House of the Dead: Overkill Review (PS3)

In perhaps not-so-great news for Nintendo, two of the best more ‘adult’ oriented titles for the Wii have escaped, bolting from the gate of Nintendo’s stable one year after their exclusive release and heading for the safe haven of the HD platforms in order to sell more copies. One of these games is House of the Dead: Overkill.

House of the Dead: Overkill – Extended Cut opens as the Wii version did, with full motion video of a lady dancing about a stripper pole. It’s a game that opens with that little gem and relishes in its grindhouse movie style with cheap on-screen visual effects, ridiculous chapter names, and music that often features guitar riffs straight out of the 70s and corny synthesized organ straight out of the most slashy horror cinema around.

Yup, they’re after brains. Obviously

For those of you who never touched the Wii version, the relation between the original House of the Dead games and Overkill is tenuous at best. Overkill tells the story of the mysterious ‘Agent G’, who was in previous games, and sees him team up with foul-mouthed black cop Washington. The entire game is something of a buddy movie storyline with zombies with the two. There’s no real sign of the dogs of the AMS, Goldberg, Daniel, or any of those other recurring House of the Dead elements.

That’s for the best, though. Where the previous games in the series seemed to be ham-handed attempts to be serious that ended up funny by mistake (G’s Bloodstains?!), Overkill is actually genuinely funny by merit of how hard it embraces how ridiculous it is. Washington and G are both deliberate caricatures, Washington the typical foul-mouthed black cop by way of Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction and Wesley Snipes in Passenger 47, whilst Agent G reminded me most of Keanu Reeves in the Matrix, strangely detached and calm about everything around him, occasionally throwing in terrible James Bond-like puns.

The story is genuinely hilarious and there’s some great banter between those two as well as the other folks who make up the rest of the cast of the game. The story goes in a satisfyingly ridiculous bombastic tone at the end, using the video game media to do things the budget for 70s horror never allowed whilst maintaining that grindhouse feel.

The other main similarity with the old games is the genre – this, too, is a light gun shooter. It’s a matter of pointing and shooting, hitting zombies as they pop up, reloading as necessary. You should all know how it goes and should’ve at least played games of this style in the arcade. The medium is used to great effect, with the on-rails nature of the story meaning they can build character beats and jokes into specific moments, helping to endear the characters of G and Washington to the player.

The bad news, of course, is that the on-rails nature means that the core game is only three to four hours long. Once that experience is done, it’s done, and even with the new chapters added for this release it’s still quite short – a problem that’s plagued home ports of this genre since they first started getting popular with the PS1’s Time Crisis.

Some of the environments still look a lot like a Wii game

The content on offer is artificially extended with unlocks of things like guns as well as new multiplayer modes and mini-games for you to indulge in as well as a ‘Director’s Cut’ mode which replays the story with harder enemies. Even with this the game isn’t exactly what I’d call ‘content rich’, but again this is a light gun shooter that’s selling at a less-than-full price tag new.

While it should be obvious by now that this game comes packing PlayStation Move support, it’s also worth noting that Overkill supports the regular DualShock controller. Doing so puts you in charge on an on-screen cursor. It works, but playing it this way almost goes to suck some of the soul out of the experience – instead, grab a move controller and a gun shell to go around it if you can and blast that way.

The Move controls in Overkill work as a great advertisement for the potential of the device, running smoother, with more responsiveness and accuracy than I felt I experienced on Overkill on the Wii. The Wii version also suffered from framerate difficulties which are gone here, so that helps to make the shooting experience smoother still.

While the framerate is now silky smooth, that Wii history comes at a cost, as Overkill is visibly not a PS3 title at heart with lower-detail character models and other little graphical foibles shining through. Higher resolution, high definition textures go a long way to hide a lot of the Wii influence on the game, but some of it just can’t be hidden. The first time through you’ll likely be so enamoured with the story that won’t matter, though.

Past the improved visuals and fidelity of the control with the PlayStation Move, the PS3 version of Overkill only offers a handful of other small benefits. The new levels are literally more zombie-blasting action, but they do have the benefit of being punctuated with more story information and scenes – though these scenes aren’t vital as they were absent from the original release.

New weapons, cheats and modifiers, the Director’s Cut mode and new mini-games are all cool additions, but none of them are enough to be worth underlining as a particularly strong reason to play this game again. One fun modifier titled ‘Shoot the Shit’ lets you shoot curses in the subtitles to have them bleeped in-game. Why? Why not?! That’s the kind of thing we’re talking.

The core experience is unchanged and still great fun

If you’re looking at Overkill, just be aware you’ll be done with it in four to five hours and will find limited replay value in it past seeing the story again or trying to better a high score. While it holds little in common with the original games bearing the House of the Dead name, that much is still true – so keep that in mind when considering this purchase. Know what you’re buying into.

If you’ve never played Overkill before this is the definitive version of a great game. It’s something that might only be played once but will be remembered fondly after that fact as a fun experience. It’s hilarious, sometimes disgusting, sometimes ridiculous and almost always fun – especially when playing with a friend.

Best Game Moment: When the leads realize that final boss might be just a little bit sexist...

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