The House of the Dead: Overkill Review
Posted by Anthony Dickens
Overkill; the capacity to obliterate a target with more weapons than are required.
Last year the Wii was graced with arguably two of the greatest light gun games of all time thanks to House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return. For fans of the series, like myself, it was fantastic to replay some truly classic arcade games as the Wii simulated the old fashion light gun perfectly.
We'd always hoped that SEGA would consider releasing HOTD 4 for Wii, a game that was released only in arcades and has yet to been seen on a home console. However to our surprise and delight last year came the announcement that UK based Headstrong Games would be making an entirely new House of the Dead game, specifically for Wii.
If you've heard anything about Overkill you'll know its been heavily influenced by recent grindhouse sleeper hit, Planet Terror, Robert Rodriguez's homage to 70's B-movies. Dubbed as "funk horror" Overkill has been styled with all the cliché's you'd come to expect from the genre - and that's a good thing. Expect lot's of over the top violence, lot's of bad acting, lot's of funky music, lot's of swearing, oh, and a stripper. You'll soon figure out how the game earned it's 18 rating.
In Overkill, a prequel to the House of the Dead series, rookie straight-out-of-the-AMS-academy Agent G teams up with soul-brother-hard-mother-f**ker Detective Isaac Washington, to track down local bad guy, neckerchief-wearing Papa Caesar. Of course things don't go smoothly and shit soon starts to turn weird in the form of hordes of mutant zombies.
The main "Story Mode" is split into seven chapters, titled Papa's Palace of Pain, Ballistic Trauma, Carny, Scream Train, The Fettid Waters, Jailhouse Judgement and the final act: Overkill; all have their own distinct style and setting and is presented as its own individual movie, complete with poster, theme tune and intro/outro sequences.
After the first 20 or so f-bombs and your finally into the zombie action things should feel pretty familiar, you shoot with trigger, reload with or a quick shake of the Wiimote and finally you can use to fire grenades (once acquired). One thing that's new in the control department is the ability to push the camera view around by pointing left/right up/down, this lets you see slightly more than normal and is useful when your seeking that high score.
Overkill features some excellent "zombie mechanics", shooting them in the head causes the best results but is obviously the most difficult, you can also pick off limbs as your victims try to come closer.
There's a huge selection of zombie types in the game, including average rednecks, trailer trash girls, nurses, american footballs, doctors, prisoners and most notably, clowns, bloody gymnast clowns!
It wouldn't be House of the Dead without pickups either and Headstrong have added a new one, shoot the green gue icon and you'll enter "Slow-mo-fo" mode where time is slowed right down and your bullets pack more punch for some awesome motion kills.
Overkill also employs a combo counter system, shoot 5 mutants down without a miss and you'll be announced as "Extreme Violence", 5 more kills and its "Hardcore Violence", then "Ultra Violence" then "Psychotic" and finally you'll reach "Goregasm". Each of these states act as score multipliers and are essential for getting that perfect high score.
What to points mean? Prizes of course. At the end of each chapter you'll be given a detailed score and rank, this will all get turned into cash for use at the Gun Shop. Along with the level score, you can also earn cash for a variety of in-game particulars such as "50 head shots" or "2000 kills across all levels" or by shooting the golden brains scattered across each level.
The gun shop is your end-of-level pit-stop, use your cash to buy different weapons or upgrade your existing ones, across the entire game you'll get the trusty old AMS Magnum, the Hand Cannon, Shotgun, Automatic Shotgun, SMG, Assault Rifle, and the $15,000 Minigun.
Upgrading your AMS Magnum is essential then pretty much all the other weapons are there for fun - and boy they can be fun! Going back to early levels and ripping through them with an Assault Rifle will help keep the game interesting the 2nd, 3rd and 4th times you decide to complete it.
Another staple feature of House of the Dead are the chapter bosses, Headstrong have designed some wickedly gruesome characters to serve as the level bosses. All of them are visually very interesting but do perhaps play slightly predictable and one dimensional, they are all pretty easy.
Once you've completed the game in Story Mode you'll unlock the "Directors Cut" area which basically allows you to play through the game a second time but this time its a) more difficult, b) more zombies and c) you'll take quite a different route through the chapter and visit a lot of new areas, it's not simply a "harder" mode.
Completing Director's Cut mode unlocks another little gem, "Dual Wield" mode that allows you to play the game with two Wiimotes, double gun style.
Overkill has clearly had a lot of love and affection from it's creators, it oozes charm and quirks that make it one of the most stylish games around on Wii. The artwork is impeccable with massive attention to detail, it's just a shame the Wii can't handle what the developers really wanted to do visually.
Every frame of the game is laced with filters and effects that give it that classic b-movie look, intentional cut scene continuity mistakes, witty dialogue (for the most part) make Overkill an extremely entertaining title for at least the first time you play through it.
However even with all its impressive lighting effects and great funky music Overkill does, from time to time, suffer from the ever common Wii power effect - it's simply not graphically powerful enough and can cause a few frames to skip, shame.
On top of the main story (which can be played as 2 player throughout) the creators have included a few more "DVD" style extras, you'll have access to loads of concept artwork, music tracks, 3D models and even a few trailers.
Also included are three "mini games" that are available for up to four players, these are pretty simple and basically require you to get better scores than your pals to win, it probably won't serve you more than 15 minutes of entertainment but it's worth a quick go with friends.
Another slight criticism of the game might actually be welcome for others, Overkill is a pretty easy game that should never infuriate or frustrate like some of the other HOTD games, it boasts an improved health/life system over predecessors with less need for continues.
House of the Dead: Overkill successfully takes the series in a brand new direction, it breathes fresh life into it's characters and open's plenty of new doors for sequels. With only a few problems Overkill can sit proudly at the top of the "light gun" games currently available on Wii, fans of the series, Planet Terror, or light gun games in general should all find something here to enjoy, great job Headstrong - we want mother-f**king more.