arcades 6 years ago never quite had the same "living room" success as its predecessor despite once again improving in pretty much every aspect of the genre. Set in a post-apocalyptic world 19 years after the events of the second game, HOTD 3 is far more futuristic in both creatures and locations allowing the game to live in a much richer environments and visually looks far more engaging. SEGA also added a few new features such as a level ranking system and "cancel" bars in Boss fights.
The games tightly follow the rules of the genre they helped define, you use the Wiimote to aim/fire at the endless hordes of zombies, pointing outside of the screen to reload and loosing a life when hit. Blasting open boxes and crates littered around the game gives you bonus' such as extra lives. Reaching the end of a level forces you into a boss fight, which typically has one weak area you must repeatedly exploit until the foe is killed.
The Wiimote is a perfect compromise for the lack of a real light gun, yet more proof that the Wii is the new home of living room light gun games. For those that haven't invested in the "Zapper" add-on yet House of the Dead should only help reiterate the lack of reason to, the Zapper adds nothing.
SEGA have once again faithfully ported their arcade classics to the home console, all the usual difficulty, life and credit options are here - however instead of being able to max these out from the outset players will have to play the game, each time opening up another setting to make the game easier.
Not to be called lazy SEGA have also added an "Extreme" mode that claims to make the game even harder with even smarter zombies, something we probably didn't want or need! It would of been much nicer to include a port of the original game, something we've not played in some years, pretty please? Although this release demonstrates SEGA's new found love for Nintendo's new console it doesn't guarantee that House of the Dead 4 will be released for Wii, the sales figures will decide that.
SEGA has found a new home for its light gun games, House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return is a must have title for fans of the series or genre, two classic games fused together perfectly. Although House of the Dead 2 now feels alittle dated its younger zombie-brother House of the Dead III remains excellent. This title should bring you hours upon hours of zombie blasting arcade action, a fine example of the gore-fest genre. Depth and longevity seekers need not apply and should be redirected to a close cousin, Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. Please SEGA bring on House of the Dead 4.